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Zambia's Ruling Party Denies Reports of Lungu's Poor Health

FILE - Zambian President Edgar Lungu, shown speaking at the United Nations in September 2015, "has been enjoying very good health," the deputy campaign manager for the ruling Patriotic Front says.

Zambia’s President Edgar Lungu is still campaigning for re-election, contrary to local media reports that poor health forced him to seek medical attention in neighboring South Africa, a ruling party official said.

Frank Bwalya, deputy campaign manager for the governing Patriotic Front, said the reports of the president’s poor health were a ploy by his detractors to undermine Lungu’s efforts to win another term in the August 11 general election.

Lungu participated Thursday in a live television show carried by the Zambia Broadcasting Corporation, a state broadcaster.

“We are very shocked because President Lungu has been enjoying very good health. ... And these rumors of him being sick are false," Bwalya said. He said stories published by The Post in Lusaka demonstrated that "their intention is not to report the truth, including about the health of the president, but to mislead the world and the Zambian public.”

“They have one of the funniest headlines I have ever seen in a newspaper. It goes like, 'Lungu sick, not sick and flown, not flown to SA.' What kind of a headline is that?" Bwalya asked. "The whole idea is to raise doubt in the minds of the people that President Lungu should not be voted for because he is unwell, or because he is sick. It is not true, it’s a malicious statement, and we are very disappointed that the Post newspaper, which is supposed to be the most credible newspaper with the most experienced reporters, is the one that is in the forefront spreading these malicious falsehoods.”

Doubts about assets

In other campaign news, the main opposition United Party for National Development (UPND) questioned Lungu’s recent declaration of assets, a key demand in the constitution for all aspiring candidates before they are cleared to participate in the elections.

Lungu declared in the nomination papers that he had $4,428 in assets. The UPND said the president was not truthful about his net worth, but Bwalya insisted that he was.

The UPND also said the government was to blame for the high poverty rate in the country. It said Lungu had failed to deliver on his promises to improve the harsh economic conditions.

UPND supporters urged citizens to vote for opposition leader Hakainde Hichilema in the August election, saying he is an astute international businessman who knows how to create jobs. They contend that his business acumen is what is needed to meet the country’s many economic challenges.

Bwalya disagreed.

“There is nowhere in the world where poverty was eradicated or poverty was drastically reduced within one year, four months. … So when they blame President Lungu for the poverty in the country, they decide to deliberately forget that the man has only been in office for one year, four months ... ," he said. " As far as we are concerned, there is no such a thing as acceptable levels of poverty. Poverty is evil, poverty is bad, it should be fought and alleviated."