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LUSAKA (AFP) — A top official from Zambia’s ruling party was facing the threat of expulsion Thursday after he called for the succession of President Levy Mwanawasa who suffered a stroke last month, the party announced.

Benny Tetamashimba, the ruling Movement for Multi-Party Democracy’s chief spokesman and deputy minister for works and supply, has been slapped with charges of indiscipline following his remarks that Mwanawasa should be replaced in view of his current hospitalisation in France.

Mwanawasa suffered a stroke late last month and remains in the intensive care unit at the Percy military hospital, near Paris.

“We are not condemning him about the need to elect a new president but the timing is wrong. It looks like he is in a hurry to replace President Mwanawasa when he is sick,” said Jeff Kaande, the party’s deputy national secretary.

Kaande said Tetamashimba has been charged with a number of offences, including bringing the party into disrepute, and would appear in front of a disciplinary committee before his fate is known.

“The president has been sick for only two weeks. Does this period call for a successor?” Kaande said in a statement.

Tetamashimba upset many of his colleagues by saying on Tuesday that it was time for the party to begin looking for a successor to the 59-year-old Mwanawasa whose recent stroke was his second in little over two years.

Asked about the expulsion threat, Tetamashimba said he could only be removed from his position as chairman for information and publicity by the MMD’s national convention which is not due to meet until next year.

“I am not an ordinary member of the party. I am very senior and they should know that I was elected by the party convention,” he told AFP.

There have been growing calls among Zambians for a thorough report on Mwanawasa’s health amid frustration at the lack of detailed information on his condition. His condition is officially described as stable.

Copyright © 2008 AFP. All rights reserved.

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