Zambia’s political crisis is getting messier and messier

The former head of the Bank of Zambia and de facto leader of the Southern African Development Community, Christopher Lwandi has long been called the “interim president of Zambia” for his ability to temporarily take charge of the nation in 2009. (He says he remains officially prime minister.) But for the past two months, the business world in Zambia has been getting a bit curious as to who the real executive at the helm of Zambia really is.

The issue started on Jan. 16, when a consortium of financial institutions put up an initial offer of $65 million for the “flagship” Zambian Copperbelt Development Corporation (ZCDC), Zambia’s national copper mining company, which is controlled by state-owned copper giant, the Zambia Consolidated Copper Mines Corporation (ZCCM-IH). A few days later, Zambia’s Sovereign Wealth Fund said it would raise its offer for the state-owned mining giant to $105 million, citing Lwandi’s commitment to the investment. According to the Financial Times, the development is meant to pave the way for some $300 million in privatizations, and concerns from some stakeholders have suggested a rivalry between Lwandi and the former president, Rupiah Banda, for the firm’s purse.

But Lwandi remains hesitant to sign over the control. On Jan. 26, he said he had not yet received an official offer for the state-owned mining giant, which, in late 2011, renamed itself ZCCM-IH. Following the response from Lwandi, though, Kairuki Sinyambule, the acting director of the finance ministry, said the cabinet had endorsed the privatization, and the crisis had been settled. According to the Financial Times, Sinyambule said, “I don’t think anyone should be bothered that the state is to sell [ZCCM-IH] on February 1.” Lwandi countered that the transfer would not take place on Feb. 1. The continuing drama is now expected to drag into next week, as Zambian investors wait to see who will take over the mining business — and for what price.

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