Zambia: Government Deregisters Former Ruling Party

Zambia’s biggest opposition party, the Movement for Multi-Party Democracy (MMD) which was ousted from power by the Patriotic Front (PF) after the September 2011 elections after 20 years in power, was on March 14, 2012, deregistered by authorities for allegedly not paying statutory fees for the period it was in government now amounting to over  K 300,000,000 or USD 57,034.22.

Registrar of Societies, Clement Andeleki, a known PF cadre who once appeared in court for allegedly forging a letter in the name of the late President Levy Mwanawasa, first threatened to deregister the former ruling party a week earlier but changed his mind. Immediately after the deregistration was announced, the MMD filed an injunction to stop the deregistration of the party which has just over 50 members of parliament, nearly a third of the 158 member legislative assembly.

Ironically, President Michael Sata served as MMD national secretary, the party's chief executive officer, between 1995 and 2001 when he left the then ruling party to form PF.

MMD logo. Image courtesy of Lusaka Times.

MMD logo. Image courtesy of Lusaka Times.

Netizens on various social media networks did not take kindly to the news of MMD's deregistration whose party leader and former republican president Rupiah Banda, coincidentally, stepped down on the day the action was taken.

On the Zambian People’s Parliament Facebook group page, one of the questions that was asked was the issue of by-elections that would inevitably follow after the deregistration of the opposition party.

Jude Moraes wrote:

Mr Speaker Sir, Now that the Registra of societies has de-registered the MMD what happens to all the MP's on the MMD ticket? Are we going for a 55 Bye elections?

An MMD member of parliament on Facebook, Moses Muteteka wrote:

Let me assure zambians that the deregistration of MMD is a failed coup and legally its a non startter hence relax and all is safe MMD will continue participating democratically.

On the 90 days (Government thumbs up/down every 90 days) Facebook group Kelvin Kings Mulembe lamented the deterioration of democracy, saying:

It's a “Sad Day” for Zambia and democracy in Africa! whether politically motivated or not, such a move stinks and does not register well in our country's history. I am afraid, Zambia is quickly losing its position as an example of a promising democracy in Africa. This is very disappointing. One foolish man is to blame for all this. And, I can't blame a simple Registrar.

Nicholas Mutalama, however, blamed the MMD for its predicament:

Where has this society been in the last 20yrs? Let's call a spade a spade… MMD used is political influence and ignored the fees and the registrar obviously did not want to bite the finger that fed him…okay! Now that the tables have switched round, the same registrars office is doing this to serve it's current master except only this, Pf has influenced this initiative to be the only Political Party standing! This is a sad day for Zambia and we are going to need more than a miracle to survive….!?!

On the Lusaka Times, some of the reactions were as follows:

Mphangwe wrote:

THIS REFLECTS AN OFFICIAL RETURN TO A ONE-PARTY-STATE. If this development is badly handled or mismanaged, the ensuing political events may lead to the dissolution of Parliamen,t in which case Sata will have to seek a fresh mandate to retain his Republican Presidency in Zambia. The best Legal Constitutional brains are needed to resolve this self-inflicted suicide by the PF govt. The workers murmurs will precipitate loud protests. Hence the doctrine of “DONCHI KUBEBA [Don't tell them, a PF pre-election slogan]” may also be applied by other parties to inflict negative results for the PF. GOD HEAR OUR PRAYERS.

Another contributor, GUNDIX wrote:

Why are you people complaining? What are laws for? MMD made fun of laws they were supposed to have safeguarded.

When I was a pastor in a small rural Zambia, my congregation prepared and remitted annual returns to the Registrar’s Office. Why should a huge body of people, let alone a ruling political party not be exemplary by adhering to the laws of the country?

They had it coming. The rule of law must be promoted by all Zambians whose interest is national development, which the rule of law guarantees. If this is unacceptable to some, why do we even bother to talk about a new Constitution? So that after it is written we can ignore it?

Come people, let us get serious!

On Facebook Brian Matambo wrote:

MMD blues… well, I dont believe it will be a one party state. First we are not fools just because we are Zambians. Secondly, there is NAREP, UNIP, UPND, Heritage, and Magande's party whatever its called.. and many others out there. To me MMD is expendable. If they can't even lawfully exist, they don't deserve to exist anyway.

On Twitter, Zambians also expressed various views:

@ErasmusMweene: Our economy has just been downgraded to B-minus. Do we have the money to hold 53 by-elections? #PF #MMD #Zambia.

On concerns that the PF government wanted to create a one-party state, one tweep wrote:

@livilodge: @missbwalya #Zambia I have lived here for more than 30 years, almost all of that time it has been a defacto one party state #whatdemocracy?

This was after one tweep mourned the potential demise of democracy in the country:

@missbwalya: Our democracy is on shaky ground if MMD de-registration is upheld after appeals. #Zambia

The MMD won Zambia's first multi-party elections for parliament and the presidency since the 1960s. The party controlled an absolute majority in parliament between 1991 and 2001.

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