The appointment of Patriotic Front Secretary General Wynter Kabimba as Acting President while the head of state is out of the country is being questioned by some senior party officials as possibly illegal and unconstitutional, following revelations that President Michael Sata was not conscious at the time of his departure.
According to sources interviewed in Lusaka, a number of senior PF members are concerned by what they see as a “coup” within the party following President Sata falling ill and being evacuated to Israel for treatment. Finance Minister Alexander Chikwanda, who usually performs the role of Acting President when Sata travels, was not even informed of the evacuation, while Defence Minister Edgar Lungu was also left on the sidelines.
Sources tell Zambia Reports that President Sata’s thumbprint was used to sign the order making Kabimba Acting President, which would be illegal and unconstitutional, as under Article 39 of the Constitution, if the head of state is incapacitated, the Vice President (in this case, Guy Scott) is the default Acting President. Any other Acting President would require parliamentary approval.
President Sata’s communications team led by George Chellah appears to be acting fully in service of Kabimba, issuing campaign-like statements, which has upset many PF members.
“The Patriotic Front has been hijacked, and there are plans to fight back,” the source said. “What is happening is a coup – a power grab – by the cartel, with Kabimba as the front, supported by Fred M’membe, Mutembo Nchito, and Rajan Mahtani. But the party grassroots and veteran leadership won’t stand for it – they are very upset and uncomfortable with Kabimba’s opportunistic power grab in light of the president’s condition.”
Since departing for Israel, President Sata’s condition has been shrouded in secrecy and unconfirmed rumours, including suggestions that he had slipped into a coma on Saturday, while his son, Lusaka Mayor Mulenga Sata, had reportedly flown to Israel via Dubai this weekend.
“If President Sata were even minimally well enough to stand or speak, we would have seen a photograph by now to quash all the panic and rumours,” the source said. “But the fact that we have not yet seen any image indicates that the situation is very grave, and that’s why PF members are so upset with Kabimba’s power grab.”