Saturday, August 02, 2008

Harrison urges Zambians to look for honesty in leaders

Harrison urges Zambians to look for honesty in leaders
By Chibaula Silwamba and Maluba Jere
Saturday August 02, 2008 [04:01]

OUTGOING British High Commissioner to Zambia Alistair Harrison has said honesty in public leadership is one of the most important attributes that Zambians should look for in leaders. In an interview on Tuesday after his farewell meeting with Post editor Fred M'membe at the newspaper's headquarters in Lusaka, High Commissioner Harrison said Zambia had donewell in the fight against corruption and urged Zambians and the government to continue fighting the scourge.

"I think the successes we have had in the fight against corruption working with other cooperating partners and the Zambian government have been very significant; the judgment that was reached in High Court in Britain in 2007 against some former members of the government, it has enabled a lot of money that was stolen by those people to be recovered for the benefit of the people of Zambia.

That was a landmark," he said. "The campaign that His Excellency President Mwanawasa launched against corruption is very important, establishing the Task Force on Corruption but also moving decisively when there have been allegations against serving ministers and officials so that they can be properly investigated.

We have always supported the work of the Task Force and the Anti Corruption Commission (ACC) and other agencies like the police and Drug Enforcement Commission (DEC)."

High Commissioner Harrison also observed that the Zambian government had coped extremely well with President Levy Mwanawasa's illness, which he described as a very difficult political event.

He said the Zambian government had continued with its business in a manner that President Mwanawasa would wish for in his absence.

"Firstly, the good wishes of the British government go to the President and his family; he is very much in our thoughts and we hope for his speedy recovery," High Commissioner Harrison said.

"When I heard the news first, I telephoned the President's party to pass on the good wishes of the British government...I spoke to one of his aides whom I asked that the message be passed onto the first family.

Our thoughts are very much with him in Paris."
High Commissioner Harrison said he was impressed with the manner in which Zambians were conducting themselves while President Mwanawasa is in hospital.

"I was very struck by two things; the first one was the great outpour of shock and grief when the news first came through from all the people in Zambia that I spoke to," High Commissioner Harrison said.

"Secondly has been the calmness in which the people of Zambia and the government of Zambia have decided to go about their businesses. I think that the government has coped extremely well with what is a very difficult political and personal event."

President Mwanawasa suffered a stroke on June 29 this year in Egypt and was later evacuated to Percy Military Hospital in Paris on July 1, where he is still admitted.

Reviewing his three-year posting to Zambia, High Commissioner Harrison said Zambia had experienced several successes from which the resources should be channelled to improve the livelihood of Zambians.

"It has been very interesting time to be here, I have been here now for three years, I came here in August 2005. I spent a lot of that time working with the government of Zambia especially on Zambia's economic development.

When I first arrived the big issue was to forgive Zambia's external debt under the HIPC High Indebted Poor Countries process following the Glasgow's agreement which former British prime minister Tony Blair chaired to extend that to multilateral debt," High Commissioner Harrison said.

He said the British government decided early to shift its pattern of support from directly financing projects to direct national budgetary support thus enabling Zambians and their government to decide on the priority areas.

"I think that Zambia is on quite interesting crossroads of its development; when I first arrived the real issue was that there has not been enough funds, too much debt, too little investment but I think that with the cancellation of Zambia's external debt we have seen quite substantial inflows of investment, new mining tax regime.

Now the government has got spare resources, not huge spare resources, but there was a modest surplus of the budget last year," High Commissioner Harrison said.
He advised Zambia to make important and right choices on the utilisation of the available resources.

High Commissioner Harrison said the country should concentrate on improving infrastructure especially in health, education and transport sectors.

"It's good that Zambia now has got those choices that it is no longer a question of financial firefighting as it has always been for the past 30 years," High Commissioner Harrison observed. "We will work with other cooperating partners and the Zambian government to help make those choices to move to the next stage of development of Zambia."
He also expressed happiness over the country's general elections in 2006, which he said were peaceful.

"I think the other highlights of my time here was obviously to be able to observe the elections in Zambia 2006 and I was very glad that there was a European Union observer mission, including a lot of British citizens on the observer mission from the Commonwealth and the elections were peaceful, free and fair and very much an example to Zambia's neighbours, to Africa and the world generally," High Commissioner Harrison observed.

He also hoped that the constitution-making process should not be turned into a playing field.

On the Zimbabwe situation and the on-going negotiations between the governing ZANU-PF and opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) aimed at ending the political, social and economic crises in that country, High Commissioner Harrison said he hoped that the negotiations would culminate into resolutions that would reflect the will of Zimbabweans.

High Commissioner Harrison, who leaves Zambia this month to take up another diplomatic appointment, will be replaced by Thomas Carter and his wife Carolyn Davidson who would be joint High Commissioner to Zambia.

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