Africa, Headlines

ZAMBIA-POLITICS: Kaunda’s Comeback Finally Over

Joe Chilaizya

LUSAKA, May 16 1996 (IPS) - An overwhelming vote in favour of a controversial draft constitution by Zambia’s parliament has finally derailed former President Kenneth Kaunda’s comeback express.

Kaunda’s hopes of contesting October’s presidential elections are dashed by a clause in the constitution passed in its second reading Wednesday which bars all citizens whose parents are not born in Zambia from standing. Kaunda’s parents were migrant missionaries from Malawi who settled in Zambia in the 1920s.

“It is finished! Twashika (we’ve buried), Kaunda yamana (Kaunda is finished)!” ruling Movement for Multiparty Democracy (MMD) MPs chanted as they walked back into the house after voting.

The constitution bill was passed by 121 votes, with two against. The main opposition United National Independence Party (UNIP) had walked out of the chamber before the vote — their fifth walkout in a week of debate over the bill.

The only MMD conscientious objectors — conspicuously absent at the vote — were Simon Zukas, who resigned from cabinet just last week over the draft which he feels is discriminatory, and Dipak Patel who quit in February over the same issue.

Patel, a former commerce minister, described the MMD victory as “hollow”.

“We can’t simply debate among ourselves and think we have obtained national consensus. What are we rushing this thing for? It is discriminating against its own citizens by virtue of the location of birth,” he said.

MMD colleague and MP, Ntondo Chindoloma, contemptiously dismissed Patel’s concerns.

“What do you expect from a person who was a Canadian citizen just a few years ago. Kaunda is history and many more of his fellow foreigners,” he told IPS.

“Look at the dissenting MMD MPs. One is a Zambian of Lithuanian origin (Zukas) and the other was until just three years ago a Canadian. They are just trying to protect their selfish interests.”

The British government, whose opposition to the draft document resulted in diplomatic hostilities, again came in for flak. Leader of the House, Vice-President Godfrey Miyanda, accused colonialism of imposing “Kenneth Kaunda on Zambia” and demanded an apology from her Majesty’s government.

“Britain should say sorry, but they are instead demanding that we perpetuate this wrong status quo. We were told that if we do not allow one man to stand they will withhold 10 million pounds pledged to Zambia,” Miyanda said in an address to the House.

Britain has frozen 10 million of the 20 million pounds pledged in balance of payments support because of the government’s delay over the privatisation of the Zambia Consolidated Copper Mines and the adoption of the constitution.

The new mood of xenophobia in Zambia has reached the point where Miyanda has urged that only indigenous Zambians — in other words blacks — should have cabinet rank.

“Why the racism, why the intolerance? Where are our ideals?,” lamented a despairing Patel.

Meanwhile, the bill is inching closer to signing into law by President Frederick Chiluba. It will pass through the committee stage before its third and final reading Friday.

On that day Kaunda takes off on a visit to Canada, flying out of a country he led to independence in 1964 and ruled for 27-years before a crushing electoral defeat in 1991.

Even with him at the head of the opposition, Chiluba, a former trade union leader, held most of the cards in October’s election. Without Kaunda, the result is widely regarded as a foregone conclusion.

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