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Wednesday, 5 June, 2002, 21:44 GMT 22:44 UK
Zambia's cabinet takes the bus
Zambia's President Levy Mwanawasa
Presidential Memo: A bus pass for every minister
Normally, a long convoy of cars carrying his ministers escorts Zambia's President Levy Mwanawasa anywhere he goes - and sees him off or receives him at Lusaka airport.

But on Tuesday, he left his official Mercedes Benz at home and put his entire cabinet on a 69-seater public bus to the airport before he flew out to a world economic summit in South Africa.

Minibus taxi in Kenya
Most Zambian commuters use minibus taxis
Mr Mwanawasa, who was elected in December promising to fight poverty and corruption, said he hoped to set an example for his ministers.

He said it was part of a new push to save money which was being spent on his presidential motorcade and entourage.

In the past, government officials have been accused of widespread corruption.

Zambia's 10 million people are said to be among the world's poorest.

Modest

Known as "Mr Integrity" by his supporters, Mr Mwanawasa's latest gesture is perhaps not surprising.

During his first press conference to announce his cabinet, he stressed that his ministers would have to abide by a stringent set of requirements - including honesty, integrity, discipline and devotion to duty.

Zambia's former President Frederick Chiluba
Mwanawasa's predecessor didn't go gently into retirement
Friends and foes alike acknowledge that he is a man of modest habits.

They say he has resisted attempts to change the furniture or decor in State House since he took over because he does not want to waste any money.

His predecessor, however, found it rather difficult to let go of the trappings of power.

A judge had to order former President Frederick Chiluba to stop using government-owned facilities and personnel after he left office.

Ticket to ride

They included a Mercedes, a number of other vehicles, the keys to a government-owned house in a posh Lusaka suburb, his security guards and some other domestic staff.

Departing from the old and wasteful practice of chauffeur-driven rides in government cars, President Mwanawasa now wants his ministers and party officials to use public transport to see him off at the airport when he travels out of the country.

From now on, the ministers' trip to the airport could turn out to be rather bumpy - and quite slow.

And they will need a bus ticket.


President's burden

Opposition leaders

Background

TALKING POINT
See also:

19 Dec 01 | Africa
07 Jan 02 | Africa
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