|Mwanawasa finally sworn in as zambia's third president
Updated: 2 January 2002
by By HUGH McCULLUM AND KONDWANI CHIRAMBO in Lusaka
Just hours after the High Court ruled that the swearing-in of Zambia's third president could proceed, Levy Patrick Mwanawasa of the Movement for Multiparty Democracy (MMD) became third president of Zambia today at a colourful ceremony in the same Courthouse grounds where yesterday opposition demonstrators ran a running battle with paramilitary police firing more than 50 rounds of teargas into a crowd of some 10,000 opposition protestors.
It was high drama at noon today when a scarlet-robed and bewigged Chief Justice Matthew Ngulube, in his role as chief returning officer for the 27 December presidential election, declared Mwanawasa the victor in a close race with Anderson Mazoka of the United Party for National Development (UPND). The new president received 503,589 votes to Mazoka's 468,812 from 148 of 150 constituencies.
The Chief Justice said results from the last two constituencies had been given to him by phone which did not change the results. H said the status quo "allows me to declare that Mr. Mwanawasa would still have won."
Vote counting had concluded shortly before the swearing-in and the Chief Justice had received the results from the Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ) which he said he had examined carefully.
As preparations continued in the court compound, lawyers for the leaders of six opposition parties who had petitioned High Court Judge Peter Chitengi yesterday to delay the inauguration until the results of the election were verified were told the swearing-in could proceed and that they had 14 days to petition the courts for a judicial review. Chitengi had postponed a decision until today due to the riots that spread into the courthouse.
With that legal challenge out of the way, the swearing-in proceeded by the same Chief Justice administering the oath of office to Mwananwasa with a beaming out-going president Frederick Chiluba sitting nearby, officially ending his 10 years in office. The new president will serve a constitutional five-year term before the next elections.
About 5,000 guests attended the ceremony which was delayed three hours after the High Court's decision. Among the guests were the Speaker of the Zimbabwean parliament, Emmerson Managagwa and ministerial representatives from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Malawi and Zimbabwe.
Mwanawasa said he would seek counsel from both founding president Kenneth Kaunda and Chiluba. Kaunda did not attend the ceremony.
Mwanawasa, who had kept a low profile during the long and controversial delays in counting and announcing the presidential, parliamentary and local government elections, referred to his opponents as worthy men and women but, departing from his prepared text, castigated them for trying to delay his swearing-in.
"I want to acknowledge my worthy opponents who sought this high office and I ask for their co-operation."
"But," he continued, " this will be a government of laws and not men. Those who sought to appeal to the chief justice on a holiday when he should have been allowed to be with his family in order to delay declaring the results and delay my inauguration have brought this country to the edge of chaos and despondency. So, I wish to repeat to them that if they have problems with the elections at any level there are courts to deal with this in a legal way and not be throwing stones as they did yesterday."
Mwanawasa also took exception to an interim statement by the European Union's Election Observation Mission which stated on 31 December that concerns expressed about election rigging and lack of a level playing field by the opposition parties should be addressed before the inauguration proceeded.
The incoming president said he was concerned about this statement presented to the media before the ECZ had finished counting the votes. "I wonder what they are doing. We invited them here as observers and did not expect them to make pronouncements like this. We must think seriously about their role."
However, he told both monitors and observers and his opponents that he bore no hard feelings and went out of his way to express Zambia's gratitude to the international donor community of which the EU plays a leading role.
Mwanawasa also inherits the chairmanship of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) from Chiluba and said he would use his position to further the change to the Africa Union (AU).
The election had proceeded with great interest and excitement by many Zambians and long queues emerged at most of the 5,509 polling stations across the country on 27 December. In the final result, some 1,755,117 voters of 2,604,761 who registered cast ballots. The controversy began when long delays occurred in announcing winners of the tripartite election. As the delays grew from hours into days into a week, the opposition and its supporters grew increasingly restive.
Allegations of vote-rigging by the MMD government, misuse of government resources, ineffective and insecure processes by the ECZ, ballot box stuffing and other mispractices swept the country. Mazoka declared himself the winner and said he would not accept a loss. Other presidential candidates and party leaders joined his protest and began their campaign to have the election declared null and void. Zambian monitoring agencies and international observers agreed with them in interim statements made beforfe today's declaration.
The opposition, which many Zambians had urged to form a government of national unity to defeat MMD, was more united in defeat than in its campaign. With 10 opposition parties fielding candidates, including two women, the possibility of overturning the MMD was severely diminished. Once results showed Mwanawasa leading, even if by small margins, the opposition began to cry foul.
However, Mwanawasa will have not have clear sailing despite his personal victory. He faces a National Assembly where the combined opposition will hav e more seats than MMD although the final parliamentary results are still not finalized. The combined opposition could delay or block legislation if it chose to act in coalition.
Legal battles are almost certain to tie up the courts for some time if the challenges expected proceed. In much of Lusaka, rioting supporters clashed with police and shops were closed most of the day.
Unrest was reported in Livingstone, south of the country and Kitwe on the Copperbelt.
Heavily armed paramilitary patrolled major towns and cities as the new president vowed to maintain law and order. However, despite the last week of tension, Zambia's voters showed they wanted to continue the democratic multi-party system they returned to in 1991 and, as one respected Zambian political observer put it: "They showed more maturity than their political leaders." (SARDC).
This article can be reproduced with credit to SARDC and the author
Mail Editorial for comments and queries.