Mining centre stage in Zambian polls

2011-09-18 16:48

Lusaka - President Rupiah Banda hopes Zambia's mining boom will propel him to re-election on Tuesday over main opposition leader Michael Sata, who made his name slamming the growing Chinese presence in the country.

The election could potentially bring a landmark transfer of power in the poor southern African country, which has been ruled by just two parties since independence from Britain in 1964.

The last race between the two candidates - a special election in 2008 to fill the final three years of late president Levy Mwanawasa's term - was decided by two percentage points.

Sata accused Banda's Movement for Multi-party Democracy (MMD) of rigging the vote, and his supporters rioted for days after.

Observers are predicting another tight race in Tuesday's presidential, parliamentary and local polls, which will decide the country's leadership for the next five years.

"This election really is a watershed election," said veteran political analyst Lee Habasonda, who heads the non-profit Southern African Centre for the Constructive Resolution of Disputes.

"It comes after 20 years of MMD rule. And while the MMD may have advantages of incumbency, I think they've been given a run for their money because of the time they have been in power. It is going to be a very close call," he told AFP.

Banda has campaigned on a platform of economic growth and infrastructure development, after presiding over an economy that expanded 7.6% last year and 6.4% the year before, according to the IMF - one of the fastest rates in Africa.

Both claim credit

The growth spurt has been driven by rising international copper prices and a rush of Chinese investment in Zambia's copper sector, the largest in Africa and one of the top 10 in the world.

Banda and the MMD claim credit for the boom and the public-works construction spree it has helped fund.

"From the MMD you get more growth, more investment and more jobs for our youth," he told supporters at his final campaign rally Saturday.

But Banda has been accused of failing to spread the wealth, with 64% of the country's 12.9 million people still living on less than two dollars a day.

Under Banda, the country abolished a 25% tax on windfall profits in the mining sector, pleasing investors but sacrificing hundreds of millions of dollars in state revenue.

Sata's Patriotic Front (PF) want to re-institute the tax.

They also say Banda is soft on corruption and has betrayed Mwanawasa's graft-busting legacy.

Banda's government refused to appeal the corruption acquittal of former president Frederick Chiluba, whom investigators accused of embezzling $500 000 during his 1991 to 2002 presidency.

The Banda administration fired Task Force on Corruption boss Max Nkole after he tried to appeal the ruling. Then it disbanded the Task Force.

Time to go

"When compared to the previous government, President Banda is complacent in as far as the fight against corruption is concerned," Reuben Lifuka, head of the Zambian chapter of watchdog group Transparency International, told AFP.

Sata, who is making his fourth bid for president, has sought to exploit voter fatigue with Banda and the MMD.

"MMD have ruled for 20 years. Their time to go has come," he told supporters at his final rally.

Sata thrives on controversy, and in his 2006 campaign prominently threatened to expel the Chinese investors who have flocked to the country's copper mines.

He has since scaled back some of his rhetoric, and now says he will work with the Chinese if elected.

But critics fear the strong-fisted firebrand, known as "King Cobra", would make an authoritarian president.

Third-party candidate Hakainde Hichilema of the United Party for National Development could play the role of spoiler in the race.

Analysts say he is likely to strip away more of Banda's rural base than Sata's constituency among youths and the urban poor.

Some one million of the 5.2 million Zambians on the election roll are first-time voters, a factor also likely to bend in Sata's favour.

Read more on:    rupiah banda  |  zambia  |  zambia elections  |  southern africa

Read News24’s Comments Policy 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
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining

Inside News24


BMW drift battle: M235i vs. speedway bike

Watch this insane drift contest with four-times dirt-track World champion Karl Maier riding a speedway bike against a BMW M235i.

Want to start talking dirty?
Everyday struggles of naturally skinny guys
And this year's Miss Bumbum title goes to...
How to maintain your mo, bro

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Magical Massinga

Spend 5 nights at the gorgeous Massinga Beach Lodge in Mozambique and only pay for 4 from R13 220 per person sharing. Includes return flights, accommodation, transfers and romantic turndown. Book now! - shop online today

20% off ALL TV Series

Choose from 1000’s of the hottest TV Series . While stocks last. Shop now!

Festive gifts!

Check out our awesome range of festive gifts to make everyone’s wishes come true. Shop now!

Seen something you like in our catalogue?

Find the perfect gift and save up to R5000 – As seen on the catalogue. Hurry and shop now!

Save up to R2200 on electronics! – As seen in the catalogue

Wishing for tech gadgets this festive? Save up to R2100 on hot tech products at While stocks last. Shop now!

Up to 35% off books

Save up to 35% on the latest page-turners. While stocks last. Shop now!

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25


Enjoy the view because as from tomorrow you are going to need to come back down to earth and join the party. In the meantime more

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


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 network.


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.