Zam­bia goes to polls

Chronicle (Zimbabwe) - - Worldwide -

SYD­NEY — Malaysia Air­lines flight MH370 plunged into the ocean at high speed — up to 20 000 feet a minute — re­in­forc­ing anal­y­sis that the miss­ing jet crashed in the cur­rent search zone, a re­port said yes­ter­day.

The Boe­ing 777 dis­ap­peared on March 8, 2014 en route from Kuala Lumpur to Bei­jing with 239 peo­ple on­board.

An ex­ten­sive un­der­wa­ter hunt in the south­ern In­dian Ocean has not yet found the crash site, fu­elling spec­u­la­tion it may be out­side the cur­rent search zone, par­tic­u­larly if some­one was at the con­trols at the end of the flight.

A manned plane could have been glided down, LUSAKA — Zam­bia goes to the polls to­mor­row fol­low­ing a frac­tious and spo­rad­i­cally vi­o­lent cam­paign, with Pres­i­dent Edgar Lungu fight­ing to stay in power af­ter nar­rowly win­ning a snap elec­tion last year.

Lungu, who se­cured the pres­i­dency by less than 28 000 votes af­ter his pre­de­ces­sor died of an undis­closed ill­ness, took of­fice as eco­nomic growth has fallen sharply.

His main ri­val Hakainde Hichilema, a wealthy busi­ness­man who al­leges that fraud de­nied him vic­tory in 2015, has launched a de­ter­mined bid to se­cure power on his fifth at­tempt.

Sup­port­ers of Lungu’s Pa­tri­otic Front (PF) and Hichilema’s United Party for Na­tional Devel­op­ment (UPND) have re­peat­edly clashed, forc­ing a 10-day halt to cam­paign­ing in the cap­i­tal Lusaka last month.

Lungu has taken a hard line at elec­tion ral­lies, is­su­ing threats against any ac­tivists in­volved in un­rest in a coun­try that has en­joyed rel­a­tive po­lit­i­cal sta­bil­ity in re­cent decades.

“If they push me against the wall, I will sac­ri­fice democ­racy for peace,” Lungu told a re­cent meet­ing in Cop­per­belt prov­ince, a key elec­tion bat­tle­ground.

“If it means us­ing dra­co­nian mea­sures... I will ap­ply them.”

With the vote out­come hang­ing in the bal­ance, Lungu has been ac­cused of try­ing to sup­press op­po­si­tion cam­paign­ing.

Op­po­si­tion vice pres­i­den­tial can­di­date Ge­of­frey Mwamba was ar­rested and re­leased twice ear­lier this year, and his house was raided by po­lice af­ter UPND party work­ers were al­leged to have de­faced Lungu cam­paign posters.

Po­lice killed at least one op­po­si­tion ac­tivist when the party re­fused to can­cel a rally in Lusaka last month.

The Post, an in­flu­en­tial in­de­pen­dent news­pa­per, was also forced to close in June over al­leged non-pay­ment of taxes — trig­ger­ing ap­peals from me­dia rights’ groups and the US em­bassy.

The elec­tion is be­ing held af­ter the 2015 vote gave Lungu (59) the right to com­plete the term of the late pres­i­dent Michael Sata that ends this year.

“This time around it is a full-term so there is more at stake and an el­e­vated risk of fur­ther vi­o­lence and protests, es­pe­cially if it is tight,” Sabine Machen­heimer, Zam­bia spe­cial­ist at IHS Jane’s, told AFP.

Con­sti­tu­tional changes also mean that the win­ner must now se­cure more than 50 per­cent of the vote, mean­ing a two-way run-off is likely.

“Zam­bia is rel­a­tively sta­ble (but) with a sec­ond round run-off po­ten­tially tak­ing the elec­tion pe­riod into Septem­ber, there is the threat of an ex­tended pe­riod of vi­o­lent in­ci­dents,” said Machen­heimer.

The for­mer Bri­tish colony, ruled by Ken­neth Kaunda from 1964 un­til 1991, recorded GDP growth of 3.6 per­cent last year — its slow­est since 1998.

Growth was more than 10 per­cent in 2010, but the fall­ing price of cop­per, the coun­try’s key ex­port, has put the econ­omy “un­der in­tense pres­sure” ac­cord­ing to the IMF.

Thou­sands of jobs have been lost in the min­ing sec­tor, elec­tric­ity out­ages have be­come com­mon, in­fla­tion is over 20 per­cent, and the gov­ern­ment runs a huge bud­get deficit.

Last year Lungu held a mass prayer gath­er­ing in the na­tional sta­dium to ask for di­vine help to im­prove the econ­omy.

Hichilema, 54, a Bri­tish-ed­u­cated econ­o­mist, has em­pha­sised his busi­ness cre­den­tials on the cam­paign trail.

“Promis­ing is not enough — and my team comes from a back­ground of de­liv­er­ance,” he told a re­cent rally.

“We need to end cor­rup­tion and pol­icy in­con­sis­ten­cies which are not good for in­vest­ment. We shall fix the econ­omy.”

Known as “HH”, Hichilema has ma­jor in­vest­ments in ranch­ing, prop­erty and health­care in Zam­bia.

“Are peo­ple able to send their chil­dren to school? Are their lives im­prov­ing or not? This is what the elec­tion is about,” in­de­pen­dent fi­nan­cial an­a­lyst Mambo Ha­maundu told AFP.

About 60 per­cent of the pop­u­la­tion in Zam­bia live be­low the poverty line, ac­cord­ing to the World Bank.

HIV-Aids drove life ex­pectancy down to just 42 in 1998, though it has since climbed to 61. — AFP.

The area was de­fined un­der the ATSB’s “most likely” sce­nario that no-one was at the con­trols and the plane ran out of fuel.

“The Aus­tralians lead­ing the search do not doubt that the pi­lot may well have been re­spon­si­ble for the jet’s dis­ap­pear­ance but they say crit­ics of the search strat­egy are wrong to as­sume that means they are look­ing in the wrong place,” the re­port added.

Malaysian of­fi­cials said last week that one of the pi­lots used a home­made flight sim­u­la­tor to plot a very sim­i­lar course to MH370’s pre­sumed fi­nal route, but warned this did not prove he de­lib­er­ately crashed the plane. — AFP.

Edgar Lungu

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