FORMER gender minister Elizabeth Phiri says the massive infrastructure development such as roads in the country is as a result of the international trips which former president Edgar Lungu used to take.

In an interview, Phiri said President Hakainde Hichilema could take as many trips as possible as long as they benefit Zambians.

“When you are outside, it is very difficult to know how governance takes place. To me, I forgive them because the critics that were there then, and now that they are in the office, they are seeing the reality. So to me, they are justifying the trips that were undertaken. The number of the delegation was depending on technocrats needed for that particular trip. If the trip requires a certain Minister, he will be taken. It is not the number of people but the reason for the number of people that are traveling. There are some big meetings that require more technocrats to go and understand and possibly learn to benefit Zambia,” Phiri said.

“Are you aware that when he was in opposition, President Hakainde Hichilema was talking about selling the jet? He thought it was his predecessor who bought that jet but little did he know that that jet did not even belong to State House. It was a courtesy from ZAF that they gave the President. So selling the jet was easy from outside office but now the reality is [that] it is not the property of State House. Whatever reasons they could advance now and justify is clearly what they condemned the previous government about. To me, let the President have as many trips as possible as long as it benefits the people of Zambia. What would be wrong is taking trips that are not beneficial. If the trips are benefiting the nation, what is wrong with the President travelling?”

Phiri said most of the development in Zambia was as a result of the trips Lungu made.

“When you look at the development, it means that former president Edgar Lungu did not just do it locally. It was all out of the trips he took. Most of the development was out of the trips he had made. Today, we are seeing a lot of infrastructure from the trips he had embarked on. There was no trip that former president Edgar Lungu had taken to do things either for friends or for his own benefits. It was trips to improve the wellbeing of Zambians. Now we cannot say the trips President Hakainde Hichilema is taking are not beneficial because it is just a few months. Let us gauge his outings and those of Edgar Lungu by the end of 2025,” she said.

“My prayer is that President Hakainde Hichilema delivers and I am praying for him day and night. He is my President whether people like it or not. Maybe he can prove to this nation that he is better than the previous President. It is too early for anybody to condemn the previous President because you have to compare the two in the period set and what was done. Anybody who is judging now, it is based on unfair trial because we have not yet seen much because of the period President Hakainde has been in the office. We are yet to see if he surpasses the previous President in infrastructure and in everything else. When you are in that office, you do not feel the economic heat of an ordinary Zambian. Even now for us to say there is an economic heat and it is because of this or that then we must be judging him prematurely.”

Phiri insisted that even ordinary Zambians benefited from Lungu’s trips.

“So those trips that were taken, to me were beneficial because even ordinary Zambians benefited from them. Today we can have hospitals dotted all over, there were loans or donations from trips that former president Lungu embarked on. They gave Zambians food, hospitals, roads. It is not those people that have loans that followed us, it was the former president and his team that could travel to go and negotiate for them. To crown it all, the trips that former president Edgar Lungu had made has brought benefits,” said Phiri.