ZAMBIA’S Minister of Foreign Affairs Joseph Malanji faces a moral dilemma over his purchase of a US$1.4 million helicopter, Cosmas Musumali, Socialist Party general secretary and first vice-president says. The Bell 430 twin-engine light-medium helicopter was bought from South Africa.
Dr Musumali said it was in Malanji’s interest to refrain from commenting further on the purchase because, “whatever he says now merely exacerbates the anger and disgust of the suffering masses”.
“His best option is to keep quiet and hope, like with many other issues in our corruption-ridden country, that the dust will soon settle and people will switch over to another topic.
”Dr Musumali said Malanji was well known for his free spending and was “obsessed with branding himself as a rich person who runs luxurious businesses”.
“His exit and entry at Ndola Airport is not seldom accompanied by a ritual of money splashing reminiscent of Mexican drug barons and corrupt Nigerian millionaires,” he said. “Yet the employees of Gibson Hotel, Continental Lodge, and his other businesses have a different story to tell. They struggle and are not part of the feasting that goes on around Malanji.
“In a decent society, and in business practices that encompass equity considerations, the workers in Malanji’s companies should have been the top priority. After all, these are the real creators of the wealth that he splashes around.
“Cash handouts may be seen as a harmless, benevolent act, but is it not shame when the boss splashes cash to outsiders yet the workers behind the wealth creation are unable to send their children to school? When they are unable to pay hospital bills? When they are unable to meet their house rental obligations? In other words, what people see in Malanji is a caricature of a self-indulgent navel-gazing businessman and politician. The sooner he changes his ways the better.
”Dr Musumali said most facts surrounding the helicopter purchase were in the public domain and a one-hour search was all it took to find out most of the details.
“Buying a helicopter is hard to hide,” he said. “There is a whole footprint of the rotorcraft; when it was manufactured, who bought it, who used it, for what business, the maintenance schedules, why it had to be sold, and how much it went for.
“Malanji is correct in his assessment that he can get into the charter business with it. After all, Zambian elections are a period when cost-effectiveness is thrown on the rubbish heap,” Dr Musumali said. “The biggest customers will be his own party, the PF, as it intends to criss-cross the constituencies during the campaign period. Malanji is actually capable of recouping a significant portion of his investment just during these forthcoming elections.
”But Dr Musumali said business logic was not the same as business or political ethics.
“For the employees in Malanji’s companies, the helicopter has been bought at the cost of their welfare. It is their sweat that has made the Foreign Affairs Minister rich. They would rather have seen US$1.4 million ploughed back into the companies that have been struggling under the impact of COVID-19.
“They would rather have seen a part of that money getting back to them in the form of better salaries. Unfortunately, workers will always come last in this rudimentary capitalist system, and Malanji’s businesses are not an exception.”