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The battle to succeed Sata gets bloody

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The battle to succeed Sata gets bloody

Zambia’s ruling party, the Patriotic Front (PF), is at war with itself over who should succeed President Michael Sata in 2016. While it was an open secret that the fight for succession would arise, what took many by surprise was how soon it came and how ugly it has turned out to be. Reginald Ntomba reports from Lusaka.

Nothing in the last four months has provided as much political drama as the confusion in Zambia’s ruling party, the Patriotic Front (PF). It all started in August when the defence minister, Geoffrey Bwalya Mwamba, popularly known as GBM, a Sata loyalist, declared in his hometown of Kasama, north of the country, that he was endorsing President Michael Sata to run again in 2016. No-one knew that this statement would bring the party to where it is today.

The party’s chairperson for Lusaka Province, Geoffrey Chuumbwe, responded that the law entitles Sata to two terms and, therefore, there was no need for anyone to start campaigning for his candidature in the next election. With these two positions, the die was cast.

The reaction from Chuumbwe did not go down well with Mwamba, who interpreted it as opposition to Sata’s re-election. Mwamba embarked on an “endorsement campaign” which saw party supporters in some parts of the country take to the streets to denounce the justice minister and party secretary general Wynter Kabimba, who Mwamba believes has presidential ambitions himself. Kabimba denies it. So this fierce battle has two factions, represented by Mwamba on the one side and Kabimba on the other.

While Sata was away in New York for the UN General Assembly in September, Mwamba’s group organised a conference in Lusaka where “representatives” from the provinces passed a resolution to have Kabimba step down.

But Kabimba, a tough-talking political runner who has refused to be underrated, bluntly told his opponents that he would not resign. With the “resolutions” from the Lusaka meeting, Mwamba’s camp thought they had a tight case to present to Sata on his return. At this stage, Kabimba’s fate was thought to be in Sata’s hands.

When Sata returned, he found the divisions in the party had escalated. Kabimba had labelled his party “the most undisciplined” and accused his opponents of being “a clique of tribalists”. He comes from what is considered a “small tribe” outside Lusaka, while those demanding his exit are predominantly from the north.

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