FOREIGN Affairs and International Cooperation Minister Stanley Kakubo says President Hakainde Hichilema will travel to the United States of America with a lean delegation, including only two Ministers.

In an interview, Kakubo said he and his Finance and National Planning counterpart Dr Situmbeko Musokotwane would accompany the President on his seven-day trip to the US where he will attend the United Nations General Assembly.

“What is going on is this and I think this needs to come out to the press is that the President has maintained a very lean delegation. A statement of fact is that with the previous government when there was a UN General Assembly like this one, they would carry a delegation of not less than 115 people. Then they would leave a month before at taxpayers’ expense. Usually, they would carry a minimum of six Ministers in addition to the 115. But my President’s approach now is that only critical staff will move depending on the issue that you are dealing with,” Kakubo said.

“So first of all, number one we are only carrying two Ministers, because our thrust of this visit is economic diplomacy. So, we travel with myself as Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation and Minister of Finance and National Planning Dr [Situmbeko] Musokotwane. So only two Ministers will travel. Very lean delegation. Apart from the lean delegation that the President is carrying, he is going to be in and out of the country including travel time for only seven days. So, administratively, it is very lean. There is no Permanent Secretary travelling.”

Kakubo confirmed that President Hichilema would travel commercially.

“So he is traveling tomorrow and commercial. You see, for the President to travel commercial; it is optional; it is nothing peculiar to President Hichilema in the sense that if you will check our records, his predecessors also used to fly commercial once in a while, especially President [Levy] Mwanawasa. So, it is an option that the President has taken and his security is not compromised in any way, this is something that has been done, and the President will fly commercially I can confirm,” Kakubo said.

He said President Hichilema was going to introduce a new Zambia to the UN General Assembly.

“The purpose of the travel, you need to understand that the goodwill that the President and the UPND have on the Zambian people is not only a local thing because of the landmark election that we have had. That goodwill, believe it or not, has also spread around the other leaders in the world. So, goodwill usually has a short window and the strategy of the President and his administration is to harness that window, to establish fresh relations. As you know, this country for a long time especially in the last 10 years was badly run. So now the President’s position on corruption is zero tolerance, respect for the rule of law,” he said.

“The President has put his foot down that the freedom of the press will be respected, even he can be criticised and the press have been allowed to regulate themselves. So that is the message that we are going to announce that there is going to be a new Zambia at the UN. The President will also have an opportunity to make his inaugural speech at the UN and strategically we want him to be physically there and deliver it.”

Kakubo said President Hichilema was expected to engage a number of stakeholders in an effort to discuss economic solutions.

“The President has a high-level engagement with the Vice President of the US Ms Kamala Harris. You will notice that in the last 20 years, there has been no sitting President of Zambia that has visited the top leadership of the USA. The President has been invited for bilateral meetings with the Secretary General of the UN one on one. The President is also going to meet selected members of the Senate, those that have an influence on Africa so that [we have] a clear potential to raise some grants for our country,” Kakubo said.

“As you know, the biggest problem we have as a country of course is the economy. So the strategy there is that we must have strategic partners and restructure the debt portfolio. That is why the President is also scheduled to meet with the President of the IMF. The President’s administration wants to negotiate a proper IMF package that will result in us instilling confidence into the economy including those we owe money. The President will also meet the managing director of the World Bank. In addition, the President is also going to meet key American Entrepreneurs who have indicated an appetite to come and invest in our country.”

Kakubo said the Presidential trip had come at the right time looking at the problems the country was facing.

“Now there could be some people that may say that it is too soon for the President to travel, but when you look at the urgency of the problems that we have as a country, it is very important I can tell you as Foreign Minister that some of the solutions that we have is not the bulk of them. So delaying the Presidency’s movements even for another month will choke our economy even further,” said Kakubo.