The death of Zambia's main opposition leader, Anderson Mazoka, in May has left the newly formed opposition alliance in disarray. Not only did the bombshell drop when the alliance was gearing up for this year's elections, but also his succession threatens to rip apart the party Mazoka formed eight years ago.
In March, three parties--the United Party for National Development (UPND) hitherto led by Mazoka; the Forum for Democracy and Development (FDD) of former finance minister, Edith Nawakwi; and the former ruling party, the United National Independence Party (UNIP) headed by Tilyenji Kaunda, the former president's son--came together to form the United Democratic Alliance (UDA). The three had agreed on Mazoka as their presidential candidate, and, assuming they won, Nawakwi would be vice president while Kaunda was expected to get the defence and finance portfolios until the constitution was changed to accommodate two vice presidents.
But Mazoka's death from kidney complications in May came as a huge setback. The wrangles in the UPND over Mazoka's succession are not helping matters. Some factions from the Tonga ethnic group from the south of the country where Mazoka hailed from, are insisting that his successor should only be a Tonga. They argue that the party in the past adopted a tradition that if a member of its supreme decision-making body resigned or died, someone from his or her ethnic group would fill the vacancy. They are wondering why goalposts should now shift.
Interestingly, some southerners are asking Mazoka's widow, Mutinta, to succeed her husband. The only touch of politics she has was accompanying her husband to campaign rallies. So heated is Mazoka's succession debate that a day after his death some party cadres in the south--the party's stronghold--threatened to burn their newly acquired voters' cards, claiming that an election without Mazoka was not worth it as they saw no credible replacement for the late opposition figure. The more bizarre is their warning that if the widow was not chosen, they would, on polling day, cast their ballot on Mazoka's grave.
Officially, the party has distanced itself from the succession battle, saying those discussing it are only expressing personal opinions as the party has not even tabled the matter. At the time of going to press, the...