By Petronella Sibeene WINDHOEK Zambians from various professional backgrounds and members of that country’s diplomatic staff stationed in Windhoek, yesterday celebrated the 42nd anniversary of the independence of the copper-rich southern African state of Zambia. At a function, attended by diplomats, some Namibian ministers and other prominent members of society, Zambian High Commissioner, Griffin Nyirongo, said this anniversary came a month after the country went to the polls which resulted in the re-election of Levy Patrick Mwanawasa as President. The peaceful and fair elections, according to Nyirongo, are a clear demonstration of the Zambian peoples’ commitment to democracy and good governance. While the country’s currency has in the past few years been unstable, the High Commissioner acknowledged the great strides Zambia has made in achieving significant economic policies. These have resulted in inflation coming down to a single digit for the first time in thirty years. “Great strides have been made in the agriculture, tourism, and mining sectors, resulting in the economy growing by 5.1%”, he said. Despite the reported progress in other sectors, the country still faces challenges in the areas of health, especially of HIV/AIDS. Namibia and Zambia share a long history characterized by a strong bond of friendship and solidarity. This strong bond has been evident at different levels of development. Economic cooperation between the two countries has continued to grow and, although Nyirongo could not elaborate, there are still constraints which inhibit the realization of cooperation in other areas such as Walvis Bay as the gateway for Zambian exports and imports. In the area of tourism, the two countries have been working together to find ways of improving the sector. Evident is the hosting of the Zambian National Tourist Board in Windhoek recently. “The purpose of the road show was to bring together Zambian and Namibian tour operators to work together in promoting Zambia and Namibia as tourist destinations”, the High Commissioner revealed. Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Lempy Lucas, like her Zambian counterpart, said that despite the achievements made so far by the two countries in ensuring a better life for their citizens, Zambia and Namibia face enormous challenges such as the high rate of unemployment, HIV/AIDS, Malaria and Tuberculosis. She said, “This can only be effectively addressed if peace prevails in our region…it is imperative that our governments provide a conducive environment in our quest to improve the living standards of our people”. The Deputy Minister congratulated Zambia on this day, adding that the Namibian government was indeed satisfied with a number of mechanisms which the two countries have put in place to further strengthen and consolidate their cooperation. She mentioned the Namibia/Zambia Joint Permanent Commission of Cooperation and the Joint Commission on Defence and Security Cooperation. Lucas further congratulated Zambia for being elected to the position of Vice-Chair of SADC at the previous SADC Summit in Maseru. “Namibia, as a member of the Troika of the SADC Organ on Defence and Security Cooperation, would like to pledge our support and assure you of our readiness to work closely with you in our efforts to maintain peace and security in our regions”, she stated.
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