LUSAKA (Reuters) - Zambian President Edgar Lungu, who faces a tough election challenge in August, defended on Friday an amendment to the constitution that allowed ministers to remain in office after parliament dissolved on Wednesday.
During a televised news conference, Lungu said the ministers had retained their posts because the constitution allowed it. Critics argue the amendment should have been dumped when a related proposal to appoint ministers from outside parliament was shot down.
Lungu also said he expected inflation in Africa's second-biggest copper producer, currently running at almost 22 percent, to slow to single digits "within months".
He said diversification away from the copper sector, which has been laid low by depressed prices, meant economic growth was seen accelerating slightly to 3.7 percent in 2016 from 3.5 percent last year.
"This performance will largely be driven by agriculture, construction and tourism," Lungu said.
On the agricultural front, Zambia has fared better than its neighbors amid a regional drought, with production of the staple maize crop forecast to rise to 2.87 million tonnes this year from 2.6 million tonnes last year.
But maize prices have still risen steeply in Zambia and Lungu said the government had been "advised" not to bring in price controls to make the staple more affordable. He did not specify who gave this advice.
(Reporting by Chris Mfula; Writing by Ed Stoddard; Editing by James Macharia)