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Zambia’s opposition knows impeachment will fail. So what’s its game?

Zambia president Lungu. FILE PHOTO 

Lusaka, Zambia | AFRICAN ARGUMENTS | On 23 March, Zambia’s main opposition party filed a motion seeking the impeachment of President Edgar Lungu. The action was led by the United Party for National Development (UPND) party and backed by a third of MPs.

The ruling Patriotic Front (PF) immediately derided the move. Presidential spokesperson Amos Chanda dismissed it as being destined for failure, noting that the opposition would never get the two-thirds majority in Parliament needed for it to succeed.

In the National Assembly, Deputy Speaker Catherine Namugala recognised that the UPND had complied with the formal requirements for proceedings thus far. But she declined to table the motion before Parliament adjourned on 29 March, saying that the “Constitution does not give a timeframe within which an impeachment motion must be tabled”. The opposition accused her of working with the PF to obstruct their attempt to unseat Lungu.

What this means is that the motion is likely to be tabled in the next siting of Parliament scheduled for June.

Many in Zambia see merit in the opposition’s claims, and the UPND has complied with the law in filing its motion. But the next battle will be to persuade two-thirds of MPs to support it. That will almost certainly be a bridge too far.

Zambia’s National Assembly has 166 lawmakers. 89 (54%) belong to the ruling PF. 63 (38%) belong to opposition parties, of which 58 (35%) are with the UPND. The remaining 14 (8%) are independents. To get a two-thirds majority, the motion would need at least 111 MPs to vote in favour.

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