Reacting to calls by YALI that Financial Intelligence Center director Mary Tshuma must go, British High Commissioner to Zambia Fergus Cochrane-Dyet stated: “Utter nonsense! FIC is doing a good job and is entitled to publishing trends report because it’s not sensitive intelligence.”
Using his Twitter handle @ferguscd, the 53-year-old British envoy, who has been in Zambia for slightly over two years, is causing a ripple in the Patriotic Front government with his social media comments.
“His messages on Twitter are a little unsettling because some of them touch on very sensitive topics and when you analyse, you see that sometimes his comments are contrary to government’s position. So we don’t know if they (government) will have the clout to do anything close to what they did to the expelled Cuban Ambassador. But his (British High Commissioner’s) name is being mentioned here and there,” a government source told News Diggers!
Chief government spokesperson Dora Siliya said government was not going to consider expelling High Commissioner Cochrane-Dyet, but warned him to submit his views on governance to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, instead of undiplomatically pitching them to the public through social media.
“I think that, in any situation, whenever we believe that, our very dear partners, particularly diplomats, and particularly the British relations that we have, if our colleagues observe any issue that they wish to comment on, there are channels through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs where observations or grievances can be expressed,” Siliya told journalists, Wednesday.
“We will continue to encourage our diplomats to use the diplomatic channels and continue to desist from…In this case, for me, this document was already out there anyway. The point is that this document [2017 FIC Trends Report] should first of all never have been in the public. So, whether it is the British Ambassador, the EU, it’s the Zimbabwean Ambassador…they have all had sight of it, just like all of us. But I think that, in diplomatic relations, we always hope that, we continue to have cordial relations; we continue to be diplomatic in terms of our observations and comments on these matters.”
It is not the first time that the British envoy has used Twitter to express his views about governance in Zambia and the FIC is not the only topic that he has commented on.
On May 22, 2018 while on duty in UK, he tweeted that investors in his country were expressing concern over Zambia’s unknown debt figures and how government was going to handle it.
Earlier this month, a Twitter user called Andrew Chinyonga tweeted: “Rwanda has made more progress against the Human Development Index (an official indicator of life expectancy, education and income) than any other country in the world.”
Then Zambian businessman Sipho Phiri retweeted the post with a message: “And people are crying about democracy… the political system that delivers results is the thing that matters… game wins elections now because the people have seen progress…Western style democracy doesn’t always deliver progress.”
To this message, High Commissioner Cochrane-Dyet reacted that lack of democracy in Zambia would mean corruption and dictatorship.
“Authoritarianism can work (e.g. Singapore) with benevolent leaders, but these [leaders are as] rare as a hen’s teeth. More likely, in Zambia as elsewhere, to mean corrupt dictatorship.”
It is these tweets that have caused a ripple inside the PF government.
But Zambians, have however come in heavy to support the candid expression by the down-to-earth British envoy whose Twitter followers increased by over 100 yesterday alone, raising the total number to 1,725 by midday.
“Thank you for your support in support of democratic principles and exposing the cancerous corruption which those in authority would want to uphold as fair game,” commented Michael Walusimo.
International trade consultant Trevor Simumba, commented: “And keep doing what you do. Desperate people fear even their own shadow!”
After Siliya said government was not considering expelling him over his tweets, High Commissioner Cochrane-Dyet could not resist retweeting the story and adding a corruption punchline.
“Thank you Hon. Minister! Scurrilous misinformation intended to ship up trouble. UK fully supportive of #Zambian govt, including its welcome measures tackling debt. In my role, I am proud to champion democratic principals while flagging dangers of authoritarianism & corruption.”
Below are some of the recent tweets by High Commissioner Cochrane-Dyet