In its attempt to highlight the influence of China on Africa, the U.S. National Security Advisor John Bolton said that China is about to take over Zambia’s state power utility to recover $6-10 billion debt.
Zambia’s presidential spokesman Amos Chanda came out to deny these claims, stating that the country only owes China $3.1 billion, according to Reuters.
“It is regrettable that such information can come from such a high-ranking official. In fact, Zesco is not within the scheme of Zambia’s debt to China,” he said.
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China has now come out to say that it hopes that the U.S. will now learn not to ‘blurt out’ things after this gaffe.
“I hope they can learn a lesson and reflect on things, and going forward not blurt things out again,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said.
In September 2018, an Africa Confidential report, titled Bills, Bonds and even Bigger Debts claimed that Zambia was in talks with China over a possible takeover of the electricity company. The report also says that the national broadcaster ZNBC is already owned and run by China.
Zambians have also raised concerns over the relationship between their country and China, after a few incidents including the revelation that two Chinese nationals in Livingstone were taking nine Zambians wearing military fatigue through an illegal military training as well as the publishing of an article in Mandarin by the state-owned Times of Zambia newspaper.
Just last month, President Edgar Lungu stated that the country hopes to be more transparent in its debt management, just months after it delayed all planned borrowing indefinitely to reduce debt accumulation. The finance minister, Margaret Mwanakatwe, also announced that they will be sending a delegation to China to discuss Zambia’s debt restructuring.
However, one thing that is clear is that Zambia will not be forced to work with either China or the U.S exclusively as it values both countries, according to the president’s spokesman.
Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Joseph Malanji has requested a retraction of this misiformation.
“Zambia has written an official de’marche to the United States government to request a retraction of a portion of the statement made by a senior U.S. official John Bolton, who alleged that the Chinese government intends to repossess some state-owned enterprises because of governments failure to settle its outstanding loan,” said he said in a press statement issued on Sunday.
“Such misinformation gives a bad name to America’s foreign policy,” he added.