Friday, June 21, 2024

Minister, Chipolopolo supporters fail to travel as charterer fails to provide plane after receving $275,000 from govt

THE ministry of sport is frantically organising a plane to carry the Zambia national team players back home immediately after their game against Ivory Coast tonight.

This was after charterer, a Dr Belemu of Mahogany Airline went mute after being paid a full US $275,000 a couple of days before the day of departure, a service that he failed to provide.

The 120 seater plane was to carry sports minister Elvis Nkandu, his permanent secretary Kangwa Chileshe, director of sport John Zulu, FAZ general secretary Adrian Kashala, a number of government officials and supporters and journalists to Yamoussoukro where Zambia dates Cote d’ Ivoire in the AfCON qualifier match which kicks off at 21:00 hours and return immediately after the match in good time for a second match against the Comoros billed for Heroes stadium in Lusaka on Tuesday.

The plane was scheduled to depart Kenneth Kaunda International Airport on Thursday at 20:00 hours but times kept changing until Belemu’s phone could no longer be reached from midnight till Friday morning, leaving the travelling party in suspense and resulting in all of them spending a night in the freezing Kenneth Kaunda International Airport premises.

The visibly annoyed Nkandu and Chileshe were making all sorts of maneuvers to try and resolve the situation and were joined by President Hakainde Hichilema’s political advisor Levy Ngoma and Kashala. Later, they managed to engange Dr Belemu in a meeting at Cresta Golf View Hotel where the latter disclosed that the anticipated plane had a fault and was being worked on.

However, it was a proposal that Nkandu and his entourage outrightly rejected and asked Belemu to either refund the money or look for another plane, to which he also agreed.

Nkandu and Chileshe then took the matter into their own hands as time was desperately running out on them and made contacts and finally managed to find a much bigger 250-seater plane through Proflight which was costing US $225,000.

Dr Belemu’s 120-seater plane was even more expensive by $70,000.

And this did not sit well with Nkandu and Chileshe who tried hard to serve the situation.

However, the government found it difficult to secure new passage for the new charter which was to be paid for using other government funds as the duo figured out that waiting for a refund or onward transmission of funds from Belemu’s to a new charterer would take longer than necessary.

On the sidelines, anger was building among Chipolopolo supporters who demanded to be fed as some of them had travelled from the Copperbelt and other areas.

Nkandu obliged and organised meals and a place for them to freshen up as the minister and his team continued engaging several charter companies and airlines, including the ZAF command to help with the passage of the team.

By 18:30 hours, it became evident that the almost six-hour trip was no longer possible and people started to disperse one by one.

“We did everything. We paid all the money at once because we didn’t want to leave gaps in the team’s preparations. We sent our officers from Cabinet Office to Ivory Coast to organise hotels, vehicles and secure the team and we wanted the team to be comfortable; to enjoy so that they don’t have pressure. And we wanted everybody including our supporters to be happy, but look at what we got from our own fellow Zambian!” complained Chileshe.

“We gave the money to the ticketing office way ahead of time.”

Chileshe said it was going to another issue if his office had not released the money.

And Nkandu said he was not happy that Belemu was not being sincere with the matter.

“You know, he should have told the truth from the beginning, and not leave us in suspense and switching off the phone; that was not good at all. And look at the price difference, this is something the President talks about every time.

Anyway, I am disappointed but this is an eye-opener; this delay has revealed something and we will use the lessons going forward,” said Nkandu who did not shy away from facing supporters to explain issues at every interval during the whole debacle.

Around 19:15 hours Nkandu and his officials were still at the hotel sorting out the dilemma with alternative funding, hoping to pursue a refund next week.

Dr Belemu had already left the place by press time and could not be reached for comment.

The Mast

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5 Comments

  1. This junket of supporters is unnecessary from my point of view. It doesn’t help anyone or our football in the final analysis! Such colossal sums should not be sunk into unproductive trips! All that money should be given to youth football teams during the “fifa window”, this is where our friends are engaging in tournaments of under 20 and under23 youth teams. 275,000 us dollars would assist to meet expenses of our youth teams going for friendly games! It’s over a year of inaction for junior teams. For information a lot our African friends hv sent youth teams for various friendlies in Europe and Asia! To get back to level we were, that’s the route to follow. Not a plane full of supporters who add no value to our soccer.

  2. The owner of MahoganybAirvisca crook. He was a local representative of fertiliser supplier from Malawi with Dubai as their base. The proprietor is Dipankar Chatterjee who used to bribe Mr. Lungu Edgar Chagwa. He is a go in between. This Indian was given a licence for insurance by giving US dollars 15,000 to named lady at the insurance regulator. ACC was informed.
    This man was involved in facilitating supply of expired drugs under Lungu’s regime. Honeywell.

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