Civil rights activist Laura Miti has appealed to US Ambassador to Zambia Daniel Foote to withdraw the donation to Zambia of four fire trucks that First Lady Esther Lungu is due to receive in the US.
It was revealed that Mrs. Lungu is scheduled to fly to Los Angeles this week for a two week trip to receive four fire trucks that were donated to the Zambian government.
According to records obtained from State House, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is processing American Visas for 25 travellers, among them a bedroom attendant, cook, cleaner, waiter, about seven police officers, four journalists, three secretaries, two fire brigade officers, a communications officer and accountant.
Senior Private Secretary in the Office of the First Lady Florence Chawelwa confirmed that government was paying for the delegation, adding that security could not be compromised because it was a VVIP assignment.
“The first lady brokered support from an organisation called Los Angeles Lusaka Sister Committee. This committee was established in 1967 by Dr Kenneth Kaunda with the then mayor of Los Angeles. The partnership has been in existence for more than 50 years now and the organisation has done different projects in health, entrepreneurship education and water. So when the First Lady came into office in 2015, she was visited by one of the directors of the organisation because they have also been working with the former first ladies. So she went back and came back again last year to check on their projects and discovered the issue of our fires in the markets. So when she came for a courtesy call to the first lady, she promised the first lady that she would go back and mobilise for fire tenders so that they can be donated to the first lady,” Chawelwa explained.
The trip is being sponsored by government because these things are coming to the Government of the Republic of Zambia. And you know this trip’s sponsorship we don’t want to compromise ourselves as government for people to start sponsoring our First Ladies [because] next time you will hear that ‘no there was something happening.’ so some of the questions I think really boarder on integrity, security and so on.”
She said moving a VVIP like the First Lady needed a reasonably big delegation.
According to State House records, the committee to receive four fire trucks for the Republic of Zambia is expected to travel on Tuesday next week and will only return to Lusaka on January 31, 2019.
1. Amos Malupenga – Local Government Permanent Secretary
2. Florence Chawelwa – Senior Private Secretary
3. Agnes Imasiku – Communications officer
4. Wellington Mulambo – Chief fire officer at Ndola City Council
5. Robert Banda – Deputy chief fire officer at Lusaka City
6. Mwansa Mumba – Reporter at Zambia Daily Mail
7. Victor Mwila – Reporter at ZANIS
8. Doreen Nakapizye – Cameraperson at ZANIS
9. Thomas Nsama – Photographer at State House
10. Sandra Ngushi – Staff officer
11. Dominic Kabamba – Staff officer
12. Chimuka Chuulu – Staff officer
13. Musonda Sindazi – Staff officer
14. Lewis Mtonga – Staff officer
15. Christianity Kondolo – Staff officer
16. Christine Nakazwe – Staff officer
17. Cecilia Mwanza – Medical personnel
18. Musonda Chitunga – Cook
19. Chipo Chica – Waiter
20. Charity Chirwa – Bedroom Attendant
21. Clara Chomba – Cleaner
22. Mando Phiri – Accountant
23. Dorothy Musonda Chibwe – Personal Assistant
24. Mary Kafita Kaonde – Secretary
But Ms. Miti says the US government must bar the First Lady from undertaking this trip.
In an Open Letter to Ambassador Foote, Ms. Miti said the trip is a waste of national resources.
“Please get your government to withdraw the donation to Zambia of four fire trucks. Please do not think of as us ungrateful, but we would rather save the money our 1st Lady and a delegation of 25 are about to spend to go and receive the trucks. We honestly don’t really need them. Please Mrs Lungu,” she wrote.
She described Mrs. Lungu’s planned trip to the US as inexplicable.
Ms. Miti said a number of desperate children could be kept in school for years by the money the First Lady is going to blow carrying a delegation of 25 to receive 4 fire trucks donated to Zambia.
“If we must waste hundreds of thousands of dollars to go and receive fire-trucks we don’t even need, when children are failing to pay relatively small amounts of school fees, what kind of country are we?”
“Mrs. Lungu please think about the thousands of young people who will drop out of school, not enter college this January, because you choose to go to the US for no justifiable reason. What must we do to stop this unnecessary suffering by millions, this killing of whole futures so that a few of you at the top can live shockingly opulent lifestyles. So that you can live wonderfully on the taxes of people who are failing to breathe.”
She added, “Mrs. Lungu, I wish you wouldn’t go or at least drastically cut your delegation then direct that money to school fees. Please.”