Ban HH from overseas travel and abuse of state resources


Ban HH from overseas travel and abuse of state resources

David Cameron once remarked that, “The economy is the start and end of everything. You can’t have successful education reform or any other reform if you don’t have a strong economy.”

In a time of deepening economic turmoil that Zambia finds itself grappling with severe drought, chronic electricity shortages, food insecurity, soaring inflation and no jobs, the President chose to travel to receive an honourary doctorate using public resources.

And this is the same President that has been mouthing against workshops, costly travels by civil servants and abuse of public resources.

Despite that these challenges have inflicted untold suffering on ordinary Zambians, President Hakainde Hichilema’s prorities seem bafflingly misplaced.

His penchant for globe-trotting under the guise of attracting investments continues to draw criticism from citizens. But he remains very comfortable thinking the West’s approbation of whatever he is doing will make him a darling among Zambians. He is dead wrong. HH has alienated himself from the voters and other sympathisers who have come to realise that actually the man is a missionary! And his mission may not be totally aligned with our national interests. There’s a saying that “The same ambition can destroy or save, and make a patriot as it makes a knave”.

The Secretary to Cabinet Patrick Kangwa only a few weeks ago imposed a ban on civil servants not to travel out of Lusaka for workshops. This ban should also be extended to Hichilema who is prolific in abusing state resources on foreign travel. Hichilema without any shame, in two and half years has spent over US $50 million on presidential affairs, and he seems still thirsty for mile hours on the jet.

And then his Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Mulambo Haimbe

tries to justify by saying “presidential trips are always in the interest of the nation”. Really? Despite a general election looming in the United Kingdom, Hichilema found it prudent to travel to meet with King Charles and the First Minister of Scotland for a photo opportunity, and to receive an hononary doctorate as well as participate in a discussion and lecture at universities in England. This is what the Minister of Foreign Affairs describes as national interest. What and where is national interest in all this, Mulambo? Certain things are best left unsaid. You can’t defend certain things.

Let’s imagine that a cabinet minister or a permanent secretary were offered an honorary doctorate from a foreign university, will his ministry pay for him or her, wife or husband, and his delegation’s travel and hotel expenditure with per diems? Of course not. This visit to UK by President Hichilema was a private visit, no matter how much the Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation wants to sugarcoat. It was actually self-indulgent for him to call a press briefing and invoke national interest over this travel. If there is even an iota of any self-respect, Hichilema must refund the entire cost of this personal visit to UK with his wife and government officials. One can’t get away by stating that the President will meet academics, the Zambian diaspora and attempt to make a personal visit official. Zambians can see what is going on and are not stupid. President Hichilema’s priorities seem bafflingly misplaced. This is not “servant leadership” that he claims to be. This is self-interest. You see, confidence is a good thing for a leader but arrogance is not.

Instead of King Charles and the Scottish First Minister John Swinney, President Hichilema in view of the crisis we are in could have met in Zambia with all the chiefs for an indaba and provincial ministers, Zambian based academics, and lectured at UNZA and the Copperbelt University; and indeed attend the inauguration of South African President Cyril Ramaposa.

Zambians are angry with the ongoing love affair that President Hichilema has with the West and foreign investment while ignoring the enhancement of Zambian investment. This is shameful to say the least. It is unpatriotric. It is dangerous. It can and will cause serious socio-economic and political crisis in a short time to come. Surely the thought that Zambians should own and control its own economy is a noble cause. Is Hichilema saying to us that citizen empowernment policies in South Africa, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Kenya, China, India, Malaysia, Nigeria, Namibia, Ghana to mention only a few are wrong, and the blind pursuit of foreign investment and enrichment of foreigners by his administration’s policies are right?

The economic landscape in Zambia is bleak. In 2022, a drought plunged the nation into darkness, with daily power outages. After multiple visits to the United Arab Emirates, Hichilema pledged substatial investments in the energy sector to alleviate the crisis, yet by 2024 little progress has been made. In 2022 and 2023, Hichilema and his team sold us all pies in the sky, three billion dollars here, and two billion dollars there, investments in energy are coming. That the first major solar project will be in place within months. Final result, nothing of the sort happened. Again in 2024, the President and his team are trying to sell us more pies in the sky. No matter how many videos the President’s team members post on social media about new investments in the energy sector, nobody can believe. Once bitten, twice shy! And why, may we ask, are Cabinet ministers not involved and making these grandiose announcements? Does the entire government in Zambia now reside at State House and Community House? Is it only State House that negotiates all foreign deals? It appears to be so. Our advice to ministers is, stay clear of these initiatives and deals that come out of State House and announced by State House staff members. If not, in time, ministers may be embroiled in serious investigations as are the ministers from the PF regime.

Leadership, especially in times of crisis, demands a clear-eyed focus on improving the situation, not on enhancing one’s own international prestige. Moreover, the effectiveness of these trips in attracting substantive investments remains dubious.

Maybe that is why HH elects to travel without official media. No one chronicles what he does when outside the country on his numerous fishy errands. He posts what he feels is edible on his Facebook wall! Too many things remain hanging in the air. Zambians are lost, they don’t seem to know what this new dawn stands for as far as national plight is concerned.

The deal with Vedanta was to be made public, we are yet to see it. The deals with First

Quantum Mines, Mopani remain locked up. Despite the access to information Act one cannot ask as it remains non-operational. Beyond symbolic gestures and high-profile foreign meetings, Zambia requires action that instils confidence and delivers tangible benefits to the populace. Simply being present on the global stage is insufficient. What Zambia urgently needs is leadeship that prioritises pragmatic solutions over supericial optics.

And calls for accountability resonate loudly. President Hichilema must heed these calls and recaliberate his approach to governance. Travelling abroad should not be a substitute for genuine reforms and effective governance at home. Hichilema’s tenure thus far is a testament to the dangers of grandstanding without substance. His promises devoid of practical solutions only serve to highlight his administration’s incompetence and hypocricy. For Zambia to escape this quagmire, Hichilema must abandon empty rhetoric and commit to genuine actionable reform. Stay home and fix things, Mr President.

As Edward Abbey reasoned, “A patriot must always be ready to defend his country against his government.”

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