THE rift tearing the ruling Patriotic Front party apart over who succeeds President Michael Sata deepened yesterday as two parliamentarians clashed, with one accusing the other of serving the interests of those who want to hijack the party and its leadership.
Chililabombwe MP Esther Banda has lashed out at her Kankoyo counterpart Levy Chabala for claiming that Copperbelt PF parliamentarians would not allow Sports Minister Chishimba Kambwili to allegedly take over from Mr Sata.
Mr Chabala was quoted by a media house as saying he was speaking on behalf of all Copperbelt PF MPs who allegedly vowed they would not allow Mr Kambwili to bring confusion in the party.
The rift has been fuelled by the cartel that almost hijacked the leadership of PF and has since embarked on a sustained crusade to scandalize and demonise leaders and party members perceived to be loyal to President Sata.
The battle for dominance of the ruling party has widened since the sacking of former justice minister and PF secretary general Wynter Kabimba by President Sata three weeks ago.
Ms Banda has charged that President Sata saved the ruling party and the country from being hijacked by the cartel that had strongly positioned itself to grab State power by manipulating the presidency.
Ms Banda accused Mr Kabimba of having created parallel structures in her constituency thereby causing divisions and confusion.
She said Mr Chabala was “talking on behalf of the cartel” by insinuating that Mr Kambwili was causing confusion and that he (Kambwili) should be expelled from the PF.
Ms Banda told the Daily Nation yesterday that Mr Chabala did not consult other MPs on the Copperbelt over his statement against Mr Kambwili and could therefore not claim to have been representing the parliamentarians in the region.
She rubbished media reports purporting that Mr Kambwili was harbouring presidential ambitions.
She said Mr Chabala was one of the MPs on the Copperbelt who was “deeply conflicted”.
Ms Banda said the party on the Copperbelt was aware that some MPs were loyal to Mr Kabimba and that his sacking from government and party position had angered many who were allegedly propping the former Justice Minister for presidency.
She said by defending Mr Kambwili, she was not in any way supporting his ambitions if there were any but putting the record straight.
“Let me make it very clear that Mr Chabala is speaking on behalf of the clique that was scheming to hijack the leadership of the PF and that of the nation and I am happy President Sata realized and saved our party from being hijacked. Mr Chabala is an ardent supporter of Mr Kabimba and he did not consult other MPs on the Copperbelt and he cannot claim to be representing us. Those attacking Mr Kambwili are doing so to alienate him from President Sata and government. By saying so, it must not be misunderstood that I support his ambitions if has any,” Ms Banda said.
She said the leadership in the PF must know that President Sata was in-charge of the affairs of the PF and the country and should never be detracted by cheap succession talk.
She hoped that the assertions that Mr Kambwili had launched his presidential campaigns to take over from President Sata were nothing but cheap and malicious gossip that should be ignored with contempt.
Ms Banda said Mr Chabala was the one causing confusion in the party by publicly attacking a Member of Parliament and a Minister in President Sata’s government.
She advised that all the leaders with presidential ambitions in the PF should wait until after President Sata had served his full two terms as Zambians were ready to renew his mandate so that he could continue governing the country.
“Mr Kambwili is a good and faithful member of the PF and I do not think he would be that ambitious as to betray the President. I am close to him and he has never told anyone that he would want to take up the leadership of the PF and later on the country. Mr Chabala should be talking about himself and his clique instead of claiming that he is representing us in his misguided statement,” Ms Banda said.
Mr Chabala was quoted in a newspaper yesterday as saying: “I know Kambwili has been a problem to us MPs on the Copperbelt. Kambwili must be chased from the party for bringing confusion to the party because of his ambitious. He fought Wynter Kabimba and accused him of campaigning. So even him he must leave because we want to organize the party.”