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Zambia: Who Stole the Mayor of Lusaka?

In Zambia, the opposition Patriotic Front party says it has expelled the mayor of Lusaka City from the party. But was Mayor Susan Nakazwe stolen by the ruling Movement for Multiparty Democracy (MMD), led by President Levy Mwanawasa?

Henry Ntonga is a member of parliament from the opposition Patriotic Front party. He said Mayor Nakazwe violated the party’s code of conduct.

“When President Hu of China visited Zambia, the government’s spokesperson and the vice president of this country, both said they did not want any Patriotic Front leaders to receive President Hu. As a result of that, we told all our counselors to stay away from the airport. However, Nakazwe, as a mayor, was persuaded to go and receive president Hu apart from all other leaders in the Patriotic Party. When that happened, Nakazwe faced disciplinary charges from our party, and her plead was that the minister in charge of local government had forced her to go the airport. When everything was put together, she was expelled from the party,” he said.

Ntonga said President Mwanawasa’s government has been engaged in a campaign to get opposition leaders to defect to the ruling MMD party.

“What we know for sure is that in the past seven years, the ruling party has had no mayor in the Lusaka. Mayors have usually been voted in by the majority of the people because they prefer the leadership of the opposition. But over a time we have seen three mayors defecting to the ruling party leaving the opposition for better carrots that are dangled for them from the MMD party, which is the party that is in power in Zambia,” Ntonga said.

He denied the frequent defections of opposition members to the ruling party were a sign of weakness. On the contrary, Ntonga said the opposition in Zambia is very strong. But he said the government has been engaged in what he called permanent overtures and manipulations in trying to get opposition people to defect.

“I must say it’s not easy to work for the opposition in our country. In Africa generally very few countries tolerate opposition and consider them as alternatives. It’s quite difficult to work as such. So I would say that the opposition is still very strong, but the danger of the MMD government trying to purge our members is dominant,” Ntonga said.