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XINHUA NEWS SERVICE REPORTS FROM THE AFRICAN CONTINENT

 

Zambia state appealing for calm after arrest of opposition leader

LUSAKA Zambia (Xinhua) -- The Zambian government on Thursday warned that it would not allow lawlessness in the country following the arrest and charging of an opposition leader with treason.

Sporadic riots have been reported in various parts of the country after Hakainde Hichilema, leader of the United Party for National Development (UPND), was arrested and charged with four counts of crime including treason, for alleged failure to give way to President Edgar Lungu’s motorcade.

On Thursday morning, riots broke out in Kanyama, a densely populated slum west of the country’s capital Lusaka, as the opposition leader’s supporters took to the streets to call for his release.

Police spokesperson Esther Mwata-Katongo confirmed the outbreak of the riots but noted that quick action by police prevented the riots from worsening.

On Wednesday, police arrested four tax drivers in southern Zambia’s Choma district for inciting rioters.

Minister of Home Affairs Stephen Kampyongo said the security wings will not entertain any kind of lawless and that anyone found trying to disturb the peace will be arrested.

"We have also seen that some social media publications are inciting people to riot.

"No one is going to hide behind social media and we are going to pursue those agitating lawless and violence," he said.

He told reporters in Lusaka that following the conclusion of the investigations and arrest of the opposition leader by the police, it now remains up to the courts of law to handle the matter judiciously.

Meanwhile the Zambian president said he will not interfere in the work of the police or the judiciary, saying they should be allowed to work independently.

Geoffrey Mwamba, vice-president of the UPND, demanded release of Hichilema and said the arrest was politically motivated.

"There were no police officers along that road and no vehicle in our convoy tried to block the presidential motorcade.

"The arrest of our president is a planned move," he said.

He said the strategy of the ruling party was to create a one party state by arresting opposition leaders on trump-up charges, closing critical media and denying citizens fundamental rights such as right to assembly.

A consortium of civil society organizations said the arrest of the opposition leader might fuel the existing tension in the country and called for dialogue between Lungu and the opposition leader.
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Is Zambia headed for another debt crisis?

LUSAKA Zambia (Xinhua) -- A statement issued by a former governor of Zambia’s central bank that the country’s public debt has reached crisis levels has raised fears as to whether the country risked plunging into another unsustainable debt situation.

Caleb Fundanga, who served as Bank of Zambia (BoZ) governor from 2002 to 2011, recently warned that Zambia’s public debt has reached crisis levels.

The former governor’s fears emanated from a recent debt sustainability analysis conducted by the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) that indicated that Zambia has a high risk of external debt distress, emanating from the Eurobonds maturing between 2022 and 2027.

This is in contrast to another analysis conducted by the two institutions in 2015 that had showed that the country’s external debt distress was considered to be moderate.

The former central bank governor, in remarks delivered at a public discussion organized by the Economics Association of Zambia (EAZ), an association representing economists, added that the country will face significant fiscal pressure between 2022 and 2027 as the Eurobonds mature.

On the other hand, the ratio of external debt service to revenue is projected to increase and breach the sustainable threshold of 20 percent between 2022 and 2027 from 9 percent on average, he added.

Zambia’s debt has increased considerably following the issuance of three Eurobonds.

The country issued three Eurobonds of 750 million dollars in 2012, the second one of 1 billion dollars in 2014 and a further 1.25 billion dollars in 2015.

According to government figures, the debt was standing at 9.44 billion dollars as at September 2016, comprising 6.7 billion dollars of external debt and 2.7 billion dollars of domestic debt.

According to analysts, the country’s external debt has escalated by 240 percent in the five-year period between 2011 and 2016 from 1.97 billion dollars to 6.7 billion dollars.

However, other independent sources have put the country’s debt at about 12 billion dollars, a move that has caused consternation from stakeholders who feel that the country could plunge back into another unsustainable debt.

"The government must undertake fiscal consolidation to avoid rapid accumulation of debt as current debt levels are unsustainable," the former central bank governor said.

He has since advised the government to explore cheaper sources of finance and maximize borrowing from concessional and semi-concessional sources while moderating commercial borrowing.

The fear of the country’s debt becoming unsustainable was highlighted by Finance Minister Felix Mutati in his 2017 budget presentation to parliament on 11th November, 2016.

In his address, he had stated that the government needed to be responsible to ensure debt sustainability and added that the country was "walking a tight rope".

Muna Hantuba, an economist, also expressed concern over the country debt, saying the public debt was a crisis.

The economist, who was speaking at the same public discussion, urged the government to refrain from borrowing more money and avoid growing the debt crisis.

The Jesuit Center for Theological Reflection (JCTR), a social and economic lobby group, is concerned over the high debt levels especially if the borrowed money was not being used on high-return projects.

According to its statement, increased debt levels usually imply higher taxes on the already heavily taxed citizens and consequently a higher cost of living.

Zambia’s debt crisis became increasingly acute in the 1980s as a result of a fall in oil prices in the 1970s and dropping copper prices that forced the government to borrow heavily to finance development.

Zambia’s foreign debt, which had reached alarming proportions of about 7.2 billion dollars by the year 2000, was written off when the country attained the Highly Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) initiative completion point in 2005.

The HIPC program was launched in 1996 by the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to reduce the external debt burden of eligible HIPC countries to sustainable levels in a reasonably short period of time.

The southern African nation was among 18 African nations that qualified for the Multilateral Debt Relief Initiative (MDRI), in which G8 countries agreed to cancel 100 percent of the debt owed.

As a result of that debt cancelation, Zambia’s debt was reduced to only 500 million dollars, leaving the country with enough resources to improve its economy.
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Zambia arrests Ugandan national with counterfeit 70,000 USD

LUSAKA Zambia (Xinhua) -- Authorities in Zambia on Wednesday arrested a Ugandan national for being in possession of over 70,000 U.S. dollars counterfeit notes.

The 36-year-old Ugandan was arrested in Lusaka, the Zambian capital at a shopping mall in the central business district by officials from the country’s anti-drug and money laundering agency.

Theresa Katongo, spokesperson of the Drug Enforcement Commission (DEC), said the named Ugandan national who resides in one of the suburbs of the city, was found with 79,500 dollars counterfeit notes after a tip-off from the public.

The authorities also arrested a Zambian national with 135,000 counterfeit U.S. dollars, she added.
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China’s Huawei partners with Zambian university on ICT trainings

LUSAKA Zambia (Xinhua) -- Chinese telecom giant Huawei on Thursday signed a memorandum of understanding with Zambia’s biggest public university for an Information Communication Technology (ICT) development program aimed at boosting knowledge in learners.

The Chinese firm signed the deal with the University of Zambia (UNZA) for the establishment of a Huawei Authorized Network Academy and Practice Center at the learning institution situated in Lusaka, the country’s capital.

Thomas Hu, the company’s country director, said the program includes the provision of wireless, transmission, optical fiber access and solar power courses and equipment from Huawei as well as a laboratory to allow students to get hands-on practices.

The program, he said, will enhance the empowerment and skill transfer of the ICT talents in Zambia.

Under the program, Huawei has spent 350,000 U.S. dollars to establish the academy and center while 12 ICT lecturers have been trained.

The company, he said, intends to set up a 17,500-dollar scholarship for top five students at the university to further their studies.

According to him, the massive investment in ICT development over the years requires catching up of human resources development.

Felix Phiri, Permanent Secretary in Charge of Special Duties at Cabinet Office, commended the company for the initiative, saying it will provide an opportunity to many students to attain Huawei ICT certification as well as equip them with ICT skills.

He said most of the learning institutions in the country lacked modern and advanced technological equipment to train skilled graduates for the industry.

"All too often, the private sector bemoans the lack of real-world class skills of those coming out of institutions of higher learning, complaining that young graduates do not have the hands-on experience necessary to apply themselves on the job," he said.

According to the agreement, the academy will be run by Huawei in collaboration with UNZA for three years and thereafter it will be handed over to the university.
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SEE ALSO:

FOCUS: Zambian police hold opposition leader after overnight raid

 

             

 

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