Govt projects inspired by kickbacks, not necessity

Bahati PF member of parliament Harry Kalaba who is also former minister of foreign affairs, has made very honest observations about the nature of ‘developmental’ projects we have in Zambia.

“We are doing projects in this country, not because the projects are important, but because somebody will get a kickback. Are you telling me it was in order to start another international airport even before you look at the issues obtaining in the schools? Our sustainable development is political sustainable development; it is politicians sustaining themselves; as long as they can sustain themselves and have more dollars or more kwacha to fight their political opponents, they will stop at nothing. Those are the kind of politics that we should say no to,” Kalaba said.

He added that: “The foreigners have taken over this country! They are owning the land in this country; they are owing the businesses in this country; they are owning the means of production in this country and…ama Zambians abene bale tambako fye. (Zambians who are the owners of the land are just watching).”

Whether you like him or not, the soft-spoken man is raising a genuine concern. Indeed, the majority of developmental projects we are seeing in Zambia today are inspired by kickbacks and not necessity.

As a matter of fact, it is the contractors now who come up with proposals for developmental projects on behalf of the ministries, and government will allow the construction to go ahead depending on the bribe being offered, not the need for the said project. This is exactly what happened on the NRDC scandal where ministers blatantly told the nation that it was not government’s idea to build a modern city on the college land, but AVIC International proposed and Cabinet agreed.

This is how powerful the Chinese have become in our country because of the insatiable appetite for fast money among our politicians. When the Chinese admire a peace of land, they simply get it and start building without due consideration for the laws that govern this country. Whoever challenges them picks a fight with the government and is labeled an enemy of progress.

Just last week, a Chinese expatriate working for AVIC International told off Labour Commissioner Chanda Kaziya and walked out of a meeting when he was challenged to produce his work permit. Kaziya was questioning him if Zambians in China would be allowed to behave the way he was behaving in this country and the Chinese man defiantly answered back and later stormed out of the conference room, leaving the Commissioner perplexed.

This Chinese national who is working on the construction of housing units for the Prisons Authority in Kabwe is still in Zambia. No one has touched him for disregarding the office of the Labour Commissioner because he is more important to the PF government than the houses he is constructing. It is the pockets of these Chinese companies which are of interest to our politicians in government, but the projects they are constructing are just corruption conduits.

So when Harry questions the agency of having a bigger international airport when the current one is able to handle the little traffic, there can only be one logical answer – kickbacks!!

This is the same observation that Captain Alick Sakala who is chairman of the Zambia Professional Pilots Association made about the Zambia Airways project that the government is launching in October this year. He noted that there seems to be an egoistic need from the government to establish a national airline, just because the country now has a new airport coming up.

“Maybe that decision is good politically, it may bring in some votes. But economically, when we look at our figures, we don’t see how this national airline will be viable under a parastatal. In Asia, the airline profit per passenger is about US$9, in the USA it is about US$18, in the middle East it is about US$5 while in Africa it is -55 cents. That’s the net profit per passenger in Africa. That is why you cannot start a national airline using other people’s planes and other people’s pilots if you can avoid it,” he said.

According to Captain Sakala, Zambia Airways will be indebted from the first month of operation because it will be paying huge aircraft maintenance costs and flight crew salaries to Ethiopian Airways who are the owners of the aeroplanes that will be carrying the Zambian flag on the tail.

But while Sakala and other technocrats are warning government against this undertaking, Minister Brian Mushimba and his President are as determined as hell to take this liability to the sky. Where is the necessity in having a national airline when we are failing to get profitability from the national railway line, despite millions of borrowed dollars being invested in it? The answer is in Harry Kalaba’s observation – kickbacks!!

We know that this nonsense started from campaign funding. If we asked the Patriotic Front to show proof of records that they sent money to China for procurement of the campaign materials which have continued being imported since 2016, they will have nothing to show. But millions of campaign items arrive every other week from their Chinese allies.

That is why we are seeing an unprecedented influx of the Chinese who have flooded Zambia with fake and illegally manufactured products. Even when two or three are arrested and deported for conducting illegal business, 100 more coming to do the same business will arrive tomorrow at their new airport; which they are constructing for themselves. In fact, we might as well name it AVIC International Airport and write “Welcome to Junior China”.

         

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