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Fight for Leadership in Zambian Opposition Party Underway

FILE - Zambia's former President Rupiah Banda.

A spokesman for Zambia’s opposition Movement for Multiparty Democracy (MMD) has accused former President Rupiah Banda of trying to hijack the party’s presidency through unconstitutional means.

Zambia will hold a presidential election January 20 to determine the successor to the late President Michael Sata, who died October 28 of an undisclosed illness in London.

The MMD is currently led by Nevers Mumba, but Banda said most members of the party’s national executive committee want him to contest the presidency.

The committee has reportedly suspended Mumba for gross indiscipline, and declared Banda as the party’s candidate.

Rafael Nakacinda, Mumba’s communications director, said the party’s constitution dictates that the sitting leader of the party is always its presidential candidate.

“The party president has the mandate of five years as the flag bearer of the party, which is Dr. Mumba. He is the legal, or constitutionally, the candidate to represent, or to stand, in this election. It is an unfortunate development for former head of state Mr. Rupiah Banda attempting to undermine and possibly secure a nomination of the party through illegal means,” he said.

Nakacinda said there is no provision within the party candidate constitution for selecting a standard bearer when there is a sitting party leader illegible to stand as party candidate.

But, Banda said most members of the party’s national executive committee want him to contest the presidency. Nakacinda said the national convention is the supreme body of the MMD that determines who can be the party’s presidential candidate.

“The only body [that is legally able] to determine the position of president, election, or any other disciplinary action or consideration… is the convention, not the national executive committee, not members of parliament. The only function members of parliament have is to represent the party and the party policies when debating or passing laws in parliament,” Nakacinda said.

He said the memories of the 2011 presidential election loss under Banda to the Patriotic Front Party remains fresh.

Nakacinda said, since then, the MMD has had to work harder to enhance its chances of winning the next election.

“There were even considerations for us to go into alliances with other opposition political parties who have similar policies and similar approach to other things that must be done as soon as possible, like the issue of the constitution and the economy,” he said.

He said the “intrusion” of former president Banda into party politics is weakening the party.

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