Chief Government Spokesperson Dora Siliya has charged that German Ambassador to Zambia Achim Burkart is a novice on the country’s affairs, judging by his statement against President Edgar Lungu on the Constitutional Court ruling against ex-ministers, saying his understanding of the president’s remarks must have been lost in translation.
And Ministry of Information and Broadcasting Services Permanent Secretary Chanda Kasolo has accused Ambassador Burkart of attempting to insight Zambians to rise against the government.
But Foreign Affairs Minister Joe Malanji says he held a meeting with the Germany Envoy who denied saying the remarks attributed to him, which angered government officials.
The German envoy was, Wednesday, quoted in an online article written by former First Secretary for Press at Zambia’s Mission in Brazil Patson Chilemba, as having said that there would be an uproar in Germany if the Head of State there behaved in the same manner as President Edgar Lungu who is questioning the Constitution Court ruling ordering ministers to repay the money they illegally accrued through their illegal stay in office.
“If you would have that in German [failing to respect a court judgment], there would be uproar because of the respect [citizens have] for the Judiciary. You don’t have to love what they (Judiciary) say, [but] the Judiciary in the country should be respected. As a lawyer, if there is a law saying you have to be dismissed as a minister (for doing something wrong), then you be dismissed. In principle he (President Lungu) says someone worked and have to be paid. And it’s true, (but he) has to find a way of saying ‘you pay back…’ but have an indemnity for that,” Ambassador Burkart was quoted saying.
This prompted Siliya who is also Information and Broadcasting Minister, to tweet her displeasure.
“German Ambassador Burkart must be a novice on Zambia. Debate continues on relevance of Constitutional Court Vs Supreme and cost to nation. His comments on Ministers ruling must be something lost in translation. President Lungu was clear – Ministers have rights too and [wanted to know] what must be repaid,” tweeted Siliya, Wednesday.
Before the squabble with the German Envoy, Siliya, her permanent secretary Chanda Kasolo and Foreign Affairs Minister Joe Malanji were in constant conflict with former British High Commissioner Fergus Cochrane-Dyet over public remarks, and they at one time threatened him with expulsion after he publicly condemned corruption in Zambia and the government’s fiscal indiscipline.
In the latest feud with the German Ambassador, Siliya was backed by Kasolo who also used the opportunity to pour scorn on the Envoy’s remarks.
Speaking during a press briefing, Kasolo charged that Ambassador Burkart’s statement was a covert way of inciting Zambians to rise against the government.
“The remarks are uncalled for and a gross interference in the internal affairs of the country. They are also a violation of the diplomatic etiquette which requires that diplomats respect the sovereignty of countries in which they are serving. We view the statement as a covert way of inciting Zambians to rise against their government, which government finds undiplomatic and totally unacceptable. His Excellency the German ambassador is well aware of the availability of diplomatic channels through which he can raise any issues of concern, as opposed to talking to the media in the manner he did. Government is sometimes taken aback at the tendency by some diplomats to paint our issues darker than theirs back home. The fact of the matter is that there is that there are enough and bigger challenges in Europe which should remind one to first remove the log in their own eye before seeking to remove a speck from another’s eye,” said Kasolo
“Contrary to the Ambassadors sentiments, his Excellency the President made it very clear during his engagement with the media at State House that his government respects the constitutional Court judgement ordering ministers to pay back salaries they got during their stay in office after the dissolution of parliament. The President also made it clear that the judgement has to be weighed against the human rights side observed by the international labor organization which demands that ‘one cannot work for nothing’. A balance, therefore has to be struck, which is the challenge at hand.”
Meanwhile, according to Malanji, the German envoy was angered with the manner in which his words were ‘twisted’ by the author of the article that quoted him.
“I have just concluded a meeting with the German Ambassador to Zambia regarding allegations that were levelled against him. I would call them allegations because coincidentally, the German Ambassador is very upset with the manner in which words were twisted and thrown on social media because equally as a ministry we were taken aback because the German Ambassador is one of the astute diplomats that we have interacted with in the past three years and he is going to his fourth year. The story that had an infamous heading of the forest 27, he actually categorically stated that his words were twisted because it is not in the role of an ambassador to advise the government. When a diplomat is aggrieved, we have got a procedure they present a formal demarche to the government. So to that effect, the German Ambassador was very remorseful on the embarrassment that has been caused on both the Zambian government and his mission because he is an experienced diplomat and he knows the channels that he is supposed to use,” said Malanji.
“Outside that, you know very well that we have got a Zambia-EU political dialogue and those are platforms which he could have brought that. So those were words which were put in his mouth as stated and I don’t think that would be the right way to go. I would like to advise you colleagues in the media to make sure that when you quoting somebody, you state the verbatim.”