ZERO OPTION’ CONTROVERSY, ARREST OF UNIP PRESIDENT AND CENTRAL COMMITTEE BY CHILUBA -1993
In February 1993, the government-owned ‘Times of Zambia’ reported that a plot by the former ruling party, UNIP, to overthrow the MMD government by unconstitutional means, known as the Zero Option Plan, had been uncovered.
The Zero Option Plan was alleged to call for a destabilization of Zambia through industrial unrest, the promotion of violent crime, and the organization of a mass uprising against the government. The governments of both Iran and Iraq were said to have been behind the plan, otherwise masterminded by Cuthbert Nguni, a UNIP member of parliament (MP), and Wezi Kaunda, son of the former president, on UNIP’s Security Committee and member of parliament.
On March 4, 1993, President Chiluba declared a state of emergency stating that “the political climate is being systematically poisoned by a few of our citizens who are bent on plunging this nation into chaos.” But he offered neither further evidence that the Zero Option represented a threat to national security nor any other justification for the declaration.
Twenty-six people were eventually detained in connection with Zero Option, many of them senior members of UNIP including then party President Kebby Musokotwane.
Releases started in early March and continued through April in an arbitrary fashion.
On May 19, the Supreme Court found that, on the evidence it had been presented, the emergency regulations were not valid, but gave the government two days to present further evidence. Further releases followed though the final seven detainees including Wezi Kaunda and Cuthbert Nguni were finally charged with various offenses against the security of the state. On May 25 Chiluba lifted the state of emergency.