from ARNOLD MULENGA in Lusaka, Zambia
LUSAKA, (CAJ News) – DESPITE assertions of democratic backsliding in Zambia under the new government, the country’s biggest opposition, which also is the immediate past ruling party, will have itself to blame if it is deregistered by authorities.
The Patriotic Front (PF), in power since 2011 before its defeat by the United Party for National Development (UPND) in 2021, has failed to put its house in order since the electoral loss.
Instead of rejuvenating its structures and leadership, PF has channeled its energy to criticising the government of President Haikande Hichilema and how he will not last a single term, as economic challenges soar in the debt-laden Southern African country.
However, it is the PF whose future in Zambia’s political landscape is hanging by a thread, amid a threat to deregister it for flouting the country’s registration laws.
Infighting in the wake of the defeat of Edgar Lungu by Hichilema has exacerbated the party’s woes.
PF is on the brink of deregistration by the Registrar of Societies following its failure to comply with a law compelling political parties to avail to the regulatory authority to avail ten officer bearers of the party.
Lungu abruptly quit his post at the party and active politics following his defeat. Davies Mwila also resigned as Secretary General. Samuel Ngonga Mukupa resigned as Chairman.
Since then, a provisional executive led by acting president, Given Lubinda, has run the party.
There have been pledges of elections but dates have never been set, nine months after the party received nominations.
The Registrar of Societies, which falls under the Home Affairs ministry, initially gave PF 21 days to comply, followed by another 14 days and another seven, which elapsed on Monday.
This past weekend, the factionalised PF held a Central Committee Meeting in the capital Lusaka.
The party reported it had made “significant progress” on the preparations for the holding of the legislative conference and the Extra-Ordinary general conference from which substantive leaders will be elected.
The Central Committee argued ongoing cases in the courts of law were holding back the elective conference.
The meeting also considered matters regarding some senior leaders facing disciplinary action, which included the case of Member of Parliament, Robert Chabinga.
He has broken ranks with colleagues by pledging his support for Hichilema.
“The Central Committee has since encouraged party structures and general members to remain steadfast and continue promoting the unity of purpose and the party’s interests,” said Nickson Chilangwa, PF Deputy Secretary General.
To add to the infighting, Miles Sampa, one of the eight individuals aspiring for the presidency, has denounced the meeting in Lusaka as illegal.
Sampa argued that according to the PF constitution, only the Secretary General can call a central committee meeting.
“In this social and not official meeting they can appoint or re-appoint themselves onto as many positions as they wish but they are of no material relevance and illegal according to the PF constitution,” he said.
“This meeting conveners and attendees also border on active contempt of court cases and will consult my lawyers on the possibility of adding other names to the list awaiting adjudication by the judge,” Sampa added.
He has previously been suspended by the party for his outspokenness.
“Our immediate focus should be to seek leniency with the Minister of Home Affairs and Internal Security so he does not de-register PF from our own negligence of delaying for two years the holding of elections to choose new office bearers,” Sampa added.
He revealed he had written to Home Affairs minister, Jack Mwiimbu, seeking his leniency. PF has 60 seats out of 167 in the House of Assembly.
Chabinga and Sampa are regarded as renegades within the party.
The centre-left PF was formed in 2001 as a breakaway from the Movement for Multiparty Democracy (MMD), which under the now late Frederick Chiluba, ended the reign of Zambia’s founding president, Kenneth Kaunda (deceased), who was at the helm from 1964 to 1991.
– CAJ News