CHISHIMBA Kambwili has insisted that President Edgar Lungu last week sneaked out of the country to South Africa.
President Lungu’s special assistant for press and public relations Amos Chanda on Friday rubbished Kambwili’s revelation that the Head of State had sneaked out of the country with only his aide de camp and businessman Valden Findlay.
Chanda told Hot FM that the Head of State was on a “short working vacation” in the Luangwa valley and the purpose of keeping him out of State House was to reduce the amount of work going to him.
“The job of a presidential spokesperson is so exhausting and so, I will not waste more time on allegations that have no basis,” Chanda said.
“What I will talk about is where the President is; he is on a short working vacation at a location in the Luangwa valley in Eastern Province and he will be returning once he takes a short break. He is working there, we know what he is doing – we are sending word, if we must. The decision of State House is to give him as much rest as possible – he hasn’t…. So, we are trying to encourage him….”
Asked why President Lungu’s “short working vacation” had to be a secret, Chanda said: “That’s why I’m telling you [that] the purpose of keeping him out of State House is to reduce the amount of work going to him.”
“If we tell you the location where he is and that place is not even barricaded, it’s not secure as State House, then everyone we are preventing from reaching him will be reaching him and therefore the purpose of taking a short break will be defeated,” he said.
Asked further whether he understood that openness would have allayed Kambwili’s speculations, Chanda spewed spiteful commentary against the opposition National Democratic Congress political consultant.
“I can tell you that government is a much more complex operation than the mind of Mr Kambwili. So, our pace is not set by the idle preoccupations of Mr Kambwili. Even if we tell you he (President Lungu) is in Monze, Mr Kambwili will still call a press conference and say the President is in Kalomo!” Chanda charged.
“Can we pick up with that nonsense? We can’t! We will run the State in a decent manner that a State is run. If the President will take a very secret move, it will be secret until we decide that it will be made public. So, we are not going to tell you minute by minute account of the presidential movement!”
But Kambwili yesterday stuck to his word.
“…President went to South Africa and if we follow the trail even at [Kenneth Kaunda] International Airport and Oliver Tambo in South Africa, you will find that President Lungu landed in South Africa. So probably after I disclosed he flew back and went into Luangwa National Park. Initially he went to South Africa. They should not even mislead the people. People who give me information are very credible and by the way, are you aware that yesterday (Friday) he [President Lungu] summoned all the service chiefs and the OP to go and castigate them that ‘why is Kambwili getting firsthand information on things government is doing like my sneaking out’, that was yesterday. I am well informed. I can even tell him which people he went to meet in South Africa.”
Asked to give details since State House was rubbishing his words, Kambwili insisted that the Head of State went to South Africa.
“If he is in Luangwa, he must have come back from South Africa and went to Luangwa but the truth of the matter is that he went to South Africa that day. Let them display, let them give you his passport if there is no stamp for leaving the country. And if you follow it up in South Africa you will prove that the man was in South Africa. I don’t talk about things that I don’t know,” Kambwili said. “Lungu went to South Africa and he knows but typical of that young man Chanda wanting to rubbish everything….”
On Chanda’s statement that they cannot be telling minute-by-minute details of the Head of State’s travels, Kambwili said it was a requirement of the law.
“Tell him that the President is not a private person. You remember under Kaunda, when he went to Mfuwe for a working visit, they will tell the nation; ‘President Kaunda tomorrow will be leaving for Mfuwe; equally [Frederick] Chiluba, even [Levy] Mwanawasa, even Rupiah Banda and Mr Sata. What is so special about Lungu that they must keep it a secret?” he asked. “You and I know that the movements of the President, the country must know. So there is no secret visit. Even if it’s private, they must say the President is going to South Africa on a private visit. The President is going to rest in Mfuwe. Why are they keeping it as a secret? The reason is simple: kuya mukumanya aba madilu, kuya mukumanya aba madilu (to meet dealers), to get shady deals, that’s why they are keeping it’s a secret.”
Kambwili told Chanda that there was no secrecy in the Presidency.
He said he was information, foreign affairs and sports minister and knows government operations.
Kambwili said every movement of the President outside station must be relayed to the nation.
“That’s the standing order. So he cannot tell us that the President can go to Chipata quietly, no. If he is going to visit his mother, they must tell us that the President is expected in Eastern Province to visit his sick mother. The country must know because the people who pay for his lodging, including his feeding is taxpayers and they must know where their President is,” he said. “We don’t want another story of ‘he is jogging in London’ or he is jogging wherever, the way we used to be treated under Mwanawasa time that he is jogging in London.”
Kambwili said he would forgive Chanda because he was in an awkward situation representing an inconsistent government.
He warned Chanda to tread carefully over the way he answers people.
Kambwili said Chanda’s office demands diplomacy in answering people.
“This idea of pomposity, sarcasm in the way he is answering, arrogance should not be part of that office. He is reducing the level of that office. He should get a leaf from people who have been in that office: Arthur Yoyo, [Dickson] Jere, Richard Sakala; but Richard was a bit arrogant and he ended up in prison and if that person want to be arrogant, he will end up like Richard Sakala, simple as that. Look at George Chellah, a simple boy, very polite, talking to people with good language, no sarcasm, but that boy is too sarcastic for that office, to be saying that Kambwili with his little mind,” he said.
“Amos must know once a minister always a minister; once a president always a president. That is why if I die today, I am entitled to a State funeral. But if he is throwing sarcasm at me, it is an indication that he doesn’t respect those ministers who are in office now.”
Kambwili said Chanda must accord him respect as a former minister and a sitting member of parliament.
“Not only that but I am older than him. It’s not right for that boy to be calling me ‘Kambwili with his small limited mind’, that is sarcasm of the worst kind. And it’s shameful that the office of the Presidential spokesperson can be answering people like that,” he said. “I feel sorry for him like the way I feel sorry for deputy inspector generals of police [Eugene] Sibote and [Bonny] Kapeso and [Charity] Katanga because those are proper PF cadres in police uniform.”
Kambwili alleged that he witnessed Kapeso and Sibote beating up an NDC youth, Andrew at Police Service Headquarters.
“I did not expect police brutality being exhibited at that level, how about the junior officers? Those people beat up and assaulted that young man and they went and locked him at Kabwata Police,” he said.
Kambwili demanded an apology from Kapeso and Sibote.
“Kapeso and Sibote beating up our member for just saying ‘boss mukose, ifi fintu filachitika (be strong, these things happen)’; then they say ‘what are you saying? What are you?’ And they started beating him in my presence and in the presence of the lawyers.”
Kambwili also demanded that the officers issue a medical report to the NDC youth.