There are signs of rising political tensions within Zambia’s ruling Patriotic Front party a week before deceased President Michael Sata is to be laid to rest.
Acting President Guy Scott late Monday dismissed Justice and Defense Minister Edgar Lungu from his post as secretary general of the ruling party.
Scott and Lungu are said to be from opposing camps of the ruling party. Lungu was thought to be a leading contender to become the party’s candidate in presidential elections scheduled for the end of January next year.
There were reports of protests and clashes in the capital, Lusaka following the announcement of Lungu’s dismissal.
Information Minister Joseph Katema said the Central Committee of the ruling party asked for a meeting with acting President Scott Tuesday to discuss the development.
“The Republican president, Dr. Guy Scott, acting also as the acting president of the party, the Patriotic Front, did announce that he has revoked the position for secretary general for Honorable Edgar Lungu,” he said.
There was no reason given for Lungu’s removal as secretary general of the ruling party, but reports said acting President Scott had suspended all cabinet meetings and political campaigning until after the deceased president’s burial.
Katema said former deputy defense minister Davies Mwila, who was offered the position of secretary general of the Patriotic Front party, turned it down because he said the country was still mourning the death of its president.
“Right away, Mr. Honorable Mwila did go to the national broadcasting corporation and voluntarily declined the position, saying it is unAfrican and Zambian for him to take up a position when the decision had been made that the succession and other political issues shall be suspended until we mourn and bury our president in dignity and in honor,” Katema said.
He said members of the ruling party’s Central Committee had talked to the acting President Scott to rescind the decision for the purpose of maintaining peace in the country.
“The youth and other Zambian citizens actually almost rose up in protest. We even started having protests across learning institutions and phone calls from across the provinces announcing their displeasure at this development,” Katema said.
He said in the interest of peace harmony in the country and within the ruling party, the Central Committee brokered a meeting with acting President Scott.
Acting President Scott became Africa's first white leader in 20 years following Sata’s death. However, he is constitutionally barred from running for president because his parents were born in Scotland.