Lusaka/London — Michael Muntemba says there is something odd about the levy he has to pay to watch state television in Zambia. “I’ve heard the rumours,” the clothes seller said in hushed tones. He pays less than a dollar a month in tax meant to support the Zambia National Broadcasting Corporation. But the payment lies at the heart of accusations that Zambia has given up its sovereignty in return for $9.4bn of debt, up to one-third of it owed to China. Muntemba’s suspicion, widely shared in Zambia, is that part of his K10 (86) US cents TV levy, which has more than doubled in a year, is being used to service a $273m loan taken by ZNBC, the state broadcaster, from China’s Exim Bank. The loan’s terms are opaque, but as alarm grows in Africa over Chinese “debt trap” diplomacy, the lack of transparency has put the Zambian government on the defensive amid rumours that public assets have been placed in hock to Beijing. “Borrowing is OK if you know where the money goes,” said Muntemba. “But ...

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