FOREIGN affairs minister Harry Kalaba has told Parliament that President Edgar Lungu’s foreign trips are always scrutinized by relevant ministries.
And Kalaba says it is in the interest of job and wealth creation that Zambia on September 15 issued a press statement urging North Korea not to engage in provocative acts but to participate in the de-nuclearlisation of the Korean Peninsula.
Roan PF member of parliament Chishimba Kambwili asked Kalaba in Parliament this morning to contextualise President Lungu’s numerous foreign trips.
“We stood on the platform during the 2011 campaigns and one of the main issues that we told the people of Zambia we needed to change government was the frequent travel of former president Rupiah Banda and we promised the people that when we come into office, we shall cut on these unnecessary travels. I have been Minister of Foreign Affairs [and] a lot of meetings are represented by only ministers. May I know whether you have changed as PF and whether you misled the people just to get into office? How much has President Edgar Lungu spent on his travels in the last two years since he has travelled 48 times against 10 times of Michael Sata in his three years as President?” asked Kambwili.
In response, Kalaba said he would have struggled to answer the question posed by Kambwili had the latter not been a foreign affairs minister before.
“HONOURABLE MEMBER FOR ROAN AND I HAVE HAD THE OPPORTUNITY TO SERVE IN THE MINISTRY OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS AND IF THERE IS ANYBODY IN THIS HOUSE WHO SHOULD UNDERSTAND THE IMPORTANCE OF THE PRESIDENTIAL TRAVELS, IT’S THE FOREIGN MINISTER. IF SOMEBODY WHO HAS BEEN IN THE MINISTRY CAN COME TO THIS HOUSE AND SAY THAT THE PRESIDENTIAL TRAVELS ARE EXCESSIVE [AT] 48 COMPARED TO PRESIDENT SATA’S 10, THESE ARE THE KIND OF POLITICS THAT ARE MAKING OUR PEOPLE SHUN US AS POLITICIANS. IT IS IMPORTANT TO RECORD THAT HONOURABLE KAMBWILI KNOWS AS WELL AS I DO THAT VISITS FOR A PRESIDENT ARE CATEGORISED; THERE ARE MEETINGS THAT ARE STRUCTURED FOR HEADS OF STATE AT THE UN, AT THE AFRICAN UNION, SADC, IN THE GREAT LAKES REGION AND SO ON AND FORTH – THAT IS WHY THEY ARE CALLED SUMMIT; SUMMIT SIMPLY MEANS THE HIGHEST,”
“Our domestic agenda is only as strong as our foreign policy or agenda is strong. Honourable [Felix] Mutati presented the [national] budget last week Friday and most of those [budgetary] components are dependent on foreign diplomacy of our country and if the President has not travelled, you the same members in this House have been asking questions ‘why is he not traveling?’… I remember I used to have a tough time standing here, I was privileged to be foreign minister for Mr Sata as well, may his soul rest in peace; such a gallant son of the soil. I used to be taken to task by my colleagues in the House as to why president Sata was not attending Summits and meetings. They were mocking Mr Sata that ‘how come you are the only one travelling?’ ‘How can Zambia be respected?’ [But] President Lungu comes and he is travelling, again the same people who celebrated Jesus Christ’s entrance into Jerusalem are the same people taking him to Calvary!”
He further pointed out that it was important that leaders continued to inspire their followers – permanently and consistently so – to stick by the truth.
“And the truth is [that] every visit that the President undertakes is carefully looked through and analysed,” Kalaba said.
And responding to Mwembeshi independent member of parliament Machila Jamba who wanted clarification on what effects the press statement caused on other countries that sympathised with North Korea, Kalaba, who earlier gave a ministerial statement on President Edgar Lungu’s international travel, noted that he had a premonition that “such kind of a question would arise and I carried with me the press release which was done on the 15 September, 2017″.
“Now, at foreign affairs, I’m paid to do this and before a statement of this magnitude is released, myself and my colleagues seated there (Cabinet ministers) sit and analyse word for word, of what the word means and its implications on the continental body. The words that the statement carried were totally misconstrued and maybe deliberately by those whose job is to pull others down,” Kalaba said.
“We said as a member of the United Nations and a state party to the treaty on non-proliferation of nuclear weapons, Zambia supports calls from the international community for nuclear disarmament and subsequently urges the democratic people’s Republic of Korea not to engage in provocative acts but to participate in the de-nuclearlisation of the Korean Peninsula. How does Zambia come in? My wife was very gracious [and] she presented some of the comments and jokes (arising from the press statement)…. There was one particular joke which was circulating on social media and I laughed; there was this police officer clearing his gun and he was saying ‘are you sure Harry Kalaba is talking about Kim wamene uyu waku (the same from) North Korea or maybe he is talking about Kim Kardashian?’ It became a joke but the truth is [that] in the Korean Peninsula we have four countries are involved; we have South Korea, we have North Korea, we have Japan and we have China. Zambia is a copper producing and our copper which we produce is not sold in Zambia.”
He said China was one of the countries that consumed most of Zambia’s copper, hence if China begun to fight in the Korean Peninsula, it would stop importing copper and “our economy will contract”
“As our economy contracts, it will be difficult for us to create wealth and job creation. We have also been receiving a lot of bilateral aid from South Korea as well as Japan. If the Korean Peninsula is destabilised, that does not even have an indirect effect on Zambia [but] it has a direct effect on our country. So, don’t tell me that Zambia has nothing to say about North Korea; before the United Nations there is what is propagated or promulgated as equality of States! The same platform that President [Donald] Trump used to address the United Nations is the same platform [that] President Lungu used because the United Nations, as a body crafted by the architects, was crafted to protect both the weak and the strong. So, if the weak, as you want to look down upon yourselves, should keep quiet in the face of injustice and yet we have signed treaties…. In 1991 we became a state party to the non-proliferation of nuclear arsenal,” Kalaba explained.
“So, if you want us to keep quiet in the face of such adversity, then we might as well stop being an active player in the diplomatic world. So, Zambia is very close to North Korea, Zambia is very close to what is happening in the Korean Peninsula. This is not the first time [that] Zambia has issued a statement of such magnitude; we issued statements when NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organisation) invaded Libya, we did issue a statement when Iraq invaded Kuwait…. So, we have an inescapable responsibility as a country to talk about issues of this nature. It is only in your interest that this statement was issued – it is in the interest of job creation and wealth creation.”