PRESIDENT Hakainde Hichilema says Zambians should be careful when electing Presidents in future because the illegal activities he has discovered under the Edgar Lungu administration are disgusting.
And President Hichilema says his goal is to make it difficult for people to steal public funds, telling those jostling for government positions that they must “search their souls”.
Meanwhile, President Hichilema has observed that some UPND members are acting like they are still in the opposition, warning them not to become the “new hooligans”.
President Hichilema has also justified his government’s intention to clinch an IMF bailout package telling critics that the Brenton Woods institution conditions are actually in tandem with UPND programmes.
Speaking at his first press conference , Thursday, President Hichilema said his position on the Presidential plane, alias Gulf Stream 650, had not changed because it was bought at an exorbitant price.
He said some of the things which were associated with the presidential jet were disgusting.
“Our position is still the same, that has not changed. We are consistent people, if we were driven with the feel good factor and the desire to fluffy around with the so-called luxury when citizens are suffering, we could have just gotten into the Gulf Stream and flown to the US. We had to take a commercial flight as part of delivering our message on the Gulf Stream, that we didn’t agree in the manner it was purchased, because we are concerned at the cost of that airplane, was the fair price paid? We thought it was expensive and unnecessary for the price. You will see, soon we are taking that matter to Cabinet; we are taking it to Parliament and at that point, numbers will become known to all of you,” President Hichilema said.
“Then you will see who loves this country and who did not love country. You make your judgement. But it doesn’t mean that the plane is not important, but why do you pay twice [the price], that is what we want the Zambians to know and to decide what to do. It will be very soon you will get to know those figures and you will be frightened yourselves. You will be shocked! How can a normal person do a thing like that? We haven’t changed our views. Zambians should get used to consistent people, you have been used to something else and it has become normal. You will be scared of what you will hear and see, even I, I had no idea that it was that situation, now I know I am in a privileged situation. I looked at the figures and I said ‘is this real?’ And more things came associated with that item, it is disgusting! Be careful when you elect Presidents next time.”
And President Hichilema said he would make it difficult for people to steal public resources.
“This year we want to do something different. We discussed it with the Auditor General yesterday. The Auditor General complained that in the years passed, they even failed to do audits because the colleagues that were in office didn’t want the Auditor General to do the audits. The Auditor General reports, the FIC Reports, the DEC, ACC those reports will be handed over to prosecutions so that the prosecutions can decide this matter amicably. The Auditor General’s report will not be a report going on the shelves, it will be a report going to the National Prosecution Authority,” he said.
“Parliament Committee should not just be a process. The political will is here now. We want to make it sour to steal from Zambians, we want to make it uncomfortable to steal from Zambians. It has been too comfortable; it has been made to be normal in the last 10 years. We want to make corruption and stealing from public coffers uncomfortable… I know a lot of people are clamouring for positions but they must search their souls first.”
When asked whether he would consider lifting former president Edgar Lungu’s immunity if evidence linked him to some criminality, President Hichilema said he would cross the bridge when he gets there.
“Corruption fight, if it involves reaching out to my predecessor what would you do? Will you remove the immunity? We will cross the bridge when we get there. If we do get there, we will cross the bridge. You will be in the know. Our intention is not to harass anybody, our intention is for citizens to recover what is theirs. Our intentions are very noble. When I was in mainstream opposition 15, years every time people made accusations about me that I stole this and that, have you forgotten what my response used to be? I said take me to court and arrest me. I am still confident that there is nothing there,” the Head of State said.
Meanwhile, President Hichilema warned UPND members not to be enemies of their president by harassing citizens in markets and bus stations.
“Some UPND members are still acting like we are in the opposition, that is understandable…I want to address UPND. If it was bad when it was done by PF, it is bad when it is done by the UPND. Law and order is part of the ticket that brought us into government, we will not run away from that ticket obligation. The markets are now open, bus stations are open, taxi ranks are open to all taxi drivers. We want to bring civility in the markets so that any citizen can trade there. I am aware that there are market cooperatives those are managed under the local authorities. There is an arrangement there, let us not confuse things here,” President Hichilema said.
“Provisional chairman Lusaka, organise a meeting with our members in Lusaka not in State House, at our Secretariat we will be able to discuss, I will be there, we will talk. We have a lot for you, more than you ever imagined. So don’t spoil your dish. No new timber licences will be given to a foreigner. Don’t spoil your dish by being the new hooligans around, there will be nothing like that and it will not happen.”
President Hichilema also said the IMF conditionalities were actually in tandem with the UPND’s economic recovery agenda.
“Let us not misunderstand the IMF and call the IMF conditionalities, the fight against corruption is not an MF condition, it is a UPND government condition. Cutting expenditure is not an IMF program, it our program. Part of our mission is that we can restore credibility that will allow us to look at the challenge around the debt. With these kinds of visits, these kinds of conversations, we are confident that we will be in a better position to turn around the economy, to fight corruption,” said President Hichilema, who also said he did not go to the US to discuss gay rights.
“You will hear from the Ministry of Finance how will we have been able, out of this trip, to arrange things that will allow to employ more teachers, to employ more health workers. This is how the world works. We are confident that to the business community there are more opportunities coming. Be prepared to act credibly. This trip was nothing else other than I have said here. We didn’t not go out there for lesbian rights, we did not go there for that.”
The Head of State also said China was still a friend to Zambia and he had actually been conversing with them at various platforms, contrary to speculation that he preferred the west.