By Chris Zumani Zimba
Unless they tell us that the new Michael Chilufya Sata Toll Plaza has an inbuilt private airport, shopping mall, hair saloon, golf coast, holy cathedral, public car park as well as a copper refinery facility, the Ministry Housing and Infrastructure Development, National Road Fund Agency (NRFA) and Road Development Agency (RDA) must exculpate themselves properly and apologize to Zambians for spending U$ 4.3 Million on one basic toll plaza1. If construction of toll gates is as expensive as this Ndola-Kitwe dual carriage way one, then President Lungu must direct to halt them countrywide with immediate effect than later because, he cannot prioritized to lavishly spend tax money for majority poor Zambians in this manner than improving their health, education, water, sanitation or housing services. Even if this was the only gate to London, New York or Paris, the cost is too abnormal for hell to open because even the divine gate of eternal life to heaven is as cheap as accepting Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.
For sure, any sane Zambian cannot praise the PF government for what seem like clear daylight robbery from the national treasury or citizen assured Chinese loans because, this is not the first toll plaza in Zambia or Africa. According to his official ministerial statement to parliament on ‘the construction of toll plazas and their impact on the treasury’ in April 2017, Hon. Minister of Housing and Infrastructure Development, Mr. Chitotela informed Zambians that “His Excellency Mr Edgar Chagwa Lungu, President of the Sovereign Republic of Zambia commissioned and launched the three (3) conventional toll plazas namely; Mumbwa, Shimabala and Katuba at a ceremony that was held on 27th April, 2017 at Katuba Toll Plaza. The three toll stations were constructed at an estimated total cost of K90 million i.e. U$7.8 Million”2 , the Minister told parliament.
On 3rd December, 2017, the National Road Fund Agency (NRFA) Public Relations Manager, Mr. Alphonsius Hamachila announced that Avic International through the Road Development Agency (RDA) constructed and completed the Chongwe Toll Plaza at the cost of US$ 1.9 million and handed over the Toll Plaza to NRFA for operations3. He further added that ‘the Chongwe Toll Plaza is installed with modern road tolling features which include enhanced security cameras for internal controls, transparency and accountability, vehicle recognition devices, and customer unit fare displays’4. Hence Hon. Jackie Mwiimbu, Leader of the opposition in Parliament and Monze Central MP, lamented at the new costs of Micheal Sata Toll plazas when he said, “our quick investigations indicates that South Africa has been constructing highly modernized Toll Plazas at the cost of US500,000 only. So what’s so special for our Toll Plazas to cost such an enormous amount of money?…We find it unbelievable and unjustified that PF can spend K51 million just to construct those pillars no matter what is fitted there”5.
Therefore, all these empirical facts above on the average costs of toll plazas justifies the ‘loud national mourning’ Zambians have declared over the Michael Chilufya Sata toll plaza which was constructed at the cost of U$4.3 Million and overtly seen either as excessive lavishness by government or another arrogant plunder of public resources.
Unfortunately, this is not the first and last ‘nation mourning’ for the Zambian voters and citizens in relations to receiving blotted costs and outrageous public expenditure from the PF government. In 2017, President Lungu personally presided over and politically endorsed one of the most controversial and corrupt public procurement in the history of Zambia, the purchase of 42 fire engines at $1m (K10, 000,000) per truck, which were also insured at $25,000 (K250,000) each6. As some Zambian citizens did not want just to cry and ‘mourn over the most expensive wheelbarrows’ in their homes, on 29 September 2017, the police charged and arrested 6 peaceful marchers (musician Pilato, Alliance for Community Action (ACA) Executive Director Laura Miti, Patriots for Economic Progress (PeP) President Sean Tembo, ZCSD Executive Director Lewis Mwape, Bornwell Mwewa and Mika Mwambazi) for disobeying a lawful order after marching on Parliament against what they said was the corrupt procurement of 42 fire trucks for US$42 million7. In this instance, some brave ‘Zambian citizen mourners’ were arrested in the name of the Public Order Act (POA), a colonial oppressive legislation that was designed to disallow Zambian nationalists from exercising any freedom of assembly, expression and movement.
In 2017 again, President Lungu’s government made another controversial procurement of 50 ambulances at $288,000 each amounting to over $11 million in total while Toyota (Zambia), a globally renowned car manufacturer and dealer submitted a quotation to supply the same items at about $70,000 but was turned down8. Once again, this made many poor Zambians to ‘mourn’ at the lavish expenditure of their public resources by the PF government. The ‘Zambian citizen mourners’ also heard that the Permanent Secretary for the Ministry of Education made a public apology to the Parliamentary Accounts Committee chairperson in 2017 for spending over $200 (K2, 700,000) to purchase one vehicle for the Minister and his office furniture9. Other citizens are still mourning about this case too.
In May-June this year, Zambians declared another ‘national mourning’ when the RDA announced that the construction of the Lusaka-Ndola dual carriage way would cost $1.2 billion. Trade and Business Consultant, Trevor Simumba told Lusaka Times that “This is pure theft. Someone in Government is involved because to justify $1.2 billion for a 321 km road is purely criminal,’ the costs of this road were way above normal. Madam Minister suspend this project, conduct detailed review of costs and get a new PPP contractor. It’s clear these guys are thieves and colluded with some officials to steal from Zambians. Enough is enough”10 he added. Generally, we need to note that these national mourning episodes among Zambian voters and citizens have become an acceptable public traditional year in and out since 2011 when the Micheal Sata Patriotic Front (PF) formed government. These are few examples we cite from a hill and mountain of cases.
In addition, the Auditor General’s Reports for 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016 and the latest one for 2017 all show increasing patterns of financial irregularities, embezzlement, misappropriation and abuse of public resources. All these revelations are ‘deadly annual public funerals’ for poor Zambians to mourn and anguish. But in his inauguration address at Heroes Stadium on 13th September, 2016 in Lusaka, President Lungu promised that “my dear friends, I indeed have a heavy debt to ensure that at no time should you ever feel you had misplaced your trust and confidence in me. I won’t let you down”!11 Over the newly launched Michael Chilufya Sata Toll Plaza, President Lungu and his government seem to have let down many poor Zambians as many voters and stakeholders continue to grieve, mourn and lament over what has been deemed the ‘most expensive toll gate’ in Africa if not in the world. And if this practice is not stopped or corrected by President Lungu himself, then Zambians must adopt the American slogan of ‘in God we trust’ because their leaders are increasingly proving too exploitative, brutal and selfish indeed.
Chris Zumani Zimba is a prolific Political Scientist, Analyst, Author, Blogger, PhD Scholar, Researcher and Consultant. Besides being the CEO and Managing Consultant at Chrizzima Democracy University (CDU) in Zambia, he analyses African politics weekly on Voice of the Cape Town, South Africa every Wednesday at 16:45hours CAT. So far, he has authored more than 10 political and academic books as well as published over 100 well researched articles.
- Lusaka Times (2018:1), accessed from https://www.lusakatimes.com/2018/11/05/president-lungu-commissions-mcs-toll-plaza/
- Parliament of Zambia (2018:1), accessed from http://www.parliament.gov.zm/sites/default/files/images/publication_docs/Ministerial%20Statement%20on%20the%20Construction%20of%20Toll%20Plazas_0.pdf
- Q FM Zambia (2018:1), accessed from http://www.qfmzambia.com/2017/12/03/chongwe-toll-plaza-completed-ready-to-start-operating/
- Zambia Watchdog (2018:1), accessed from https://www.zambiawatchdog.com/mp-mwimbu-shocked-by-inflated-cost-of-toll-gate/
- The Mast Online, (2018:1), accessed from https://www.themastonline.com/2018/03/02/stealing-state-gold-in-the-name-of-god/
- Amnesty International (2018:1), accessed from https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2018/09/zambia-trial-of-activists-for-protesting-government-spending-an-affront-to-justice/
- Zambian Observer (2018:1), accessed from https://www.zambianobserver.com/ministry-of-health-explains-cost-of-controversial-ambulances/
- National Assembly of Zambia (2018:1), accessed from http://www.parliament.gov.zm/node/7271
- Lusaka Times (2018:1), accessed from https://www.lusakatimes.com/2018/06/23/mwanakatwe-must-suspend-the-lusaka-ndola-dual-carriageway-project-simumba/
- Lusaka Times (2018:1), accessed from https://www.lusakatimes.com/2016/09/13/president-lungus-full-inauguration-speech/