GROWING political intolerance and impressions that Zambian President Michael Sata’s government does not have a coherent development policy will undermine the county’s investment credentials and economic growth, analysts say, according to Business day of South Africa.
A sustained assault on opposition leaders and the seizure of several private businesses sold to foreign investors by the previous administration have raised questions about Mr Sata’s commitment to the rule of law and protection of investments, they said.
Zambian opposition leader Hakainde Hichilema was arrested last week in Livingstone after violence linked to a by-election broke out there. It was the latest in a series of assaults on opposition leaders — who have been beaten up by ruling party cadres or charged with various offences since Mr Sata became president in September 2011.
Over the past several months, Mr Sata’s government has taken control of mobile operator Zambia Telecommunications (Zamtel), Zambia Railways, Finance Bank and the Collum Coal Mine — all privatised under the predecessor governments of the Movement for Multiparty Democracy (MMD). Mr Sata claims he was forced to intervene because aspects of the sales were corrupt.
“There is clear political concern about the lack of tolerance for the opposition since Mr Sata’s advent to power. There is a crackdown on opponents and press freedom,” said Dr John Akokpari, a lecturer in African Politics at the University of Cape Town. Far from giving the impression that Mr Sata was an anticorruption crusader, the crackdown on opponents left him vulnerable to accusations that his government had something to hide and did the country no favour on the global stage, Dr Akokpari said.
Zambian economist Prof Oliver Saasa said impressions were growing that Mr Sata was socialist-leaning and was undoing much of the good foundation for economic growth laid by the MMD administrations, especially those of the late president Levy Mwanawasa, who died in office in 2008, and Rupiah Banda.
“The controversial repossessions of companies like Zamtel, Zambia Railways, Finance Bank and the Collum Coal Mine (deepened) this perception,” said Prof Saasa.
He said combined with its issuance of a $750m eurobond last year, Mr Sata’s government sent mixed signals to the market, leading investors unsure of policy direction. The eurobond raised cash to finance Zambia’s infrastructure development. Some $120m of that cash will go to rehabilitating the railway, the Treasury said but offered no further details on the project.
Zambian diplomat in Pretoria Patson Chilembe said Zambia’s prospects for growth were still bright and the government hoped to tap more foreign direct investment to resuscitate neglected industries. “We are hopeful that Zambia can meet a GDI (gross domestic income) target of $10bn in 2013,” said Mr Chilembe. He did not say where the $10bn would come from or where it would be invested.
The economy will expand by 7.3% this year from 6.9% last year driven largely by demand from China.
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