Lungu flexes muscle, sacks minister

> Staff Reporter

LUSAKA– AFTER securing himself a new term in August, Zambian President Edgar Lungu has felt himself emboldened enough to take tough decisions.

Zambia is still digesting the November 8 sacking of Information Minister Chishimba Kambwili, who previously challenged Lungu for the leadership of the Patriotic Front after President Michael Sata died suddenly in 2014.

Kambwili, the Member of Parliament for Roan in the Copperbelt, lost his challenge as Lungu went on to win the party nomination and a snap national election.

The new President appointed Kambwili as Information Minister, before retaining him in the same position after winning a five-year term in August.

But with reports that Kambwili was building a personal fiefdom in the Copperbelt lining up another challenge for the PF presidency, a campaign which involved alleged irregular parcelling out of land, Lungu moved quickly to re-establish his authority.

A brief Presidency statement did not state the reasons for the move, coming after September’s Cabinet appointments. The statement said Kambwili’s “services have been terminated with immediate effect” while announcing Kampamba Mulenga as the new Minister of Information and Broadcasting Services.

President Lungu “encouraged the new minister to serve diligently and with high levels of integrity as she takes up this important role”, the statement added.

Zambia’s anti-graft agency offered another clue, after it announced that it had opened an investigation against Kambwili on suspicion of corruption.

“There has been an inquiry against Hon Kambwili on allegations of corrupt practices,” said the Anti-Corruption Commission spokesman, Timothy Moono, in a brief statement.

It is not uncommon in Zambia for officials removed from office to be placed under investigation. Most of the investigations collapse, however, most notably the six-year corruption trial of former President Frederick Chiluba in 2009.

Lungu, a lawyer, has set tackling corruption and fixing Zambia’s economy as the key priorities of his administration – and it appears he will not accept challenges to his authority.

There are whispers in Zambia that Lungu may seek to extend his term to seven years instead of five.

This would require a change of constitution, however, and few in Zambia have an appetite for participating in a divisive constitutional amendment.

At some point, Kambwili will blow up

By Peter Adamu

CHISHIMBA Kambwili has uncharacteristically stayed calm in the wake of his dismissal by President Edgar Lungu.

Anybody who knows Kambwili knows that it is only a matter of time before the outspoken politician blows up. Some among the more youthful political followers reckon “the bally has zero chill”.

There is no public attack at the ruling Patriotic Front in the recent past that Kambwili has not heaved his body into. So combat-eager he is that when the attacks against the ruling party in the run up to the August 11 elections were increasing, he bulldozed his way at privately owned Radio Phoenix and bullied presenter Christine Ngwisha throughout the programme.

In November 2014, at the height of the PF wrangles for the successor of President Michael Sata, Kambwili stormed ZNBC to protest coverage of the wrangles.

In parliament, even when it has been unnecessary, Kambwili has often been one to throw his body in the line of fire.

So could this be the calm before the storm for the outspoken lawmaker?

He put through a composed statement online in the aftermath of his dismissal and has thus far stayed clear of controversy instead only dropping measured responses to various media organisations. So far he has been ridding himself of suspicion that he was the lead actor in the ensemble of corrupt ministers that President Lungu wanted dismissed.

With his silence has emerged fresh information that the Anti-Corruption Commission are knocking on his door to investigate possible allegations of corruption with his properties beginning to be splashed in the media.

He has also not cleared the air on allegations that he masterminded the booing of Vice President Inonge Wina last weekend as she attempted to calm the maelstrom stirred by Copperbelt Minister Bowman Lusambo over illegal land allocations.

Kambwili also reportedly stormed out of a meeting that was instigated to clear the air on his role in the Copperbelt confusion where he had presented himself as the messiah of the party functionaries seeking to share land illegally. He emerged as the courier of popular party feeling on the Copperbelt, albeit against Lungu’s wishes.

When all this came to the fore, Kambwili stealthily threw veiled missiles at President Lungu that he had sent the dismissal through the media.

So what now for a man who has relentlessly bullied his way through the airwaves in the last few years at the helm of the ministerial portfolio? Can he lie low? Or is there any merit in the grapevine that a new political party is in the pipeline by the PF’s long time infant terrible?

Otherwise, be sure to hear from ‘Imbwili’ (Cheetah) very soon.

At least if he has not shed off his political DNA.

November 2016
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