Leaders of the main opposition parties in Zambia have signed and circulated an open letter to the international donor community raising concerns over what they describe as alarming conduct by the new government of President Michael Sata and the Patriotic Front party.
The 10-page letter, which is signed by Nevers Mumba of the Movement for Multiparty Democracy (MMD), Hakainde Hichilema of the United Party for National Development (UPND), Charles Milupi of the Alliance for Democracy and Development (ADD), Sakwiba Sikota of the United Liberal Party (ULB), Edwin Sakala of the Zambia Direct Democracy Movement (ZDDM), and Robert Amsterdam, international counsel to former President Rupiah Banda and son Henry Banda, argues that the Patriotic Front’s economic mismanagement has discredited many institutions of government which may be responsible for administering foreign aid resources.
“Zambia is currently experiencing a crisis of confidence in the quality of its governance, raising credible and legitimate doubts that the current group of individuals in the seats of power can be trusted to issue debt, transparently manage financial resources, or conduct themselves within the boundaries of the constitution,” the text of the letter reads. “Considering the nepotism exercised within the Ministry of Finance and the unlawful handling of major transactions (…), it is no longer possible to regard the Patriotic Front administration as operating with constitutional regularity framed by observation of the law.”
The open letter to the donor community underscores a number of questions surrounding the Patriotic Front’s management of the economy – including the appointment of members of the president’s family to the Ministry of Finance and several no-bid contracts allegedly awarded to companies owned by members of government.
It also raises alarm over the confrontation between the administration and the judiciary.
The authors of the letter state that President Sata has limited freedom of expression by filing numerous defamation lawsuits seeking more than $1 million in damages from opponents, while at least one citizen has been jailed for criticizing the president.
While seeking to raise awareness of these trends, the signatories of the open letter urge international donors to carefully monitor execution of programs and to work directly with intended beneficiaries to ensure against diversion of resources by the state.