The much respected Africa Confidential has revealed that the UPND Alliance has been given US$ 5 million from its backers to fund a Parallel Vote Tabulation system for next week’s polls.
President Edgar Lungu is in a close fight for the presidency with United Party for National Development (UPND) leader Hakainde Hichilema, who lost by 100,000 votes in the last election in 2016.
PVT is taken seriously because it was key to the PF’s Michael Sata victory over incumbent President Rupiah Banda in 2011.
When PVT results showing a clear PF win were widely publicised, Mr. Sata’s victory became established in the public mind; that persuaded President Banda – who had toyed with disregarding the vote – to step down.
Mr. Hichilema’s backers have spent about $5m to emulate the Sata PVT campaign.
Election experts say only a landslide for the UPND could thwart a determined PF campaign to steal the vote.
Reports are circulating in Lusaka that PF plans to fix the polls include using cyber-warfare techniques developed by an Israeli outfit, but no evidence has been forthcoming.
In the election campaign, which in reality has been running since the last one, the opposition’s big concern is the ruling party’s use of state power and funds to win votes.
It also worries about the threat of electoral fraud and is investing strongly in a Parallel Vote Tabulation.
PVT exercises transmit results posted at polling stations to a central point before anyone can change the numbers to benefit their party.
Local newspaper News Diggers claims that at least 20,000 voter cards had been issued to Malawians in border areas along with bribes to vote for the PF.
On 23 July Lungu inaugurated the US$2.3 billion Kafue Gorge Lower hydropower station with much fanfare, commissioning the first 150MW turbine in the planned 750MW facility.
Built by China’s Sinohydro Corporation, most of the financing for the project has come from the Export-Import Bank of China and the Industrial Commercial Bank of China (ICBC).
Talking up these mega-projects has been key part to the PF’s electoral armoury although financing them has helped create Zambia’s debt crisis.
After the financing problems delayed work, testing at the new plant began early this year.
It stalled when the government failed to persuade China Eximbank and ICBC to release the final $195m to pay the contractors.
We understand they haven’t released it yet due to worries over payment guarantees.
The project is run by Zesco, the state utility which accounts for about 45% of the national debt.
President Lungu has promised to open the new terminal at Kenneth Kaunda International Airport in Lusaka on 8 August.
Built by China Jiangxi, work started in 2015 and has cost $360m, financed by China Eximbank but its inauguration was delayed by cost overruns and finance problems.
The government has been trumpeting a strengthening of the kwacha against the dollar.
One US dollar bought 21.39 kwacha on 23 July, compared with 22.64 on 1 July.
On 2 August a dollar was buying 19.2 kwacha.
The Bank of Zambia points to rising copper prices (moving towards $10,000 a tonne), foreign appetite for government bonds and lower pressure on forex since the government entered sovereign default and stopped paying external creditors.
The opposition claims the fillip from higher mineral prices has been boosted by the BoZ selling extra US dollars to boost the kwacha.