Zambian police are investigating leaks of classified government information after the Post newspaper reported that Zambia had agreed to borrow $193 million from a Chinese weapons manufacturer.
The privately owned Post newspaper on May 9 reported that President Edgar Lungu’s cabinet agreed to the loan from Chinese state-owned Poly Technologies Inc., citing a letter from Secretary to the Cabinet Roland Msiska to Fredson Yamba, the treasury secretary. The funds would pay for security equipment for police, the immigration department, prisons and the Drug Enforcement Commission, the Post said.
“The investigations we’ve commenced are over leakages of classified documents,” Charity Munganga Chanda, a police spokeswoman, said by mobile phone Monday. She wouldn’t give further details.
Poly Technologies, a unit of Beijing-based China Poly Group Corp., supplies national defense and security systems, according to its website. It provides equipment to armies, navies, air forces and police.
Zambia’s debt to China has been growing, with Africa’s second-biggest copper producer arranging $851 million in loans from state-owned Chinese banks in 2013, according to the finance ministry’s annual report for that year. The 2014 report is yet to be published.
Information Minister Chishimba Kambwili told the police Sunday to investigate the leak, according to comments broadcast on state-owned ZNBC TV. Government will “deal with” the person who leaked the document, the Lusaka-based Zambia Daily Mail reported Monday, citing Lungu.
Young African Leaders Initiative Governance advisor Isaac Mwanza called Mr.Kambwili’s statement misplaced. Mr.Mwanza said informing the public that Government has on their behalf acquired a public loan that would be used on Security matters is not disclosing security matters.He said Government must acknowledge that they had wanted to hide the fact that they had acquired such a huge loan from another foreign government which the Zambian people ought to know about because it is the Zambian people and their children who are going to pay these loans.
During the national budget presentation in October 2014,Finance Minister Alexander Chikwanda announced that Zambia’s external debt currently stood at $4.7 billion while domestic debt was at a staggering K21.9 billion.
In reaction to this the Former Commerce, Trade and Industry Minister Felix Mutati said the high level of borrowing by the PF government has the potential to threaten Zambia’s macroeconomic position.Mr. Mutati said the debt accumulation under the three years of the PF is too huge for a small economy like Zambia’s.
“The foreign debt now stands at US$4.7 billion while domestic debt is now in the region of K21 billion which is almost half of the budget,” Mr Mutati said.
“That level of borrowing threatens the stability of our macroeconomic position and also threatens our growth prospects including our inflation targets and impacts on cost of doing business in Zambia.”