STATE House press aide Amos Chanda has claimed that it is not possible for one to steal government funds when they are in public service.
And Chanda says there is nothing strange with him wearing trendy suits because he once worked for the World Bank.
Talking to a group of University of Zambia students after he attended a public talk titled ‘Challenges of democracy in Zambia’ facilitated by the University of Zambia Historical and Archaeological Association and the University of Zambia Political Science Association at UNZA’s Confucius Institute Multi-purpose Hall yesterday, Chanda said that it was incorrect to assume that he had stolen “so much money” based on his flamboyance.
“Look, if you see Amos Chanda with a Rolex watch, the assumption is that he has stolen so much money. [But] do you know that I was a special envoy to a foreign Head of State? It is rude, it’s unacceptable [and] it is undiplomatic to refuse a gift that is given [to you]! But you people will take a picture and say now he is got a Rolex! What do you do in that circumstance? Even I went with a certain copper gift and when you present, you actually don’t know what is in that [parcel]. [But] this is it (shows his wrist watch)!”
During the panel discussion, former State House aide Dickson Jere said there was a perception that people in civil society were advancing some causes for their own benefit to gain identity and cross into government where it was buttered.
He gave an example of a number of people who once were in civil society and very vibrant, such as Vice-President Inonge Wina, Electoral Commission of Zambia commissioner Emily Sikazwe and Chanda himself who was vocal during his time as vice-president of the Press Association of Zambia, but were all now serving in the government.
But Chanda said the audience should have asked Jere how easy it was for him to make money in government.
“What is so expensive about me buying a suit? I worked for the World Bank! [But] when you find a chap like that he says it is so rosy there…If he (Jere) admits that it is easy to do that then you must ask him how much he stole and from where. Why wasn’t Dickson [Jere] asked how easy it is to steal money from government? Me I’m there and I’m telling you that I don’t even know how you can do it! If he did it, you should have asked for his expertise on how he did it. I can tell you that it is not possible [to steal in government],”
Chanda also explained that it was possible for a ruling party to win an election without rigging.
“How can an opposition president like Michael Sata rig elections because Mr Sata won elections from outside [the government]? It is possible that the elections can be won by a sitting government without rigging. If Mr Sata won [but] you attribute every victory to rigging, can you tell me what happened [in the 2011 general elections]! Well, the default position for groups like these (the public talk) is that government is wrong, unless otherwise,” he said.
When one of the onlookers tried to ask him about the closure of The Post, Chanda responded: “Is it unreasonable to believe that The Post owed money to ZRA? Is that unreasonable? These are straightforward questions!”
Other students jostled to ask Chanda on whether or not University of Zambia Students’ Union (UNZASU) activities were completely banned.
“What is the situation? Is it the Minister [of Higher Education] who appoints union leaders? There is no instruction to ban the union; that I can tell you. Absolutely no instruction. If there is a riot and the police move in and they stop the riot, they are not saying there will be no movement. Maybe for that moment, just to control the situation, they will say ‘no, don’t pass here.’ You can’t go about and say they’ve banned passing through Great East Road. For a moment to allow normal resumption of traffic, maybe the police will stand on the road and stop traffic. I suspect that’s what the minister has done but I’m yet to actually understand it,”
“But with the kind of disinformation that I’m seeing, I have to take everything I’m hearing here with a pinch of salt. But I’ll go and verify. But what I can tell you, I work for the President, [is that] there is no instruction to ban the union or its activities.”