Zambians will react very soon – Phiri

COPPERBELT Young Leaders Initiative for Justice and Peace executive director Abraham Phiri has wondered how President Edgar Lungu has continued to think in reverse. Phiri, in an interview yesterday, said it was shocking that President Lungu wants to live a luxurious life at the expense of the poor Zambians.

He said President Lungu needed to think about the poor people before he put his luxury life on top.

Russia’s Sukhoi Civil Aircraft (GSS) has said it will deliver a VIP Sukhoi Business Jet for President Edgar Lungu next year.

The aircraft manufacturing company was, initially, set to deliver five planes to Zambia, with a business jet meant for the President.

The company’s vice-president Yevgeny Andrachnikov said at the Russian Business Aviation Exhibition forum that the aircraft to be delivered to President Lungu costs between US$45 million and $49 million.

“The contract was signed and in 2019, Sukhoi Business Jet in the VIP version will be delivered to the President of Zambia,” Andrachnikov told the forum in his presentation. “This airliner costs $45-49 million. It is much more expensive than the passenger SSJ-100, which costs about $30 million.”

Africa Confidential further revealed that Israel and Zambia were almost ready to sign a new $400 million package for high-tech aviation equipment to be funded with a loan from Israel’s Hapoalim Bank and another deal for a jet suitable for use by a head of state.

“Military experts question Zambia’s need for the new equipment it is ordering from Israeli contractor Elbit Systems, as well as its enormous cost. Elbit has $400m of existing supply contracts with the Zambian military for surveillance equipment and other services, such as 18 Skylark mini-drones, an unspecified number of F-5 supersonic jet fighters, ground vehicles, and upgrades to the air force’s Russian-made Mi-17 E transport helicopters. These deals, signed last year, also include centres for flight-training, and command control and communications,” Africa Confidential stated.

“One of the contracts was part-funded with a $48m loan from Israel Discount Bank, which was signed by President Edgar Lungu on 5 September 2016. The latest Elbit deal includes over $100m allocated for the purchase of an aircraft for civilian use, which will have a military tail number, according to African Confidential. The jet, we understand, is a Gulfstream G650 and would be earmarked for presidential use. Much of the rest of the $400m deal is a maintenance package, we understand.”

And sources have told the News Diggers! that government has actually procured eight planes – five from Russia, two from Italy and one from Israel.

The inside sources have disclosed that apart from the five planes from Russia, which include one VIP Suckhoi airliner and the controversial Gulfstream G650 anti-missile presidential jet from Israel, the Zambian government is also buying two C-27J transport aircraft from Leonardo Aerospace Company Of Italy in a separate deal.

“I am sure you heard the Permanent Secretary [for Defence] admitting that they are buying fine planes from Russia, one for the President with luxury specifications. That is the Sukhoi airliner. Then there is the Gulfstream 650 extended range which is coming from Israel. But apart from those six, there is now another consignment of military transport planes coming from Italy. In fact, a part payment was actually made on this procurement already. So the total is eight planes purchased under the defence modernization committee,” sources explained.

Phiri said President Lungu should put his luxurious life aside.

“This is clear thinking in reverse. We don’t know what President Lungu is feeding on to think in reverse. Is it the dununa reverse song that he dances so well to? This is uncalled for. How can a serious President think of buying planes when citizens are failing to have a meal? Does the President know the levels of poverty in the country? It seems President Lungu does not care about the Zambian people,” he said.

“President Lungu should show leadership. Even if it’s not him who is buying, but he has the power and control to stop this and channel the funds to needy areas. But what we have discovered is that any deal where there is a share, President Lungu will not stop that. This is the injustice that we are talking about. How can people not have meals, die in hospitals due to lack of medicines, yet a President is spending billions on planes?.”

Phiri said President Lungu would remember the poor people very soon.

He further said the levels of corruption in the PF government had the blessings of the Head of State.

“… So why should the President complain when we say he does not care? It’s true, he does not care. Look at how much he is spending. Look at how much the poor Zambians are suffering. Look at the cost of fuel. The cost of living, yet a person is busy spending carelessly,” said Phiri. “We don’t have a President in Zambia. It is clear we are at pains to explain this. The lies of this government will not live long. Zambians are watching in silence and very soon, we will react.”

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