We have a lot of respect for Honourable Ronald Chitotela, the Minister of National Housing and Infrastructure Development. We like that he is a down-to-earth minister whom every citizen can easily access and have conversation with. Unlike some other ministers, Honourable Chitotela is also very available to the press for any questions, which is a good attribute for leadership.
But sometimes this Honourbale minister does and says things that are not honourable at all; things that take away so much from his character. He seems to be a kind of man who never minds humiliating himself. It seems he doesn’t have so much regard for his own integrity and is willing to lose it for so little to gain. This is the part that we don’t understand about our minister.
What are we talking about? Well, dear readers, Honourable Chitotela lied with a straight face in Parliament last week Thursday. This is regarding the story that we have been investigating in which government awarded the Road Safety Management Solution concession to a private company called Intelligence Mobility Solutions (IMS), the same company which is about to be awarded another concession for road tolling on behalf of the Road Development Agency (RDA).
According to Honourable Chitotela, only one concession with the Road Transport and Safety Agency (RTSA) was signed, while negotiations for the RDA road tolling concession were terminated. He told Parliament that because the Patriotic Front is such a disciplined and accountable government, the deal was cut because it was not in the best interest of the people of Zambia.
“Mr Speaker, following the review of consultations and the proposed tolling solutions, a decision was made to terminate the negotiations with Intelligent Mobility Solutions as provided for in the law. The negotiations were terminated because government was not of the view that the proposed concession was going to deliver value for money, and therefore was not in the best interest of the Zambian people,” Chitotela told Parliament.
“Government has got interest to work with the private sector to improve revenue streams for reinvesting in infrastructure assets. Our only condition is that the partnerships created by government and the private sector should result in a win-win situation. This is because we have a mandate to deliver and we shall continue to undertake the projects that provide maximum benefits to the economy and the people of this country.”
But the opposition members of parliament remembered that on the same day when Honourable Chitotela was making this claim, News Diggers had published a verbatim interview with the IMS chairman Mr Walid El Nahas, who explicitly stated that negotiations were still on-going as of this month. So, the Monze Central UPND member of parliament, Jack Mwiimbu, wanted to know who was saying the truth.
“A conditional approval was given to allow Road Development Agency [which is] a contracting authority to look at the proposal of them expressing intention to do business with government. After that, Road Development Agency who are the negotiating authority engaged the IMS and if my memory serves me well, I think it must have been between 1st and month-end of October where they could not agree to the conditions and terms, and RDA wrote to the concessionaire advising them that we have now revoked the conditions in the Act, we are terminating the negotiations. That is the official position [of government and] I will not delve into hearsay,” explained the minister.
The MPs knew that Honourable Chitotela was not being truthful, so another lawmaker for Mwembeshi constituency, Machila Jamba, challenged the minister to produce evidence in form of a letter which was written to IMS terminating the negotiations. The lying minister simply said the letter was available, but it could not be adduced on the floor on the House because it was confidential.
This is what we don’t understand about Honourable Chitotela. This minister knows deep down his heart that as he was delivering that ministerial statement in Parliament, there was no such decision by the government to terminate the negotiations with this private company. We know this because during our investigations, we have seen authentic correspondence that suggests the opposite of what the minister said.
If Honourable Chitotela had said government INTENDS to terminate the negotiations, we were not going to be questioning him, but to say negotiations were terminated in October and that the concessionaire was written to, is a blue lie which Honourable Chitotela knows very well deep down his heart. This is very unfortunate.
Listening to Mr Chitotela speak in Parliament, we wondered how the Minister of Finance felt as the chairperson who presided over the matter, because this statement meant that her together with the leadership of RDA, NRFA, Zambia Development Agency and the entire Public Private Partnership Council that approved the negotiations were operating outside Honourable Chitotela’s policy decision.
We were further disappointed that the minister had the privilege to even discredit our investigation as propaganda sponsored by the opposition with the help of bad elements in the civil service. We don’t know what Honourable Chitotela thinks about us, but we are not in a habit of talking about things that we hardly understand or know nothing about.
It is sad that politicians in Zambia don’t think there is any journalist left out here who has the capacity to investigate anything. Whatever scandal we uncover is rubbished as an undertaking by the opposition. In thier eyes, we are nothing but hungry little boys and girls waiting to be fed and used by politicians in their political battles.
We do not operate like that. We don’t have any such dealings with any political party out there and we can never sell our editorial independence for anything. It is okay for the minister to lie in parliament and rubbish everything that we have reported on this story, but we would like to assure our readers that we know a little more than Honourable Chitotela thinks we do on this story; and very soon when the truth comes out, he will be very humiliated. Lies have short legs, but the truth doesn’t need to be defended because it defends itself. We will stop here for now.