STATE House says there is no impropriety whatsoever in the transaction involving President Edgar Lungu’s eSwatini land “gift” from King Mswati.
And State House has further disclosed that together with the land, King Mswati also gave President Lungu 10 heads of cattle.
But government spokesman of the Royal Kingdom of eSwatini Percy Simelane has told Times of Swaziland newspaper that the “purchase of land to build a family house for President Lungu is a private issue”.
The Times of Swaziland earlier reported that a golf estate worth $3.9 million was being built for President Lungu in that country set to be his second home on a piece of land registered under Inyatsi Construction, whose Zambian subsidiary has government road contracts.
Addressing the media in Lusaka yesterday, President Lungu’s press aide Amos Chanda, also said to have received a piece of land from eSwatini as disclosed by chief government spokesperson Dora Siliya, told journalists that the matter was purely a private exchange between two Heads of State.
He maintained that “there is absolutely no truth in the value that had been ascribed to the eSwatini land” and that there was no building on the land that had been given.
But the Royal Kingdom of eSwatini (formerly known as Swaziland) says the issue involving President Lungu’s plans to build a mansion at Nkonyeni was a private matter.
“There is no impropriety whatsoever in the said transaction involving the gift of a piece land his excellence Mr Edgar Chagwa Lungu received. The matter is purely a private exchange between two Heads of State. There is absolutely no truth in the value that has been ascribed to the land and there is no building on the land that has been given. There is absolutely no construction taking place, the gift of land is simply what it was…a piece of land gift to His Excellency and that gifting of the land does not constitute any violation of the law or procedure as established in the Zambian constitution and subsidiary laws. Those alleging any impropriety are therefore free to come forward and state what kind of impropriety is involved in this matter,” Chanda said.
“The law governing the declaration of assets for the Head of State, for ministers, members of parliament is very clear and the President’s assets are properly declared under the law that governs how he declares his asset, both before he became president and now. When he was running for office in 2015, he made appropriate declaration; he also made appropriate declaration in 2016. That is the law that governs the declarations of assets for the Head of State and he has not departed an inch whatsoever from the law that requires him to do so.”
He further disclosed that those that gifted President Lungu with the said land went ahead to invite architects to bid for the drawing without his involvement.
Chanda said President Lungu “has not used any Zambian money on the gift” and not appointed any architects or builder.
“As I stated, this is a purely private matter of exchange between two sovereigns. I do not know where…some newspaper got the figures of $3.9 million and the building. The land and the building are totally different; there is no figure whatsoever. I can confirm that those who gifted the land to the President on their own proceeded to invite architects who could bid for the drawings of the structure and if they decided, those who gifted the President with land were going to hand it over to him on title with drawings again, it’s up to them. No single cent, not a single kwacha of Zambian money has been spent whatsoever. The President has not appointed any architects, he has not appointed any builder,” he said. “Those who gifted him with the land decided that at the time they will hand it over to him, they will hand it over to him on title and the proposed drawing…that’s where that matter is. The fictitious $3.9 million is just malicious manufacture of those who intend to mischaracterise even straightforward matters. There is absolutely no single dollar from the President into Swaziland regarding the development of that land.”
Chanda also told the media that there was no link between Inyatsi Construction Company and the road construction contract of the Mufulira-Mukambo road.
He explained that the said road contract was awarded to Inyatsi Construction in 2014, long before President Lungu assumed the Presidency.
“I will also move on to state that Inyatsi Company is a company that has been operating in Zambia for a number of years, long before the President became President and the construction of the road in question…Ndola-Mufulira, Mukambo road was awarded to Inyatsi Corporation in September 2014. The contract between Inyatsi and the Republic of Zambia through RDA was signed in September 2014 as you know President Lungu became President in January 2015, he was sworn in and inaugurated on 25th January 2015, so there is nothing whatsoever to link Inyatsi company and the road construction of Mokambo, Mufulira road and the land in question in Swaziland. There is no link whatsoever. All those insinuations are purely malicious, unprofessional and therefore must be dismissed as such. There is absolutely no link, this is the contract (displaying a big book) between Inyatsi and RDA signed in September 2014, long before President Lungu became President in January 2015,” Chanda said.
“Without the constraints of diplomatic etiquette, I was going to tabulate to you a long list of gifts that have exchanged between visiting heads of State from abroad to the Republic of Zambia and the Zambian Presidents who have visited other countries and what they have been given. It is highly undiplomatic without authority and clearance from these various sovereign governments to rudely deal with that matter.”
He further accused the media of becoming “unprofessional and sensational where even obvious things are mischaracterised to malign those in government”.
Chanda maintained that the exchange of gifts in diplomatic practice was not a new phenomenon.
“Suffice to say that there was no State exchange between the Royal Kingdom of eSwati and Zambia, the exchange was purely private,” said Chanda. “Where is the existence of corruption? I can confirm to you that his majesty gave the President 10 heads of cows and encouraged him to venture into farming and said that ‘when I do come to Zambia, I want to see you Mr President as a farmer and we can enjoy the intra-regional trade. If you become a successful farmer Mr President, you can export in eSwatini’.”
But Simelane recalled that he once read about a citizen of eSwatini, who he said had a family ranch in one of the First World countries.
“That country’s government had nothing to do with it. It was as private as the alleged construction of the Zambian President’s house,” Simelane had said at first.
However, the Times of Swaziland reporter brought it to his attention that the Zambian government, through its Spokesperson Dora Siliya, had alleged that President Lungu’s land was a gift from the country’s authorities.
Simelane, in response, said his government was not privy to any paper work regarding what he termed alleged acquisition of the land in question.
“We want to believe that if indeed it is happening, it is a private matter towards the construction of a private home,” said Simelane.