OUTGOING United States ambassador to Zambia Mark Storella has described President Sata as a hard-working leader who holds the needs of many ordinary Zambians close to his heart.
Mr Storella also described President Sata as a man of action with a history of delivering and ability to turn around the fortunes of Zambians as long as fundamentals are in place.
The diplomat, however, cautioned the Patriotic Front government that the road ahead remains challenging as it endeavours to reduce poverty and create new jobs.
Chief among the challenges Mr Storella highlighted was the need for the PF to exercise more tolerance, continue fostering unity and allow freedoms to be exercised by those with dissenting views.
“I think it is very important to understand and recognise that we (Zambia and PF) face some challenges,” Mr Storella said.
Mr Storella said facing the challenges is essential if the country is to remain a shining example of a budding democracy on the continent, which he noted Zambia is right now.
“Zambia is a great example of an African democracy right now, which many African countries look up to for various reasons such as smooth transitions of power and free elections,” Mr Storella said.
He was speaking in a special interview on various socio-economic and political scenarios as he completes his three-and-half-year “tour of duty” to Zambia, the country he described as the best in Africa.
Mr Storella, who has 30 years on his resume as a diplomat in various postings around the world, reflected on various issues, starting from the pre- and post-2011 polls won by Mr Sata to consumption subsidies recently removed by the government.
“Removing the subsidies [on fuel and maize] is one of the most courageous things the Sata administration did because only commercial farmers gained from that and not small-scale farmers they were meant for,” Mr Storella said.
He described the relationship Zambia enjoys with the United States as good, saying it will continue to grow in various sectors such as health, education and agriculture where the United States has invested billions of dollars since President Sata assumed office.
“We have pumped about US$350 million in health, which translates to about US$30 per Zambian, about US$24 million in education, especially the education of the girl-child and much more in the water sector,” Mr Storella said.
But as he packs his bags to start a new life as the United States envoy to Belgium, Mr Storella will take with him fond memories:
•The ability of Zambians to forgive and share even in the scarcity of times
•President Sata’s determination to move Zambians out of poverty
•The ability of Zambians to remain united despite their diversity
•Kenneth Kaunda’s unifying role
•Zambia’s ability to change leadership without shedding blood
•Zambia’s determination to stand out as a beacon of peace and political stability not only in the region but the continent
•President Sata’s tenacity and ability to appeal to ordinary people
Mr Storella also cautions that all can be lost if free association and expression is “stifled”.
•He also calls for “responsible” criticism from those with dissenting views, including the media whom he said must be ethical and give both sides of the story in order to help grow democracy
. This weekend, the Sunday Mail will carry the full exclusive interview conducted by deputy managing director Anthony Mukwita. Don’t miss it as we discuss various issues including circumcision and democracy.