Foreign Affairs Minister Harry Kalaba has attempted to milk some praise for his PF government and downplay the significance of the visit by diplomats to opposition leader Hakainde Hichilema on Saturday.
Diplomatically, what the envoys did was actually an endorsement of HH as preferred presidential candidate. Diplomats can not say that directly but can only send a signal diplomatically like they did on Saturday. Kalaba knows this very well but, though he is very bitter about it, would rather try to play to the gallery. The diplomats went to see HH about one topic: August 11 elections. Maybe they will try to visit other candidates just to be seen to be balanced but any intelligent person has read the signal. This is exactly what Hillary Clinton then as USA secretary of State did when that country endorsed late Michael Sata in 2011.
Kalaba said Monday the PF government was aware that 15 diplomats accredited to Zambia visited UPND leader Hakainde Hichilema at his residence on Saturday and stressed that such visits are ‘normal’ in any democratic country especially in the run up to the August elections.
Kalaba said that in other countries such gatherings cannot be allowed and further claimed that the visit was a clear indication of Zambia’s mature democracy.
He further engaged into self praise of the PF government claiming that the government remains committed to upholding democratic tenets like freedom of association and assembly.
On Saturday UPND leader Hakainde Hichilema hosted 15 diplomats accredited to Zambia at his Lusaka residence.
Contrary to Kalaba’s claims, the PF government has been blocking the opposition in Zambia from holding meetings through the outdated Public Order Act.
Led by Turkish Ambassador to Zambia Ahmet Ardar, 15 diplomats, among them US envoy Eric Schultz, Bernd Finke of Germany, Timo Olkkonen of Finland, Japanese Ambassador Kiyoshi Koinuma, South Africa’s High Commissioner Sikose Ntombazana Mji, Filipo Scammaca from Italy and European Union head of delegation Alessandro Mariani, visited Hichilema at his residence in New Kasama area. Other diplomats accredited to Zambia from Britain, India, Norway, Italy, Brazil, Ireland, Sweden and Canada were also part of the delegation. Speaking during a luncheon hosted for them, Ambassador Ardar, who spoke on behalf of all the diplomats present, said the international community would pay attention to the concerns on several issues raised by the opposition leader.