Voice of America (Washington, DC)

2 January 2014

Zambia VP Rejects State of Nation Address Criticisms

Zambia opposition groups have criticized President Michael Sata for failing to deliver a state of the nation address two years after he was elected as the country's leader.

But, Vice President Guy Scott dismissed the criticisms, insisting that Zambians are well informed about the administration's efforts to improve the lives of citizens.

In an interview with VOA, Vice President Scott said it's not the style of President Sata to hold official news conferences in order to deliver his government's agenda and the direction he want to take the country.

"It's a matter of style rather than substance... it's not his style. He doesn't go for the formal setting of a press conference [etc.]," said Scott. "Our president, when he wants to say something, he seizes an opportunity such as a swearing in ceremony of a new minister or somebody like that and he says what he has to say after finishing the swearing in."

Economy

Opponents say Sata has so far refused to follow tradition of governance, contending that all his predecessors delivered state of the nation addresses once every year.

They said citizens need to be informed about the country's economic performance as well as the government's policy initiative to improve living conditions, as promised in the run up to the election.

They also said prices of goods and services, including Mealie-meal, a staple food made from maize, have sharply increased without any explanation from the administration. Scott disagreed.

"We run a government, we don't run a one-man show, and information has been flowing quite densely actually," said Scott. "The minister of agriculture has answered what we are doing about Mealie-meal prices. The underlining problem is the regional shortage of maize due to poor weather across a wide area, not just Zambia, [this] has been explained to people and counter measures have been elaborated."

Party infighting

Some Zambians say infighting among Patriotic Front's (PF) rank and file is having a crippling effect on the functioning of the administration.

Party supporters recently demanded the removal of the group's secretary general, Justice Minister Wynter Kabimba.

They accuse him of undermining the PF after he claimed different members within the party are using tribalism to force him out.

"Since when did you have politics without a little bit of infighting? Show me a political party in which there is no contention, no differences of opinion, no struggle for succession? It will be a party no one has ever heard of," said Scott.

He also dismissed reports that he has formally resigned as the country's vice president.

Resignation

Security minister Geoffrey Mwamba resigned after a fallout with the government. But some analysts say the administration will unleash state institutions, including the Internal Revenue Service, to intimidate and harass the former cabinet minister. Scott denied reports that Mr. Mwamba would be targeted.

"The specific threat to investigate the financial affairs of the former minister of defense, I have heard people talk about it saying it would be most unfair to be investigated or something like that," said Scott. "But I have heard any threat from the party because it is more of a party affair than the government affair. Again, this is just made up or inferred."

Scott also denied media reports that he has resigned his position as the country's vice president.

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