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Zambia Court Unlikely to Prevent Banda Re-Election Bid, says Activist

Zambia's President Rupiah Banda (File)
Zambia's President Rupiah Banda (File)

A Zambian activist says it is unlikely the main opposition Patriotic Front (PF) party will succeed in its legal challenge seeking to prevent President Rupiah Banda from seeking re-election in September.

Lee Habasonda, executive director for the Southern African Center for the Constructive Resolution of Disputes, said Zambians do not think the judiciary is “totally” independent of the executive.

He adds it’s within the opposition party’s rights to challenge in court its concerns about the origins of Mr. Banda’s parents.

“It’s a good thing that they are testing the law, but we don’t think much of the case,” said Habasonda. “It will end up with the judiciary, which incidentally is not given the sort of confidence that one would want from many politicians. They believe it serves the interests of the executive, and it’s very unlikely the case will be given the sort of attention it needs.”

Zambia’s current constitution, which was amended in 1996, bars citizens with foreign parents from competing in a presidential election. The measure prevented former president Kenneth Kaunda from seeking a return to power.

The main opposition party contends President Banda’s parents are not Zambian citizens. Habasonda said the opposition would have to prove the allegation.

“They are trying to produce evidence that Rupiah Banda does not qualify [to be president] based on the precedent that was set in 1996,” said Habasonda.

Today (Wednesday) is the deadline for political parties to file papers with the electoral commission today (Wednesday). Habasonda says people are anxious to see how the chief justice rules on the legality of the papers.

Habasonda said the legal challenge seems to be an attempt by the opposition party to derail the campaign of the ruling Movement for Multi-party Democracy (MMD) in the run up to the polls.

“Obviously, while many Zambians are very passionate about issues [regarding the] origins and parentage of our president, they are questioning why the PF did not do this in 2008. And therefore, it is being seen as one way of trying to keep the MMD from focusing on their campaign and to get them disoriented as we go towards the election,” said Habasonda.