Zambia’s diplomatic relations with the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) and the international community will remain unshakable despite the perception that foreign Heads of States in the region are shunning the country on the basis of unfriendly foreign policy, Foreign Affairs Minister Harry Kalaba has said.
Mr Kalaba said Zambians should know that it was not the frequency of visits to the country by presidents of the southern Africa or the international community that determined the warm diplomatic relations of countries.
Mr Kalaba told the Daily Nation yesterday that Zambia had remained the most respectable country in the region because of its immense contribution to the liberation struggle of many of the countries in Southern Africa.
He said it was not the pre-occupation of the Patriotic Front (PF) government to worry itself about foreign Heads of States not visiting Zambia because Presidents had tight schedules and could not afford to be touring other people’s countries unless there was a regional meeting that would need them to assemble in one place at a particular time.
Mr Kalaba was reacting to former foreign affairs minister Kabinga Pande who has observed with concern that Zambia is isolated as no foreign Head of State had visited the country since President Michael Sata and the PF formed government in 2011 apart from Zimbabwe’s leader Robert Mugabe who has been to Livingstone, the country’s tourist capital.
He stated that the PF government through delegations from President Sata has been meeting high profile foreign dignitaries and that the country has been signing a number of protocols because of the respect other countries in the region and the globe had for the country.
Mr Kalaba said Mr Pande who was the foreign affairs minister during the MMD reign was aware that each government had its own way of interacting with neighbouring countries and should therefore not create a perception that the country’s diplomatic relations with the region had soured from the time the PF formed government.
“Zambia’s diplomatic relations with our neighbours in the region are intact and unshakable. Zambia is highly respected in the region and the international community because of the role it played in the liberation struggle in a number of countries in the region. If you go to Angola, Zimbabwe or Namibia, this country is well respected and there is no way this government would be careless to sour the diplomatic relations the country has enjoyed since independence. You should know and acknowledge that it is not the number of visits by foreign presidents that will determine the warm diplomatic relations. Our pre-occupation as the PF government is not with the number of visits by presidents in the region that matter,” Mr Kalaba said.
Mr Kalaba said the PF had abandoned the tradition of having international events such as the International Trade Fair and the Agriculture and Commercial Show which in all the previous governments were being officiated by foreign Heads of States.
Mr Kalaba said there was nothing wrong for President Sata to delegate his ministers to represent him at important national events such as the International Trade Fair stating that the importance of the event was not determined by the authority presiding over it.
“You have aptly put it that there was a tradition by previous governments of inviting foreign presidents to open the International Trade Fair, the Agriculture and Commercial Show and other important national events such as traditional ceremonies. We have abandoned that tradition and there is nothing wrong with President Sata delegating his ministers to preside over such events. When the President is not busy, he will always officiate at such important events,” Mr Kalaba said.