Sata challenges Zambia’s election results

Zambian opposition leader Michael Sata on Friday launched a court challenge to demand a recount of the vote in the presidential election, creating uncertainty in one of Africa’s most stable countries.

Sata, who lost the October 30 poll to Rupiah Banda, has branded the election to find a successor to late president Levy Mwanawasa a fraud.

”I know that [my colleagues] are currently in court filing a petition. I am now working on some more documents which we will submit to the court next week,” Winter Kabimba, lawyer for Sata’s Patriotic Front (PF) party, told Reuters.

”We are actually going for a vote recount, which must be done by way of a petition.”

Zambia has been one of the most politically stable nations in Africa. However, a prolonged election dispute and anti-government riots could unsettle investors at a time when Africa’s largest copper producer is feeling the pinch from the global financial crisis.

Banda is due to hold a news conference on Friday and is expected to announce a Cabinet reshuffle and outline economic policy.

Tensions have been rising in the Southern African country, which won praise from Western donors under Mwanawasa for his conservative economic management and anti-corruption campaign. Banda has vowed to continue Mwanawasa’s policies, which kept growth at an average 5% per year since 2002.

A police official said a permit for PF supporters for a protest scheduled for Saturday was cancelled.

Zambian police arrested 38 people on Thursday after violent protests over the arrest of a priest and radio presenter in the country’s second-biggest city, Kitwe, a police spokesperson said.

Rioters attacked a police station, caused damage at a milling company, barricaded streets and set cars alight in Kitwe, 350km north of Lusaka.

Police said the arrest of Frank Bwalya, a priest and manager of Catholic-run Radio Icengelo, which has been critical of Banda’s government, sparked the riots.

Mwanawasa died from a stroke in August, two years into his second five-year presidential term. — Reuters

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