ZAMBIA: Sata denies plans to set up 'parallel government'
The new government is facing a rocky road
LUSAKA, 5 October 2006 (IRIN) - Zambia's defeated presidential candidate Michael Sata denies that he is planning to establish a parallel government in the areas where his party won an overwhelming majority, including the capital, Lusaka, and the country's industrial heartland, Copperbelt Province.
Sata's Patriotic Front (PF) unveiled an ambitious five-year plan to use its domination of local municipalities to promote its own policies within 24 hours of President Levy Mwanawasa's inauguration for a second and final term of office, after a bitterly contested election replete with allegations of voter fraud and widespread rioting.
"Our brother [Mwanawasa] will be governing the State from his state house, and we shall be governing the people through our councils in Lusaka, Copperbelt, Luapula and Northern provinces," Sata said in his first pronouncements since he accused Mwanawasa of "stealing" the country's fourth multiparty elections, held on 28 September.
Asked by the media whether his plans were, in effect, a parallel government, Sata replied: "This is not a parallel government. It is local government, which is independent of central government. I am only going to effect the autonomy."
Zambia has a two-tier system of government - there is no elected provincial administration. Under existing legislation, local government municipalities are autonomous and supposed to raise the necessary finances to run their affairs, including payment of salaries, but have usually relied on central government's coffers.
Although Mwanawasa, leader of the ruling Movement for Multiparty Democracy (MMD) party, secured his second five-year presidency with 42 percent of the vote to Sata's 29 percent, he lost all parliamentary and most local government seats in Copperbelt and Lusaka, and a large number of the urban constituencies in Northern and Luapula provinces. The third-placed presidential contender, Hakainde Hichilema, of the United Democratic Alliance (UDA), accrued 25 percent of the presidential vote and his party swept the Southern province with wide margins in parliamentary and local government seats.
Mwanawasa's main support came from rural areas that have benefited from his agricultural support programmes and western Zambia, where the recommissioning of copper mining at Kansanshi and Lumwana mines has improved the regional economy.
The spoils in the 158-seat National Assembly saw the MMD secure 72 seats and Mwanawasa has presidential authority to appoint another eight deputies, the PF returned with 46 seats, and the UDA collected 27 seats.
At a press briefing on Wednesday, Sata, a Cabinet veteran of both founding president Kenneth Kaunda and his successor Frederick Chiluba, outlined a number of avenues that PF-dominated councils were exploring to raise the necessary finance to improve housing, upgrade townships, reduce land taxes, and reintroduce public nursery schools and recreational facilities.
Among his proposals were the local collection of a fuel levy, which has previously gone to central government, and a review of all business agreements, which could include removing preferential tax concessions.
"With the help of our MPs we shall critically look at the exact trade agreements between Zambia and China, and review them, since we are also in control of the Copperbelt, where the Chinese are mining our copper.
"Give us just 90 days and you will see us delivering what we promised you ... because we know where the money is, and we have to get it for the Zambian people," Sata said.
China's investment of hundreds of millions of dollars in Zambia's copper mines coincided with a global commodities boom and was accompanied by government-sanctioned tax holidays.
In his election campaign Sata railed against the "poor paying" Chinese as "infesters" [a wordplay on 'investors'] and further raised the stakes by promising to cut ties with China and embrace Taiwanese business. Taiwan is regarded by China as a renegade province.
His rhetoric lured China's Ambassador, Li Baodong, to seemingly break diplomatic protocol by telling local media that Chinese investors have put "on hold further investments until the uncertainty surrounding our bilateral relations with Zambia is cleared." Baodong's remarks were seen as interfering in Sata's election campaign and caused widespread anger.
Neo Simutanyi, a senior political science lecturer at the University of Zambia, said the major challenge faced by Mwanawasa's new government was to promote inclusiveness and uniform development.
"If properly handled, without scoring any vendetta missions, the same regionalism shown in Thursday's voting pattern can actually propel development by providing the required checks and balances in the central government, in parliament and at local government level," he said.
The ruling MMD has reportedly started a purge of party members thought to have supported Sata's bid for the presidency, including Chiluba, its former president and Mwanawasa's predecessor. Chiluba came to power in 1991, when multiparty elections ended 27 years of one-party rule by Kaunda. Since leaving office after a decade in power, Chiluba has been in and out of court on corruption charges.
The international community generally praised Mwanawasa's first term of office for its pro-market economic policies and anti-corruption drive, but the benefits have not been by felt by the two-thirds of the population who live on US$1 a day or less.
"The government has been promising us many things, but it is like they have just been working to please donors and foreign investors while we continue to suffer. We needed a person like Sata, who has a true heart for Zambians," said Juliet Mwanza, a trader at Lusaka's sprawling Soweto market.
According to Vernon Mwaanga, MMD head of campaign programmes, as soon as a new Cabinet was named, the government would address the grievances that had led to riots in the wake of the elections, such as poor water and sanitation, and the low investment levels in health and education.