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Zambia Major Opposition Party Denies it's in Disarray After Resignations, Suspension

FILE -- Supporters of Edgar Lungu, leader of the Patriotic Front, celebrate after Lungu narrowly won re-election. The party of rival Hakainde Hichilema has since suspended a vice president.

The spokesman for Zambia's main opposition party, the United Party for National Development, has denied the party is falling apart after losing the August presidential election to incumbent President Edgar Lungu.

The opposition party suspended Canisius Banda, its vice president in charge of politics. And Edwin Lifwekelo, the deputy spokesman for the UPND, resigned.

Local media reports also quote Edward Mumbi, special adviser for UPND presidential candidate Hakainde Hichilema, as resigning from the opposition party, citing family obligations.

FILE - Presidential candidate Hakainde Hichilema addresses supporters in Lusaka, Zambia, Wednesday, Jan, 21, 2015.
FILE - Presidential candidate Hakainde Hichilema addresses supporters in Lusaka, Zambia, Wednesday, Jan, 21, 2015.

"The National Management Committee of the party sat and resolved that Dr. Canisius Banda … is suspended so that he explains his relationship with the ruling party, the Patriotic Front. He was issuing statement in the media in which he has had discussions with the president of Zambia and one of the things they have agreed with the president of Zambia is that he should be given police protection and helped with other supports," said Charles Kakoma, UPND spokesperson.

"The party is not falling apart,” Kakoma continued. “It is normal from our experience in Zambia politics and generally in African politics after general elections there are some people that are weak in the opposition who would rather support a ruling party for benefits. Maybe they are expecting employment, they are expecting contract and so on and so forth, so that happens, some people fall off.”

“Actually,” Kakoma said, “we have done well, because not many people have taken that route of defecting to the ruling party. … If anything, the genuine members of the party have become more resolved to continue fighting for their rights."

UPND supporters of Banda and some members of the ruling PF party have accused the opposition of witch hunting and tribalism after his suspension. They said it appears Banda was used to sanitize the tribal perception of the party and dumped after the UPND lost the election.

The UPND has often been accused of engaging in tribal politics, something it sharply denies.

"That is misplaced analysis,” said Kakoma, the party spokesman. “This party is for all Zambians from all tribes from all regions and provinces making up Zambia. And therefore, the fact that Dr. Canisius Banda happen to come from eastern Zambia does not make him a sanitizer as people are calling it."

"The politics in our country is such that you need to balance the representation of the party and so far that is done,” Kakoma said. “[Hichilema] is coming from the southern part. Two vice presidents, one coming from the north from the Bemba-speaking tribe, Geoffrey Mwamba, and there is also Canisius Banda who comes from the east, and the chairman of the party, a woman, also coming from the north. In fact, if somebody was talking about sanitizing, the chairwoman of the party and a former deputy speaker [of parliament], was the first one to join the UPND before even Canisius Banda," Kakoma added.

The party challenged Lungu's re-election, but the Constitutional Court threw out the case.

Mansa, Zambia
Mansa, Zambia

The party then decided to file another case at the Lusaka High Court, saying the human rights of its presidential candidate, Hakainde Hichilema, and his deputy, Geoffrey Mwamba, were violated. The Lusaka High Court will begin hearing the case on November 24.

Local and international poll observers said the August 11 presidential, parliamentary and local elections were free, fair and transparent, despite isolated cases of voter irregularities. But the UPND insists the presidential vote was rigged in favor of Lungu and the PF party.

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