Political rival feels heat

LUSAKA - Police in Zambia summoned the main opposition leader, Michael Sata, for questioning yesterday, a day after he launched his campaign for the presidency which is only due in 2011.

LUSAKA - Police in Zambia summoned the main opposition leader, Michael Sata, for questioning yesterday, a day after he launched his campaign for the presidency which is only due in 2011.

"The police have summoned me to appear for questioning. I will probably go there on Tuesday [today] though my lawyers have gone there to check why they have summoned me," Sata said.

The controversial opposition leader, who lost to President Levy Mwanawasa in the September elections, held mammoth rallies at the weekend in the capital Lusaka, where he launched his campaign.

"This is provocation of the highest order," Sata said in response to the police summons.

The rallies were initially banned by police but the government allowed them to proceed after Sata's Patriotic Front (PF) party filed a legal challenge in the high court.

Sata told tens of thousands of people who attended his rallies in densely populated slum areas that he does not intend to remove Mwanawasa from power using illegal means.

"We don't want to remove Levy [Mwanawasa] by illegal means. I will wait for the right time to remove him peacefully," Sata told his supporters.

Government officials have been questioning the rationale behind Sata's rallies, which they say are intended to sow confusion in the nation because presidential elections are only in 2011.

PF officials hinted that their early campaign is in anticipation of early elections, which may be called because of the poor health of Mwanawasa, who suffered a stroke in April.

Sata, whose PF party won control of a number of major municipalities, warned that he would run a parallel government based on his strength in local areas. - Sapa-AFP

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