A Zambian lawmaker who is an avowed critic of President Edgar Lungu will have to seek a fresh mandate after parliament declared his seat vacant.
Parliament Wednesday declared Mr Chishimba Kambwili’s Copperbelt seat vacant, accusing him of “subtly changing his party membership”.
A member of the ruling Patriotic Front (PF) party, Mr Kambwili was once President Lungu’s close ally and served as Information minister.
He was sacked for unclear reasons and he now consults with an opposition outfit, the National Democratic Congress.
National Assembly Speaker Patrick Matibini said after a point of order from some PF members that he was bound to declare the seat vacant, citing a similar case in the 1990s.
Pleaded not guilty
Mr Kambwili, who was bailed from court on Tuesday for “xenophobic” charges to which he pleaded not guilty, was yet to comment on the ruling, but earlier gave an interview to a private daily in which he said he was not going to contest the decision.
The embattled lawmaker enjoys huge support in the Copperbelt region.
Mr Kambwili was also facing fraud allegations, which were deemed politically motivated.
He was a stalwart of the governing party in which, commentators say, anyone with presidential ambitions was being jettisoned.
Mr Kambwili once sought party election as a flag bearer after President Michael Sata’s death in October 2014.
The chaotic succession wrangle saw the election of incumbent Lungu, who was the party’s secretary-general and Defence minister.
President Lungu has come under increasing criticism for his alleged persecution of opponents.
Opposition parties recently said they would report him to the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague for alleged political violence against his rivals.
Ten opposition figures told journalists in Lusaka President Lungu was to blame for an increase in violent crackdowns on opponents, including main opposition leader Hakainde Hichilema.
The ICC, based in The Netherlands, investigates and tries the gravest international crimes — genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity, and state aggression.
It can be requested to carry out an investigation by a state that has signed up to the court’s founding Rome Statute, or by the UN Security Council.
The ICC prosecution can also open a probe if it receives reliable information about crimes committed in a member state, which Zambia is.