Zambia denies $400m purchase for new presidential jet
October 15, 2018—The Zambian government has come out today to flatly deny recent widespread media reports that President Edgar Lungu (pictured) ordered for a luxury Russian-made Sukhoi private jet to be paid for using a Russian loan.
“There is no $400 million being spent on any single aircraft or military equipment as falsely and maliciously alleged by the Africa Confidential and other media platforms,” Stardy Mwale, the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Defence said in a statement on Monday.
Photographs have been making the rounds on the internet supposedly showing the luxurious cabin fittings of the jet Lungu was to soon take delivery of in the near future.
Mwale said, “Information circulating regarding Zambia’s procurement of aircraft is not only misleading, but also manifestly malicious and designed to malign the reputation of the President and his government in general. I wish to stress that aviation security for the Head of State is not a function of State House, but that of the Ministry of Defence through the Zambia Air Force (ZAF) as per its constitutional mandate.”
He said the Zambia Air Force is the only state institution, which is mandated to provide air mobility to the Head of State and as such, ZAF remains the only procuring agent for government aircraft.
However he added: “We are not going to tell you the configuration of our defence assets, capability and range of assets and why they are being bought. We cannot trivialize defence operations in the manner some are suggesting.”
In recent weeks, the government has been warding off claims that the country is facing a debt crisis and was mortgaging national assets to Chinese interests for lack of cash to pay back. Fitch Ratings, the international credit checker said last week Zambia’s total debt will hit 69 pc by the end of the year.
There is no product in the Sukhoi portfolio that would $400 even with the most luxurious fittings. The indicated price for the baseline Sukhoi Superjet 130 upon which the said presidential transport would be based is currently $50 million. But airframers are known to offer huge discounts and such an aircraft could easily be acquired for as little as $30 million.