By A Correspondent
If the events of Saturday December 1, 2012 at the Movement for Multi-Party Democracy, MMD, secretariat in Lusaka are anything to go by, then it is clear the former ruling party has pressed a self destruction button. Dialogue to iron out problems of whatever sort seems to be eluding the party that governed Zambia for 20 years.
The national secretary Major Richard Kachingwe was forcibly hounded out of the secretariat by the so-called MMD Die-Hard youths led by Bowman Lusambo. The thuggish youths dragged Kachingwe from his office on Nyati close in Lusaka’s Rhodes Park for a distance of almost 100 meters. The Zambia National Broadcasting Corporation, ZNBC and Muvi TV beamed humiliating footage in their lead stories of Kachingwe thuggishly being dragged from his office through the grounds of the secretariat into Nyati close all the way to the junction of Addis Ababa drive, where he jumped into a good samaritan’s vehicle. Yes, politics in Zambia can be very humiliating and Kachingwe got his share on this day. All the humiliation happened in full view of other level headed party members including some NEC members.
Kachingwe had just addressed the press announcing the invalidation of Nevers Mumba as president of the MMD for still belonging to the Reform Party, RP, among other things. But as it turned out to be Mumba was also on his way to the MMD headquarters while Kachingwe was being harassed by cadres said to have been hired with Mumba’s knowledge. As soon as he arrived, he too addressed the press and announced that Kachingwe had been expelled from the MMD. This whole scenario was like a cat and mouse game and it seemed like it was all about who got there first. Mumba, however, is said not to have condemned the hooliganism exhibited by some of his party cadres on a fellow member and senior one for that matter. What kind of a pastor is he to play such kind of dirty politics and not condemn in the strongest terms possible the assault of his national secretary even if they have differences? Maybe that is why some people say men of the collar must stick to the pulpit as politics is one hell of a dirty game.
Now within the rank and file of the MMD national executive committee, NEC, there are those that are not particularly pleased with how Mumba has been going about as if he is the party’s chosen presidential candidate for the 2016 elections. Mumba has made various campaign materials including T-shirts carrying his portrait with a message “2016 – Nevers Mumba for President”. This apparently is not going down well with a lot of senior party members who consider him a caretaker president.
The recently held Mufumbwe parliamentary by-election is a case in point where Nevers flooded the constituency with T-shirts setting himself up for the 2016 elections. The MMD campaign team in Mufumbwe included people like former finance minister Situmbeko Musokotwane who was one of the candidates for the MMD top job at the recent convention called to fill up the vacancy after Rupiah Banda stepped aside. Strictly speaking, Musokotwane including Emmanuel Mutati, Moses Muteteka, Brian Chituwo and others may still want to try again at the five yearly convention due in 2016 just a few months before the presidential and parliamentary elections.
Again within the NEC and the general membership, there are those that have not been impressed with the way Kachingwe has been handling issues of the party since losing to the Patriotic Front, PF, in September 2011. Some feel he has never really come out strongly on the alleged persecution of MMD members particularly former ministers. When Austin Liato, was being arraigned over the two billion kwacha found concealed at one of his properties, Kachingwe moved quickly to distance the MMD from Liato and his arraignment. This did not go well with other members especially Liato’s supporters who felt Kachingwe was being selective as there were other former ministers being investigated and even appearing before court on whom the national secretary had not issued any adverse statements.
But then there is also the issue of Kachingwe not actively participating in campaigns during by-elections particularly the Mufumbwe one. A lot of party members including some NEC members consider this unacceptable as they would have liked to have a more visible and audible national secretary during such occasions. The excuse Kachingwe gave on national television recently that he could not go to campaign in Mufumbwe as there were a number of litigation issues to be attended to at the office can not hold water. He was bringing problems on himself that is why cadre mentality could not let him get away with it.
Problems in the MMD, are not just about Kachingwe and others trooping to State House, or about Mumba positioning himself for the 2016 national polls. There appears to be much more than meets the eye and yes the top leadership of the former ruling party, from Nevers Mumba to Richard Kachingwe, Kabinga Pande, Dora Siliya, Catherine Namugala, Gabriel Namulambe and the rest should put their act together otherwise they will all fail the foot soldiers, the ordinary members and cadres including symphathisers of the once mighty party.
The issue of MMD legislators who have taken up jobs at deputy ministerial level is a vexing one and the MMD may not get out of it more so that the constitution allows the Head of State to appoint any MP, regardless of political affiliation, to serve in the executive arm of government. Worse still this was started by the MMD under Levy Patrick Mwanawasa when he became Zambia’s fourth president in 2002. Sylvia Masebo who was the only MP for Ben Mwila’s Zambia Republican Party, ZRP, was given a full cabinet portfolio by Mwanawasa. Others like Chance Kabaghe and Geoffrey Samukonga who were MPs for Matero and Chawama respectively on the Forum for Democracy and Development, FDD, ticket were appointed at deputy minister level. There are currently nine or so MMD lawmakers serving as deputy ministers in the PF regime. Admittedly the number is too large, all the more reason that the MMD should be worried.
The fact that State House has opened its doors ‘widely’ to anyone should really be handled with a lot of suspicion especially by the MMD. The question is how come president Michael Sata wants people, regardless of their political affiliation, to go and see him for ‘anything’ when as an opposition leader he never even attended any state event he was invited to? Both Levy Mwanawasa and Rupiah Banda, his sworn adversaries, had an open door policy but Sata did not see any sense in this. The only time Sata went to State House was to thank Mwanawasa for the successful medical evacuation to South Africa in 2008.
So is the president now seeing sense in what his predecessors had been calling for or is it one very sure way of poaching members from other political parties especially the MMD? It is not a hidden fact, that even before the doors to State House were ‘publicly’ opened some MMD MPs and other senior officials had been ‘seen’ at plot one. As early as just after the PF came into power and just when government investigative wings begun persuing those who served in Rupiah Banda’s administration, Dora Siliya’s name came up as one of the people who were trooping to State House apparently to ‘tell it all’ so that she could be let off the hook.
Well placed sources in the MMD NEC have actually indicated that Siliya was at one time even asked to step aside as the party’s spokesperson to pave way for Muhabi Lungu as the party mouthpiece.
There is also talk in some circles that Nevers Mumba’s recent attempt to storm State House without an appointment was just a smoke screen as he too has made a number of visits to plot one without informing his collegues. If this is true then it shows Mumba too can not be trusted. Remember, in 2003 he traded his party the National Christian Coalition, NCC, for the job of vice – president? All this after being the spokesperson of an alliance of opposition parties that were working against Mwanawasa’s regime. He betrayed his collegues that time and can surely do it again this time.
With all that is going on within its ranks, what the MMD must not do is go under the way the country’s oldest political party the United National Independence Party, UNIP, has done. Unlike the PF which is centered around Sata, the MMD was formed as a mass party from a pressure group and therefore nobody can claim to own it and that is precisely why it may be a force to reckon with even with a great chance of bouncing back to power. Not even Akashambatwa Mbikusita Lewanika, one of the initiators of the MMD can claim to own it. Simply put MMD belongs to the people and if it survives what it is going through shall continue to be a mass party. UNIP was once upon a time a mass party except that a lot of things were allowed to go unchecked after it lost power to the MMD in 1991. Even with the UNIP presidency changing hands from Kenneth Kaunda to Kebby Musokotwane and Francis Nkhoma it was very clear that the existence of the uhuru party centered on one person, Kaunda and his family. That is why Kaunda bounced back to head it and today one of his sons, Tilyenji Kaunda is its president, a very huge blunder.
By 1996 the writing was on the wall that UNIP was bouncing back to power under Kenneth Kaunda and Frederick Chiluba’s was alive to this. But a new constitutional clause barred Kaunda from contesting on account of his parentage. It was a major setback for Kaunda as another clause barring chiefs from participating in active politics effectively curtailed his vice, chief Inyambo Yeta from stepping in his shoes. Kaunda was knocked out and in his disoriented state he single handedly had UNIP boycott the 1996 elections. Some of the people who were close to him considered the boycott an emotional and suicidal move as up to this day they believe UNIP would have bounced back to power even without Kaunda standing as president. But there are those who think that Kaunda was just selfish, if he could not lead UNIP to a historic come back nobody else would. Later a lot of other nasty things happened in UNIP especially when Sebastian Zulu became Secretary General. He is said to have personally pocked about K250,000,000.00 (two hundred and fifty million kwacha) to distabilise UNIP. This was a colossal sum of money at that time.
So when the MMD youth led by Bowman Lusamba and others referring to themselves as MMD Die-Hard started calling for the stepping down of Kachingwe as National Secretary it may not have been far fetched that they may be privy to certain information and were probably trying to make sure that what Sebastian Zulu did to UNIP, Kachingwe does not do to the MMD. With all the talk about Richard Taima, Patrick Ngoma, Keith Mukata, Forie Tembo, Patrick Chikusu, David Phiri and others having been given K50,000,000 at a recent meeting with president Sata for the sole purpose of causing defections, one can not blame the MMD Die-Hards. However, it clearly seems that almost all the MMD members of parliament are weak and to be blunt selfish. Yes there are those who believe that in order for an MP to effectively serve his electorate, he or she must be a cabinet minister. Is such a notion really in the interest of the electorate and the party that sponsored them to parliament?
In conclusion, the MMD must take a critical look at itself and remain alive to the fact that it is now in opposition. Being in opposition means coming out strongly on issues that you are in disagreement with; not being quiet and certainly, not being diplomatic. Surely, calling a spade a spade does not amount to insulting does it? MMD can rise from the ashes only if the leadership puts its house in order. This includes serious mobilsation and especially not treating the PF regime with kids’ gloves. But as things stand today, the events of Saturday December 1, 2012 may indeed be a button to self destruction.