Edgar Lungu, Inyatsi and the Zambia-China debt crisis



BY : ZWELI MARTIN DLAMINI

JOHANNESBURG: : The civil society and opposition parties in Zambia alleged that one of the contributory factors that saw the country trapped into debts with the Mainland China was the looting of public funds by President Edgar Lungu and his Inyatsi syndicate. Sean T. Tembo, the President of the Patriots for Economic Progress (PeP) when speaking to this Swaziland News publication said one of the reasons the country struggles to sustain some of its financial obligations was corruption in government particularly between President Lungu and Inyatsi Group Holdings.

“As the Patriots for Economic Progress, we are saddened by the continued abuse of public resources by the Republican President in conjunction with other private citizens like the Directors of Inyatsi Roads Limited. A matter of particular concern to us is the continued failure of the contractor, Inyatsi Construction Limited to complete or rather to even properly start the construction of the multi-million Kafue-Mazabuka road. If you visit the site you will realize that there is very little progress that the contractor was doing, in fact there is no machinery and yet we are reliable informed that the contractor has been paid huge sums of money by the government” he said. But when this publication made a follow investigation in Zambia on the Kafue-Mazabuka road project, it was discovered that Inyatsi had started working on the road after learning it might be exposed once again. However insiders maintained that there was little progress compared to the money they received from government.

“They started just two week ago after learning that people were beginning to talk, the work is now in progress” said our source. The concerns regarding the country’s debt crisis with China comes in the midst of revelations that the President’s personal wealth has accumulated to nearly R50million as per his own declaration in 2016 and more assets are believed to be hidden in other countries like Swaziland. When President Lungu took office in 2015 he declared that his personal wealth was worth around $250,000(R3.7million) but surprisingly he quickly accumulated millions and properties allegedly through his dealings with Inyatsi Group Holdings.

The Zambian government recently paid million of USD to Inyatsi Roads Limited for the Kafue- Mazabuka Road project despite that no visible construction or progress on site. Speaking to this publication, Sean E. Tembo, the President of the Priotic for Economic Progress (PeP) said one of the reasons the country was struggling financially resulting in the debt crisis with China was the continuous looting allegedly by the President and Michello Shakantu, the Executive Chairman of Inyatsi Group Holdings. Sean T.Tembo said a number of officials from the roads department approached his political party to complain that they are failing to supervise Inyatsi Construction because of the links between the Directors of the company and the President.

“A number of officials such as those from the Road Development Agency have actually approached us to complain that they are failing to supervise the particular contractor, the Inyatsi Construction because of the association between the Directors of that company and the Republican President. Every senior officer is afraid to engage that company and take them to task and say “despite huge amounts of money paid to you why haven’t you started the construction of the road”. So basically, we are concerned with this matter and we are hopeful that it will be addressed by the President, because the only person who can address this matter is the President himself who created it” he said.

Inyatsi Group Holdings Spokesperson Gugulethu Msane when reached for comments said she was in a meeting and promised to return a call to this journalist. However, she later avoided communication with this publication. “Let me call you later Zweli I’m in a meeting” she said.

But John Chirwa, former Managing editor of the The Post and press freedom advocate said the expose of President Lungu and Inyatsi’s questionable activities in Swaziland were shocking to many sane Zambians. “It brought to the fore the fact that most of our African leaders have prioritized personal wealth than the desire to serve. We are talking about a President whose assets worth was only about $250,000 when he was elected to office in 2015. A year later when declarations of 2016 were made his assets were $2.5million, that’s tells a story” she said.

John Chirwa is one of Zambia’s powerful female editors whose newspaper The Post was closed by Edgar Lungu’s government after it consistently exposed the President’s corruption particularly during the 2016 elections. She said Lungu’s connections with Inyatsi was far more than the awarding of road tenders as Michello Shakantu, the Inyatsi Executive Chairman was always seen with Lungu travelling abroad. Efforts to reach Dora Siliya, the Spokesperson for Zambian government proved unsuccessful at the time of compiling this report. But Mcdonald Chipenzi, the Executive Director of the Governance, Elections, Advocacy Research Service (GEARS) said one of the reasons Zambia depends heavily on China loans was to mitigate the effect of corruption and the uncontrolled expenditure. Speaking to this publication, Chipenzi, said as the situation stands, prices were allegedly exaggerated in the tendering processes for the benefit of President Edgar Lungu and other influential government officials.

“The price may be exaggerated due to perceived back-pays to the authorities and thereby triggering road workmanship. And if this is donor money, the donors may start raising issues. One of the roads given to Inyatsi is Kafue-Mazabuka road which is recording nothing in terms of construction only patches. One wonders where the money awarded to Inyatsi has gone. The Nation was told after the rainy season and now we are heading towards the rainy season and nothing seems to be adding up other than road patches” he said.