FILE - Zambia's new interim president is Guy Scott.
FILE - Zambia's new interim president is Guy Scott.

The General Secretary of Zambia’s ruling Patriotic Front (PF) says the decision by the party’s central committee to suspend President Guy Scott as party leader is illegal. General Secretary Bridget Atanga called the suspension ‘null and void’.

These conflicting accounts of who is in charge are raising concerns about the party’s chances in the January by-election to replace the late president Michael Sata.

Leonard Hikaumba, president of the Zambia Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) tells VOA the PF is suffering from a leadership crisis which, if not properly managed, could erode Zambians’ confidence in the party’s ability to govern.

“If there can be such levels of confusion, it will simply undermine the trust that the people had in the ruling party. Because as a ruling party, you are supposed to be seen to be well organized, so that that kind of organization can give confidence to the people,” he said.

Hikaumba said the ongoing disagreement sends the wrong signal to voters.

“What is likely to happen is that if the process of selecting a candidate is not managed, some people would be frustrated, their supporters will equally be frustrated [and] they may simply opt to support somebody else other than the candidate from their own party. That is why they needed to exercise caution and restraint approaches that would appear chaotic especially to the onlookers,” said Hikaumba.

Local political commentators say the death of Mr. Sata seems to have destabilized the PF’s cohesion. In interviews on radio and television in Lusaka, these commentators have said senior party members are jockeying for position as the January presidential election date nears.

They say the infighting within the governing party casts a shadow over President Sata’s legacy as a unifying figure.

Hikaumba says the late President Sata played a significant role in preventing the various party factions from splitting apart.

“It is true he held the party together quite well and it’s unfortunate that his departure has left such a vacuum that there is no one who seems to wield enough authority to continue with that kind of unity that was there,” said Hikaumba.

Some Zambians whose voices have been heard in various forums are expressing concern that the PF’s infighting could affect the smooth running of the government ahead of the January vote.

Clottey interview with Leonard Hikaumba, president of Zambia Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) 1883326