LUSAKA (Reuters) - Zambia President Rupiah Banda on Saturday accused donors of blackmail after the Global Fund suspended health assistance and the European Union halted aid for road construction citing corruption in the country.
"We must not allow donors to feel they can interfere in the internal affairs of this country because it is a sovereign and independent state," Banda said on state-owned radio ZNBC.
"We did not ask anyone to fund the road sector or the health sector, so they must not use that as blackmail."
The health aid freeze, the latest graft scandal to hit Banda before an election due next year, is likely to affect the southern African country's fight against AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria.
Health Minister Kapembwa Simbao played down fears of a looming health crisis saying the Global Fund would still continue supporting Zambia but the funding would now be made available through the United Nations Development Programme
Lee Habasonda, the executive director of the Southern African Centre for the Constructive Resolution of Disputes said Banda's statement could harm Zambia's relations with the donors.
"This confirms the doubt that many people have raised regarding Zambia's fight against corruption," Habasonda told Reuters.
Banda's anti-corruption credentials have been questioned since a junior court in Lusaka cleared former president Frederick Chiluba of graft in August last year and the government refused to appeal the decision.
The latest aid freeze comes a year after Sweden and the Netherlands suspended $33 million in Health Ministry aid due to a missing $5 million. Some officials were later charged with stealing the money.