Whoever is president needs proper jet

Whoever is president needs proper jet

By Dickson Jere

THE longest trip we took on a Presidential Challenger Jet was to Brazil in 2010. We made three-stopovers to refuel. Because we had to fuel to full-capacity, the usual Presidential close party had to be removed from the aircraft to reduce on weight. So it was only President Rupiah Banda and myself, as two passengers, and the aide-de-camp on that 16 hour-long and punishing journey. Not the best way of moving a President.

In 2008, when some of us joined government, we found a position paper on the need to purchase a new presidential aircraft. The document was first crafted by technocrats under President Frederick Chiluba government. And so, during our first few months in office, I was one of those taken on a test-flight by the Canadian aircraft manufacturer, Bombardier, who came to market the new plane (Challenger Global).

It was what Zambia was looking for at that time – long haul machine – with bigger passenger capacity. But due to some unforeseen issues, the transaction was never concluded. At that time, Rwanda and Botswana had just acquired similar machines for the presidential duties.

The Challenger aircraft 604 which was designed as “Zambia One” was not really suitable for presidential movements. It was small and could not take longer trips without stopovers for refuel. Remember that whenever the Head of State makes a stopover, it means that security and protocol detail must be stationed there in advance. This is costly too! We also tried,as a country, the option of chartering private aircrafts for the President but this too proved unsustainable and costly. Not forgetting putting the life of the President in the hands of foreign crew!

Another alternative to the Challenger, which has been used before, is to board commercial flights. This is very inconveniencing for the head of state. It is difficult to plan as flights can be delayed and entire presidential assignment disturbed. Commercial flights can be canceled and affect the presidential movements.

This also entail making stopovers when going on long distance trips such as New York (UN General Assembly). Each stopover require security and protocol detail stationed in advance in those countries. Sometimes, the flight bookings can be crazy and involve several stopovers.

The President, in case of emergency, should be able to travel back at short notice from wherever he or she is than waiting for tickets to be changed or negotiating for available seats on commercial flights.
So, the need for a long haul aircraft, has always been a necessity.

What about sudden change of programs?
Zambia One must be able to make sudden U-turn when the final destination becomes hostile. For example, the President destined to country B must be able to change plan midair when suddenly war breaks out in that country. This cannot be done with commercial flights that can be diverted to some other countries which may not be suitable for Zambia One.

The current debate is interesting. Zambia Air Force (ZAF), in an unprecedented statement, explained that the presidential plane cannot be sold. I think that is besides the point.

I think what we should be looking at is the cost-benefit analysis of having our own long haul aircraft Vs selling and getting back to commercial flights for our head of state. How much can we save from the two options? What are the security implications of the two options?

This is where we should focus the debate! As for me, based on my very little experience in the presidency, I would prefer whoever is Zambian President, to have a long haul aircraft for easy movements and safety. It does not matter whether it is Gulf-stream, Challenger Global, Airbus or Boeing, so long as it can do the job. Whether it is President Edgar Lungu, Hakainde Hichilema, Harry Kalaba, Sean Tembo or Chishimba Kambwili in office, they need to have such machine.

 

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COMMENTS

WORDPRESS: 22
  • comment-avatar
    Visitor 2 weeks ago

    Just so you know, currupt dictators/presidents no longer hold their cash in Switzerland. Corrupt banking for these people is now done in Dubai.

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    Visitor 2 weeks ago

    Does he really require a private jet to take the begging bowl around ?

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    Mumbwe 3 weeks ago

    DJ has given his opinion based on his understanding. No hard feelings, but I feel other factors must be considered. Selling it may not be a good decision

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    Chausa dismus 3 weeks ago

    To fly or not to fly.
    Airforce1 has flown heroes and baboons for centuries yet Americans don’t contest it’s benefit. Rest the debate by abolishing govt and we auction Z1 tomorrow. It’s game, hate it or love it. Players may be substituted and others may be super subs. It’s govt lubricant

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    How the Head of a state travels in any part of the world is a serious national security matter. It cannot be trivialised the way careless HH and his cadres are doing. He himself would need to travel in the most secure manner if he were to be head of state tomorrow. What Dickson Jere is advocating for is an efficient presidential jet that reduces on the security threats to the Head of State and attendant costs that come with security detail occasioned by refuel stopovers of a fuel inefficient presidential jet or connecting flights if the president has to travel using a commercial or chartered plane. This is how best one can argue.

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    Njangwamuloty 3 weeks ago

    That’s why Lungu was called Kamwendo Munjila, because of damn endless expensive flights that were completely of no value to Zambians. Our problems are in Zambia, not in Brazil or where ever! We do not need these planes, we are poor. The president can travel commercial, we have missions overseas to support the president when he travels, stop taking along all the PF baggage along, binaminungu tuni!

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    Chilyata 3 weeks ago

    Division Jere is surely an Arse and a misguided fool. We are a poor country and he is talking about maintaining such an expensive jet at the cost of the tax payer!! In the first place where would the President be going, How many times in a year and why not commercial airlines?
    Lungu and Rupiah were making unnecessary air trips that cost us collosal sums of money! This would have continued if it were not for Covid.
    These presidential Jets are surely unnecessary for the useless and unproductive Presidents like ours.
    Let them save us money and use public commercial airlines, most of their journeys are not of any benefit to the ordinary people anyway.

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    Mwansa 3 weeks ago

    Debating national issues with a political mind is always dangerous…it’s not about PF or NDC or UPND, it’s about a decision that was made…so talking about a plane which is already bought does not solve anything… if any other candidate comes into office apart from the one who purchased, he/should consult professionals so that it is Sold if he/she so wishes and thinks the plane is of no use to the presidency..

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      Ni nkani ya zamtroup. They make deals in the of of state secrete.

      This time we have virtual UN general assemblies . no need to travel

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    Boma ni boma.The orders will come from plot one and lets see kasoma refuse

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    Nyambe the Hero 3 weeks ago

    Dickson Jere is biased. That should be a factor when considering what he has to say. He is also a lawyer and is familiar with terms like conflict of interests and impartiality.

    Soberness? This isn’t your uncle’s tavern or bottle store. You jokers need to be removed.

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    Empty hands 3 weeks ago

    These deals are guided by payments. How was the presumed agent’s sales commission divided amongst the various levels of decision makers?

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    Willie Phiri 3 weeks ago

    Not too sure why when one gives an opinion people take it like he has decided.
    What DJ has given is based on his understanding after his tenure and experience in the office of the President.
    To some extent, I agree with the uncle DJ, every country has security systems, be it poor or rich. We need a plane that is suitable for presidential duties. Only important to undertake best procurement processes when getting one and should think that’s where ones question may be.
    Pointing at Magufulis situation maybe misplaced here because Magufulis has the most experience and customised presidential vehicles that I have seen in Africa through my privilege s. Not knowing the plane we may not know of.
    Not even the one Eagle One uses can be compared to Magufulis.
    I hope this discussion on the plane will be done with great soberness.
    Whoever takes oath after this year’s elections will need that plane.
    Peace be with Zambia.

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      Nyambe the Hero 3 weeks ago

      Dickson Jere is biased. That should be a factor when considering what he has to say. He is also a lawyer and is familiar with terms like conflict of interests and impartiality.
       
      Soberness? This isn’t your uncle’s tavern or bottle store. You jokers need to be removed.

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    Nyambe the Hero 3 weeks ago

    Zambian Watchdog should add disclaimers and caveats each time it recycles these types of opinions.
     
    Dickson Jere always speaks for RB his main benefactor who supported Edgar Lungu to ensure corruption charges launched by late President Sata were dropped. KK also fired RB because of corrupt activities when he was CEO at the Grain Marketing Board.
     
    The issue isn’t need for a presidential jet but the surrounding circumstances. The cost of the aircraft is questionable at a time when the economy is stressed.

    It isn’t a priority just like reviving Zambia Airways which has already cost taxpayers US$30 million paid to Ethiopian Airlines. The timing was also wrong given the adverse impact of COVID 19 0n air travel.
     
    Corruption, immaturity and recklessness is the best way to sum up Lungu’s leadership style.

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    Daniel 3 weeks ago

    Dickson Jere I really like your informative articles and I always cherish reading them as they are from trench town experience. In the first instance, I think the ZAF statement was outright foolish. ZAF is supposed to be an elite and professional unit. Alas, among the forces of late, it has been only second from police as the most abused by criminal politicians and as most unprofessional. The statement is simply from an ignorant PF carder pretending to be a ZAF officer. I hope one day he will have to clarify the meaning of his foolish statement. Second, please it is not owning the jet that is in question so long as it is affordable. As someone has mentioned, Magufuli is a good example of someone who has postponed the decision to buy such an expensive plane against overriding national demands. To him it is simply not a priority. However when the priority list is reached, such a plane could be bought. Needless to say also, RB and Lungu are the most travelled presidents on record and most of those travels were completely worthless. Only sight seeing and taking pictures so that their families will admire at some future date. Is that the type jokers we need as president? Certainly not.

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    Passenger 3 weeks ago

    Like Dixon Jere admits, he has very little experience, as his article reflects.

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      this remind me of Judas telling Jesus that the expensive perfume could have been sold money given to the poor.but look at what was in Judas mind…seling one plane can not make Zambia rich.thinking of seeing a national property is retrograsive.what did we get from privatisation?? if a plane is sold it wil be sold cheaply because it wil be second hand.

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    adviser 3 weeks ago

    Buck Teeth Lungu – It is you who has their head in the clouds: Zambia is not a very poor country — it is our inability to manage ourselves properly amidst the abundant natural resources bestowed on us that makes us look like we are poor. That is where the debate should be.

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    Dickson Jere, having a presidentiah Jet is not a problem but the problem is making it a priority at the expense of many important things such as no medicine in hospitals. Infact what is the purpose of having ambassadors and high commisioners? is it not to represent the head of state? Magufuli had served for five years in office without jetting around out of Africa. Why can’t we take a leaf? Secondly, the cost of that Jet is still questionable. So the issue of saying any president needs a jet is misplaced because priority should be the people who put you in office.

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    Buck Teeth Lungu 3 weeks ago

    Dickson Jere has his head in the clouds. Zambia is a very poor country that has just failed to pay $34 million interest in Eurobonds. Among our many challenges, including no medicines in hospitals and clinics, no teachers in schools and impassable roads in rural areas, why should we spend hundreds of millions of dollars on a presidential jet? To where will the President be jetting to so frequently to justify the costs of ownership and operations of such aircraft? How much returns/profits will Zambia get on such trips? Lungu’s kleptocratic regime shows the pitfalls of a jetsetting President. It is not worth it!