March 29, 2004

President cancels party polls due to corruption

President Levy Mwanawasa has cancelled elections for senior positions in his ruling Movement for Multiparty Democracy (MMD) party, saying that some leaders vying for positions are corrupt. Mwanawasa, who has made rooting out corruption in Zambia one of his major tasks, accused some MMD officials of frustrating his anti-graft fight. "We have suspended the elections for the position of (Copperbelt provincial) chairman because of corruption", the President said on state television. "The more we talk about corruption and the need to remove it, the more the people in the party engage in it...I am not amused."

In 2002 Mwanawasa launched Zambia's biggest anti-corruption crackdown since independence from Britain in 1964, targeting mainly his former mentor, ex-president Frederick Chiluba, and former senior government officials. He said he had evidence that some senior MWD officials in the country's vast Copperbelt province were corrupting delegates

to a local party conference in Ndola, 300 km (190 miles) north of Lusaka, in a bid to win elections. Three senior officials including a junior minister were vying for the position of Copperbelt chairman. Mwanawasa did not name the corrupt officials or say what action would be taken.

The MMD's local elections, which are being held throughout the country in March and April, select delegates to a national party convention later in the year at which Mwanawasa is expected to be reconfirmed as party chief. Political analysts say the effort to expel corrupt local party officials is part of Mwanawasa's drive to broaden his clean up of the MMD ahead of general elections expected in 2006. (Rts)


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