Zambian opposition fears clampdown by Michael Sata

from the Financial Times..

May 5, 2013, By Andrew England in Lusaka

As traffic crawls along Cairo road in central Lusaka, a hawker wearing an African-print shirt emblazoned with the image of Michael Sata extols the virtues of his president. Another touts a stern-faced portrait of Zambia’s head of state to motorists caught up in the midday jam.

It is a scene that would no doubt bring some cheer to Mr Sata, a veteran politician whose combative style earned him the nickname King Cobra. The former colonial-era policeman was elected 18 months ago on a populist ticket vowing to distribute more equitably the mineral wealth of Africa’s largest copper producer and champion the poor.

…….

But 18 months on and the gleam of the victory is fast wearing off as Mr Sata faces mounting accusations from opposition politicians, church leaders and civil society groups that his autocratic tendencies threaten to roll back Zambia’s democratic gains.

…….

Despite the country’s mineral wealth and economic growth forecast at 7.8 per cent this year, nearly two-thirds of the population live below the poverty line with the absolute number of poor increasing since 1991.

…….

A key accusation [from the opposition] is that the government abused a colonial-era law, the Public Order Act, to stymie opposition efforts to hold public meetings during recent by-elections. There are also allegations that the government is using a fight against corruption to punish opponents while protecting supporters.

…….

“The opposition [has] never been under so much pressure [since the reintroduction of multi-party politics in 1991],” he says. “There’s that element of fear creeping into society, something only attained during the one-party state.” [quote from Vernon Mwaanga, retired diplomat]

Link to the entire article: http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/0/42903d96-b1b9-11e2-9315-00144feabdc0.html#axzz2SWlqjYi0

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