THE United Sates Embassy in Zambia has refuted a story published in yesterday’s Post newspaper that suggested that the Ambassador said President Edgar Lungu appears to have a health problem.
The statement on the Embassy facebook page read; “Did you see Ambassador Schultz’s statements in The Post yesterday (March 12)? Ambassador Schultz wished President Lungu a speedy recovery, praised Zambia’s recent peaceful election, and encouraged the Government of the Republic of Zambia to dialogue with mining companies to come to a win-win resolution over mining taxation issues. But we disagree with The Post’s article title, “Lungu Appears to Have a Health Problem” because that was not the point of the Ambassador’s statements.”
Here is the story that appeared in the Post newspaper on 12 March 2015
Lungu appears to have a health problem – Schultz
By Joan Chirwa-Ngoma
United States Ambassador to Zambia Eric Schultz says it is unfortunate that President Edgar Lungu appears to have a health problem, and has wished him a speedy recovery. And Ambassador Schultz says it is encouraging to see Zambia peacefully come out of the transition period despite a closely contested election.
President Lungu collapsed on Sunday during International Women’s Day celebrations at Heroes Stadium, but State House issued a number of contradictory statements on what led to the incident. The Head of State was on Tuesday flown to South Africa, where he is expected to undergo surgery at Milpark Hospital in Johannesburg. Commenting on the President’s illness, Ambassador Schultz said President Lungu’s health problem was unfortunate as he appeared keen to make the country better.
“For President Lungu, I have met him. It is unfortunate that he appears to have a health problem because I think he is a President who wants to make his country better,” he said.
Ambassador Schultz said he hoped President Lungu would recover quickly to fulfil the promises he made to Zambians during campaigns in the run-up to the January 20 election. “Hopefully, he will be healthy again soon and be in a position to fulfil the promises that he made during the campaign,” said Ambassador Schultz, who assumed his duties in October last year. And Ambassador Schultz said very few countries in the world manage to peacefully handle closely contested elections in a democracy.
“I came to Zambia at an incredibly hectic time. It was one thing after another; the unfortunate passing of president Sata, followed by a hotly contested election. The most interesting aspect of what has happened politically in Zambia since I arrived, is that you had this incredibly close election, only twenty-seven thousand votes separated the two main candidates, and yet the aftermath of that election was completely peaceful,” he said.
“I don’t think there are very many countries in the world where things would be as calm and as peaceful following such a hotly contested election as it was the case here in Zambia.” Ambassador Schultz said Zambia was a successful democracy owing to the peaceful elections held so far.
“My main take is that Zambia is a pretty successful democracy and that’s a good thing,” he said, adding that the opposition has the chance to win the 2016 general elections, provided they presented themselves as credible alternatives to the current party in office.
“I guess I would step back and say that in any functional democracy, an opposition party has the opportunity to win or should have an opportunity to win. I think that in any democracy, what an opposition party has to do is to present itself as a credible alternative to the party currently in office. So in this case, to win, they need to present a set of policies that make sense to the Zambian people and to present themselves to the people as a better alternative.”
Meanwhile, Ambassador Schultz said there should be open dialogue between the mines and government regarding the new mining tax regime which has raised royalties from six per cent to 20 per cent and from six to eight per cent for open cast and underground mines respectively, as final tax. “Both sides have to respect each other and be transparent with each other.
They have to work together to find a mutually acceptable solution which I think is what President Lungu was talking about when he said the country needs to find a ‘win-win’ [situation] – a win for the mines and a win for the country. The key thing is that for it to be a win, the mining companies must see a reason to operate in Zambia and contribute to Zambia’s economic growth and the government must feel that it is getting adequate revenue out of [mining],” advised Ambassador Schultz.
“One of the things that the international community as a whole is trying to do is provide assistance that can help bridge the gap between the two sides.”