063_G18_InFocus_Zambia

Global_18

In Focus Zambia the laws of the land anywhere in the world.” Sata countered: “When your countrymen adhere to local laws, there will be no need to point fingers at each other,” signalling a thaw in the fraught bilateral relations. Under intense pressure from Beijing, and the threat of the King Cobra poised to strike, Chinese companies began to clean up their act and raised pay scales. But it was too late for the atrociously run Collum coal mine and in early 2013 the government revoked the license over safety concerns and took over the running of the mine “until a suitable new investor is found”. Having made his point, Sata brought Zambia’s first President, the often emotional Kenneth Kaunda, out of the political cold and sent him as an envoy to arrange a state visit to China in April last year. He was given a rousing welcome by President Xi Jingping who signed several agreements, including the acceleration of economic zones in Chambishi and the capital, Lusaka, and support for Zambian SMEs. Sata, in turn, thanked the Chinese for their contribution to infrastructure development in his country and recalled that “even when the Western countries didn’t want to work with us because we didn’t have money, the Chinese came and helped us build Tazara”. In December, China pledged $221 million to upgrade the creaking railway (see page 61). Having kissed and made up with the Chinese, Sata seems to have set his sights on dragging the country’s still backward agricultural sector into the modern era and Sata seems to have set his sights on dragging the country’s still backward agricultural sector into the modern era and creating much needed jobs creating much-needed jobs. While with an average annual growth of around seven per cent, Zambia is one of the continent’s star performers, the majority of people are still poor. Foreign companies dominate the commercial space. Mining provides 80 per cent of foreign exchange revenues, but it is not a particularly prolific creator of jobs and its contribution to tax income is meagre. In addition, Zambia has a long history of leaking capital, prompting Finance Minister Alexander Chikwanda to enact a law authorising the central bank to monitor cross-border capital movements. He said the aim was not to impose capital controls, an anathema to investors, but to get a handle on the flow of capital into and out of the country. This is an appropriate measure, as long as it does not get bogged down in bureaucracy, as the other major battle facing Sata is the culture of corruption that was endemic for over two decades. It had become so rampant during the presidency of Frederick Chiluba (1991-2001) that Vice-President Levy Mwanawasa (who was to succeed Chiluba) resigned his post saying: “I can no longer be part of a government that is cheating our dear people. I find it hard to discharge my duties in my position as Vice-President when the entire rank and file of the government structure is filthy with corruption. Corruption has become so entrenched.” After losing power, Chiluba was charged with several counts of corruption but eventually cleared. However, the High Court in Britain found him guilty of conspiring to rob Zambia of $46 million. Chiluba died in 2011. Former President Rupiah Banda, and some of the ministers of his administration, are currently charged with abuse of power while in office – or corruption. Even Justice Minister Wynter Kabimba was investigated over a tender deal with a petroleum company before the Anti-Corruption Commission cleared him of suspicion. With a slender majority in parliament, Sata has followed Mwanawasa’s example of appointing some of the opposition to ministerial positions to enable the government to move on with legislation. But critics worry that the imperious Sata is using the colonial era Public Order Act to harass opponents and some accuse him of wanting to set up a single-party state. Earlier this year, opposition MP Frank Bwalya was arrested and charged with defamation when he described Sata as Chumbu mushololwa, which in the Bemba language translates into a sweet potato that breaks when it is bent, suggesting that Sata is inflexible and unwilling to listen to advice. There is no doubt that Michael Sata is very much his own man and makes it plain that he does not suffer fools gladly, but his handling of the Chinese issue and, thus far, the opposition in parliament demonstrate a subtlety that few believed he possessed. In addition to its venom, the king cobra is also one of the most flexible creatures in the world. In the snake-pit that has passed for Zambian politics for so long, perhaps only King Cobra can bring the order the country needs. Historic milestones 300 AD Bantu begin to absorb and displace the original Khoisan people 1798 Francisco de Lacerda is the first European to visit the region and claims it for Portugal 1888 Cecil Rhodes leads the British South Africa Company to gain mineral rights in what is now Zambia 1889 The country is under British rule as Northern Rhodesia. Angoni and Ngoni rebel in the east but are defeated 1964 Northern Rhodesia gains independence from the UK and is renamed Zambia. The United National Independence Party (UNIP) wins the pre-independence elections 1968 Zambia has one-party rule under socialist President Kaunda. Other political parties are banned 1970 Declining international copper prices see Zambia’s economy fail 1990 Extensive riots against Kaunda in June see protesters killed. Kaunda survives an attempted coup 1991 Elections are held after the Movement for Multiparty Democracy (MMD) applies pressure on the government. MMD wins a landslide victory 2011 Patriotic Front’s Michael Sata wins the presidential election after ten years in opposition 1800 1960 1990 2000 2014 global second quar ter 2014 www.global -br ief ing.org l 63 OskrLorenz19 CC SA 3.0 Photosmith2011 CC BY SA 2.0


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