PRESIDENTIAL Spokesperson Anthony Bwalya says President Hakainde Hichilema has never been bothered about getting paid.
And Bwalya says the International Monetary Fund (IMF) deal has not stalled, adding that all parties have indicated willingness to discuss with government.
Meanwhile, Bwalya says Zambians can’t afford the cost associated with renovating Nkwazi House.
Speaking when he featured on 5FM’s “Burning Issue” Programme, Tuesday, Bwalya said Zambians should not worry about their money because it was protected.
“The President has never been bothered about getting paid. A few days ago, the President was at the spot where he was falsely accused of treason. As part of that visit, the local people gave him a gift of land and he made a commitment that he will take money out of his pockets, not money out of public coffers, money out of his pocket to build a health facility there. The point I am making is that if you have a man like him, who is prepared to use his own money to build a clinic at a spot where he was accused of treason, don’t worry about your public money. Your public money is safe,” he said.
“This is a President who does not touch the imprest attributed to him when he travels, he doesn’t touch it, and we all get shocked. He doesn’t touch it, the money just comes back. He eats ordinary meals, when you go out. You won’t find him eating fine shining cutlery, no! He doesn’t do that. His idea is that we are here to serve. We are not here to put an added encumbrance on you and I to buy a brand new vehicle for him, for him to be eating expensive meals, he doesn’t believe in that. Rather than talking about whether he has been paid or not, which I know he hasn’t. You have a President who is focused on serving you, the Zambian people.”
He said the IMF deal had not stalled.
“It hasn’t stalled, that is a hugely important conversation. I have to tell you that 46 percent of Zambia’s debt is currently held by commercial lenders, 22 percent I believe is what the Chinese hold. So I am throwing around these figures so that you get a perspective of why it is important that all parties come to the same table of discussion, so that we can agree on a single mode of engagement. So far, I think it is safe to say that all parties have given the strongest indication that they are willing and prepared to talk. We are hopeful that God willing before the turn of this year, that deal will be inked. It is crucial because it opens up new opportunities for Zambia to engage with its creditors,” Bwalya said.
“We were finding it difficult to keep up with payments in terms of interest on our various loans, especially commercial loans. But we believe that once that deal has been inked, all parties agree to a much more remodeled restructured way of collecting what is due to them, it will give us new opportunities to focus on key social sectors rather than just focusing on debt servicing. So everything is going to plan. I am positive that over the course of the next few months, this will end very well for all of us. We will see the benefit of engaging with not just bilateral partners but also multilateral partners as well as individuals, commercial creditors as part of a wholesome IMF engagement package.”
Meanwhile, Bwalya said Nkwazi House was not fit to host the President.
“First and foremost, I will speak on the issue of the President moving to State House. Nkwazi House undergoes routine maintenance at the change of every government so that it is in an appropriate physical state and also making sure that all the requisite security apparatus are in place. I have been to Nkwazi House and I have seen it, even if you asked me to move into Nkwazi House, I wouldn’t move there, because of the state that it is in. It needs a lot of work for anyone to live in there, let [alone] the Head of State. We have looked at the indicative cost associated with renovating Nkwazi House. I can tell you that the Zambian people can’t afford that, I don’t want to call figures, of course I know because I have seen the costs that are attributable to that,” he said.
When asked whether the cost of fixing Nkwazi House was K14 million, Bwalya said even if it was that figure, it was still high.
“It is a huge amount of money, even if it is that figure that you have called, even if that figure was true, that is a huge amount of money. So you called a hypothetical figure K14 million, do you think it costs K14 million to move the President from where he lives to State House? Because the President only has… it is a lean motorcade. So the focus is on the President spending time doing the actual work,” said Bwalya.