AFRICA Confidential deputy editor Andrew Weir says the Zambian government has “been borrowing like crazy.”
Speaking on Focus on Africa programme on BBC on Tuesday evening, Weir observed that the Zambian government initially “misrepresented things that we were saying.”
“But we’ve been covering this growing debt crisis and problems about public expenditure – what they are spending the money on – for some time now,” Weir noted.
Asked why Africa Confidential started an investigation bordering on Zambia’s debt, Weir responded that: “This isn’t like a great investigation like spotlight movie, something like that.”
“Our correspondents started finding out stuff about what was going on in terms of the loans that have been made by China and Chinese corporations and by private ones as well that seem to be well beyond Zambia’s means to repay and we’ve been doing that for a few months now,” he said.
He then gave an example of an unnecessary commercial loan that Zambia had contracted.
“Yes, for example, the recently contracted debt, they contracted…for a twin-engine military transport aircraft for a 100 million Euros and that apparently, to our best information, is a commercial loan. So, why are they spending money on things like that? The [Kenneth Kaunda] international airport which has been in need of a bit of a facelift has been undergoing…and we find nothing wrong with that. But the information that we are getting is that it is being massively overpriced,” Weir explained.
On the cutting of aid to Zambia by the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID,) Weir said: “The DFID thing is slightly different.”
British High Commissioner to Zambia Fergus Cochrane-Dyet on Monday tweeted that the United Kingdom (UK) had frozen all bilateral funding to the Zambian government due to corruption and fraud in the country.
High Commissioner Cochrane-Dyet’s tweet followed chief government spokesperson Dora Siliya’s earlier statement during a press briefing on Monday that the Zambian government’s relations with the UK’s DFID were intact and that she was unaware of any stoppage in funding.
“On one hand they (the Zambian government) have been borrowing like crazy for things that some people say are a waste of money. But on the other hand, there’s money that come from aid budget, that come from taxpayers from Britain and Europe and United Nations agencies towards social security payments, towards education and towards health. Now, that’s the money that there have been reports which said the money is being diverted [and] which have been investigated by the Zambian government itself,” said Weir.