DELKINS Bwalya says National Democratic Congress youths in Central Province will stage a peaceful demonstration against government’s decision to procure a Presidential jet.
Recently, Africa Confidential revealed that Israel and Zambia were almost ready to sign a new US$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, AC has learned. 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.”
But Bwalya, who is National Democratic Congress Central Province youth chairman, has charged that it was irrational for the Patriotic Front government to procure a presidential jet at a time when there were high unemployment and poverty levels among Zambians.
“As NDC youths in Central Province, we are saddened by the PF government’s decision to purchase a presidential jet worth millions of dollars when there are high unemployment levels and majority Zambians are living below the poverty datum line. We find it unreasonable for the PF government to decide to buy an expensive presidential jet when there are high unemployment and poverty levels among citizens. This is a misplacement of priorities,” Bwalya said. “For this reason, the NDC youths in Central Province will stage a peaceful demonstration. We will mobilise the youths in Central Province and demonstrate peacefully against this decision to buy a presidential jet. In the run up to the 2016 general elections, we were told by the PF leadership that Mulungushi Textiles will be reopened in order to create employment opportunities for young people in Central Province; but to date Mulungushi Textiles is still closed. As a result youths are resorting to playing bonanza, prostitution and alcohol abuse.”
Bwalya stated that the NDC youths wing was not trying to incite people to revolt against the PF government, but merely wanted the current regime to set their priorities right.
“We are not trying to incite people to rise against the PF government. We just want to ensure that the PF government starts to set its priorities right,” said Bwalya. “And we are going to follow all the laid down procedures before staging this demonstration by informing the Zambia Police command. And if they don’t give us a positive response, I will personally proceed to Lusaka and state a protest alone on this issue.”