|May 24, 2006
Opposition leader Mazoka dies in South Africa
Zambian opposition leader and presidential contender Anderson Mazoka, 63, has died in a South African hospital. A spokesman for his United Party for National Development (UPND) said that Mazoka died of kidney complications, a week after Lusaka newspapers said he had been admitted to a Johannesburg hospital for a routine medical check-up.
Mazoka had lost narrowly to President Levy Mwanawasa in the 2001 presidential election when Frederick Chiluba stepped down after his final five-year term as president. He was expected to lead an opposition alliance challenging Mwanawasa in parliamentary and presidential elections later in 2006.
Mazoka's UPND, Nawakwi's Forum for Democracy and Development and founding President Kenneth Kaunda's United National Independence Party formed the National Democratic Forum alliance to oppose Mwanawasa and his Movement for Multiparty Democracy party in the elections, expected in the last quarter of 2006. Mazoka's sudden death has left a vacuum in his UPND and the UDA, which he was expected to lead in this year's elections. Former finance minister Edith Nawakwi's Forum for Democracy and Development, and the United National Independence Party of Tilyenji Kaunda are the other two parties in the alliance. The UPND holds 43 of the 150 seats in parliament, and it is not yet known whether leadership of the alliance will fall to acting UPND president Sakwiba Sikota, or pass to Nawakawi, who was tipped to run as Mazoka's deputy in the UDA. Sikota has called for calm and unity, saying: "President Mazoka's vision was an open secret ... as he envisaged a better Zambia for all - we would therefore be failing him if we went against his vision. His death has come to us as a shock and surprise."