President Lazarus Chakwera’s maiden international trip to Lusaka in Zambia for bilateral talks with that country’s president Edgar Lungu is attracting attention following alleged moves by a powerful Zambian lawyer, Bokani Soko – known as the Gupta of Zambia – to reach out to the Malawin leader to ‘renegotiate’ the botched ambulance deal with one of his companies, Grandview International, Nyasa Times can reveal.
While the day-return trip has been dubbed as ‘official visit’, sources say Soko, owner of Grandview International which was supposed to supply 35 ambulances to Malawi Government before the K1.6 billion deal was stopped by the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) wants to take advantage and reach out to Chakwera.
Insiders said Soko already ‘captured’ Zambia President Edgar Changwa Lungu and saw this opportunity to discuss the Ambulance deal with Chakwera in person in Zambia.
“I am giving you this information because I know that Soko wants to capture your President. Ours was captured a long time ago and there is nothing he can do about it. So this so called state visit has been organized at the insistence of Soko,” said a top official of the Zambian government who did not want to be named.
But addressing journalists at Kamuzu International Airport (KIA) on Tuesday morning prior to his departure to Lusaka , Chakwera said he will discuss with Zambia’s President, Edgar Lungu, on how the two countries can build on their bilateral ties for the mutual benefit of their countries development.
Chakwera said: “The president (of Zambia) is looking forward to the visit and we will discuss on how our ties can best benefit our people.”
However, Nyasa Times source revealed that Soko reached out to one of President Chakwera’s powerful aides and gave him US$150,000 as ‘a token of appreciation and goodwill’.
This information was corroborated by another source at State House who confirmed that one of the top aides got the money from Soko’s representative in Lilongwe.
“This is the same person who also got an envelope containing US$70,000 to support other publicity activities for the President,” said our impeccable source.
Grandview International of Zambia was awarded a contract to supply 35 Toyota Land Cruiser ambulances to the Ministry of Health at a K1.6 billion (US$2.2 million) despite three local suppliers including Toyota Malawi offering lower quotations for the tender.
The Zambian compnay pegged each ambulance at US$63,000 each (about K47 million) while the cheapest offer was from Toyota Malawi which pegged each ambulance at US$47,800 (K35.8 million) per Toyota Land cruiser ambulance, which translated to about $1.6million (about K1.2 billion) for the 35 Ambulances. Toyota Malawi also reportedly offered two years of free service for the vehicles.
Nissan Malawi for Nissan Patrols quoted $56 224. 61 and Mike Appel &Gatto offered $61.381.
The genesis of the controversial Ambulances deal dates back to 2018 during the former DPP regime where it has been revealed that the deal had the blessings of Cabinet ministers but technocrats charged with execution apparently frustrated the move.
Paper trail on the ambulances deal shows that in 2018, then minister of health Atupele Muluzi highlighted the shortage of ambulances and requested special funding for the exercise from his Cabinet colleague Goodall Gondwe, who was minister of Finance.
Muluzi had requested for 66 Ambulances but Gondwe approved for the purchase of 300 Ambulances and a South African company called Vision International appeared on the scene to offer 300 Ambulances at a staggering price of K32 billion and that government would be paying an average of K6.4 billion annually over five years.
The technocrats at the Ministry of Health opted for Grandview International over Vision International and another company called Savenda.
ACB is probing the deal and stopped its implementation.
It remains to be seen if Soko will also convince President Chakwera to play ball on the Ambulances deal.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :