Kaunda sides with opposition as minister is assaulted

The 81-year-old freedom fighter and pan-Africanist last week did not mince his words about his political preferences when he urged Zambians to support an opposition coalition, United Democratic Alliance (UDA) failure to which they should as well leave the country. Addressing scores of mourners at the late UDA leader Anderson Mazoka’s funeral on Monday Kaunda said all Zambians should rally behind the opposition coalition if they were to attain economic liberation. He said this during Mazoka’s burial who was interned at a plush ranch in Lusaka. “Just like you turned out in large numbers at the airport, at church and here, such should be the support that Zambians should show to the UDA. If we allow elections in Zambia to be rigged, we would have been wasting Mazoka’s time, I am wearing a UDA badge to reaffirm that its formation is the right thing for Zambia. If you don’t follow the path of UDA, you must leave Zambia,” said Kaunda. While those in favour of the alliance were charmed by Kaunda’s remarks the ruling Movement for Multiparty Democracy (MMD) did not take the matter lightly and immediately took a swipe at the “old man” who is now a devout HIV and AIDS activist. MMD spokesperson Benny Tentamashimba said Kaunda as a founding father should have remained neutral and not got involved in partisan politics. He accused Kaunda of living in the old era of one-party politics. “I feel sorry for Dr Kaunda, maybe he thinks we are still in a one party state. In which year is he living in? May be if it was 20 years ago, it would have been appropriate for him to make such a statement,” Tentamashimba was quoted by the official Zambia Daily Mail on Thursday as saying. During the run-up to the 2001 polls Kaunda caused an uproar within the ruling MMD and government circles when he openly announced that he would rather Mazoka or his son Tilyenji be voted into power instead of Mwanawasa. Many believe Kaunda could have made such remarks emotionally because of the funeral while others think it was because he still feels for United National Independence Party (UNIP) the party he led from Independence in 1964 until his exit in1991. UNIP is headed by Kaunda’s son Tilyenji and is part of the UDA coalition. The other parties in the UDA include the late Mazoka’s United Party for National Development (UPND) and Forum for Democracy and Development (FDD). In a related incident, Zambia’s Information and Broadcasting minister Vernon Mwaanga was beaten as he announced that government was considering giving Mazoka a State funeral. Mwaanga’s official car was smashed by the irate UPND supporters who claimed their leader was poisoned by state operatives in order to clear him from the political scenario since he was the major threat to President Levy Mwanawasa who in 2001 beat him by a small margin. No one has proof that Mazoka could have been poisoned. During the funeral sporadic fights were reported between groups of people with opposing views. While acting UPND president Sakwiba Sikota has called for calm among party members signs of a split looming within the UPND and UDA are clear. Last week Southern Province where Mazoka came from resolved that his widow Mutinta be appointed leader. It is also not known who might take the leadership of the alliance. FDD leader Edith Nawakwi who was likely to contest UDA leadership against Mazoka at the alliance convention slated for some time next month is the possible person to take over. However Nawakwi has no blessing from UNIP whose leader Tilyenji Kaunda openly supported Mazoka as the one to challenge Mwanawasa in the elections to be held later this year. Analysts say Kaunda Jnr might take advantage of the UDA leadership vacuum and decide to test the waters himself.

June 2006
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