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Lusaka, Zambia – Zambia’s former information minister and chief government spokesperson Vernon Mwaanga has urged the cabinet to consider the constitutional provisions available over the succession of the country’s ailing President Levy Mwanawasa who has remained hospitalised in Paris, France, since he suffered a stroke 29 June.

Mwaanga, who is still a member of the ruling Movement for Multiparty Democracy (MMD), said those in government should determine the future of the country over the succession of Mwanawasa, should it become necessary.

His remarks followed Friday’s ministerial statement to parliament by Health Mini ster Brian Chituwo, who said presently Mwanawasa “is in a stable but heavily sedated condition,” and that his healing process will take long.

“Knowing President Mwanawasa the way I do and having worked with him, he would expect that we all come together and move the country forward. There are more adequate provisions in the constitution to address such things as the illness of the

president,” Mwaanga said Monday night during a live programme “The Matter at Hand” on a private television station, MUVI TV.

According to him, under the current constitution, only the cabinet can decide by a simple majority, if advised that the president is not in a position to continue, to adopt a resolution informing the Chief Justice to appoint a medical board of not less than three members to examine the matter.

The Chief Justice will then submit the findings of the medical board to parliament and if approved, presidential elections would be called within 90 days, during which the vice-president will act as president.

Mwaanga, however, noted with regret the weaknesses in the constitutional provisions, which does not state the time-frame when the president should be allowed to recover.

“I think it will have to take a brave cabinet minister to call for a resolution on the illness of the president to submit to the Chief Justice. The cabinet minister who will raise this matter may be asked where he draws the powers from the constitution and if enough time has been given to allow the president to recover.

“But maybe a time will come when doctors attending to Mwanawasa in Paris, will s ay the president is not in the condition to continue. In the absence of this medical report from doctors in Paris, I understand the hesitation by cabinet ministers to do so,” Mwaanga, a former minister in the governments of Kenneth Kaunda, Frederick Chiluba and Mwanawasa said.

“Let us bear in mind that all of us have a collective responsibility to move this country forward if and when the time comes.”

Mwanawasa who has been living with diabetes and hypertension ailments suffered a first stroke that was described as “mild” in April 2006 and was evacuated and treated in London, England.

On 29 June, on the eve of the African Union Summit in Sharm El-Sheik, Egypt, he suffered another stroke and was taken to Sharm El-Sheik Hospital, from where he was later evacuated to Percy Military Hospital in Paris 1 July, where he is still admitted in the intensive care unit.

Lusaka – 12/08/2008