Zambia opposition party moves to court to contest Banda’s parentage

Zambia's President Rupiah Banda. Photo/FILE

Zambia’s main opposition party has taken President Rupiah Banda’s alleged foreign parentage dispute to the Lusaka High Court, seeking an injunction to restrain him from standing as a presidential candidate in the next month’s elections.

In papers filed in the Lusaka High Court, the Patriotic Front (PF) of populist Michael Sata – the main challenger of President Banda in the September 20 polls – is demanding that the governing Movement for Multiparty Democracy (MMD) must not be allowed to sponsor the head of state as its presidential candidate because his father was not a Zambian citizen but a Malawian.

Through its secretary general, Wynter Kabimba - a lawyer, the PF sued MMD national secretary Major Richard Kachingwe, the Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ) and the Attorney General in its bid to prohibit President Banda from standing.

Zambia’s former High Commissioner to Malawi, Milton Phiri, recently claimed that President Banda’s father — the late Bwezani Banda — was a Malawian immigrant labourer who came to work in eastern Zambia.

President Banda, his family and a Malawian chief, including local chiefs have disputed reports that the head of state’s father was Malawian, insisting his mother was a Ngoni and father a Chewa – both from Zambia’s Eastern Province.

President Banda said his parents went to work in Zimbabwe where he was born 74 years ago.

MMD spokesperson Dora Siliya said the PF’s “political ploy” to bar President Banda from standing would not work, accusing Mr Sata of being scared of the election.

A former Republican Vice-President, Enoch Kavindele, said Mr Sata and his party were questioning President Banda’s parentage because “they know that Mr Banda has the support of the whole country and they want to sway support from him”.

A State House media statement said President Banda was surprised that the issue of his parents’ nationality had become very important now when the PF had been claiming that it would beat the MMD in the elections.

“Why are they scared to face President Banda in the elections scheduled for 20th September 2011? In 2008, President Banda filed his valid nomination and beat PF leader Michael Sata in the elections. Why did the PF keep quiet in 2008? Why do they want to block him from standing?” said presidential spokesperson Dickson Jere.

President Banda and his family is on record several times stating that his father and mother were Zambians, Mr Jere said.

“If his parents were not Zambians, why did the PF fail to raise this issue when President Banda was appointed Vice-President of Zambia by the late President Levy Mwanawasa (in 2006)? The Constitution of Zambia requires that the Vice-President should have the same qualifications as those of the President,” Mr Jere said.

Mr Jere said President Banda served Zambia as Ambassador to the UN, the US and Egypt as well as minister of foreign affairs among other senior Governor portfolios.

“All these years, no one has ever raised the issue of his parentage. So why the sudden interest now?” asked Mr Jere.