Fr Luonde said Zambians were living dangerously by having a finance minister whose interest is to protect mining companies so that his supply business remains profitable.
He said it was betrayal of trust of Zambians and President Michael Sata for Chikwanda to continue as Minister of Finance while at the same time being an active shareholder in a company that is a supplier to the mines.
“The honourable minister should state clearly that he is not involved in Sigma Enterprises and if he tells us that and gives us proof, then, there is nothing wrong,” Fr Luonde said in an interview. “That means he is serving as an honest person running the finances of the nation. But as things stand now, there is no independence. It’s like me as a priest, we are constructing a church and I become the biggest supplier within the church construction project. What picture am I trying to portray to the Christian followers? I am simply saying that I am there to benefit as a priest and not for the church to benefit. I would rather leave that to the Christians and in comparison to the Zambians.”
Fr Luonde said demands for Chikwanda to come clean on his dealings with the mines were genuine.
“People are saying we are trying to be vicious against the minister; this is the problem we have as Zambians,” he said. “They are good and fast to believe what is not true and leave that which is true. As a priest, if I was to tell lies, there is no way I would rise against someone of that age of Mr Chikwanda, who is almost the younger brother of my father who died at 95 in 2010. So, to say it is a vicious campaign, [it] is not a vicious campaign. We just want to put things right in Zambia. What Zambia produces, all the resources are for Zambians. And when we talk about Zambians, we are talking about Hon Chikwanda, Fr Luonde and any other Zambian. We should all benefit from the cake of the nation. As beneficiaries, we must be sincere in our dealings. If I am asked to perform a duty that requires me to stay away from certain ventures, I will certainly uphold that decision because my interest is to serve the nation and I will come openly and say ‘I am not doing this’. But if I accept and on the other hand, I begin to do other things, then I have to be questioned. To question someone is not to hate someone; it’s not to destroy someone; it’s simply to put records right.”
He said Chikwanda needed rehabilitation.
“For someone to say it’s a vicious campaign; on what platform can Fr Luonde stand to become a Republican President? I am a priest; I am neither PF nor UPND; I am not MMD,” he said. “All I stand for is the genuineness of those who lead us. As people who are led, we must question some of the decisions our leaders make and when we question these decisions, we are not saying we hate them. I stand on the truth. If the truth comes out, let it come out. If Hon Chikwanda is innocent, he simply says he is innocent. If he says it was an oversight, he says it was an oversight and the story ends. You will have put the record right. Some people could be complaining but in their complaints, they don’t come out. All they say is simply to cry foul. These are the people who do dubious things to hurt the nation. And sincere people like Fr Luonde will come out and speak and question some of the decisions that government takes and when that question comes, it’s not to the destruction of that person; it is to the reconstruction of that person. Those who want to do things the President does not entertain and want should leave. They should come out and say, ‘We are businessmen and not politicians’. It’s practically impossible to be policeman for the mining companies and at the same time do business with them.”
Fr Luonde said the mines would be more willing to give Chikwanda more contracts at the expense of other Zambian contractors because of the power he wielded.
“I would leave it to the Zambians to get involved in the supply to the mines rather than the leaders responsible, directly, controlling the finances of our nation to be involved,” he said. “The [mines] will take advantage of those who are not known. He who pays the piper calls the tune. But as I talk about his involvement in Sigma Enterprises, if what I am saying is false, let him state so.”
Fr Luonde said it was betrayal of trust of Zambians for Chikwanda to entangle the nation in his private pursuit of business deals with the mines.
“If we are genuine, we are able to disclose what you are doing, especially if you are in a position of leadership for the benefit of those who we lead because once we open up, we are saying we are doing a genuine business,” Fr Luonde said. “But if we don’t open up, then that means there is something wrong.”
He said Chikwanda’s business with the mines could only flourish if the mines were also doing well.
“If I am renting out a house to somebody, I should make sure that that house is properly done and well-equipped so that at the end of the day, what I will receive from there will be equal to what I had put in,” he said. “So, to an investor like the mines, I would want to ensure that they should not be disturbed until I gain and get what I wish to get. Chikwanda’s business cannot flourish if the mines are not flourishing and while common Zambians, including those who are suppliers to the mines, are sat on because the contracts will be given to a known person who in turn will also help those mine investors. And if he brings stronger policies against the mines, they will simply say ‘You are one of the suppliers and we shall not allow you to supply’. They will simply say ‘We are leaving’.”
Fr Luonde said there was too much impunity by mining companies, which was being encouraged by the closeness of some mining firms to top government officials.
“We are living dangerously as Zambians. The workers are being fired day in, day out; they have no protection. Look at Kansanshi Mines, where 71 workers were dismissed. This shows that we are not as independent as the owners of the resources that these investors are utilising. Few people are in control and this is inhuman and not right for Zambia,” he said. “In fact, maybe he [Chikwanda] is not the only minister supplying to the mines; we are going to research.
Those who don’t want to accompany the manifesto of the Patriotic Front and begin to involve themselves in private dealings with the mines, let them quit. We have a simple President who leads a simple life; the way he lived when he was in the opposition is the way he lives today. That is the kind of leadership we want. But once we have leaders who are like President Michael Chilufya Sata, Zambia, in the next 20 years, will be a heaven. The era of wastage, recklessness and thinking you are the champion of the world should not be allowed to occur. Those who want to get rich at the expense of Zambians are not in the right boat right now. President Sata is distributing wealth to all corners of the nation and he needs to be supported.”
Fr Luonde said days for Zambians to watch haplessly as their resources are being exploited were gone.
“For whatever coin, we should make sure that this money is returned into our nation’s account and the person responsible is the Minister of Finance,” said Fr Luonde. “So, to say we should respect more our investors, that is totally wrong. Investors should equally respect us by giving us what rightfully belongs to us.”