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ZAMBIA: Lungu’s authoritarianism now turns to opponents within

President Edgar Lungu (left) with the expelled Chishimba Kambwili (right).

The ruling Patriotic Front’s expulsion of one of its founding members paves the way for President Lungu to be its presidential candidate. But they’d be wrong to think they’ve seen the end of Chishimba Kambwili.

Lusaka, Zambia| AFRICAN ARGUMENTS | Last week, Chishimba Kambwili MP, an ambitious firebrand and possible presidential aspirant, was expelled from the ruling Patriotic Front (PF), a party he had helped found 16 years previously.

PF Secretary-General Davies Mwila claimed that the Central Committee’s 22 July decision to dismiss the former Information Minister followed his covert attempts to destabilise the party. He dared Kambwili not to challenge his dismissal in court but rather to test his popularity in a by-election.

At the time of publication, however, unconfirmed reports in the local press suggest Kambwili has begun a legal challenge. If he were to win, he would keep his parliamentary seat, either on the PF ticket or as an independent if he chose to resign from the party. If he were to lose, a by-election would be held within 90 days of the vacancy.

Before his dismissal, Kambwili, 48, had been a party stalwart. A former scrap metal dealer, he was a founding member of the PF in 2001 and one of party leader Michael Sata’s close associates. In 2006, he was elected on a PF ticket as the MP for Roan, an urban constituency on the politically-important industrial Copperbelt. In recent years, he has cultivated a reputation for being outspoken, winning him considerable popularity in the urban centres of the capital Lusaka and on the Copperbelt.

Kambwili recently indicated that he would consider running for the presidency in 2021. President Edgar Lungu has also unexpectedly declared his intention to seek another term in office. It was likely the incumbent’s ambitions that led to his former colleague’s expulsion, though the president would be wrong to think the matter is now settled.

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