Long queues as voting begins in Zambia

2011-09-20 10:33
Lusaka - Zambians began voting on Tuesday in a closely contested election in Africa's biggest copper producer between incumbent Rupiah Banda and nationalist opposition leader Michael Sata.

Long queues of mainly young voters snaked outside polling stations in the capital, Lusaka, where voting picked up slowly after the official 04:00 GMT start of polling due to technical gliches.

"The polling station should have opened at 06:00, but by 08:00 we're still here and no-one is explaining what's happening," said James Phiri, an unemployed 22-year-old waiting in line at a Lusaka booth.

Campaigning officially ended on Sunday to allow for a 24-hour cooling off period after six-weeks of mudslinging and rhetoric that occasionally touched on the growing clout of foreign mining firms, most notably from China.

The police have said they will be out in force to prevent any violence even though the country of 13 million is not known for political unrest.

An opinion poll published a week ago suggested Banda held a narrow lead over Sata - nicknamed King Cobra on account of his vicious tongue - although an upset was still possible.

A large turnout of young voters, many of whom are unemployed, is likely to play into Sata's hands.

Patriotic Front (PF) leader Sata lost to Banda by just 35 000 votes, or 2% of the electorate, in a 2008 run-off. Banda appeared on state television on Sunday to announce that any troublemakers would be arrested.

Economic growth

Banda, a former diplomat, has won accolades abroad for opening up the country to international investment, especially from China, and providing clear regulations on operations that have helped keep the playing field level.

Sata, whose long and varied career includes work in British car assembly plants, has been a vocal critic of Asian mining investment, but toned it down in an interview with Reuters on Friday, saying he would keep Zambia's strong diplomatic and commercial ties with Beijing.

Chinese firms have become major players in the former British colony's $13bn economy, with total investments by the end of 2010 topping $2bn, according to Chinese embassy data.

Banda's Movement for Multi-Party Democracy, which has run the nation since the end of one-party rule in 1991, claims most of its support in the countryside where farmers have benefited from a hugely successful agricultural subsidy scheme.

Sata's strength is in the capital, Lusaka, and the northern Copper Belt, where many people complain about receiving meagre returns from more than five years of strong economic growth.

Banda and Sata have pledged hefty spending to woo voters by building up woefully inadequate infrastructure, raising concerns about elevated government spending at a time of potential weakness in the price of copper, Zambia's economic mainstay.

An alliance between Sata and another opposition party, the UPND, crumbled this year, improving the chances of a new full five-year term for Banda, who moved into the presidency after the 2008 death of his predecessor, Levy Mwanawasa.

Read more on:    michael sata  |  rupiah banda  |  zambia  |  southern africa

SHARE:

Read News24’s Comments Policy

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
0 comments
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining

Inside News24

 
/Motoring
 

Middle-seat kids: Why are they special?

Limited legroom, a siblings on each side... the middle seat has long been considered the short straw in a car but does it have a secret?

 

Stay safe

Pro's and con's of accredited driver-training
Juvenile pillion riders? Play safe...
Need a family ride? SA's top Mommy Cars
Mom's driving-school dream come true
Horoscopes
Aquarius
Aquarius

It is crucial to look twice before signing anything important right now. While Mercury is in retrograde strange things can happen,...read more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.




Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.