Mwanawasa's potential challenger shut out

Lusaka- Zambia (PANA) -- Zambia's ruling Movement for Multi-Party Democracy (MMD) has expelled businessman Austin Chewe from the party because he was perceived as a leading contender to President Levy Mwanawasa's candidacy for the 2006 general elections.
In addition, the party has deleted the election for the position of party vice-president at its forthcoming national convention, MMD spokesperson Akashambatwa Mbikusita-Lewanika, said in Lusaka Sunday night after a marathon national executive committee of the MMD.
Apart from expelling Chewe, a self-made businessman who retired from the Zambia Army a few years ago at the rank of captain, the ruling party has also ordered its national secretary, Vernon Mwaanga, to return to Chewe a vehicle given to him by the former army captain.
The MMD executive committee opened its house-cleaning Saturday morning but after more than 12 hours of inconclusive deliberations, the meeting was adjourned to Sunday where final decisions were only reached late in the evening.
Chewe, whose business interests include semi-precious mines in the Eastern Province of Zambia, raised eyebrows when he unwittingly revealed that he had placed more than 100 vehicles for his vice-presidency campaign.
He then followed this up with widely publicised donations of blankets for ill-supplied rural government clinics and hospitals in various parts of Zambia as well as sports equipment and uniforms to hard pressed rural government schools.
As it became obvious that Chewe was a front-runner for the position of MMD vice-president, who was enjoying the full support of Mwaanga and the all powerful veteran politician, Daniel Munkombwe, who has been spearheading the resurgence of the ruling party in Southern Province, where the opposition United Party for National Development (UPND) is holding firm, current Zambian vice-president Lupando Mwape, an appointee of Mwanawasa, cried foul against Chewe.
In the announced measures, the MMD will not hold elections for the position of vice-president and all the other four men who had set their eyes on the prized title, have now been advised to contest other positions, as election of the VP position will remain "frozen" for some time to come.
"Since the position of vice-president has been frozen, people who were contesting this position are now free to vie for other posts as long as they have no disciplinary cases pending against them," Mbikusita- Lewanika declared.
What scared Mwanawasa most about Chewe's candidature were reports that had begun to circulate that he intended to ambush him at the convention by suddenly announcing that he would stand for the position of MMD party president.
Chewe might not be a popular politician nationally but he holds a trump card in the sense that he comes from the Northern Province, where a lot of resentment has built up over the past four years, with many there accusing Mwanawasa of having betrayed the trust of the Northerners after they risked all by engaging in electoral malpractice that won Mwanawasa the election after most regions had allegedly abandoned him.
It is for this reason that apart from former vice- president, Enoch Kavindele -- who comes from North-Western Province -- the four other men contesting the MMD vice- presidency, who include VP Mwape himself, are from the Northern Province.
The move, according to political analysts, was tactical, for they all know that Mwanawasa has only one more five-year term remaining for him to continue as president of Zambia and come 2011, the vice-president will be his natural successor.

11 Julho 2005 11:20:00

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