Ethno-Net Database: Zambia

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Zambia
 
Mwanawasa renews corruption fight
Church leaders call for re-run of elections
Magistrates win sympathy over strike
Misuse of HIPC funds alleged
Reports on Ethnic Relations  /  Rapports sur les relations éthniques

The following section is mainly consisted of part, full or summaries of articles taken from newspapers.
La section suivante est essentiellement constituée d'exraits, de la totalité ou de résumés d'articles issues de journaux .


04 / 15 / 2003

IRIN 

The Article: "Mwanawasa renews corruption fight"

Zambian President Levy Mwanawasa has stepped up his anti-corruption crusade by banning cabinet ministers and senior officials from bidding for government contracts, a move cheered by civil society groups.

"If you [government ministers] feel business is more important for you, it is better for you to resign as you cannot have it both ways [do business and serve government]," Mwanawasa said at a campaign rally on Sunday in eastern Zambia.

He vowed to sack any government officials using their positions to win government contracts.

"I think this is a bold step by the president once again, as far as the corruption fight is concerned. As the church, we welcome this but our main concern is whether this government has the capacity to know whether a guy who has bid and won a tender is a friend or relative of a cabinet minister ... has President Mwanawasa done enough research? That is our concern," Reverend Japheth Ndlovu, general-secretary of the influential Christian Council of Zambia (CCZ) told IRIN.

Mwanawasa has spearheaded a drive against graft since coming to power in December 2001. His renewed vow to weed out corruption has come barely a week after Vice-President Enoch Kavindele was allegedly linked to two multi-million dollar business deals.

Kavindele was said to be connected to a company contracted as the sole importer of crude oil to Zambia, Trans-Sahara Trading (TST), and the South African cellular phone provider, Vodacom. He has denied involvement in either case, but said his son had direct dealings with the companies.

Mwanawasa has since used his presidential powers to terminate prematurely the TST deal, news reports said.

Kelvin Kaleyi, a Zambian business journalist, said stopping politicians dabbling in business would take more than an appeal to their sense of ethics: "Most of the ministers and top government officials in Zambia are businessmen and -women by background. Nothing will stop them from giving friends or relatives tips of what tender is coming up and the easiest way to win it. To me it's a futile fight, but a good effort nevertheless."

While Mwanawasa's corruption crusade has been generally welcomed - domestically and by international donors - his presidency remains mired in controversy over the conduct of the 2001 election. The Supreme Court is hearing a petition by opposition parties in which top former officials have testified that tax payers' money was used to illegally fund Mwanawasa's campaign.

But Mwanawasa has not been distracted. Arrest warrants have been issued against former president Frederick Chiluba and senior figures in his administration, which ruled Zambia for 10 years - an era known as the "decade of plunder".

04 / 14 / 2003

IRIN 

The Article: "Church leaders call for re-run of elections"

Church leaders in Zambia on Monday stepped into the fray over the legitimacy of Levy Mwanawasa's presidency, calling for fresh elections to resolve the controversy.

"It's been almost two years since President Mwanawasa took power and yet people are still questioning his authority. This is not healthy for national unity. The result of this uncertainty is that many Zambians have adopted a wait-and-see attitude before they commit wholeheartedly to national development projects," Christian Council of Zambia secretary-general, Reverend Japhet Ndhlovu, told IRIN.

Mwanawasa came to power with 29 percent of the vote in a December 2001 election, but opposition parties alleged fraud and petitioned the Supreme Court. Three of the country's largest church bodies at the weekend called for fresh elections.

"In various forums we have raised this issue of an election re-run. We believe that this would sort out the confusion once and for all. If the government is assured of its popularity, it has nothing to worry about," Ndhlovu said.

Pressure has recently been mounting for Mwanawasa to step down, following damaging testimony before the Supreme Court suggesting electoral fraud helped him into office.

Mwanawasa has reportedly said he would not succumb to "ill advice" to resign, and instead would wait for the Supreme Court's decision.

"It is important that before any re-run is held, all the necessary stakeholders revisit the country's electoral laws. It is imperative that there is consensus that a candidate should win at least 51 percent of the national vote to be considered for president. This would do away with questions of legitimacy," Ndhlovu suggested.

He added that the country's poverty reduction programme had suffered because of "party politicking".

04 / 09 / 2003

IRIN 

The Article: "Magistrates win sympathy over strike"

The dingy holding cell at Lusaka's Chelstone police station was designed to house some 15 suspects awaiting court hearings. It now regularly accommodates double that, and numbers are expected to rise still further if a solution is not quickly found to a strike for better salaries and working conditions by Zambia's magistrates.

"It's a shame that all these people have to wait for days in such harsh conditions because some of the offences they have committed qualify for bail or bond," a custody officer in a faded khaki uniform told IRIN. "But as long as the strike continues, we have no choice but to keep them here ... that is our job."

The magistrates have managed to win some sympathy from sections of civil society over their conditions of service, despite concerns over the conditions of suspects in detention.

President Levy Mwanawasa has appealed to them to resume work while the government addresses their salary demands, a position backed by Magistrates' Association of Zambia Chairman Jones Chinyama. However, the membership has chosen to stay away.

Their industrial action, which has now entered its second week, is having a direct impact on the country's justice system.

"The government needs to ensure speedy trials for justice to be seen to be done. But in the same breath, they have to pay magistrates better ... in other words, the magistrates are justified to call for better conditions. It is not a secret that the government has increased the perks of other public workers. For the sake of justice, pay the magistrates well, so that the wheels of justice can roll on," urged Ngande Mwanajiti of the Inter Africa Network for Human Rights and Development.

"These guys earn the equivalent of about US $100 and they are expected to provide justice when they are presiding over a case involving 30 million kwacha [US $6,000]. How can you expect to fight corruption when people in influential positions such us magistrates are underpaid? I think their cries are justified," lawyer Charles Cola told IRIN.

The opposition has seized on the magistrate's strike, the latest in a spate of industrial action in Zambia, to attack the government.

"The demands of not only teachers but magistrates must be addressed quickly. Mr Mwanawasa made a mistake to increase judges' and politicians' salaries and forget other public workers. He was explicitly telling them that they are less important than the judges and politicians," Ben Mwila, leader of the opposition Zambia Republican Party told IRIN.

According to the Jesuit Centre for Theological Reflection, which collects monthly data on the cost of living, a family of six needs just over a million kwacha a month (roughly US $200) for a "basic needs basket".

Recently, public workers threatened a nationwide strike if the government did not give in to their demand for a 1.5 million kwacha (US $300) salary increase.

After meeting with Mwanawasa, who explained the budgetary constraints facing the government, their union leaders agreed on a 615,000 kwacha (US $123) to 1.1 million kwacha (US $220) rise. However, some workers, especially teachers in Lusaka, refused to accept the deal and have stayed out on strike.


04 / 08 / 2003

IRIN 

The Article: "Misuse of HIPC funds alleged"

Allegations of misuse of debt-relief funds have emerged in Zambia, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) told IRIN on Tuesday.

Zambia is one of the least developed countries which qualify for the Highly-Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) debt-relief programme of the IMF and World Bank.

In January this year, President Levy Mwanawasa described Zambia's US $6.5 billion debt burden as "intolerable".

"Each year we have to find in excess of US $200 million just to service debt. This year the figure may exceed US $300 million. Unserviced debt quickly grows, with compound interest making it even more difficult to contain," he said.

Zambia is currently struggling with food shortages, brought on largely by drought, and the impact of HIV/AIDS.

The IMF has estimated that without HIPC, Zambia's debt servicing obligations would have been about US $420 million in 2001.

IMF resident representative Mark Ellyne explained that HIPC "savings are government funds that might have been paid for debt services, [which instead] can now be spent on social services". He added that the IMF had so far disbursed about US $450 million in interim debt relief to Zambia.

However, Ellyne said allegations had emerged recently of the misuse of funds.

"I think it was done at low levels and not at high levels - at district levels there were some accusations. I think there's been some investigation [of the allegations], but I'm not aware of any convictions as yet," he added.

Ellyne said he could not elaborate on the specifics, nor could he "make judgements" about the allegations, which had been reported in the local media.

"We are just waiting to see if the government gives us more information. Government normally does an accounting for us, a report on HIPC disbursements at the end of each year," he said.

>>>>> More details on HIPC Transparency

04 / 03 / 2003

IRIN 

The Article: "Southern Africa: Feature - US slams poor rights records in region"

[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]

The human rights records of five governments in Southern Africa during 2002 were described as "poor" by the US Department of State in its annual reports.

In Zimbabwe, "President [Robert] Mugabe and his ZANU-PF party used intimidation and violence to maintain political power. A government-sanctioned, systematic campaign of violence targeting supporters and potential supporters of the opposition began in late 2001 and intensified during the year ... security forces committed extrajudicial killings," a 37-page report on Zimbabwe charged.

Ruling party supporters and war veterans, which the US called "an extralegal militia", had "with material support from the government, expanded their occupation of commercial farms and killed, abducted, tortured, beat, abused, raped and threatened farm owners, their workers, opposition party members and others believed to be sympathetic to the opposition," the report found.

The State Department said various civil liberties were infringed and freedoms of speech and the press were circumscribed by "restrictive laws". The report also pointed to the internal displacement of former commercial farm workers "due to the ongoing land resettlement policies", adding that "tens of thousands of opposition supporters were displaced by threats of violence".

Abuse of women and children continued and "the president and his government encouraged widespread resentment of the white minority". The report also noted anecdotal reports of trafficking of people.

Included among governments with a rights record deemed poor was Zambia. "Although there were some improvements in a few areas, serious problems remained," the State Department said.

The report on Zambia said police officers had committed several unlawful killings and "frequently beat and otherwise abused criminal suspects and detainees". While some officers were arrested, "most officers who committed such abuses did so with impunity".

Zambia's police force lacked professionalism, investigative skill and discipline.

Meanwhile, prison conditions were "harsh and life-threatening". "Arbitrary arrests, prolonged detention and long delays in trials were problems [and] the police infringed on citizens' privacy rights," the report noted.

There were reports that the government "at times sought to restrict press freedom".

As with Zimbabwe, violence against women remained widespread and they "continued to experience discrimination in both law and fact, including the denial of widows' inheritance rights," the State Department added.

Angola was another country where the government's human rights record was said to be problematic. The State Department charged that the government "continued to commit serious abuses" during 2002. The country celebrates its first anniversary of the ceasefire agreement which ended its 27-year civil war on Friday, 4 April.

The Angola report noted that "citizens have no effective means to change their government" and that "members of the security forces committed extrajudicial killings, were responsible for disappearances and tortured, beat, raped and otherwise abused" people in that country.

Following the signing of the ceasefire agreement with former rebel group UNITA, "the army ceased to be the major human rights offender outside of [the disputed] Cabinda province", where separatist rebels have been waging an armed struggle since Angola's independence.

UNITA were responsible for killings, disappearances, torture, rape and other abuses until the effective cessation of hostilities in February 2002, after the death of its leader Jonas Savimbi, the report said.

But the police force assumed the mantle of "worst offender" and prison conditions remained "harsh and life-threatening".

"The government routinely used arbitrary arrest and detention, and lengthy pre-trial detention was a problem. Where it did function, the judiciary was subject to the influence of the president, the ruling MPLA party, or anyone able to offer bribes in exchange for favourable rulings," the report charged.

The government continued to limit independent investigations of human rights abuses but did allow peaceful public protest and opposition party meetings, the State Department noted.

The tiny kingdom of Swaziland, where King Mswati III rules as absolute monarch, was among the countries whose governments "continued to commit serious abuses", this report observed.

Noting that Swazis were unable to change their government peacefully, the State Department added that "the government interfered with the judiciary and infringed on citizens' privacy rights ... restricted freedom of assembly and association and prohibited political activity".

The report on Swaziland also noted that freedom of the press was limited and that "legal and cultural discrimination and violence against women, as well as abuse of children, remained problems".

In Mozambique, the government's rights record improved in some areas but still remained poor.

"Police continued to commit numerous abuses, including unlawful killings ... beat persons in custody, and abused prostitutes and street children." Citizens' rights were restricted and the judiciary was "inefficient, understaffed and under-funded ... dominated by the executive and subject to corruption".

The report also commented that "unlike in the previous year, there were no confirmed reports that women or children were trafficked to South Africa or Swaziland for prostitution".

The US State Department said South Africa, Madagascar, Botswana, Namibia, Comoros, Malawi and Lesotho generally respected the human rights of their citizens.

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