Former foreign affairs minister Harry Kalaba says President Edgar Lungu has been undiplomatic and immature in the manner in which he has handled United States Ambassador to Zambia Daniel Foote’s criticism of heightened levels of corruption in government.

During a fundraising service, Sunday, President Edgar Lungu said government had written to the United States government requesting it to recall Ambassador Foote because the country did not want “such people”.

But speaking during a Diamond TV programme show dubbed “Talk it over with Costa”, Kalaba, who is now Democratic Party leader, described as amateurish the manner in which government was handling Ambassador Foote.

“The homosexual issue, first we understand that Zambia’s culture values do not condone that. We are a Christian nation we don’t commit ourselves to those. But I will tell you one thing, that on the diplomatic side, there is a way you can say no to something even with a smile. The PF government has not demonstrated maturity on this matter. I will give an example of Uhuru Kenyatta in Kenya and even Paul Kagame in Rwanda; Zambia is not the first country where those prepositions had been made. Even when I was Foreign Affairs Minister, these issues were coming out. I was in that office (Foreign Affairs) for four years and I understand, they (have) handled this issue in a very immature and in a very amateurish manner,” Kalaba said.

“The manner in which the President has proceeded in this matter has exposed him that he lacks diplomacy, he needs to read and understand it better. As President, he should have elected silence on a matter like this. Others should have talked, him as Head of State, he should be a point of reference for all of us, including diplomats. Even Foote himself, he should have gone to the President to go and complain (about) the way the junior officers have handled him. It is the President who should have pacified the matter, but the President has chosen to play politics as usual, he plays politics with the civil servants; he plays politics with journalists; he plays politics with mealie meal.”

He said the permanent secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs should have been allowed to handle the matter without other government officials chipping in.

“We do not condone (gay rights), but what should have happened is that the way you handle the Ambassador beyond that, matters a lot. You didn’t need to have the Permanent Secretary; you didn’t need to have the Minister of Information; you didn’t need to have the PS Information; you didn’t need to have the Minister of Lusaka Province, and you didn’t have any other person to be commenting on a matter because diplomatic relations are guided by the Vienna Convention. The best person who should have handled that is basically the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs,” he argued.

“It is not him (Lungu) who should be saying that; that should be said by a Permanent Secretary by the name of Lombe Chalwe at Foreign Affairs, not even me a Minister should be dealing with issue of homosexuality because that is nowhere near even our laws. Now, you have the whole Presidency of this country talking about that issue, why should he reduce himself to talking about those matters because that matter should have (been) left to where it belongs. (Former US president) Barack Obama was told in his face by (Kenyan President) Uhuru Kenyatta when he raised the issue of homosexuality; he says, ‘well, that issue you’re raising in Kenya is not an issue; first, we do not condone it but certainly we have bigger issues that we are suffering from. There is an issue of accommodation for our people, issues of employment, industrialization, those are issues affecting us’.”

Kalaba argued that Ambassador Foote was simply questioning why Zambia doesn’t treat corruption and other crimes as seriously as it deals with homosexuals.

“Daniel Foote was trying to make a point; what he was saying was: ‘why don’t you treat the issue of homosexuality and corruption in the same sphere?’ Because corruption is robbing the future of the young ones. For me, those are the issues. For me, when I sit here, President of Zambia, the issue of homosexuality is not even an issue I would even waste time on! That is a non-issue! The issue of corruption where you have leaders who can steal money in broad daylight and they get away with it, they will get an acquittal, they will go to court and they know it will be an academic exercise and they will come out, and they are smiling and they are going to keep their wealth to themselves…that, for me, is also worrying,” said Kalaba.

“The issues that he raised, the government should have found out: ‘are you tying homosexuality (to) the development that we are having?’ Because America and Zambia have enjoyed cordial relations from the time that Zambia got its independence in 1964. How come the issue of homosexuality has never been tied to what we have been getting? Recently, Zambia was benefiting huge amounts of money through the Millennium Challenge Account from the USA. There was no homosexuality tied to that support that we had received. We are getting Anti-Retro-Viral (ARV) drugs as I am speaking from America; has that been tied to homosexuality? The answer is no! Because Zambia has never subscribed to homosexuality.”