UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA - AFRICAN STUDIES CENTER
ZAMBIA NEWS ONLINE/ZAMBIA NEWS ONLINE/ZAMBIA NEWS ONLINE
Edition: #38 25 March 1998
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A bi-monthly update of news from Zambia!
In this edition:
LIFTING OF STATE OF EMERGENCY GIVES NEW HOPE
1. ZAMBIA, ANGOLA RELATIONS TENSE UP
2. DEFENCE LAWYERS PRESS FOR START OF TREASON TRIAL
3. FINANCE MINISTER FIRED
4. CHILUBA STICKS TO RETIREMENT SCHEDULE
5. INTER-PARTY TALKS GETTING BACK ON TRACK
6. 14 POLITICAL PARTIES DEREGISTERED
7. RELIEF FOOD LANDING IN WRONG HANDS
8. NATIONAL SOCCER COACH FIRED
LIFTING OF STATE OF EMERGENCY GIVES NEW HOPE
A general sigh of relief has swept through Zambia following the lifting of the State of Emergency that was declared soon after an attempted military coup was crushed last October.Although most citizens hardly felt the impact of the State of Emergency, economists, politicians, human rights activists and the donor community are cautiously happy about the revocation.In the almost five months that the State of Emergency was in force, over 80 coup suspects were arrested, the rate of the local currency, the Kwacha, took somewhat of a nose dive, donor aid was reduced and inter-party talks all but collapsed.
Most citizens have in the past five months been going about their business as usual after over-coming the initial anxieties of the failed October 28 coup. The fear that the police would abuse their extra powers, provided by the Emergency, were soon generally allayed.Night activity sprang back to life after an initial lull caused by worry about the Emergency.As Amos Chanda, a taxi driver in Lusaka remarked: "At first I was scared of working late hours, but now it is business as usual.I stay on the road for as long as there is business.This could mean working until midnight."And cinema operator Rogers Chambeshi says that in the few days soon after the coup and the declaration of a State of Emergency, attendance for evening shows declined. "But we soon started getting our customers again."
However, suspense on who was being arrested over the coup and the time it was taking to conclude investigations had gradually began to be a major source of concern.Reports filtered through that some of the coup suspects were being tortured and with no clear indication on when trial for these suspects would start, the donor community began cutting their aid.
Government tried, albeit without much success, to convince the donor community to keep the aid flowing.This was not to be. Instead, the 15-nation European Union put more pressure on the government, demanding that the State of Emergency be lifted and human rights be observed,including human rights for coup suspects.The considerably reduced aid flow threw the economic recovery programme somewhat off balance.This was most noticeable in the rate of the Kwacha which fell from about a then stable K1,500 to a US dollar to about K1,800 per dollar by the time Emergency was being lifted on March 17.
Foreign currency, always before readily available is now scarce and found mostly only on the black market.Assurances by the Bank of Zambia that the shortage of convertible currencies was a passing phase convinced very few. The Zambia Association of Chambers of Commerce and Industries have declared a foreign currency crisis and warn that unless government intervenes, industries will collapse.
The impact of the shortage of foreign currency is already being felt in some sectors.Recently, the price of petrol went up by 11 per cent as a direct result of the falling value of the Kwacha .This has triggered a general increase in transportation costs and in prices of some goods.Road passenger transport fares have, however, remained stable despite initial indications by the bus and taxi operators that they would up the fares.
And inter-party talks that were to be held late last year went off track especially after former president Kenneth Kaunda was arrested in connection with the failed coup. For parties like UNIP, which Kaunda leads, and the Zambia Democratic Congress (ZDC) whose leader Deam Mung'omba is facing a treason charge, inter-party talks have become irrelevant.
Although the lifting of the State of Emergency does not change the status of the arrested political leaders and the scores of soldiers, there is renewed hope that now the situation in the various sectors can only get better.The government, for one, is eager for such a change.When announcing the lifting of the emergency, President Chiluba said he hoped the donor community, which pressured government to lift the emergency, would understand the difficulties Zambia was going through.
The EU welcomed the lifting of the Emergency with head of delegation Charles Brook saying that the EU was looking forward to continuing its programme of cooperation with Zambia.Germany and Norway are among the first donor countries to state that their assistance to Zambia will begin flowing again following the lifting of the Emergency.
Norwegian Ambassador to Zambia Joe Lamoy said it would now be possible to hold bilateral talks through which long term developmental programmes could be financed by Norway in Zambia.And Germany Ambassador to Zambia Helmuth Schroeder said bilateral meetings which were put off in February, can now be held later in the year because, with the lifting of the emergency, the atmosphere was now conducive for such talks.Zambia needs $425 million in external funding for this year's budget of which $129 million is expected to be provided by bilateral donors.
For some local politicians the atmosphere is conducive enough too for a resumption of inter-party talks aimed at easing political tension in the country.The Liberal Progressive Front (LPF), in welcoming the lifting of the Emergency, says that this should pave the way to starting the talks.LPF Publicity secretary Douglas Mbiya says it is important to get the talks going to lessen inter-party conflicts and tension.The LPF is led by Dr Rodger Chongwe who is in self-imposed exile for fear of being arrested in connection with the coup attempt.The Lima Party and the ZDC also hope inter-party dialogue will resume.
Some economists, though, contend that it will be a while before the fruits of the lifting of the emergency ripen.A recent publication by the Lusaka Branch of Citibank, states that it is unlikely that foreign currency will start flowing back on the market soon.The publication also states that is is unlikely that donor aid will start coming into the country quickly enough to put a check on the evident economic decline recorded in recent months.
However, to most Zambians it is still a relief that the State of Emergency has been lifted and once again there is hope of Zambia getting back on the desired political and economic track.
1.ZAMBIA, ANGOLA RELATIONS TENSE UP
Relations between Zambia and her neighbour Angola have become tense following Angola's accusation of Zambia indirectly assisting in the supply of arms to Angola's opposition party, UNITA.Angolan ambassador to Zambia Manuel Augusto has charged that Zambia was being used as a transit point for the supply of arms to UNITA.
High level talks over the matter have since started between the governments of Zambia and of Angola.Zambia's foreign affairs minister Kelly Walubita has been tasked to lead a Zambian delegation to Angola to assure that country of Zambia's commitment to non-aggression.President Chiluba, in assigning Walubita to the task, noted that Zambia had no capacity to supply arms to UNITA.
Tension has meanwhile been growing in Zambia's Western Province which borders the Angolan territory generally occupied by UNITA which had been at war with the Angolan government since 1975 until recently.Zambian soldiers have been deployed in some parts of the province to fend off attacks on civilians by unknown people.
2.DEFENCE LAWYERS PRESS FOR START OF TREASON TRIAL
Lawyers for some 80 soldiers and politicians accused of either treason or misprision (concealment) of treason, are pressing for the start of the trial. The state had indicated that trial of the men accused of attempting to over-throw the government last October, would have started by now.Leading defence lawyer Professor Patrick Mvunga urged the court to summon Director of Public Prosecutions Meebelo Kalima to explain why he was delaying in issuing committal instructions that would set the trial going.
The state has, meanwhile, released three soldiers who were among 73 charged with treason.And former president Kenneth Kaunda, still held under house arrest under the charge of misprision of treason has said that the state should free all soldiers and nullify the constitution.He was addressing members of his party, UNIP, in court before a hearing.
3.FINANCE MINISTER FIRED
Finance and Economic Planning Minister Ronald Penza has been fired and replaced by Edith Nakwakwi who becomes the first woman to hold the cabinet post in Zambia's 33 year history.No reasons were given for President Chiluba's decision to sack Penza.The decision caught many Zambians by surprise as Penza was considered a key man in the implementation of Zambia's economic recovery programme.
Recently though, Penza riled several members of parliament by charging that they were not as rich as he was because they did not work hard enough. Penza, who has been cabinet minister since the Movement for Multi-Party Democracy (MMD) came into power in 1991 will now become a back-bencher in parliament.
He has taken his sacking with some measure of dignity, thanking President Chiluba for giving him an opportunity to be a key player in trying to revamp the economy.He has, however, cautioned against backing down on the economic programme he spear-headed, stating that that was the only way in which Zambia could recover economically.
4.CHILUBA STICKS TO RETIREMENT SCHEDULE
President Chiluba has reiterated that he will surrender the presidency in the year 2001 when his second five-year term elapses.Chiluba said he had no intentions of going beyond the constitutional limit of 10 years.Chiluba said this when commenting on the retirement of his Botswana counterpart Ketumile Masire.Chiluba said Masire's retirement signified that leaders were meant to come and go.
Chiluba's pending exit is causing growing speculation on who is likely to succeed him not only as president of the Movement for Multi-Party Democracy (MMD), but also as Republican president.Potential candidates include vice-president Christon Tembo, former vice-president Godfrey Miyanda, MMD national secretary Michael Sata and Minister at State House, Eric Silwamba.
5.INTER-PARTY TALKS GETTING BACK ON TRACK
Inter-party dialogue that went off balance late last year appears to be getting back on track.The lifting of the State of Emergency has managed to get parties talking again in their collective effort to ease political tension in the country.But the ruling MMD says that it is up to the opposition political parties to initiate continued dialogue.MMD national secretary Michael Sata said the opposition should decide on the next course of action following government's revocation of the State of Emergency.
Partieslike the Zambia Democratic Congress and the Liberal Progressive Front are keen on getting on with the talks which went off course after the State of Emergency was invoked and some key opposition party leaders were arrested. These included Kenneth Kaunda of UNIP and Dean Mung'omba of the ZDC.
But the Voters Association of Zambia (VAZ) has called on government to initiate the talks rather than leaving it to the opposition parties.VAZ president Sebastian Chulu said it was also important that the talks be held before the holding of local government elections later this year.A key contentious issue is the voters register which many opposition parties dispute as being dubious and to enable the MMD to rig elections.
6.14 POLITICAL PARTIES DEREGISTERED
Zambia's unprecedented growth of political parties has hit a dead end and numbers are now beginning to dwindle.The government recently deregistered 14 political parties for failing to submit annual returns to the registrar of societies.Most of the parties deregistered, however, are insignificant as they have virtually no support.The most notable party affected is the National Democratic Alliance (NADA), among the first three parties formed after the re-introduction of multi-partyism in 1991.
Meanwhile, most of the 20 still registered parties have shown little or no interest in the announcement that local government elections will be held this year.President Chiluba is expected to announce the election date soon but very few significant parties have declared their intention to contest the polls.
The Zambia Democratic Congress (ZDC), one of the major parties that contested the 1996 presidential and parliamentary elections, has its members divided over whether or not to contest the polls.A faction has said it would take part in the elections in which councilors for local authorities are chosen.But another faction of the party says it was best to boycott the elections for as long as their president Dean Mung'omba remains in detention on charges of treason.
7.RELIEF FOOD LANDING IN WRONG HANDS
Zambia's efforts to avert country-wide hunger caused by floods and drought has hit a new snag.Some of the relief food being distributed by government is being diverted to shops to be put up for sale.Vice-president Christon Tembo, spearheading the food relief programme, has warned of stern action against all those diverting the food, most of which is coming through foreign donors.
Zambia has been hit by floods in the northern parts of the country and a dry spell in the southern parts, resulting in crops being either washed away or drying up. The demand for relief food continues to grow as areas affected have increased from 29 to 34 of Zambia's 56 districts.
Members of parliament adjourned sittings recently to travel to their constituencies for detailed assessments of the hunger situation.One of the MPs of a constituency in Central Province, died during a tour of his area. Piere Chisenga died in a local hospital after suddenly falling ill.
8.NATIONAL SOCCER COACH FIRED
The Football Association of Zambia (FAZ) has fired the national soccer team coach Burkhard Ziese, one month after Zambia's poor performance at the Africa Cup soccer finals staged by Burkina Faso.Ziese, a German national, was out of the country at the time FAZ was making the announcement of his sacking.He was only four months in the job which was to have lasted for four years.
The FAZ national executive committee is itself under serious threat of being kicked-out by the national sports council of Zambia for allegedly failing to run the sport properly and for misuse of government funds.The FAZ was given 2.8 billion Kwacha (about US$1.7 million) by the state to facilitate preparations and participation in the Africa Cup finals.
From: AfricaNN@inform-bbs.dk (Africa_news Network) Date: Fri, 27 Mar 1998 16:51:56 +0100 Subject: ZAMBIA NEWS ONLINE #38 Message-ID: <email@example.com>
Editor: Ali B. Ali-Dinar
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