/ 23 September 2011

‘King Cobra’ Sata wins Zambia presidential race

'king Cobra' Sata Wins Zambia Presidential Race

Zambian opposition leader Michael Sata was declared the winner of Zambia’s presidential election early on Friday, ousting incumbent Rupiah Banda as the leader of Africa’s biggest copper producer in polls marred by public violence.

Sata (74) and nicknamed “King Cobra” because of his venomous tongue, toned down his rhetoric against foreign mining firms, especially from China, in the closing stages of the six-week campaign but his victory could still cloud the investment outlook.

Chief Justice Ernest Sakala declared Sata the winner after he received 1 150 045 votes compared to Banda’s 961 796 with 95.3% of constituencies counted. Sata received 43% of the vote also contested by many minor parties.

Rupiah Banda (74) and leader of the Movement for Multi-party Democracy (MMD) party that has run Zambia since one-party rule ended in 1991, is expected to make a statement early on Friday about the vote.

Sata supporters spilled into the streets in the capital Lusaka after the announcement, singing and chanting in celebration.

Youths fought running battles with riot police on Thursday in the towns of Ndola and Kitwe, 250km north of Lusaka, setting fire to vehicles and markets in the normally peaceful Southern African country’s mining heartland.

Hackers who hit the Election Commission’s website overnight, posting false results showing Sata on course for a landslide, added to the confusion and tension of what was already a tight race between two old rivals.

Chinese companies have become major players in Zambia’s economy, with total investments by the end of 2010 topping $2-billion, according to data from the Chinese embassy.

But Sata accused Chinese mining firms in the earlier stages of the campaign of creating slave labour conditions with scant regard for safety or the local culture.

Banda had strong backing in urban areas and the country’s economic centre in the Copper Belt.

Analysts said younger voters also helped propel him to victory with youth using the ballot box to bring about change in a continent that has seen the long-standing rulers of Egypt and Tunisia toppled by mass street protests.

Sata lost to Banda by just 35 000 votes, or 2% of the electorate, in a 2008 presidential run-off triggered by the death in office of Levy Mwanawasa. – Reuters