Zambian president tells party foes to resign

Zambian President Rupiah Banda has told opponents seeking to challenge him for the ruling party’s leadership that they should resign.

Analysts said the move could scare away foreign investors from Africa’s largest copper-producing nation.

In July Banda endorsed a decision by allies in the ruling Movement for Multiparty Democracy (MMD) to prevent opponents from challenging him at a convention scheduled for early next year ahead of a presidential election in 2011.

The move, which caused outrage within the wider MMD, was also criticised by rights groups and by ex-finance minister Ng’andu Magande, who was sacked for challenging Banda during a party vote called to choose a successor for the late president Levy Mwanawasa in 2008.

“Those who want the convention and are pressing that it should be held at all costs should resign and join political parties that will hold conventions soon, if any,” Banda told supporters in Kasama in northern Zambia.

“After all, we are two years away from the 2011 elections,” the state-run Times of Zambia newspaper quoted Banda as saying.

Lusaka-based analyst David Punabantu said the decision to bar potential challengers to Banda could make it harder to attract further investment in Zambia.

“The MMD has a Constitution and they have to follow that Constitution and hold the convention to elect new leaders when the time comes,” Punabantu told Reuters.

“If they don’t follow their Constitution, then foreign investors will get scared that these people can change any time even on agreements entered into with investors,” Punabantu said.

Banda said senior MMD members demanding that the party should quickly hold a convention to elect new leaders were not genuine members of the organisation.

“[They] are being used by our enemies to rise against us,” Banda said.

Former defence minister George Mpombo, who resigned in July from the Cabinet and as the chairperson of the MMD’s energy committee, said at the time that the NEC decision to block aspiring candidates from challenging Banda was undemocratic.

Mpombo has regularly criticised Banda’s policies.—Reuters

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