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2008-04-09 10:13:00
Embassy Lusaka
Cable title:  

Zambia Political Round-up

Tags:   PGOV  PINR  ZA 
pdf how-to read a cable
DE RUEHLS #0401/01 1001013
R 091013Z APR 08
						UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 LUSAKA 000401 



E.O. 12958: N/A
SUBJECT: Zambia Political Round-up




E.O. 12958: N/A
SUBJECT: Zambia Political Round-up

1. (U) Summary:

-- Patriotic Front: Eating Its Young
-- Irene Mambilima Appointed Deputy Chief Justice
-- President's Nephew in Hot Water Over Remarks
-- Key Session of Constitutional Conference in the

PF: Eating Its Young

2. (U) On March 15, the Patriotic Front (PF) continued its campaign
against PF members participating in the National Constitutional
Conference (NCC) by expelling five Members of Parliament (MPs) for
reasons ranging from insolence to withholding monthly contributions.
Those expelled were Faustina Sinyangwe, who allegedly called PF
president Michael Sata "a thug," and Saviour Chishimba, Percy
Chanda, Marjory Masiye, and Barnabas Chela, who allegedly withdrew
their monthly contributions from the party. Violet Sampa-Bredt was
reprimanded for refusal to obey official instructions from senior
members of the party. The expelled/disciplined MPs are all among
the 26 PF MPs who have chosen to participate in the NCC. Following
the expulsions, the PF appealed to the Speaker of the National
Assembly to declare the five seats open.

3. (U) The affected MPs promptly applied to the Lusaka High Court
to cite the PF Central Committee for contempt of court for defying a
December 2007 interim court order restraining the PF leadership from
either expelling any of the defiant MPs or interfering with the
enjoyment of their rights as party members. The order is in place
while a court case challenging the party's legal grounds for
expelling members works its way through the system. The Speaker of
the National Assembly declined to declare the seats open pending a
court decision on the court case. Even if the High Court decides in
the PF's favor, the legal wrangling is not likely to end soon - the
MPs have a right to appeal and will almost certainly use it.

-------------- -
Irene Mambilima Appointed Deputy Chief Justice
-------------- -

4. (U) On March 19, President Mwanawasa announced the appointment
of Justice Irene Mambilima, 57, as the new Deputy Chief Justice to
replace the late Justice David Lewanika. The appointment was
quickly ratified by Parliament. Mambilima had been serving as
Chairperson of the Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ) since 2001,
having risen from the
post of Magistrate to High Court judge and
later to Supreme Court justice in 1997.

5. (SBU) While some opposition members grumbled that Mambilima's
appointment was a reward for a pro-government slant by the ECZ
during the 2006 elections, Mambilima is well-respected in her field.
Coming to the job of ECZ Chair in 2001 following presidential
elections that were widely criticized for their lack of
transparency, Mambilima inherited a weak and distrusted institution.
In the absence of hoped-for electoral reform that gave the ECZ
sufficient powers to supervise and effectively regulate the conduct
of elections, she is credited with having introduced procedural
changes aimed at building voter confidence in the electoral process,
including a new and complete voters' roll, which displays the
voter's photograph, and transparent ballot boxes. All is not
perfect, and the ECZ was particularly criticized for not enforcing
media regulations about granting equal time to all candidates during
the 2006 elections, but overall Mambilima did a creditable job.

6. (U) Mambilima holds a Bachelor of Laws degree from the University
of Zambia and a Master of Laws degree from the University of London.
Three out of the seven Supreme Court justices are women.

President's Nephew in Hot Water Over Remarks

7. (SBU) The Clerk of the National Assembly is investigating
allegations that Deputy Minister of Finance and National Planning --
and nephew to President Mwanawasa -- Jonas Shakafuswa threatened to
beat up fellow MP Munji Habeenzu during an incident at the National
Assembly Speaker's Bar on March 20, 2008. Shakafuswa allegedly was
reacting to Habeenzu's remarks during a debate on the budget
allocation for the Ministry of Health, during which Habeenzu advised
his fellow MPs to lead by example on issues pertaining to HIV/AIDS
prevention by refraining from engaging in extramarital activities.
Habeenzu deplored the behavior of some MPs, who took "extra wives"
(mistresses) to the National Assembly Motel (note: a motel built
for the use of MPs from districts outside Lusaka to use during
Parliament sessions). During the bar incident, Shakafuswa allegedly
threatened to beat Habeenzu up; independent daily newspaper The Post
also quoted Shakafuswa as saying to Habeenzu: "If a woman wants to
be slaughtered, then let her be done. The problem with many of you
is that you don't know how to screw women, no wonder they don't like
you." Shakafuswa also reportedly told Habeenzu to shut up if he had

LUSAKA 00000401 002 OF 002

no money to pay for sex and to let those who did have money do what
they wanted to do.

8. (U) Following press coverage of the incident and condemnation of
Shakafuswa's words from women's and HIV/AIDS activists, Shakafuswa
apologized by saying that he had been drunk and had meant no harm.
The outcry against Shakafuswa continued, however, even motivating an
online internet poll on whether Shakafuswa should be fired (the
results were 81.5 percent in favor, 18.5 percent against, with 796
participants). President Mwanawasa attempted to calm the furor by
announcing the investigation by the Clerk of the National Assembly,
but subsequently announced that he personally was unable to take any
action against Shakafuswa while the results of the investigation
were pending. And, on April 2, Shakafuswa publicly withdrew his
apology, claiming that his remarks did not insult women.

9. (SBU) As a member of the President's "family tree," Shakafuswa
has always been considered untouchable and is known for aggressive,
heavy-handed attacks on the opposition. All his past cases of
alleged misconduct have either been ignored or have gone
unchallenged. Christine Moonga, a member of the National Executive
Committee (NEC) of the ruling Movement for Multi-Party Democracy
(MMD), accused President Mwanawasa of practicing "tribalism" over
his unwillingness to take disciplinary action against Shakafuswa and
was immediately suspended from the party.

10. (U) Upon completion of its investigations on Shakafuswa, the
National Assembly can take any of the following actions: (a) acquit
him, (b) censure him, (c) suspend him from the National Assembly for
a specified period of time, or (d) expel him from the National
Assembly for the duration of the current Parliament, that is, until


-------------- --------------
Key Session of Constitutional Conference in the Offing
-------------- --------------

11. (U) The National Assembly of Zambia adjourned "sine die" on
March 20, 2008 after passing the Appropriation Bill for the
Estimates of Expenditure for the Year 2008, and approving the
National Budget. The National Constitution Conference (NCC) will
now reconvene on April 22, 2008 to commence consideration of the
various constitutional proposals made by the Mungomba Constitutional
Review Commission (CRC) and any other issues that may be referred to

12. (SBU) This session of the NCC should be a good indicator of how
seriously the constitutional revision project is being taken by the
GRZ and NCC delegates. The NCC last adjourned on January 9, 2008
after a very brief session during which the Chairperson, three Vice
Chairpersons, and a Spokesperson were elected and 14 committees were
formed. This new session, will last until July, should provide some
insight into how/whether a consensus-driven organization of 520-plus
individuals with differing agendas can come together and produce a
new Constitution.