This post is part of our special coverage WikiLeaks and the World.
Almost a year after the United States (US) government diplomatic cables were released by Wikileaks, Zambia’s tranche of the documents have recently surfaced but as it has turned out, nothing drastic has been disclosed by the leaks which have proved toxic in other countries. There are no signs that the latest revelations will affect the outcome of September 20 tripartite elections.
However, it is the US diplomats’ comments on the Zambian government that are scathing particularly on the lack of action in a number of areas. One of the cables, somewhat exposed the inherent weaknesses of the ruling MMD soon after the 2008 presidential by-election. Said the cable of the MMD which goes into an election with nine other parties:
Despite having won Zambia's October 30 presidential by-election, the Movement for Multi-Party Democracy (MMD), which has dominated the Zambian political scene since the end of one-party rule in 1991, is engaging in the types of behavior normally characteristic of losing organizations — finger pointing, witch hunting, airing of dirty laundry, and suppression of dissension. In addition, certain members of the MMD are setting themselves up for presidential candidacies to succeed Rupiah Banda in 2011…One of these is Katele Kalumba, National Secretary of the MMD and currently the third highest ranking member of the party, as there is no party president or vice president since President Mwanawasa's death.
Katele Kalumba has since given up his position as national secretary following his conviction on abuse of office and corruption charges in the infamous plunder cases that also involved the late former President, Frederick Chiluba.
Kalumba, according to the cables, also criticized President Rupiah Banda’s campaign strategy which led the MMD win the presidential by beating the closes rival, Patriotic Front (PF)’s Michael Sata, who is also the closest rival in the upcoming elections by about 35,000:
Kalumba was unsparing in his criticism of both President Banda and his cabinet choices in a conversation with P/E Chief November 18. He said MMD's relatively poor showing was due to Banda's poor campaigning, his campaign team's disorganization and miscalculations, as well as division within the party itself. Kalumba said Banda's cabinet choices were also “real dummies.”
The cables have also not spared PF:
…In addition, the members of the main opposition party, the Patriotic Front, have proven time and again they are equally willing to cannibalize each other to suit their individual political aspirations. Which party will remain the most intact for the election in 2011 remains to be seen.
Below is what the US embassy said about Michael Sata in the 2008 elections:
Although still a strong contender in the October 30 by-election, presidential candidate Michael Sata appears to have lost some of his momentum due to internal party strife. The Patriotic Front leader excommunicated half of his party’s parliamentarians in late 2007 over disagreements regarding the National Constitutional Conference (NCC), and one of them now appears bent on foiling Sata’s presidential ambitions. Despite this setback, Sata is determined to win the presidency and has begun targeting rural areas in order to expand his electoral base beyond discontented urban youth.
The report concluded:
In a particularly telling move, Sata abandoned his former website (www.pf.com.zm) and created a new domain name (www.michaelsata.co.zm), which most appropriately conveys the true nature of his personality-driven party. Despite Sata’s demagoguery, he is surrounded by many thoughtful politicians who seem to believe in his cause and his political prospects and are willing to overlook his eccentricities, shortcomings, and frequent populist poppycock.
Readers at Zambian Watchdog had this to say:
“Although seen as a “straight talker,” the PF leader’s discourse is not burdened by an unwavering commitment to accuracy or truth.”
Simply put, Sata is a liar. This is how diplomats write. Infact, Sata is more than a liar, he is a LIE. That is why he can claim so many things, including being a freedom fighter when he was a shu shu [intelligence officer] for the Tsamundas…
That is why he can claim everything from building flyover bridges, construction of avondale to bringing trousers for hospital nurses. I can imagine if he ever was Minister of transport how he would be bosting about bringing busses.
Sata is a lie.
MICHAEL KOPLOVSKY, in some of the Wikileaks cables, described George Kunda [Zambia's Vice-President] as a semi-competent, ill clumsy pit bull. A pit bull is that chi dog with a big mouth.By nature, a pit bull is very clumsy. That’s how low the US thinks of our Geroge Kunda…ke ke ke ke. Even the whites don’t take GK seriously
Now we know why Rajan Mahtan [Former owner of Finance Bank which has controversially being sold by the government] is still suffering on MMD’s crucifix.
It is difficulty to find doubtful leak in this, so much truth in it. What about this year’s leaks, is King Cobra winning elections?
Another scathing comment questioned President Banda's commitment to fighting corruption. One comment in particular relates to the deal in which communications giant, Zambia Telecommunications Company, was sold and how one former minister, Dora Siliya, appeared before a high court ministerial tribunal to explain the deal:
Although President Banda deftly painted himself into a corner by offering Siliya his vocal and unwavering support, he shows little discomfort at being there. Instead of containing the scandal or distancing themselves from it, he and his Vice President amplified it by implicating themselves further. Within hours of dismissing Kapitolo, Banda appointed a new ZPPA Director, described by civil society organizations as more “user friendly” to State House. The appointment of a new ZPPA head and board, and the government's careless handling of the Siliya affair, suggests a domestic agenda directed by Banda's personal interests and efforts to consolidate his control over his party, the Movement for Multiparty Democracy (MMD)
Another corruption-related cable was how corruption scandals turned off donors:
The governments of Sweden and the Netherlands froze their development assistance to Zambia's health sector following reports of serious fraud at the Ministry of Health (MoH). Their course of action reflects mounting donor anxiety, not so much at corruption itself as at the Zambian Government's (GRZ's) seemingly tepid response to it.
In another cable, President Banda allegedly told a World Bank Vice President that he would fight corruption effectively if he was elected for a full five year term in the 2011 election:
Zambian President Rupiah Banda told a World Bank Vice President he could not undertake a robust anti-corruption stance because he “has multiple constituencies to satisfy.” During a late September meeting on the margins of UNGA in New York, IBRD Africa Vice President told the Zambian leader, his Trade Minister Felix Mutate and State House Economic Advisor Richard Chembe that Banda needs to deal with the perception that he is soft on corruption. Banda reportedly insisted he was committed to working to fight corruption, but he is being “pulled in different directions. Banda also said it would be easier for him to tackle Zambia's corruption problems and the associated perceptions when and if he is reelected to a full five year term in 2011.
This post is part of our special coverage WikiLeaks and the World.