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Zambia's Ruling Party Not Seeking Mwanawasa's Replacement, says Spokesman


Zambian President Levy Mwanawasa, who suffered a stroke while attending last month's African Union summit in Egypt, is said to be responding well to treatment. Chief government spokesman Mike Mulongoti said the president was getting better.

Meanwhile, a spokesman for the ruling Movement for Multi-party Democracy (MMD) says the party is not in disarray. Ben Tetamashimba is under fire for reportedly suggesting that a succession process should begin when President Mwanawasa returns to Zambia from Paris where he is being treated.

Tetamashimba told VOA his words were misunderstood because the party is not planning on removing President Mwanawasa as head of the ruling MMD.

"According to the MMD constitution, President Mwanawasa was elected party president in 2005, and his mandate up to 2010 when we are to have a convention. And only then are we going to have another person who is going to be elected as party president, and then President Mwanawasa would continue his job as president of the country. And that seems to have been misunderstood by some people who thought that we were planning to remove the president from his party job. For now, President Mwanawasa is our president up to 2010," he said.

Some within the ruling MMD have reportedly asked national party chairman Michael Mabenga to discipline Tetamashimba for reportedly suggesting that a succession process should begin to replace President Mwanawasa as head of the party.

Tetamashimba said the national chairman is more concerned about united the party and to pray for President Mwanawasa to return home healthy.

"The national secretary wanted me to be disciplined, but the normal thing is that for me who is in the executive to be disciplined, the party has to ask the head of state, President Mwanawasa to allow me to be disciplined by my party. Without that I cannot be disciplined. But it's not an issue that as a party we want to waste our time on. We want to unite our party; we want to pray for President Mwanawasa so that he can come back home and lead his party and lead his government," Tetamashimba said.

He said President Mwanawasa's rating is very high around the world, and Zambians would have loved for their president to present to lead the Southern African Development Community-sponsored talks on Zimbabwe.

Tetamashimba said President Mwanawasa was responding well to treatment.

"President Mwanawasa is doing well. One of my colleagues in government, the minister of information has spoken to the first lady and was told that the president was responding to treatment. Many Zambians are very encouraged that the President of Zambia, Dr. Mwanawasa, is responding to treatment, and sooner or later we shall all be going to receive him at the airport," Tetamashimba said.

He rejected suggestion by some Zambians that the government should allow doctors attending to President Mwanawasa in France to be responsible for issuing regular updates on the president's health instead of Vice President Rupiah Banda.

"I think it is very malicious. The sickness of President Mwanawasa has not affected the running of government. His cabinet is doing very well. They are doing a commendable job. Many Zambians have said that they don't want this issue of organizing doctors to go and examine the president. Time is going to come. You can't expect some one to recover within 21 days, and I think that Zambians are giving the president chance to recover," Tetamashimba said.


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