Special Assistant to the President for Press and Public Relations Amos Chanda says President Edgar Lungu has decided to ask the Cuban government to recall its envoy to Zambia Nelson Pages Vilas for openly declaring his support for the opposition Socialist Party.
But veteran politician Vernon Mwaanga says the decision will not augur well with the Cuban government, given that country’s support to Zambia.
At a press briefing, Sunday, Chanda said it was a clear red light for Ambassador Vilas, who was only accredited last week, to declare his support for the opposition party led by former Post editor-in-chief Dr Fred M’membe.
Chanda said the Ministry of Foreign Affairs had been instructed the process to recall him.
“The President has directed that the Cuban Ambassador be recalled, the Foreign Affairs Ministry must make all procedures today to start the process of the recall of the Cuban Ambassador. That is, the sending state must recall the Cuban Ambassador for behavior unbecoming of a diplomat. This relates to his involvement in partisan politics which is totally in contravention of established diplomatic practice,” said Chanda.
“The Cuban diplomatic mission continues to exist, the President has requested a recall of one individual, and that is the ambassador. We are taking exactly what he said, he attended and offered his best wishes and his support to the opposition Socialist Party so the request is for the removal of one diplomat and this is His Excellency the ambassador who apparently just presented his credentials on Thursday.”
But Mwaanga who is Zambia’s former Ambassador to the United Nations and also former Intelligence Chief said the most Zambia could have done was to summon the envoy to give him a démarche.
He also reminded President Lungu that before forming government, the Patriotic Front invited then American Ambassador to Zambia Mark Storella to the party’s convention in Kabwe in 2011.
“When I first heard about the expulsion from the country of the Cuban Ambassador, for attending the launch of the Socialist Party and for the general public remarks of support, attributed to him, I thought it was a 1st April Fools Day joke. It has now turned out to be true and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, has been directed to work out the diplomatic channels to put this Presidential decision into effect,” Mwaanga said.
“I hold no brief for what may have happened or said at the launch of the Socialist Party on Saturday 31st March and my views on Socialism in Zambia, are a matter of public record. This decision is ill advised, extreme and inconsistent with what happened in the Past. Just in case memories have conveniently faded, in 2011 when PF held its Convention at Mulungushi Rock [of Authority], they formally invited the then American Ambassador to Zambia, Mark Storella to attend, accompanied by a political affairs officer from the US embassy and while there, he announced that the United States of America, supports democratic developments, when ever they occur. I was then a member of the MMD government of then President Rupiah Banda and no issue was made of Ambassador Storella’s attendance or remarks he made there.”
He further said the expelling of the Ambassador was against the diplomatic relations of the two countries enjoyed.
“This decision to expel the Cuban Ambassador is extreme and uncalled for. At the most, he should have been summoned to the Foreign Ministry and given a demarche. It does not augur well for our relations with Cuba, a country which has been supportive of Zambia in good and bad times,” said.