UPND spokesperson Cornelius Mweetwa says President Hakainde Hichilema needs to travel constantly because he has to keep reassuring the international community that Zambia is back on its knees.
And Mweetwa says UPND officials will keep referring to the mess which the PF left for as long as the challenges being experienced now can be traced back to the former ruling party.
In an interview, Mweetwa said it was inaccurate to say President Hichilema had become a tourist, arguing that it was these trips which were helping to build Zambia’s image.
“You can’t accuse someone who owns the tourism package to be a tourist. He is the country sales representative number one to showcase Zambia’s economic and tourism potential. You cannot accuse a country’s service provider in the tourism sector to be a tourist,” Mweetwa said.
“I think that with the situation that we have been in, where Zambia has been known for violence, for corruption, recently, Zambia has been known for a failing economy, one which is in a run away situation, it was important for the President to be able to interact at those higher levels to give assurances and reassurances that Zambia is back on its knees in terms of the rule of law, fighting corruption and prudent management of national resources so that investor confidence can be enhanced so that we begin to rebuild the economy standing on strong pillars of local and international cooperation support mechanisms.”
He said unlike what used to happen during the previous administration, President Hichilema’s trips were economically oriented.
“The trips he has made are all economically oriented trips. They are not social trips like those we used to see of the President going to watch dancers in Swaziland. And when it comes to the global stage, look at the trips he has made, to Qatar, it was economically oriented, things to do with selling Zambia to the global market and being salesman number one. It was extremely important that in fact, being a new President, we showcase to the world the vast potential this country has. The UN General Assembly, it was the first one under his leadership and therefore, it was important for him to quickly get to interact with the global stage of leaders so that they know him personally. This trip which he just wound up where he went to Brussels, the Africa EU summit, it was also important, you wouldn’t want to send your sales person number one to such kind of a meeting where the European Union, which is the biggest aggregate of global economies, was interacting with the African Union to try and exploit opportunities for economic ties. And you saw that the President took full advantage of that putting to meet the head of the European Investments Bank and also to meet the IMF chief executive. So these were opportunities that were all linked to economic opportunities. I know that the President during his campaigns had promised to cut down on trips but for these that are important, they have to be taken and I am sure that going forward, the nation will be watching eagerly to see which trip the President took and what was the economic value to this country,” Mweetwa said.
“The trips that he has taken are very vital to initiate himself in terms of relationships in the SADC region because those are crucial for a government that wants to promote trade amongst the neighboring countries. This is the first President who has gone to DRC, not merely just to visit because we are neighbours but looking at DRC for its vast potential as a market for agro produce. We are seeing our neighbouring countries, Botswana, Namibia and South Africa export chickens and beef to DRC with a huge market potential and they use our roads as a transit platform and we, the ones who have a better connection to DRC and better conditions for agriculture just watch. We must be the ones to take precedence in exploiting that market. So it is important to the President to perform such trips within the SADC region. The second part of it is that for the trips in the SADC region, he is the first President to go into South Africa and come back the same day. He is the first President to go in and out. What that does is that you cut out on overnight expenses, parking fees and he is also prudent by utilising commercial flights in order to cut down on the cost of travel.”
He said Zambia had become a much better country since UPND assumed office.
“We are seeing that lately, since the UPND government took office, Zambia’s standing with the international community has greatly improved. You are seeing now, issues to do with vaccines, before the new dawn administration came into office, we already had scandals of Covid funds being plundered, that became a very difficult issue and those were the issues that were undermining bilateral and multilateral support to Zambia but as we speak now, there is no shortage of covid medicines, government now has a headache to persuade people, those who have not yet vaccinated to vaccinate because there are sufficient vaccines available whereas before, Zambia had a headache to begin to think of which budget line are we going to tamper with the acquire vaccines but now that nightmare is over, we now have more vaccines than people available to vaccinate. All this comes with the goodwill that is associated with a leader that is internationally respected. So to cement that relationship and dictates of respect, you need this particular individual, who is the President to be able to interact and be known and to know world leaders at personal level for further strengthening of bilateral and multilateral ties, so far, so good, we are on course and I think it is self evident for people to see that the 2.8 million votes did not go to waste, we have a far much better country now than we have before elections,” he said.
Meanwhile, Mweetwa said there was no way UPND could refrain from referring to the mess which PF left.
“Yes, there are problems and even issues that have to be worked on, issues to do with the cost of living and no one can play a blind eye to the fact that we have to tackle these. But some of these challenges we are faced with, as you know, arise from the history which has brought us where we are, where we inherited a huge mountain of unsustainable debt that has made it very difficult for us to move forward. And again, I have heard people say ‘this new dawn administration should not make reference to what ha happened in the past, let bygones be bygones, just talk about what you want to do’. I mean, that approach is not accurate. There is no way we are going to talk about the future without understanding the present and where we are coming from. If we have a challenge in this country, if we have a problem, isn’t it only reasonable that we must say, this problem that we have, where it came from is here. We have a debt problem, unsustainable debt, we must say this unsustainable debt which has caused us now to be in a difficult situation as a government, where has it come from? It was because of reckless borrowing and when you borrow money, you don’t invest it prudently, you throw money into a bin of consumption bu by the previous administration but some people are saying ‘don’t make reference to them’. We shall continue to make reference to them for as long as the challenges we are facing at a particular moment are those that were manufactured by them. So to the extent that they were the cause, we shall continue to mention them,” said Mweetwa.