Thursday, April 05, 2007

VJ distances himself from Katumbi's $7m

VJ distances himself from Katumbi's $7m
By George Chellah
Wednesday April 04, 2007 [19:29]

INFORMATION and broadcasting minister Vernon Mwaanga today distanced himself from the statement attributed to him that the Zambian government owes DRC's Katanga Province governor Moses Katumbi US $7 million for the maize he supplied to the government a few years ago. Mwaanga, who is also chief government spokesperson has claimed that his remarks in the DRC were distorted. "I would have given you a transcript of the interview. The story is inaccurate. In fact, I had five officials with me from Zambia," Mwaanga said. "I have sent to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and State House a full copy of what I said...a transcript."

Mwaanga said he was asked by the press in DRC concerning Zambian troops. "On the issue of troops, it was the press who asked me that question... it wasn't with President Kabila," Mwaanga explained. He complained that yesterday's Post lead story stating that he told the press in the DRC that it was in fact the Zambian government that owed Katumbi US $7 million, was a gross distortion. "In fact, I was shocked when I saw that because I have had a good relationship with The Post. So I expected you people to call me before you ran the story," Mwaanga said. "It's a total distortion, it's a malicious distortion. You were quoting another newspaper...a French newspaper for that matter, meaning that somebody was translating."

When asked to give what he thinks is the correct position about the matter since he was saying that the initial story was a distortion, Mwaanga responded: "I am not ready to go on. You have to send a written statement. In order to avoid any more distortions, you have to send a written inquiry and I will respond in writing as well." But the African Press Agency (APA), which reported the same story on the same day in English as the French publication, quoted Mwaanga as follows: "APA-Lubumbashi (DR Congo) Zambian information minister, Vernon Johnson Mwaanga, has rebutted claims following an audience with the Congolese President Joseph Kabila at the border town of Lubumbashi at the weekend, that his country was occupying parts of Congolese territory, APA learnt here.

Mwaanga said he and the Zambian military authorities acquiesced that the allegations that the Zambian army was occupying parts of Pweto, a locality in the northeast of Katanga in DR Congo were groundless. He said the Zambian ambassador to DR Congo would rebutt the information on Radio Okapi (UN mission's radio in DRC) which aired the news quoting Mwaanga as saying that the issue may 'sully the relations between the two countries'. Mwaanga carried a special message from President Levy Mwanawassa addressed to President Kabila pertaining to the relations between the two countries and particularly the alleged seizure of mining products destined for exports to Zambia.

Crude mining products worth over 20 million dollars were reportedly seized in early March in Kasumbalesa on the border between DR Congo and Zambia. Commenting on the information released by the Zambian media which reported that Moise Katumbi Chapwe, the governor of Katanga, is wanted by the Zambian court, Mwaanga said his country was not informed on the issue.

Instead he explained that the Zambian government rather owed Chapwe 7 million dollars for the maize he delivered in 2001. Before his visit to Lubumbashi, the information minister held discussions with Congolese authorities in Kinshasa on bilateral relations between the two countries. DR Congo and Zambia share a border of about 17,000 kilometres."

And the Le Potentiel newspaper of the DRC whose story Mwaanga is disputing reported in part in French that:

"Ensuite, le porte-parole du gouvernement zambien a tenu à fixer l'opinion sur les prétendues poursuites judiciaires qu'aurait engagées son pays à l'encontre du gouverneur du Katanga Moïse Katumbi. Selon Veji Mwanga, c'est plutôt l'Etat zambien qui doit à Moïse Katumbi une bagatelle de sept millions de Usd. Cette somme représente la valeur de la quantité de maïs fourni par ce dernier. Quant au prétendu dossier judiciaire qui serait réactivé à Lusaka, il s'agit d'un montage grossier d'une certaine presse zambienne à la solde des groupes impliqués dans le commerce illicite en RDC des minerais congolais. Et dont les camions ont été bloqués à Kasumbalesa pour exportation frauduleuse de marchandises."

The literal translation of this quote is: "Mwaanga also sought to clarify, the opinion on his government's alleged judicial action against Katumbi. According to Mwaanga, it is in fact Zambia that owes Katumbi a trifle US $7 million, the sum being the value of the maize supplied by Katumbi.

As far the alleged judicial case which would be reactivated in Lusaka, Mwaanga said it was an ill-conceived fabrication by a Zambian newspaper with a view to destroying groups of people alleged to be involved in illegal trade of Congolese minerals in DRC, and whose trucks were blocked at Kasumbalesa for alleged fraudulent exportation."

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At 4:55 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

It will be interesting to see if VJ will take the POST to court assuming of course that the story they carried was inaccurate.

Meantime it would appear from his cagey response that he was not mis-quoted.

I wonder what LPM has to say ?

At 6:14 PM , Blogger MrK said...

When LPM decides to crack down on the ministry of lands, and then has to find out second hand that his own daughter was a beneficiary...


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