HEARING the Minister of Transport and Communication distance government from the Zambia Airways investment, we could not help but conclude that indeed we have shameless liars running the affairs of this country. But we are not very surprised about this. Naturally, no one likes to be associated with a fart – the Zambia Airways investment has become toxic now because it is smelling and its failure is imminent.

KAFWAYA: “The Zambia Airways 2014 Limited is not a GRZ undertaking. Zambia Airways 2014 Limited is a company that has been formed by one company in Zambia, the other one is Ethiopia, so this is a joint venture between Ethiopian Airlines and IDC. IDC we all know is a parastatal kind of company owned by Zambians. This is why most people mistake Zambia Airways like a GRZ company, it is not. It is two companies coming together and putting resources together to launch an undertaking. So, it is very difficult for government to determine when the company is going to launch because we don’t have direct control.”

This is a very shocking statement to come from a Cabinet Minister who has a Grade 12 Certificate and with all the mental faculties operating at full capacity. How does a Minister in charge of Communication and Transport wash his hands over Zambia Airways and say it is an IDC project? Who is IDC? Since when did IDC become a private sector company? What business does IDC do which the government is not involved in? Who are the shareholders of IDC?

Is he saying the IDC board chairman Mr Edgar Lungu is keeping his Cabinet in the dark over the deals and investment decisions that the company makes? As far as we know government comes first before IDC, and without government the IDC is nothing, it can’t stand. So Honourable Kafwaya should stop trying to confuse people by disowning the IDC and its investment decisions. The Ministry of Transport and Communication, just like several other ministries which have parastatal companies under IDC, are part and parcel of the company.

How can the same ministry which was saying “we are very keen on launching Zambia Airways” now say it has no business with the national flag carrier? Who has been giving national updates on this airline venture? It’s you the Ministry of Transport and Communication. You supported the IDC decision to start this business. In fact, as far as we know, the money invested as initial capital for the business didn’t come from IDC, it came from Ministry of Finance. Is Honourable Kafwaya saying the Ministry of Finance is not part of government?

There is no disowning IDC now just because the Zambia Airways deal is beginning to smell. Honourable Kafwaya and his government must own up and face the full consequences of making foolish and wasteful decisions. They are the ones who were excited with the fact that they are the majority shareholders in the so-called joint venture, but they forgot that being a majority shareholder also means you are responsible for covering the majority costs.

We don’t want to hear any government official washing their hands on this transaction, they must see it through. If they don’t want to proceed with it, they must come out clean and bring back all the taxpayer’s money they spent on the transaction as down payment. They must also account for all the on-going expenses including salaries to Zambia Airways staff and the CEO who are being paid for doing nothing. The issue of saying government is not the owner of Zambia Airways is a cowardly way of running away from responsibilities.

We remember that when he was Ministry of Defence Permanent Secretary, Mr Stardy Mwale told the nation that the government was buying aircrafts from Russia and that some of which would be used for commercial purposes under Zambia Airways. This was after people asked why the Ministry of Defence was buying more luxurious planes for the president. What we saw in that transaction is that the government failed to meet the procurement conditions for the Russian planes and in the end, the State lost millions of dollars which had been paid as down payment. This is a fact that Russia confirmed and our government did not dispute.

When Mr Mwale was making that statement, he was speaking on behalf of the government and the Ministry of Defence in particular, he was not speaking on behalf of the IDC. So Honourable Kafwaya should not fool the people with his cheap lies, instead, he must own up and tell the truth. Let him admit that government has failed to launch the airline They should admit that the business cannot sit well with cooperating partners and international lenders like the IMF.

Now, this development puts the Minister of Finance in a very precarious position because he sits on the board of the IDC and the money wasted in this venture was released by him. Honourable Kafwaya is washing his hands from the stinky business deal, but what will the Finance Minister say? What’s his position on this transaction?

These are the consequences of being stubborn. People in this government don’t listen. When the members of the public and technocrats advise them against making bad investments, they close their ears because the want to look smart. But here we are, you have failed to take even one plane in the air and you start washing your hands. How shameless!