Zambia’s ruling party on Monday rebuked a senior member after saying it was time to begin the process of choosing a successor for stricken President Levy Mwanawasa.
While Mwanawasa is reported to be in a stable condition at the French hospital where he has been treated since a stroke on June 29, the opposition latched onto the comments by the Movement for Multi-Party Democracy’s (MMD) information chairperson Benny Tetamashimba as evidence that Zambia was in a state of paralysis.
“I am not saying he should be removed now, but the party should begin looking for a successor,” Tetamashimba, who is also deputy minister of works and supply said.
Tetamashimba is the first official to have spoken openly about the succession of the president since he suffered a stroke while attending a summit in Egypt.
In a bid to limit the fallout, Information Minister Mike Mulongoti said Tetamashimba was speaking in his personal capacity. “His views do not represent those of government,”
Top leaders had been reluctant to formally declare Mwanawasa incapable of performing his duties. If the president’s office was formally declared vacant, Banda would govern until a new president was elected. The vote would have to be held within 90 days.
Mwanawasa has been in an intensive care unit at Percy Military hospital near Paris after being flown to France following his stroke, the second suffered by the 59-year-old in a little over two years.
Leader of Zambia since 2001, Mwanawasa has won praise from the West for his outspoken criticism of his southern neighbour, Robert Mugabe.
Meanwhile, French ambassador to Zambia, Françoise Le Bihan, has assured the Government that Mwanawasa is receiving best medical treatment in Paris.
Ms Le Bihan said in Lusaka yesterday that doctors at Percy Military Hospital were attending to the president with due care.
She said during the celebration of her country’s national day that the doctors were giving Mwanawasa the best medical care at the medical institution of high standards.