President picks ex-boss’s ex-wife

Mwanawasa named retired politician Rupiah Banda from the opposition UNIP as his number two.

Former first lady Vera Tembo spent the last year campaigning rigorously for Mwanasasa and MMD.

It is not the first time Mwanawasa has had to fish outside his political pond for a vice-president.

Banda, 69, was a stalwart of the former ruling party.

The last such appointment was when Mwanawasa brought in televangelist Nevers Mumba from the National Citizens Coalition.

Banda, a Zimbabwean-born, soccer-loving former diplomat retired to farming after the 1991 revolution that brought the MMD to power and ended Kenneth

Kaunda’s 27-year rule. His appointment and that of Vera Chiluba, health

minister Angela Chifire, transport and communications minister Peter Daka and Dora Siliya as deputy at commerce and industry have been seen as Mwanawasa’s way of thanking the Eastern province of Zambia which voted so overwhelmingly for him in an election he had

at one point looked like he was losing.

The President admitted as much by saying the Eastern province which delivered 15 of the 19 available parliamentary seats, had become the MMD stronghold, killing off UNIP which managed a paltry four seats under the oppostition alliance, UDA.

For Mwanawasa, the Eastern vote was made that much more special by the fact that Kenneth Kaunda, with whom he has a love-hate relationship, was backing the UDA’s Hakainde Hichilema.

Chifire’s appointment brings to four the number of women with full cabinet status in Mwanawasa’s government, the others being Gladys Nyirongo (Lands), Sylvia Masebo (Local Government and Housing) and Catherine Namugala (Community services).

The number of women serving at deputy minister level has also risen to seven with Vera’s the most high profile of them.

The charismatic former first lady whose HOPE (Helping Other People Emerge) Foundation died with her marriage to Chiluba, told reporters she thought she deserved the appointment, saying that with her humble education, she had proved that no woman had

any excuse not to rise to her fullest potential.

Mwanawasa also kept faith with many of the team that had served in the first term, switching some of them around and retaining others in their stations. Veteran politician Vernon Mwaanga has retained his position at Broadcasting and Information despite claims that he was retiring. Kabinga Pande (Tourism), Kalombo Mwansa (Mines and Mineral Resources), George

Kunda (Justice) are the others still in their post-election positions.

Ronnie Shikapwasha, a retired airforce general will head Home Affairs, moving from Foreign Affairs where he has been replaced by former Agriculture minister

Mundia Sikatana.

George Mpombo who was in charge of the Copperbelt has won back the full cabinet status he lost for his handling of last year’s fuel crisis and returns as Defence minister, replacing Wamundila Muliokela, one of those MMD parliamentarians who lost their seats to

the PF.

Ben Kapita, who once headed the Lima Party has been rewarded with the post of Agriculture minister for his campaign work among Zambia’s rural voters who made up the bulk of Mwanawasa’s vote after urban voters turned their back on him.

The biggest loser in the elections was Lupando Mwape, the former vice-president who crashed to the PF in his Lukashya constituency in northern province.

Mwanawasa bemoaned his loss but said at a press conference he would be sending him into foreign service as a ‘senior’ diplomat.

Mwanawasa stressed his determination to continue with the agricultural policies that he believed had won him re-election, notably the heavily government subsided

seed and fertiliser programme.

He would also stick to the same fiscal policies that he said had brought inflation down to a single digit and firmed up the local currency against major international currencies.

To underscore the point, he reappointed Ng’andu Magande as Finance minister.

Mwanawasa made a point of acknowledging he had taken note of the grievances voiced by the urban voters in their massive rejection of the MMD, saying he was working on the issues.

Top of the grievance list among those who voted for the PF and the UDA was the high taxes that workers are subjected to (up to 40 percent) in pay-as-you-earn and the working conditions in now privatised former parastatal firms, especially on the Copperbelt where Chinese investors have become the new face of Mwanawasa’s co-operating


Mwanawasa pledged to deal with the matter, saying he could not stand idly by while nationals were being abused by foreigners, no matter how much money they were bringing into the country.

October 2006
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