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Zambia Opposition Candidate Insists He Meets Educational Requirement

  • Peter Clottey

FILE - A police officer fires pepper spray at supporters of the opposition United Party for National Development outside the Woodlands Police Station in Lusaka, March 2, 2016.

FILE - A police officer fires pepper spray at supporters of the opposition United Party for National Development outside the Woodlands Police Station in Lusaka, March 2, 2016.

The vice presidential candidate for Zambia’s main opposition party has challenged the government to arrest him if it concludes that he presented fake credentials to enable him to participate in the August 11 general election.

The constitution requires that political candidates have at least a 12th-grade certificate or its equivalent. Supporters of the ruling Patriotic Front say Geoffrey Mwamba, of the opposition United Party for National Development, lacks the educational qualification to run for vice president.

Mwamba was defense minister and a prominent financier of the PF before defecting to the UPND. PF supporters say one reason for his defection was that he could not produce documentation of his education as the PF sought to ensure that all of its candidates were in good standing.

UPND spokesman Charles Kakoma rejected the allegations as a PF publicity stunt aimed at scoring cheap political points before the elections.

“Those allegations are totally false," he said. "Our running mate for vice president is fully qualified under the constitution to run in the forthcoming elections. ... Mr. Geoffrey Mwamba has an advanced diploma in business and investment from a college in the United Kingdom, and therefore qualifies. That diploma was subjected to scrutiny, and the Zambia Qualification Authority certified it as suitable for this election.”

Local media reports said UPND leaders panicked after PF members questioned Mwamba’s education credentials. The reports said Mwamba threatened to stop all financial support to the UPND if the party demanded that he provide proof of the credentials.

“Those allegations are false. ... Mr. Mwamba did not threaten the United Party for National Development with the withdrawal of any funds that he might have contributed. That is totally false. As things stand now, Mr. Mwamba is qualified and would run in the election,” Kakoma said.

Asked if the UPND had a backup plan if the credentials are challenged and subsequently rejected, Kakoma said the UPND was ready for the elections. The constitution stipulates that when a candidate is disqualified, the party has to nominate a replacement.

“If it has to come to that, it means even the election would have to be postponed to allow for a fresh nomination," Kakoma said. "But it is all unnecessary because it won’t happen [since] our candidate is fully qualified to run for this election.”

Accusations of violence

Meanwhile, the PF has accused UPND supporters of violence and intimidation, mainly in the opposition strongholds.

Frank Bwalya, deputy campaign manager for the PF, said the party had received several reports of violence against its supporters.

“I have heard reports [that] our cadres were attacked in Monze, in Lusaka. ... I have also heard reports about how our cadres were attacked in many places," Bwalya said. "As a party, we are saying there is no need to kill one another over one going to the state house. We have made it very clear that violence is violence and it should be condemned.”

UPND spokesman Kakoma said the PF was to blame for the violence. He said state security agencies appeared not to be enforcing the law fairly.

“It is the PF supporters that are unleashing violence," he said. "Within this week, they have been attacking people on the roads, at bus stops, in markets, those that are seen to be wearing the UPND regalia and anybody suspected to be UPND. All our vehicles that are branded in UPND colors are being stoned and smashed, and in the last 10 days or so, the PF cadres invaded our headquarters.”

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