Zambia in search for leader: former first ladies enter the arena
Lusaka – Zambia’s planned presidential by-election in the aftermath of President Michael Sata’s death last month has opened doors to personalities of sorts, who have joined the fray to replace the late statesman, including Levy Mwanawasa’s widow, Maureen, who is siding with the opposition.
Widowed six years ago following the death of her husband in August 2008, Maureen says her return to politics to back United Party for National Development (UPND) president Hakainde Hichilema should not be taken lightly.
Maureen, a lawyer by profession, has offered to campaign alongside the opposition leader and ensure Zambia elects a new leader as opposed to the old crop that has led the country in the past 50 years.
“I have stayed away from politics for six years and my coming back means business. I want to be one of the chief campaigners for UPND leader Hakainde Hichilema, who I believe is the man to lead this country up to 2016 and beyond,” she said.
In a media statement, Maureen endorsed the candidature of Hichilema, who is perceived a strong contender for the presidency in view of the infighting in the ruling Patriotic Front (PF).
According to the former first lady, Hichilema is youthful and has demonstrated that he could run the country better.
Her statement comes as late president Michael Sata’s widow, Christine Kasemba-Sata has offered to take over the leadership of the ruling party after the demise of her husband last month, saying that she was doing so to protect the legacy of the former head of state.
However, unconfirmed reports indicate that Democratic Republic of Congo’s Lubumbashi governor, Moses Katumbi, has thrown his weight behind Kasemba-Sata to assist her secure the Presidency of PF and subsequently win the January 20, 2015, polls.
Although there is no immediate confirmation from Sata’s widow, observers contend that she was unlikely to win the candidature at the party convention this weekend (November 29).
Another female candidate vying for the Zambian presidency is former finance minister, Edith Nawakwi, of the Forum for Democracy and Development (FDD).
The electoral commission, which has budgeted US$57 million for the poll, says it is ready to conduct the elections despite the intense rainfall expected in the country in the coming months.
Prior to the convention , the ruling PF was yet to decide on the future of the party and would-be presidential candidate, although a random survey revealed that current defence, justice minister and party secretary-general Edgar Lungu was tipped to take over the leadership.
Many eligible voters, including the PF’s youth wing, have endorsed Lungu saying he was the likeable of all would-be candidates, in the ruling party, which has seen 10 candidates emerge for the party’s top seat, as well as the country’s presidency.