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Mwanawasa walks alone. (Around Africa: Zambia).

Never in the history of Zambia has a leader tried so hard to distance himself from his ruling party as president Levy Mwanawasa. And what's causing the trouble?

President Mwanawasa has called members of his ruling Movement for Multiparty Democracy (MMD) everything under the sun, including not fit for public office. To show he means what he says, he has appointed opposition leader Nevers Mumba as his vice-president, alienating himself further from the party that brought him into power and ignoring threats of legal action.

Mumba, an evangelical television preacher and failed presidential candidate in the 2001 election, was sworn in last month after Mwanawasa announced the sacking of the incumbent vice-president Enoch Kavindele, the finance minister Emmanuel Kasonde and the information minister.

"When I look around my [MMD] elected MPs, I don't see anyone suitable for the job," the president said, explaining why he gave the job to Mumba. "That is why I needed to remove one nominated MP to make room for another." (Constitutionally, Mwanwasa is entitled to nominate eight MPs to parliament who can then be appointed to positions in government).

The opposition parties have now gone into overdrive, calling Mumba's appointment unconstitutional. Naturally, MMD members are piqued at the inference that there was none among them fit to be finance minister.

According to Roger Chongwe, a lawyer and former legal affairs minister: "Article 68.3 of the Zambian constitution makes it illegal for a person who stood in a general election and [lost] to take up a cabinet or vice-president position. Rev Mumba is one such person, so he does not qualify under the law."

Chongwe added that even the swearing in of Mumba was improper because, first, Mumba had to take an oath in parliament where he could now be considered a member of the House, and then be appointed to a position in government.

The opposition parties have already started impeachment proceedings in parliament against Mwanawasa for "abrogating" the Constitution, while the former minister of finance under Chiluba, Edith Nawakwi, has petitioned Mumba's appointment in the high court. But the president has shrugged the challenge. "It is an interesting constitutional matter, but I consulted widely and if there are concerns, they will be interpreted by the courts," he said.

Vernon Mwaanga, the MMD's National Executive Committee spokesman, said the selection of Mumba, who until his appointment led the largely ineffectual opposition National Citizens Coalition, has deepened hostility towards Mwanawasa in the party.

"He has shown disdain for the parry in words and he is now doing it in deeds," Mwaanga said. "Why is he bringing outsiders into government when we [the MMD] are the ruling party. The repercussions will be dire for Mwanawasa because mainstream MMD members who have been in the party since its inception, will not sit by and watch their parry get taken over by members of the opposition at such a high level."

In February, the president disregarded a high court order and invited the wrath of his party when he swore in nine opposition members as cabinet ministers. He also recently oversaw a merger with the opposition United National Independence Party (Kaunda's old party), which ruled Zambia from 1964 to 1991.

But political analysts are not surprised at Mwanawasa's latest move. Fred Mutesa, a Universiry of Zambia lecturer, says "Just like Mwanawasa, Chiluba abrogated the MMD parry constitution and pulled Mwanawasa from the doldrums because he saw none capable enough to succeed him."

The two made a gentleman's agreement that former leaders would not be prosecuted for corruption, but Mwanawasa has "reneged" on the agreement, causing much resentment in the party. MMD members say the president's high profile anti-corruption crusade appears to focus only on MMD politicians, chief among them Chiluba, who still wields a lot of power in the party.
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Author:Geloo, Zarina
Publication:New African
Geographic Code:6ZAMB
Date:Jul 1, 2003
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