PRESIDENT Hakainde Hichilema says his administration is already picking “horrifying” and illicit movements of funds by some people.
The President was speaking on BBC TV’s Focus on Africa programme on Wednesday evening.
He spoke about Zambia’s debt situation, which the PF regime could not fully disclose, in terms of exact owed amounts.
“We are picking issues around there. We are picking issues, in terms of movements of cash, which is really not supposed to be the case,” President Hichilema said. “But we’ll be on top of things very soon, in terms of knowing the extent of the damage that has been done [by the fallen regime]. But there is a lot of damage!”
Asked by the interviewer, Lukwesa Burak, on what he meant when he said some things were not yet clear, the President said he was talking about the full extent of the debt and corruption.
“We are beginning to pick a lot of illicit movements of funds. I don’t want to pre-empt things; but what we are picking is horrifying. They are still trying to do things now, even when we made a clear pronouncement that we want to stabilise the country,” he said. “People are still trying to make last minute movements of funds, which are unauthorised, which are not theirs. But we’ll get to the bottom of that very soon.”
The President added that: “also when you look at the [government] payroll, you see that there are a lot of people who are not working but they are on the payroll, exerting further pressure to an already stressed treasury.”
Asked why Zambia needed to secure an IMF package, President Hichilema said: “before we talk about the IMF, we as citizens of Zambia, as the new leadership of this country, send a clear message that we are here to do serious business.”
“What do I mean? We are here to control frivolous expenditure – to be prudent [because] resources are scarce and they ought to be utilised in the most optimal manner. Before we extend a request to anybody to assist us, we must help ourselves,” he explained. “We come in with seriousness, integrity and self-restraint on utilisation of public resources. Then we can walk with our heads high to talk to the IMF that we need support. We are actually not concerned about the IMF conditionalities…Our own minimum requirements are much higher than what the IMF wants. I think that’s what the people of Zambia need. They need zero-tolerance to corruption and we are bringing that to the table.”
The Head of State further indicated that his administration is aware about the Chinese debt portfolio.
“We understand what is going on, roughly. And the Chinese understand that if the economy is not re-organised to bring about growth, their own debt stock is at risk of not being paid,” said President Hichilema.
“They understand that we need to talk – we are talking. We’ve started the initial steps. They have indicated that they will cooperate and I think that we are able to do things with them that will help this economy [to] stabilise.”