Finance Minister Alexander Chikwanda has said that Government is not persecuting the owners of Railway System of Zambia (RSZ). Commenting on the interception of RSZ chief executive officer, Benjamin Even and his Managing Director, Pelossor Yair, Mr Chikwanda said there was no persecution of the two as alleged by some opposition leaders.
He advised opposition leaders not to glorify foreign company owners even when they had failed to perform to expectations as enshrined in agreements.
“There is no persecution, we want them to stay, a little longer for accountability and smooth handover. Why should they want to run away? In mature countries, in matters like this, Government and the opposition usually work together because the issue is of national interest.
But in the case of our opposition, who’s interests are they serving? That is why they will continue to be in the opposition. They want to play to foreign gallery when it doesn’t even work for them. How can they lead people against their interest?” Mr Chikwanda said.
And Home Affairs deputy minister in-charge of Immigration, Stephen Kampyongo the interception of Mr Even and Mr Yair was meant to have the two officials help with a smooth and transparent handover of the railway assets.
Mr Kampyongo said there was nothing sinister with the interception of the two who wanted to exit the country at Lusaka’s Kenneth Kaunda International Airport on Thursday.
Alert Immigration officers intercepted Mr Even and Mr Yair at the airport when they tried to leave for South Africa.
The two were scheduled to leave the country on an early morning flight to Johannesburg through the airport when they were blocked.
“There is nothing sinister about intercepting them. What we want, is to ensure that the two hand over RSZ assets to Government in a smooth and transparent way,” he said in an interview yesterday.
He said Government would promote transparency in the manner RSZ would be handled and that it wanted Mr Even and Mr Yair to be around as Government took over operations.
“We want to ensure there is a proper hand-over of all assets so that there exit is also smooth. We don’t to see a situation where they go while certain issues remain pending because it will be difficult to call them,” he said.
He appealed to Mr Even and Mr Yair to remain patient and cooperate with Government.
On Thursday, Home Affairs Permanent Secretary, Maxwell Nkole said the duo was found with RSZ employment permits which have since been withdrawn and their passports withheld.
Mr Nkole said it was important that a full audit of all assets was thoroughly undertaken with the assistance of the former management.