When you are being governed by a regime that thrives on misinformation, it is very important for citizens to be exceptionally attentive to developments so that they don’t let their leaders get away with wrong doing.
We are concerned that many a time, Zambians miss critical government decisions and only come to react when it’s too late for any change of course. Examples are many, but we will refer to the most recent report about the Zambian government moving to buy a new sophisticated Presidential jet that can protect itself from bombs.
Citizens have gone bananas over this ‘news’. They are in total shock that their President can allow such expenditure when the country is sinking in debt and the economy is crumbling. Zambians are reacting as though this decision was made last week or a week after Finance Minister Margaret Mwanakatwe announced austerity measures. If only our fellow citizens took time to read and pay attention to developments, they would have known that this is actually an old move which is only coming to fruition now.
We reported this news on July 22, 2017, quoting Russian media that Zambia was getting four planes from that country, among them a VIP jet for the President. Our Minister of Transport and Communication Brian Mushimba refused to confirm this, saying it was outside his mandate and jurisdiction. But the Russian Minister of Trade and Industry as well as the President of the manufacturing company Mr Yury Slyusar confirmed to our fellow journalists in Moscow a day before we published the news in Zambia, that they were supplying this particular African Country with a fleet of aeroplanes.
“Yesterday, we signed [contracts] on an absolutely new market — the African market, we signed a contract with Zambian carriers to supply four [SSJ 100] planes plus one aircraft in the VIP version for the head of state,” Slyusar said in an interview with Rossiya 24 television in July 2017.
“Russia’s Sukhoi Civil Aircraft company has concluded a contract with Zambian carriers to deliver a total of five Sukhoi Superjet 100 passenger planes in 2018. The delivery of the aircraft to the African continent will take place as early as next year 2018, to the newly created airline of Zambia.”
But our Zambian government was tight-lipped on the deal.
“I can’t talk about the President buying a plane for himself or not, that is not in my domain. But Zambia or a Zambian company has not bought planes to start flying in Zambia,” said Mushimba.
“I think it’s fake. I have no clue what that story is talking about. It does not mention the local entity the Chinese are working with…it’s not correct.”
This story is still on our website under the headline: RUSSIA TO DELIVER 4 SUPERJETS TO ZAMBIA IN 2018, PLUS ONE FOR LUNGU. When we published this news, there was silence. In fact, some readers didn’t believe there was any truth in this. They accused us of rumour mongering. They said we were a bitter publication bent on tarnishing the image of the government and the PF in particular.
It is clear now that at that time, the deal was only being entered into and Zambia was still pondering options around where to borrow money to buy the President a new jet. That period saw President Lungu playing the merchant role in the Middle East and Israel in particular, but there was not enough noise from the public to foster accountability of the President’s trips.
Today, over a year later, other media publications in the name of Africa Confidential and the Aftenposten of Norway have picked the details and brought them back to the Zambian people. We are told that the deal was actually a loan from Middle East banks and that most of the money, in fact, went towards tailor designing the presidential VVIP ‘Ferrari in the Sky’ that cannot be brought down by military projectiles. This is when Zambians are waking up to protest.
This shows that the problem we have in this country is not a leadership issue but the docility of those who are being led. Surely, we should not point fingers at the crooks in government while ignoring those who elected them and those who don’t demand accountability. The people of Zambia need to develop an attitude of demanding accountability at the right time when there is room to correct a wrong.
This deal of the so-called “Ferrari in the Sky” is done and dusted. Nothing can be done to reverse, it is too late. The only solution for government now is to use the same Minister of Transport and Communication who said he was not aware of such a deal, to defend it. Depending on how secretly they are guarding the paper trail of this transaction, they will very well deny that such a transaction ever happened. If it means diverting this plane, our government is to do it and auction it somewhere else for a song, just to prove that Africa Confidential lied.
On behalf of the people of Zambia, we are asking the Minister of Finance to deny that Zambia has existing loan agreement signed with the Hapoalim Bank of Israel. President Lungu travelled to Israel in March 2017, let State House disclose what deals our Head of State signed when he went for that five-day visit.
Last year, Russia supplied government with top grade military helicopters. Let the Minister of Home Affairs and Defence explain to the people of Zambia where money for this acquisition came from.