For a while, inconsistencies have become apparent in Edgar Lungu’s government. And clumsy statements and contradictions have become more pronounced in the midst of a formidable enemy – the coronavirus pandemic. Usually, in a time of crisis, like a public health emergency, you expect the leadership to take the lead especially by releasing clear information to the citizenry. There should be no room for second guessing data and, or directives issued by the President.
But now there are demands for Dr Chitalu Chilufya to either resign on moral and ethical grounds or be fired by Edgar Lungu for misleading the government and the general public on the way the COVID-19 pandemic is evolving in Zambia.
After Edgar eased restrictions regarding movements and gatherings late Friday, Chilufya the very next day announced 85 new cases of COVID-19 – the highest single-day toll from the time the pandemic was confirmed in Zambia on March 18, 2020.
Chilufya said, “in the last 24 hours, 346 tests were conducted” and a total of 85 new cases were reported in Zambia, with three COVID-19 related deaths. He further announced that in Nakonde alone, 170 tests were conducted out of which 76 were confirmed positive “broken down as follows; 26 truck drivers, 13 lodge and commercial sex workers, 31 immigration staff/ clearing agents and four contacts”.
But well-placed sources in the Ministry of Health revealed that Dr Chilufya’s announcement on Saturday just exposed the medical fraud currently going on around the COVID-19 pandemic in Zambia.
“This whole Nakonde saga will date back to three weeks ago,” sources said. “Remember that about three weeks ago, Dr Chilufya announced that there was a couple that tested COVID-19 positive after travelling from Tanzania via Nakonde border. He said as a result, stricter measures would be put in place in Nakonde, coupled with massive surveillance, contact tracing, screening and testing. However, health workers only arrived in Nakonde last week around Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday, two weeks later. Even then they didn’t start the mass testing. They first started by conducting a training workshop until the provincial minister, Hon Malozo Sichone, stopped them so they could start and concentrate on the testing exercise. That’s how they started the testing on Saturday [May 2, 2020] but they didn’t do much because they didn’t have adequate testing kits. Then came in the issue of transport, to transport the samples or specimen to Ndola at Tropical Diseases Research Centre for testing. You can ask Provincial Administration how this one was eventually resolved but anyway the samples were taken to Ndola and the results should have been ready not later than last week Wednesday. The big question, however, is why did Dr Chilufya have to hold on to the results? That’s why we in the medical circles are calling it a fraud. It’s a medical fraud.”
Another source says Edgar has created a big monster in Dr Chilufya which will soon devour him.
“The biggest challenge is Dr Chilufya has become untouchable and he gets his way to the President to the extent that he now has no respect even for the Vice-President. This is a well-known story within government circles and the Veep is very unhappy,” the source says. “No wonder some people are now concluding that maybe President Lungu is positioning Dr Chilufya as his running mate in 2021. Dr Chilufya is now big-headed because President Lungu appears to be shielding or protecting him a lot. So don’t get surprised when you hear that nothing comes out of the ACC investigations against him. Even with the Covid plunder currently going on in the ministry, we are very sure the President is aware but he will not do anything about it. Last year Dr Chilufya had a big fight with Professor Nkandu Luo when the Professor was Minister of Higher Education. Dr Chilufya wanted to run the Levy Mwanawasa University Teaching Hospital under his ministry but Professor Luo rightly and strongly opposed that because all universities fall under the Ministry of Higher Education.
“This was a big fight until Professor Luo was transferred from the Ministry of Higher Education. The moment Dr Brian Mushimba succeeded Professor Luo, Dr Chilufya got what he wanted when the Ministry of Higher Education signed an MoU delegating authority to Ministry of Health to run the Levy Mwanawasa Teaching Hospital. So Levy Hospital University is being managed by Dr Chilufya. That’s how powerful Dr Chilufya is in this government. Even the Health Insurance Scheme should have been run under Ministry of Labour, like NAPSA, but he grabbed it under Health. The man wants a lot of power, he is hungry for power. He has chased all the experienced medical doctors and officers from the ministry only to replace them with his cronies. All the good professional hands have been frustrated out of the Ministry of Health. Ask Dr [Aaron] Mujajati and Professor [Peter] Mwaba. Ministry of Health is one with most frustrated employees because of Dr Chilufya’s mismanagement but no one can complain because it’s clear that he is President Lungu’s blue-eyed boy. But watch the next few days. They will be very eventful.”
But Chilufya says he does not hide data.
“The epidemic can rapidly evolve. For us in the Patriotic Front government, we value transparency. We have no business in hiding data, we feed the nation with credible data. The plan is multisectoral from inception – it screams loud that there’ll be collaboration,” says Chilufya. “We give validated data. We don’t want to give patchy results. So the President is informed of every detail and all the data and directives that are given during our addresses are based on the information the President gets on a daily basis. Like I said on the watchful and analytical eye, he watches the COVID-19 pandemic…I frown at the insinuation that we are hiding figures. That does not reflect who we are and it is not part of our values and we find no business, no value in that. Hiding figures may result in misinforming the public and misdirecting attention and may result in deaths, so that’s not what we are.”
Is Chilufya being truthful or lying?
Why would Chilufya embarrass the President? What is it that Edgar is doing, or has done, which Chilufya knows and makes him untouchable?
Is Chilufya a strongman that Edgar can’t touch without burning his political fortunes?
Or is there some business association the duo is using in this shadow-boxing?
What’s happening at State House and Ndeke House – the Ministry of Health?