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Banda and Sata darlings of Mugabe

Zambia’s presidential contenders Rupiah Banda and Michael Sata were both close friends of President Robert Mugabe and were not likely to follow the footsteps of the late Zambian President Levy Mwanawasa who had described Mugabe as a sinking Titanic.

According to the United States embassy in Lusaka Banda had a long personal relationship with Mugabe and had so far shown to be weak and indecisive in dealing with Mugabe.

Sata had traditionally embraced Mugabe as an ally and made a very public and premature invitation to Mugabe to attend his (Sata’s) presidential inauguration in 2006.

Sata lost to Mwanawasa.

 

Full cable:


Viewing cable 08LUSAKA1044, POST-ELECTION ZAMBIA: A WORLD OF UNCERTAINTY

If you are new to these pages, please read an introduction on the structure of a cable as well as how to discuss them with others. See also the FAQs

Reference ID

Created

Classification

Origin

08LUSAKA1044

2008-10-28 15:50

CONFIDENTIAL

Embassy Lusaka

P 281550Z OCT 08

FM AMEMBASSY LUSAKA

TO SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 6396

INFO SOUTHERN AF DEVELOPMENT COMMUNITY COLLECTIVE PRIORITY

HQ USAFRICOM STUTTGART GE PRIORITY

C O N F I D E N T I A L LUSAKA 001044

 

 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 10/28/2018

TAGS: PGOV ZA

SUBJECT: POST-ELECTION ZAMBIA: A WORLD OF UNCERTAINTY

 

REF: A. LUSAKA 1034

B. LUSAKA 1033

C. LUSAKA 1032

D. LUSAKA 1030

 

Classified By: Ambassador Donald E. Booth, reasons 1.4 (B) and (D).

 

1. (SBU) Summary. As Zambians head to the polls on October

30, they and we are faced with many uncertainties, not only

over who will be the next President of Zambia, but also what

the transition will look like and how the new President will

rule. In true Zambian style, however, the two leading

candidates appear at this point to offer an empty “style over

substance” choice that ultimately will not result in huge

policy differences, at least in the short term. While the

USG cannot expect either Rupiah Banda or Michael Sata to

fully fill the shoes of former president Mwanawasa

(especially on Zimbabwe and the fight against corruption),

neither should we expect the Zambian ship of state to

suddenly lurch wildly off course. The key will be early USG

engagement with whoever wins the election in order to deliver

a message of continued partnership, continuity in the

bilateral relationship and sustained support. End summary.

 

2. (SBU) The race between presidential front-runners Rupiah

Banda and Michael Sata remains extremely tight, but with

local polls and anecdotal evidence pointing to Sata pulling

ahead, in the final days before election day on October 30.

All campaigns are planning final election rallies in Lusaka

on October 29, and Embassy election monitors have begun to

deploy around the country. The candidates appear determined

to end their campaigns on pretty much the same notes that

they began with – Banda with bland promises of continuing tax

cuts and ruling party largesse, Sata with fiery and

farfetched populist rhetoric (recent entries include a cure

for HIV/AIDS within 90 days of his election and the closure

of the South Africa-owned Zambezi Sun hotel for ludicrous

accusations of labor abuses), and Hakainde Hichilema with

forgettable but technically sound proposals for economic

growth. No one seems to know or wish to report on what

Heritage Party candidate Godfrey Miyanda is saying.

 

3. (C) While voters may feel that they face a stark choice

between the front-runners — the affable but weak Banda and

the mercurial but enduringly popular Sata — their choice

ultimately comes down to a very Zambian one of style over

substance. On the surface, a Banda administration offers

continuity, but Banda is a weak leader presiding over a

fractured ruling party, and he is assumed to be a lame duck

by a party machine that will try its best to ensure he

doesn’t run for president again in 2011. Similarly, Sata’s

bombastic style does not necessarily translate into actual

policy, as his rhetoric is usually tempered by the sound

counsel of trusted and savvy Patriotic Front (PF)

parliamentarians who will become ministers should Sata be

elected. Sata will also be faced with a Movement for

Multiparty Democracy (MMD) majority in Parliament, which

could constrain some of his more outlandish initiatives if

MMD MPs don’t defect en masse in order to curry favor with a

Sata presidency.

 

4. (C) Neither Sata nor Banda has the leadership or

inclination to follow in the increasingly principled

footsteps of former president Mwanawasa. Zimbabwe is a good

example – Banda, who has a long personal relationship with

Zimbabwean president Mugabe, has so far shown himself to be

weak and indecisive in dealing with the issue, and the GRZ

did not choose to send or express any interest in sending a

representative to recent SADC meetings on Zimbabwe.

Meanwhile, Sata has traditionally embraced Robert Mugabe as

an ally, and made a very public and premature invitation to

Mugabe to attend his (Sata’s) presidential inauguration in

2006. Substantiated rumors of corruption also surround

Banda, his family and many of his cronies, and while Sata has

made some noises about continuing the prosecution of the

criminal case against former president Chiluba, his

commitment to Mwanawasa’s anti-corruption legacy is doubtful.

 

 

5. (C) Comment. Although a Sata win would be a roller

coaster ride, it would represent the first transfer of power

since the end of one-party rule in 1991 and would be a step

forward for Zambian democracy – assuming that Sata would

respect the democratic principles that brought him into

power. Whoever the winner, the Embassy maintains good

contacts in both the Banda and Sata camps and is confident

that communication lines will remain open. Per reftel A,

Banda in particular was on message when the Ambassador

presented his credentials, and even Sata has expressed

enthusiasm for an Open Skies agreement with the U.S. – a

priority that has languished under the current

administration. One key will be to establish early contact

with a Banda or Sata administration in order to reaffirm the

USG commitment to a partnership with the GRZ and to send

messages on USG priorities. End comment.

 

BOOTH

 

(13 VIEWS)

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