Zambia defends president's frequent travel abroad

Thursday July 12 2018

Zambia's President Edgar Lungu. FILE | NATION

Zambia's President Edgar Lungu. FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

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The Zambian government has once again come out to defend President Edgar Lungu's frequent travel abroad.

The government said it was implementing austerity measures regarding the trips that have elicited after fierce criticism.

President Lungu flew back home Tuesday after attending the inauguration of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, which trip raised much talk on social media and local airwaves.

“Our dear President decided and found it important to attend an inauguration ceremony in Ankara, Turkey, a ceremony which is characterised with merrymaking such as drinking wine and other both intoxicating liquor and softies, dancing and making toasts," political commentator McDonald Chipenzi was quoted as saying by local media.

Austerity measures

But Information minister Dora Siliya told journalists in Lusaka that even at the height of austerity measures, the government could not paralyse "operations".

"Traveling is part of the President's job description," Ms Siliya said.

"The President has to sometimes travel to convince investors, no one wants to do business with strangers, this is why even the Prime Minister of Britain moves with a huge delegation of business people."

Ms Siliya said the government was making sure the presidential trips were only full of "necessary people".

Scale down

She, however, refused to give the cost of a presidential trip to Europe when asked by a reporter, saying that was not "so important".

In January, President Lungu said he was cutting down on foreign travel as part of austerity measures.

President Lungu has been under pressure from the opposition to scale down his foreign trips to cushion the ailing Zambian economy.