Sata another Mugabe?


Patriotic Front leader Michael Sata would take measures to strengthen the power of the executive if he was elected president and would not be above imposing martial law to ensure that he had absolute power.

This was said five years before Sata was finally elected President of Zambia.

At the time Sata was challenging Zambian President Levy Mwanawasa and was ahead in one of the polls.

Commentators said Sata was Zambia’s equivalent of Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe.

Others, however, thought that he would not be particularly different from Mwanawasa as a leader-though perhaps somewhat more overtly corrupt.


Full cable:



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Reference ID 





2006-09-18 08:54


Embassy Lusaka

DE RUEHLS #1264/01 2610854
R 180854Z SEP 06
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 04 LUSAKA 001264 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 09/18/2016 
REF: A. LUSAKA 1054 
     B. LUSAKA 702 
     C. LUSAKA 693 
     D. 05 LUSAKA 1098 
Classified By: CDA ANDREW PASSEN, SECTION 1.4 (B) AND (D) 
1. (C) Summary: With less than two weeks until September 28 
national elections, the second-runner, Michael Sata, appears 
to be gaining ground on President Levy Mwanawasa, who 
nonetheless still enjoys a comfortable lead. Results from 
voter opinion polls vary, and one poll that gives Sata a 
decisive margin appears to lack credibility. Two other 
polls, based on surveys conducted in August, show Sata 
gaining popularity, including in areas outside the poor urban 
settings where he has always enjoyed strong support. 
Complicating matters, the Electoral Commission of Zambia on 
September 13 validated and referred to the Director of Public 
Prosecutions a complaint against Sata for making false 
statements when filing his nomination. It is not clear what, 
if any, follow up action against Sata will be possible before 
the election, but it is likely that any action the GRZ takes 
will be perceived as politically motivated, to the possible 
detriment of the ruling Movement for Multiparty Democracy and 
the President. End summary. 
2. (SBU) The Steadman Group, which has experience with 
polling in Kenya, an affiliation with Gallup International, 
and a credible reputation, announced results of an election 
poll on September 4, 2006. The poll covered all nine 
provinces, had a sample size of 2,000 nation-wide 
respondents, with a 40:60 urban to rural ratio. The margin 
of error reported was plus/minus 2 percent with a 95 percent 
confidence level. The poll was carried out between August 11 
and 19, 2006, using face-to-face interviews.   The Embassy 
does not know how the Steadman poll was funded. 
3. (U) Respondents viewed poverty and unemployment as the 
"most pressing problems facing Zambia today," followed by 
HIV/AIDS and corruption. Ninety-four percent of registered 
voters indicated they plan to vote on September 28. 
Regarding "qualities they considered most important for 
person vying for the presidency in Zambia" respondents cited 
leadership ability, education, "what they promise to 
deliver," track record, and wealth as the most important 
4. (U) Respondents' preferences for presidential candidates 
were: 33 percent for Levy Mwanawasa (ruling MMD party); 24 
percent for Michael Sata (Patriotic Front); 15 percent for 
Hakainde Hichilema (United Democratic Alliance); 7 percent 
for other candidates; 6 percent "don't know;" and 14 percent 
"refused to answer." Based on the reported responses, if 
Sata received votes from those who refused to answer, he 
would come out ahead of Mwanawasa in the September 28 polls. 
5. (SBU) In provincial breakdowns, Mwanawasa had the 
strongest showing in Northwestern (52 percent), Northern (38 
percent), Western (33 percent), and Copperbelt (34 percent, 
just ahead of Sata's 33 percent) Provinces, while Hichilema 
was strong in his home-base, Southern Province. Sata enjoyed 
his strongest support in Luapula (48 percent), Lusaka (33 
percent to Mwanawasa's 26 percent) and Northern (29 percent) 
Provinces, but was extremely weak in Southern, Western and 
Northwestern Provinces. Some local observers believe that 
Sata's Patriotic Front party's limited presence in several 
provinces may be a key factor in keeping Sata from winning 
the presidential race. 
6. (U) Unnamed individuals from the University of Zambia 
(UNZA) reportedly announced on September 8 results of a poll 
conducted "during August 2006" with 3,800 Zambian adults in 
all nine provinces, asking simply who they would vote for in 
the September 28 presidential election. According to media 
reports, 52 percent of respondents said they would vote for 
Michael Sata, 27 percent for Levy Mwanawasa, and 20 percent 
for Hakainde Hichilema. Results by province were not 
available. No margin of error was reported with the results. 
 Embassy has been unable to track down a copy of the poll or 
the names of individuals responsible for the poll. As a 
result, we have serious doubts about the poll's credibility. 
7. (U) On September 9, political science professor at UNZA, 
Neo Simutanyi, reported results of a second poll of 3,000 
respondents conducted by his firm, Pangolin Consulting, 
between August 24-28, 2006. The poll was funded by the 
Zambian Elections Fund, which receives its support from 
several donor governments, including the UK, the Netherlands 
and Norway. The second survey expanded coverage from six to 
all nine provinces, and dropped two questions relating to 
health. One-third of respondents said the greatest area of 
LUSAKA 00001264 002 OF 004 
concern to them was "agriculture" while 22 percent said 
education was their greatest concern. The constitution and 
election-related issues were of concern to less than one 
percent of respondents. Key questions and responses from the 
poll are summarized below. 
A) Are you satisfied with the performance of the government 
in the last five years? 
Yes: 58 percent; No: 38 percent; Don't know/no answer: 4 
B) If elections were to be held tomorrow, which party would 
you vote for? 
MMD: 50 percent; PF: 19 percent; UDA: 16 percent; other/none: 
3 percent; undecided: 12 percent. 
C) If elections were to be held tomorrow, which party leader 
would you vote for? 
Mwanawasa: 51 percent; Sata: 19 percent; Hichilema: 16 
percent; other/none: 3 percent; undecided: 11 percent. 
8. (U) The Pangolin poll also provided provincial breakdowns. 
 President Mwanawasa had clear majorities in five provinces: 
Western (81 percent); Northern (66 percent); Central (64 
percent); Northwestern (56 percent); and Eastern (44 
percent). The President's support in Lusaka (36 percent), 
Copperbelt (41 percent) and Luapula (40 percent) Provinces 
represents a slim lead over the PF's Michael Sata, who 
garnered 32 percent in Lusaka, 31 percent in Copperbelt, 
and30 percent in Luapula Provinces. The UDA candidate 
Hakainde Hichilema had the greatest support in the Southern 
Province (45 percent, to Mwanawasa's 36 percent) and also had 
24 percent in Northwestern Province, 19 percent in Eastern, 
and 15 percent in Copperbelt.   Undecided respondents 
accounted for 24 percent in Luapula, 20 percent in Eastern, 
17 percent in Lusaka and 16 percent in Northwestern. The 
summary of the poll notes that the overall percentage of 
undecided voters fell from 23 percent from the first poll, in 
July 2006, to 12 percent in the s 
econd poll in August. According to the August poll results, 
even if Michael Sata gained the support of all remaining 
undecided voters, he would not catch up to President 
9. (SBU) The poll results are generally consistent with what 
we understand to have been the campaign strategies of the 
three leading parties, based in most cases on existing ties 
and relationships around the country. President Mwanawasa 
has focused primarily on appealing to voters in Central 
Province--where Mwanawasa's father hails from, and where the 
Provincial Minister, Kennedy Shepande, has done extensive 
grassroots organizing on the MMD's behalf--and in more 
remote, rural parts of the country. The Litunga, the Chief 
of the Lozi people in Western Province, is a Mwanawasa 
supporter, and members of prominent Lozi families are part of 
the ruling MMD government, including Ambassador to 
Washington, Inonge Mbikusita-Lewanika. Opposition parties 
have not gained much popularity in the Western Province. The 
expansion of mining activity and related road-building 
projects in North Western Province have resulted in an 
economic boom that is credited to Mwanwasa's regime and has 
earned him popularity. Due to conne 
ctions through his mother and his wife, Mwanawasa enjoys some 
support in the Copperbelt as well.  Mwanawasa has long 
conceded that his party's showing in densely populated urban 
areas will not be as strong as in most rural areas. 
10. (SBU) The UDA coalition's strongest support base by far 
is the Southern Province, home of the United Party for 
National Development (UPND), but Hichilema continues to try 
to broaden his appeal elsewhere in Zambia. He has been 
campaigning actively in Lusaka and the Copperbelt and trying 
to woo traditional leaders in the Northern and Northwestern 
Provinces. Some political observers note that both Hichilema 
and his party are still viewed by many as having strong 
tribal linkages, which turns off some prospective voters. 
Some pockets of support exist in and around Livingstone for 
the former contender for the UPND party presidency, Sakwiba 
Sikota, who now heads the United Liberal Party, which is 
allied with the Patriotic Front. The United National 
Independence Party and Forum for Democracy and Development, 
member parties of the UDA coalition, may help deliver more of 
the undecided voters in Eastern Province to Hichilema, but 
the MMD also enjoys support in Eastern Province, thanks to 
some prominent defections such as that of the popular 
Rosemary Banda, from Milanzi. 
11. (SBU) PF leader Michael Sata's targeted audience has 
consistently been unemployed or underemployed urban dwellers 
in Lusaka and the Copperbelt. Sata enjoys significant 
support in the urban sectors of Lusaka Province, and 
LUSAKA 00001264 003 OF 004 
anecdotal evidence reported by Embassy's local staff 
underscores this popularity: reportedly, local minibus 
conductors are asking prospective passengers if they are for 
"the boat" (the symbol of Sata's Patriotic Front) or "the 
clock" (the ruling MMD party's symbol)--and only allow PF 
supporters on board. One reported remark by a potential Sata 
voter was: In the last election we voted for the candidate 
with the "right" credentials (Mwanawasa is a lawyer) but what 
did that get us? Now we think it may be time for a change, 
even to someone not so "right." 
12. (SBU) In recent weeks, Sata has expanded his campaigning 
to Luapula--where he already enjoys support, thanks to his 
close ties with former President Chiluba, who comes from 
Luapula, and the support of other senior politicians who 
defected from the MMD to the PF earlier in the year (Ref 
A)--and to Northern Province, where he poses a more direct 
threat to a support base of the MMD. Sata comes from 
Northern Province, but so does MMD Vice President Lupando 
Mwape. The province's vote may be split between PF and MMD 
as a result. 
13. (C) The British High Commissioner told us that he 
recently encountered Sata during a trip to Luapula Province. 
He noted that Sata is maintaining a grueling pace, appearing 
at two big rallies every day -- something that Mwanawasa, 
still recovering from the effects of an April stroke, cannot 
manage. While campaigning in Luapula, Sata promised to drop 
corruption charges against native son Chiluba. In Northern 
Province, Sata has promised to allow former Director of 
Intelligence Xavier Chungu to return to Zambia without fear 
of facing corruption charges. It is widely rumored that 
Chungu, who hails from Northern Province, provides financial 
support to Sata's campaign. 
14. (SBU) Former Minister of Youth, Sports and Child 
Development (and MMD national election vice chairman), George 
Chulumanda brought a complaint against Michael Sata regarding 
claims Sata made in his required financial disclosure 
statements when he formally filed as a presidential candidate 
in mid-August. Sata claimed assets that included Kwachas 350 
million (about $80,000) owed to him by Chulumanda as a result 
of a judgment in a defamation case in 2004. ECZ Chairperson 
Justice Irene Mambilima told donor representatives on 
September 14 that the ECZ carefully checked court records and 
determined that the judgment in the defamation case had been 
set aside in March 2005, and no money was owed to Sata by 
Chulumanda. The case is continuing and is scheduled to go to 
trial in 2007. Mambilima commented that if Sata were to be 
elected President, and then the case against him proceeded 
and he was found guilty, the election results should then be 
15. (U) As a result of the documented false declaration by 
Sata, the ECZ, which lacks authority to take action on the 
complaint under the current Electoral Law, referred the case 
to the Director of Public Prosecutions for further action. 
The DPP has made no comment, nor has the ruling MMD 
government, about the referral. PF Secretary General Guy 
Scott told the press on September 14 that Michael Sata would 
remain the party's presidential candidate and "nobody had the 
power to remove him from the ballot." Lawyers representing 
the PF reportedly accused the ECZ of exceeding its powers and 
threatened possible legal action against the ECZ. 
16. (C) Former Chairperson of the Electoral Reform Technical 
Committee and respected attorney, Mwangala Zaloumis, 
commented to P/E Officers on September 14 that the ERTC had 
recommended that the ECZ be given authority to disqualify 
candidates who make false declarations, but this 
recommendation was not included in the new Electoral Act 
passed into law earlier in 2006 (Ref B). She also noted that 
if Sata were to win the Presidency, he could not be charged 
until after he stepped down from office, as the President 
enjoys immunity from prosecution. (Note: The Zambian 
constitution provides immunity for acts undertaken by a 
President while in office. End note.) Zaloumis and several 
thoughtful colleagues from the Energy Regulation Board 
expressed concerns to P/E Officers over Sata's winning the 
election and said they believed Sata would take measures that 
strengthen the power of the executive, and would not be above 
imposing martial law to ensure he had "absolute" power. 
Other contacts consider Sata to be Zambia's equivalent to 
Robert Mugabe, while some think his campaign comments are 
just talk, and that he would not be particularly different 
from Mwanawasa as a leader-though perhaps somewhat more 
overtly corrupt. 
17. (C) COMMENT: Although the DPP is theoretically 
independent, in the past he has allowed himself to be heavily 
influenced by State House. Guy Scott's reported comments 
LUSAKA 00001264 004 OF 004 
appear intended to provoke the MMD to make an effort to 
disqualify Sata from running. Any action by the DPP on the 
Sata case before the election will be perceived to be the 
result of State House pressure and will be viewed as a purely 
political move, which may cost the MMD support at the polls. 
For quite some time, the Embassy has considered the 
Presidential race to be the MMD's to lose-though Mwanawasa's 
April stroke (Ref C) raised serious questions about his 
health and ability to carry on as a candidate. The 
President's doctors in the UK and Zambia allowed him to 
continue his campaign, and he has maintained a steady pace of 
public campaign appearances. Mwanawasa has never been a 
captivating speaker and he has also shown himself to be very 
thin-skinned when it comes to dealing with critics, Sata 
included (Ref D). With ten days remaining before the 
election, it is still possible that the President could say 
or do something ill-advised that costs him voter support, and 
possibly--though a long shot--the election. 



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Charles Rukuni
The Insider is a political and business bulletin about Zimbabwe, edited by Charles Rukuni. Founded in 1990, it was a printed 12-page subscription only newsletter until 2003 when Zimbabwe's hyper-inflation made it impossible to continue printing.


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