A member of parliament and founding member of Zambia's ruling Patriotic Front (PF) has resigned from the party, citing intolerance, hate, vengeance and violence meted out to supporters.
Miles Sampa said in a statement that his resignation took effect Thursday.
"As a firm believer of peace and democracy, I feel a number of people were not and have not been accorded the right to express themselves freely and that, in itself, has created disharmony from within,” he said in his statement. “My efforts to unite the party have proved futile in the last 12 months. … The current PF in looks and conduct reminds me of the MMD [Movement for Multiparty Democracy] of 2011 that instilled fear in the general public. I choose to disassociate myself from such a grouping and wish them well."
Until his resignation, Sampa was deputy commerce minister and a leading member of the central committee of the PF — one of the highest decision-making bodies of the governing party.
Local media report that Sampa resigned to concentrate on his presidential ambitions and would likely form his own political party to challenge President Edgar Lungu in the presidential vote.
Sampa was also quoted as saying that since he is a founding member of the PF and nephew to the late president, Michael Sata, he should be the presidential candidate instead of Lungu.
Reacting to the statement, Frank Bwalya, deputy spokesman for the PF, said the governing party is not surprised about Sampa's decision to quit ahead of the August 11 general election.
The resignation is unlikely to hinder the party's prospects of winning the presidential vote, according to Bwalya.
"PF is a democratic party and people are free to harbor political ambitions, including presidential ambitions, provided they follow laid-down procedure and do not conduct themselves in a manner that creates confusion and division within the party," he said.
"We've made it very clear that the party is the custodian, vision and legacy of [deceased] president Sata and that the party has a leader, President Edgar Lungu,” Bwalya continued. “And on the side of the family, it is the son who is still with us, Honorable Mulenga Sata, who is now deputy minister in the state house who is now working closely with the president and, of course, the former first lady."
Sampa's supporters say the PF has not treated him fairly, considering he is a founding member.
They contend that the party should have contacted Sampa and addressed his concerns in a bid to heal the rift within the party ahead of the elections. In addition, they accuse Lungu of not being a unifier.
Bwalya says the accusations are unfounded and not a true reflection of the situation on the ground.
"Politicians can come up with the best reasons under the sun for some actions even though those actions are not well-intentioned,” he said. “So the fact that the man will come up with such reasons doesn't in any way point to any accurate analysis on his part of the situation in Zambia. Not at all."
"You cannot unify people using [untruths],” Bwalya added. “You have a person who not long ago, just a few weeks ago, was on camera saying that he was going to die a member of the PF. As far as I am concerned, he has not died. … Does that mean this issue of the president not being able to unite the party only happened in the last two or three weeks? Because it was only [those] weeks that he said he was going to support the leadership of President Edgar Lungu because he believes in his leadership and that the president was doing everything possible to move the country forward and to provide leadership within the party."