By CHILA NAMAIKO -
Construction for an ultra-modern State House is due to begin next year after a Parliamentary committee expressed concern over the deteriorating condition of the current home and office the head of state -built some eight decades ago – and MPs supported the idea.
The project results from the recommendations of the Committee on Communications, Transport, Works and Supply following its recent tour of State House where members noted that the worrying extent of deterioration of the main structure, referred to as Plot 1 on Independence Avenue.
The deterioration was described by the committee as “appalling and life-threatening”, with the Ministry of Works explaining it was costing the taxpayer millions of Kwacha annually to maintain the imposing colonial-style building.
Scores of Members of Parliament (MPs) supported the proposal to have a new State House with Housing and Infrastructure Minister Ronald Chitotela saying Government expected to start the construction in Lusaka in 2018.
Committee chairperson, Anthony Mumba, said that the current State House was built more than 80 years ago and was now in a serious state of disrepair.
Mr Mumba told the House that the committee was also concerned that Government spent huge amounts of money on piece-meal maintenance works that had little to improve the state of the building.
He said the proposed new State House would offer several other facilities lacking in the current structure and lead to massive savings on the hire of space and services.
“Apart from being old and damaged, the building is not able to cater for various state functions. State House lacks a conference and banquet hall, forcing the Government to incur high costs to hire such facilities,“ he said.
Mr Mumba, the independent Kantanshi MP said this on Thursday when he moved a motion for the House to adopt his committee’s report after its recent undertaking of various tours.
He said following the committee’s observations, it recommended for the building of a new State House, large enough to cater for state functions.
Debating on the committee’s report, Mr Chitotela said Government was equally concerned with the current ‘worn-out ‘status of State House.
The minister told the House that Government had identified some pieces of land within Lusaka where the project would be built.
He said the project would be done in a transparent manner, stressing that the construction would be done under strict measures to involve only a few stakeholders; such as his ministry, the contractor and the Office of the President, for security reasons.
Works and Supply Minister Mathew Nkhuwa said about K2 million was being spent annually by Government to maintain the current State House.
Kanchibiya MP Martin Malama (PF) said there was need for a second State House and proposed that the current one be turned in a museum for revenue collection.
He cited Malawi, which had two State Houses (one in Blantyre and Lilongwe) and that Zambia could decide where the new facility would be put proposing the tourists’ capital, Livingstone.