Zambian Opposition Files Motion to Impeach President Lungu

(Bloomberg) -- Zambia’s main opposition party filed a motion in parliament to impeach President Edgar Lungu, saying he violated the constitution. His spokesman called the motion “defective” and said it will fail.

The proposal ratchets up tension in the southern African nation, where the political atmosphere has been volatile since United Party for National Development leader Hakainde Hichilema lost a disputed 2016 election to Lungu. It could threaten peace talks that the Commonwealth is leading. The motion will be debated March 28, Gary Nkombo, the UPND lawmaker who filed the motion, said by phone from the capital, Lusaka.

“The motion is defective and an act in desperation by an opposition that enjoys grandstanding for the sake of it,” Amos Chanda, Lungu’s spokesman, said in a mobile-phone text message on Friday. “The president has committed no offenses for which he can be impeached. The desperate action by the UPND is an exercise in futility and will end in an embarrassing failure.”

The UPND has the signatures of one-third of Zambia’s 167-member parliament who support the motion, according to the document. Zambia’s constitution requires the support of two-thirds of the National Assembly for such a proposal to succeed. The ruling Patriotic Front has 89 members, or 54 percent of the total, according to parliament’s website.

Chishimba Kambwili, a PF lawmaker who Lungu fired as information minister in November 2016, seconded the impeachment motion, the documents show. He was arrested Thursday on allegations including possessing money believed to be proceeds of crime, and later taken to a hospital in the capital with unidentified ailments.

Hichilema last year spent about four months in prison on treason charges for not pulling over his motorcade on a rural road for the president’s convoy. The charges were ultimately dropped, and Lungu lifted emergency measures that he had earlier imposed.

Some of the claims the UPND makes in the impeachment motion, for all of which Lungu’s representatives have previously denied any wrongdoing:

  • Lungu didn’t hand over power to the parliament’s speaker when Hichilema challenged the August 2016 election result, which the UPND says the constitution requires
  • He’s accused of interfering with the judiciary in November when he warned constitutional court judges over a pending ruling on whether he could run for a third term
  • Cabinet authorized the purchase of allegedly overpriced fire trucks and ambulances
  • His government is accused of taking on excessive debt the country can’t sustain

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