A video has gone viral in which President Edgar Lungu is seen lambasting Chinese company AVIC International officials for refusing to comply with the government tender requirement that dictates that 20 per cent of the business must be given to local contractors. Social media users have taken turns cheering the President for bravely grilling the foreign investor, but we would like to digest something unusual that caught our attention from the President’s remarks.
President LUNGU: “Which contractors are working with you on the police housing projects that you are doing in Ministry of Home Affairs in Zambia, which local contractors…? Our local contractors only want to have 20 per cent, only 20 per cent. I thought we are going to have some answers to this question because this is the reason why I came here…especially from you AVIC, I am told that you are even boasting that you have got me in your pocket.”
“Excuse me, can I say something.., I am not the one who is responsible for implementing this project ” interrupted the AVIC representative identified as Lie Ying, as the confrontation went back and forth…
We have nothing against President Lungu on this intervention. He is the President of this Republic and has the right to question anyone who does business with his government. But just how much does this tell us about the performance of the line ministries? Why does it have to take the Head of State to fight for the local contractors? Where are the people who are supposed to be in charge of project implementation?
In our view, the President wittingly or unwittingly, passed a loud vote of no confidence in the Minister of Infrastructure Development and his Permanent Secretary, the Chief Executive Officer of the Road Development Agency, the Copperbelt provincial administration and the President’s own State House advisor for Project monitoring and implementation. What the Head of State did in that meeting is to tell us that the above named officials have not been doing their jobs.
The question is why haven’t these people been doing their jobs? Why have they been allowing AVIC International to get away with this breach of the law? The answer is right in the hearsay that the President shared in the meeting about his relationship with this Chinese company. Like the above named officials, most of us citizens know AVIC to be a special ally of the President of Zambia.
What shocked us was the fact that the President himself is aware of this public perception and has chosen to do nothing about it. How can AVIC International go round telling people that they have the President of Zambia in their pocket and the said President hears about it, but decides to casually make a passing remark without even attempting to get to the bottom of that claim?
Those who are using Madam Inonge Wina’s name to defraud people on the Internet are being arrested because using another person’s name, especially that of a Head of State, to obtain undue business advantage is a criminal offence. Claiming that you have a President in your pocket is admitting to State capture, and State capture is tantamount to treason.
A claim by AVIC International that they have our President in their pocket, as narrated by Mr Lungu, cannot be allowed to go unpunished. At the very least, it is enough ground for a body of inquiry to be instituted in order to ascertain the veracity of this claim; that is if our President is truly innocent. This cannot just be swept under the carpet like a non-issue.
Why is it that what bothered the President the most is the 20 per cent sub contraction which the local contractors are being denied and not the claim that AVIC is spreading to the world that they have captured the Zambian Head of State? When did the President hear about this bragging by AVIC and what has he done about it? How can he convince the public that he is not in the pocket of AVIC International if he doesn’t want to clear his name?
This State House handles critical governance issues in a very strange way. Can’t they see that the reason why main contractors feel they have the power to do away with local contractors is because of the same claim that they control State House? How can you resolve the 20 per cent sub-contracts issue leaving a much bigger cause of this secondary problem unattended?
Anyway, now we understand why AVIC is able to get no objection from government when they submit unsolicited bids to takeover land, assets and institutions such as the NRDC college.
No wonder the Minister of Home Affairs went out of his way last year to defend the interests of this company when he had an altercation with Chishimba Kambwili.
It now makes sense. AVIC International is not just a construction company, it is the employer of the President of Zambia, and supplier of kasaka ka ndalama. Who knows, maybe our real President is actually Chinese.