In Zambia, President Levy Mwanawasa has asked workers to refrain from striking; instead he urged them to discuss existing problems with the government or employers. He said strike movements harm the economy. Meanwhile, opposition parties are calling for Mwanawasa to resign before general elections next month. Opposition leaders say the President is too sick to fulfill the daily demands after suffering a mild stroke in April. Zambians are set to head to the polls in September, two months earlier than most analysts had expected. Benny Tetamashimba is Zambia’s deputy minister of information and broadcasting; he spoke with VOA English to Africa reporter Peter Clottey about the President’s advice to workers.
“President Mwanawasa, when we were in the Eastern province of Zambia, he had a mammoth rally in which he appealed to the Zambian people to give him his second and final mandate according to our constitution. He appealed to the workers, throughout the country, that strikes are not the best thing. What he wants is people who are leaders of the union must sit down with the government and dialogue before resorting to strikes.”
He says that dialogue is important to increasing understanding between those on strike and the government.
“If there was no dialogue between the union at the university and government, the university of Zambia, lecturers were discussing with the management of the university. There was no government involvement. And…the minister of education continuously asked for dialogue between himself and the lecturers and appealed to them that they should call off their strikes so they can discuss openly and see how the government can come and participate to resolve their issue, and they refused to do that. You see sometimes, some labor leaders would want to take advantage of electioneering to do something and whatever they want to do they will mention that if you don’t do this we are not going to give you a vote.”
Tetamashimba says the president is fit to remain in office.
“When the president had a mild stroke he was flown to the UK, then he was sent back to Zambia with a prescription by the United Kingdom doctors to Zambian doctors to monitor him. And they told him that he must come back for a review. That review…was a determining factor to deciding whether he can come back or not.”
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