Divisions have emerged in the FDD, as some officials are calling for the expulsion of president Edith Nawakwi on grounds that she is using the name of the party to advance a personal agenda, in relation to her stance against a fellow opposition leader Hakainde Hichilema of the UPND.

Meanwhile, the FDD Central Province Chairman has suspended his secretary Jerry Simpepa who called called for an emergency National Policy Committee meeting to discuss Nawakwi’s position in the privatisation debate.

Senior FDD officials who sought anonymity ahead of a planned national executive committee meeting revealed that party members were calling for Nawakwi’s expulsion because she had prioritised her fight against a fellow opposition leader rather than organising the FDD.

“…Because of the same issue, they have resorted to suspending members. The provincial secretary of Central Province has been suspended for calling for an urgent national executive committee meeting to discuss the issue of president Nawakwi because members feel that this fight should not be there because she is supposed to be organising the party instead of fighting the other fellow opposition. I know that within a few days from now, there will be another development because we are mobilising ourselves and we want to go and expel her from the party,” the sources said.

Another official who, on record referred the matter to party vice-president Chifumu Banda, said the party was also in shock to see Nawakwi’s stance against the UPND.

“On that one, you may want to ask the vice-president to give the official party position. But what I can tell you is that everyone is in shock, including the vice-president himself. As party officials we are not aware of this stance which appears to be advancing the president’s personal agenda and campaigning for the PF, rathe than mobilising our own votes. There are various thoughts, we are told that there are some discussions between President Lungu and our president around the issue of running mate. Whether that is true, we don’t know because there has not been a meeting where this issue was discussed. All we are seeing are these activities which suggest that something is going on which we don’t know about,” the source said.

“This is why some officials feel there is need to sit down as a party so that we can get some direction on the matter. If PF is seeking an alliance, that is an issue that is supposed to be discussed, it cannot be a decision of one person, regardless of the position. That is not a democratic way of running party affairs.”

When contacted for a comment, vice-president Banda said he does not give interviews on phone, but later when prompted for an interview at his office, he referred the matter to the spokesperson who also declined to comment, saying the party was yet to hold a meeting.

In a letter dated September 9, 2020, Central Province FDD chairman Innocent Chanda stated that he was suspending Simpepa for trying to bring the party leadership into disrepute.

“It has come to our attention that you have been accused of destabilising the party having made numerous telephone calls between July-August, 2020, to various provincial chairmen across the country urging them to petition the National Policy Committee (NPC) to convene an urgent NPC meeting whose agenda only you know, despite not being a member of the National Policy Committee. You have further continued to call various provincial chairmen with a view of bringing the name of the party and its leadership into disrepute, in the matter involving our party president before the courts of law,” stated Chanda.

“In view of the above, I find your alleged conduct in breach of article Article 9 (c) and (k) of the party constitution, which required you to exhibit in service the highest morality and probity in your conduct and always act civil and responsible as deserving of a leader. I, therefore, suspend you from your office and given 14 days to exculpate yourself why further disciplinary action should not be taken against you. Your matter will be considered by the disciplinary committee within the stipulated period. Kindly handover all party properties if any, that may be in your possession to my office while on suspension.”

But in response to the letter of suspension, Simpepa argued that he was not in breach of any clause of the party’s constitution and that his suspension was illegal and unconstitutional.

“Good morning, I acknowledge receipt of the above subject matter. Your letter of suspending me from the party is illegal, unconstitutional and in gross violation of article 8 (a) (b) of the party constitution, which I quote as follows: A member of the party has a right: (a) To freely and publicly demand the fulfilment of what is enshrined in the constitution, resolutions, directives and obligations of the party; (c) To participate in forum and/or meeting at the relevant level of the party organs to which he belongs and to freely contribute in any debate and other relevant activities. Further, article eight sub-section (4) states and I quote: ‘No retribution of whatever sort shall lie against any member for the reasons only that he held a different opinion on an issue under debate’,” Simpepa stated.

“Furthermore, in accordance with article 8 subsection (5), which states as follows: Any member of the party who by his/her actions undermines the right of members to freely express themselves shall be subject to disciplinary action. It is in light of the foregoing that your letter purporting that you have suspended me is null and void and has been disregarded. Besides, I will ask the provincial executive committee to take disciplinary action against you for violating article 8 sub-section 5 of the party constitution. Sir, remember that I did consult you as my provincial chairman and you did advise me to proceed in the manner I did.”

Simpepa insisted that calling for an NPC meeting to discuss Nawakwi’s stance on privatisation was not illegal, but constitutional.

“May I also educate you that demanding for an NPC meeting and discussing the matter of the party president over the stance she has taken in regard to the issue of privatisation is not illegal, but a constitutional requirement and, therefore, I am wondering where you are drawing this authority to suspend me. But I want to retaliate that I shall not be intimidated in exercising my democratic rights,” vowed Simpepa.