BRITISH High Commissioner to Zambia Fergus Cochrane-Dyet has said he enjoys good relations with the Zambian government.
High Commissioner Cochrane-Dyet’s recent tweets about Zambia’s governance and the recent FIC trends report have received a backlash from chief government spokesperson Dora Siliya who tweeted back saying the British envoy had nothing to use his time on.
And a PF cadre Chanoda Ngwira has written to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs over High Commissioner Cochrane-Dyet’s tweets, a move that is clearly seen to have the backing of the ruling party’s leadership.
But High Commissioner Cochrane-Dyet has said he has “a good and supportive relationship with the Zambian Government”.
“This facilitates the many areas where the UK is providing support to Zambia, including through our development assistance programme,” High Commissioner Cochrane-Dyet said in his brief comments.
“I regularly meet with HE the President and Cabinet Ministers and I anticipate that recent developments will form part of those on-going discussions.”
Siliya said her foreign affairs counterpart Joe Malanji would deal with British High Commissioner Cochrane-Dyet over his tweets which were disagreeing with government position on the FIC report, among other governance issues.
But Ambassador Malanji told News Diggers! that his ministry was going to review all the tweets that the British envoy had posted recently before issuing a statement on the matter.
On Wednesday, Siliya advised all diplomats accredited to Zambia to voice out any concerns they had on governance matters in the country, including on the Financial Intelligence Centre (FIC) Trends Report, through established channels.
She insisted that there was professional misconduct in the manner the Financial Intelligence Centre (FIC) acted by disseminating its findings to the public.
Siliya advised all diplomats accredited to Zambia to use official channels of communication such as the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to voice out any grievance on governance matters.
“I think that in any situation, whenever we believe that our very dear partners, particularly diplomats, and particularly the British relations that we have, if our colleagues observe any issue that they wish to comment on, there are channels through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs where observations or grievances can be expressed,” Siliya told journalists in response to a question on whether government would consider expelling High Commissioner Dyet in the manner former Cuban Ambassador to Zambia, Nelson Pages Vilas, was sent packing on April 1 following his ill-fated appearance at the launch of the Socialist Party in Zambia the day before.
“We will continue to encourage our diplomats to use the diplomatic channels and continue to desist from…In this case, for me, this document was already out there anyway. So, whether it is the British Ambassador, the EU, it’s the Zimbabwean Ambassador…they have all had sight of it, just like all of us. But I think that, in diplomatic relations, we always hope that, we continue to have cordial relations; we continue to be diplomatic in terms of our observations and comments on these matters.”
She, however, hastened to add that she did not believe High Commissioner Cochrane- Dyet’s remarks should be put in the same context as his former Cuban counterpart who was recalled for “supporting an opposition party”.
“I think that this matter is already public; the point is that this document [2017 FIC Trends Report] should first of all never have been in the public that is the most important thing. I have not said that, ‘Zambia will expel the British Ambassador’, let us be clear!” Siliya stressed, amidst rapturous laughter from reporters.
Using his twitter handle @ferguscd, High Commissioner Cochrane-Dyet tweeted on Wednesday saying it was utter nonsense for the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) to call for the dismissal of the FIC director Mary Tshuma, arguing that the trends report she released to the public contained no sensitive intelligence information.
“Utter nonsense, FIC is doing a good job and is entitled to publishing trends report because it’s not sensitive intelligence information,” tweeted High Commissioner Cochrane-Dyet.
When contacted for a comment on the envoy’s position, Siliya said the Zambian government did not want to pick a fight with the British High Commissioner, but charged that he was an undiplomatic ambassador.
“People have been sending us messages asking if we have seen what the Ambassador has been posting. But we are saying, ‘we don’t want to fight with the British Ambassador’. I think I am going to tweet right now and say that ‘as a former diplomat myself, I am aware that many diplomats have a lot of idle time.’ Government’s position on FIC is supported by law, not emotions,” Siliya said.
“The British High Commissioner has a lot of idle time on his hands to write all that. Like, I have said, I don’t follow him myself on Twitter, but people are calling to say that there is a lot of disparaging remarks that he is posting on Twitter about our government. If indeed those remarks are there on his Twitter, then the Minister of Foreign Affairs who is the right channel will engage him and deal with the matter.