Lusaka - Zambia's defence minister Geoffrey Mwamba resigned on Monday after admitting that he met a traditional leader who is blackballed by the country's president.
“I have resigned from my ministerial job,” Mwamba told AFP by phone, acknowledging he had travelled to the north east of the country, where he met Henry Sosala.
Sosala is seen as the rightful heir to the paramount chieftaincy of the Bemba people - the largest ethnic group in this copper-rich country of 14 million people.
President Michael Sata has refused to recognise Sosala, has ordered that his stipend be stopped and is said to back another candidate for the post of chief.
Mwamba said as a direct relation of Sosala he could not back the government's stance.
“I came here to see the chief, and the president called me saying I told you not to be visiting the palace,” Mwamba told AFP.
“But... I am directly related to the chief and I thought politics should not separate us hence my resignation.”
Mwamba said he would stay on as a parliamentarian.
“I thank the president for the appointment but I will remain an ordinary member of parliament,” he said.
As a leading fundraiser Mwamba was influential in the ruling Patriotic Front.
As minister of defence he also held a key cabinet post at a time when Zambia faces a simmering separatist movement in Barotseland, the west of the country.