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Zambian Minister Defends President Banda's New Cabinet


Zambia's new President Rupiah Banda has named his cabinet, dropping finance minister Ng'andu Magande, who was Banda's main challenger for the contest to represent the ruling Movement for Multi-party Democracy (MMD). The new finance minister is economist Situmbeko Musokotwane.

Former finance minister Magande is widely credited, along with the late President Levy Mwanawasa for Zambia's current economic growth. Still new Information Minister Lieutenant General Ronnie Shikapwasha told VOA the new cabinet represents continuity from the late Mwanawasa government.

"I think it's a good cabinet; it's a well-balanced cabinet that should address the areas of continuity that the late President Mwanawasa left behind. And also it should address the need to defeat poverty in the country. It also should address the economic recession that is going on worldwide that affect Africa, and Africa is no exception," he said.

Former finance minister Magande is widely credited, along with the late President Levy Mwanawasa for Zambia's current economic growth.

But Shikapwasha said new finance minister Situmbeko Musokotwane, an economist also served as economic advisor to the late President Mwanawasa.

"As you are aware, the issue of economic growth and economic planning involves many people in the ministry, and I think President Banda has chosen an individual who has been behind the economic advisory team that has made it possible for Zambia's economy to grow. So I wouldn't say why but I can only tell you that minister Musokotwane is good person that can continue the work that Honorable Magande was doing," Shikapwasha said.

Supporters of main opposition Patriotic Front have staged violent protests over alleged election fraud.

Information minister Shikapwasha would not answer directly why President Banda did not include members of the opposition in his cabinet like U.S. President-elect Barack Obama is trying to do.

"First of all I want to commend President-elect Barack Obama who is doing a wonderful job. One of my daughters in the U.S. has just been talking to me about how President-elect Obama has reached out to Senator (Hillary) Clinton and is reaching out to his opponents in the election, Mr. McCain and many others. I think this is important to democracy, and as in Zambia and the rest Africa we continue to learn from the American democracy," Shikapwasha said.

When pressed further why President Banda did not reach out to his political opposition by including some of them in his cabinet, Shikapwasha said if given the time in office, President Banda would be able to learn more from American democracy.

"In due time he will reach out to the opposition. As you know, he is taking over at a time when we lost a president and there is the need for him to continue what President Mwanawasa was doing. And he needed his colleagues that have been in government before to move forward the vision. And I'm sure in due course he will learn from what President-elect Obama is doing," Shikapwasha said.

President Banda also named justice minister George Kunda as his vice president. Foreign minister Kabinga Pande was retained while information minister Mike Mulongoti was moved to the ministry of works and supply.