By XAVIER MANCHISHI, SYLVESTER MWALE AND SYLVIA MWEETWA –
DEFENCE Minister Edgar Lungu has been declared new president of the ruling Patriotic Front (PF) after going through unopposed at the party general conference in Kabwe yesterday.
Mr Lungu, who is also Justice Minister, was declared winner at 17:30 hours after other eight candidates could not show up or present the required 200 supporters when their names were called by returning officer Tutwa Ngulube.
The returning officer had hardly finished announcing the outcome when jubilating supporters of Mr Lungu broke into song while the new party president was whisked away in a waiting vehicle.
The voting was preceded by a national council meeting in the morning, which is the second most supreme organ before the general conference.
The council agreed to declare the position of party president vacant, in readiness for the elections at the general conference.
National council chairperson Inonge Wina declared the office of the president vacant before announcing that the party was going ahead with the election to elect a new leader who would represent the PF in the presidential by-election set for January 20, 2015.
“I declare the position of our late party president (Michael Sata) vacant,” said PF national chairperson Inonge Wina amid wild celebrations at the fully-packed shelter of the Mulungushi Rock of Authority where the conference is being held.
Ms Wina announced at 16:00 hours that the national council, which is the party’s supreme body, had resolved after a meeting in the morning to go ahead with the elections.
The announcement came despite the earlier declaration by Acting President Guy Scott that all delegates would have to ensure that they underwent a fresh accreditation at a private house in town amid disapproval from the delegates at the venue.
Ms Wina and Home Affairs Minister Ngosa Simbyakula, who is also party chairperson for justice, had earlier gone to invite Dr Scott to attend the general conference but the Acting President, who was at the presidential guest house, is said to have objected.
The extraordinary national council, which was held at Mulungushi University, was composed of majority PF MPs, provincial and district chairpersons, district secretaries and other leaders at lower levels.
“After an exhaustive meeting attended by representatives of all the 10 provinces of Zambia, and chaired by myself, we made the following decisions: That the national council read out names of all the nine candidates that have shown interest in the position of president of the PF.
“Honourable Edgar Lungu was named as a preferred candidate for adoption at the general conference after a unanimous decision by the gathered delegates from all the 10 provinces,” said Ms Wina before reading out all the names of the candidates.
Although the national council had endorsed Mr Lungu, it resolved that all aspiring candidates would be given an opportunity to take part, to uphold democratic tenets.
Ms Wina said the delegates had gone through suffering because of the love of the party and it was important the elections were conducted so that they could return home.
She said the party had followed the party constitution and urged the delegates to equally adhere to the party constitution during the voting.
Ms Wina later invited returning officer Tutwa Ngulube to take over the proceedings before the delegates broke into groups, according to their provinces to identify the eligible individuals to cast the vote.
But the process was disrupted with the arrival of Chongwe MP Sylvia Masebo, the party’s chairperson for elections, with heavy police escort in GRZ pickups and Land Cruisers.
Ms Masebo proceeded to the microphone to announce that the election process which was going on was null and void but only ended up irritating the gathering that descended on her.
She was, however, whisked away by the police before peace returned and the process went on resulting in the declaration of Mr Lungu unopposed for the presidency.