…your own cadre has supplied you air – Chama
By Ernest Chanda
PF NATIONAL chairperson Davies Chama has challenged President Hakainde Hichilema to act on the Mahogany Airline saga where government chartered a plane for US $275,000 without receiving a service.
He said the ruling UPND are dealers, “and deceptions and lies are manifesting themselves to make sure that the truth will always come out. God is exposing them in a bigger way.”
On Friday last week, the Ministry of Sport was frantically organising a plane to carry the Zambia national team players back home immediately after their game against Ivory Coast on the night of the same day.
This was after Mahogany Airline chief executive officer Dr Jim Belemu went mute after being paid a full US $275,000 a couple of days before the day of departure, a service that he failed to provide.
The 120-seater plane was to carry sports minister Elvis Nkandu, his permanent secretary Kangwa Chileshe, director of sport John Zulu, FAZ general secretary Adrian Kashala, a number of government officials and supporters including journalists to Yamoussoukro where Zambia dated Cote d’ Ivoire in the AfCON qualifier match which kicked off at 21:00 hours. Zambia lost 3-1.
The team was supposed to return immediately after the match in good time for a second encounter against the Comoros billed for Heroes Stadium in Lusaka today.
The plane was scheduled to depart Kenneth Kaunda International Airport on Thursday at 20:00 hours but time kept changing until Dr Belemu’s phone could no longer be reached from midnight till Friday morning, leaving the travelling party in suspense and resulting in all of them spending a night in the freezing Kenneth Kaunda International Airport premises.
Nkandu and Chileshe then took the matter into their own hands as time was desperately running out on them and made contacts and finally managed to find a much bigger 250-seater plane through Proflight which was costing US $225,000.
Dr Belemu’s 120-seater plane was even more expensive by $70,000.
Later on Saturday, Dr Belemu disputed the amount indicated by Nkandu and Kangwa while attributing the non-delivery of service to a fault on his plane.
“I have observed so many gaps and incorrect reported statements from the media. I don’t even know where the amount stated in the media as payment to us is coming from as it is incorrect. Perhaps it will be interesting to know how the amount mentioned was arrived at,” said Dr Belemu. “We have always conducted such assignments both within the country and in other neighbouring countries, sometimes in difficult and tight situations. We also prioritise the confidentiality on movements of national team and its officials. We always prioritise integrity in whatever services we do and we remain focused.”
But Chama said President Hichilema should tell the nation what his government will do about “their own supplier who has supplied air”.
“They have been saying PF allowed people who supplied air. This is what this government has been complaining about to the Zambian people. They accused suppliers under our government of supplying air. And now their own cadre Belemu has supplied air at a time when we have no resources in the economy,” Chama said. “I am challenging President Hakainde Hichilema to tell the nation what he will do to his permanent secretaries at Cabinet Office who processed and approved this payment. How do you spend $275,000 to just go and watch football for 90 minutes and you come back? The President should tell the nation what he will do about this scandal where his own government pays money to someone who does not deliver. Are they going to recover this money or are they going to blacklist Belemu the same way they have blacklisted contractors who dealt with the PF government? Their own cadre has also delivered air. So I don’t expect the President to keep quiet about this because he has been preaching prudence and transparency in his government.”
Chama charged that the government was being deceptive in its dealings.
He wondered why the government opted for an expensive Mahogany Airline when there was a cheaper offer from Proflight.
“These are a bunch of people who are very deceptive. If anything, they are dealers because they are giving those contracts in the night under the cover of darkness. They could have gone to other airlines who are much cheaper because we are told that in their desperate situation in order for them to come out, there was even a cheaper offer. And these figures have been floating around,” Chama said. “They are being exposed. You know, deceptions and lies are manifesting themselves to make sure that the truth will always come out. God is exposing them in a bigger way. Of course, the deal was done in the night under the cover without even tender. That amount, it’s a very huge amount. In terms of authority to procure, I think it’s beyond the threshold. $275,000 just to go and watch football? That’s too much.”
Chama reminded the UPND administration of their claims about accountability.
He said what they had done was contrary to their claims.
“And this is a government that has been saying they will not tolerate wasteful expenditure. And we are under a very tight economic situation. And they are supposed to make sure that they protect every cent that comes into the coffers of government. Now, they are being exposed that this is a very wasteful government,” said Chama. “$275,000 can complete a school and make it habitable to even employ teachers and a lot more civil servants. They want to hide that they are very prudent and very rational leaders. But, thank God, because of being stranded now they are being exposed. And we are going to know how they gave $275,000 to that man who is their supporter, who is their cadre. And these are some of the issues that the investigative wings, if they are really impartial, they are supposed to be looking at.”