By Gershom Ndhlovu
I have said before that I don’t care who takes over as MMD president in 2010 or 2011, whenever the ruling party will hold its convention. But my worry is that the MMD is no longer different from UNIP at the height of its power. Everything was concentrated in the hands of President Kaunda and the Central Committee in 1981 when UNIP had been 17 years in power.
It is no different now, almost 17 years of the MMD being in power. The president wields so much power he can wake up anyone he feels like to take over the presidency.
We saw it when President Chiluba anointed “outsider” Levy Mwanawasa who had been his vice president. Actions are unfolding before our very eyes for President Mwanawasa to choose his successor.
We may or may not be active members of the MMD now, but we played our own roles in kicking out Kaunda because UNIP had taken people for granted in matters of leadership choice, or more appropriately, the lack of it.
It is frustrating that the same issues for which we rallied against UNIP in 1990/91 are happening all over again. This is no different from the “Muyayaya syndrome” we came to abhor under UNIP and Kaunda.
Was it not refreshing in 1991 when Humphrey Mulemba, Arthur Wina, Edward Jack Shamwana and Frederick Chiluba all contested the MMD presidency? Was it not refreshing then that the delegates voted for candidates of their choice the presidency?
In a true democracy that the MMD founders, notably Akashambatwa Mbikusita-Lewanika and Derrick, now Mbita, Chitala, envisaged, the delegates freely picked their choice of who was subsequently elected as Republican president.
What was different in 2001 when President Chiluba took it upon himself to “anoint” his successor, and what is different now that President Mwanawasa wants to “anoint” his successor? Nothing.
This business of anointing successors only goes to show what little regard the presidents have for not only their fellow party leaders, but the general membership which they assume cannot make a rational choice to be chosen as, or to choose, a successor.
It is a shame that senior party and government officials cannot challenge “the captain” whom they are awaiting to pass the arm-band to a “player” of his choice.
“I have considered a few names in the last one and a half years,” Mwanawasa pontificated in a recent interview.
No Sir, any member who feels s/he has the capacity to take the mantle of party presidency should come out and say s/he is putting their name forward. It should then be up to the delegates at either Mulungushi International Conference Centre or Mulungushi Rock of Authority to sift out the chaff.
This is the same choice MMD members were denied at the last convention to elect a vice president of the party. Whether there was massive corruption as alleged or simply because President Mwanawasa did not like the possible choice, is something else.
In 1995, Mwanawasa who had quit government a year earlier, out of his own volition, challenged Chiluba for the party presidency which he magnanimously lost.
This, and occurrences elsewhere such as the South Africa’s ANC whose president Thabo Mbeki wanted to overstay his welcome but was shown the boot, must provide us the necessary lessons of how we should conduct our party affairs. It is not enough to challenge opposition parties which seem to be “owned” by their leaders to go for elections, even the ruling party itself should restore the democratic credentials which the majority of Zambians supported and risked their livelihoods for back in 1991.
Mike Mulongoti, Benny Tetamashimba and Jonas Shakafuswa are no more MMD than the workers in Kitwe who used to honk on their way to or from work just to kick out Kaunda. They are no more MMD than the Lusaka residents who would walk from Bauleni to Matero just to go and listen to the message of hope from the MMD leaders then.
Unfortunately, the same Zambians have been betrayed by the leaders who effectively were just envious of President Kaunda and wanted to take over.
Now that they are at the top of the pile, they can as well go back to the UNIP days, or is it that the MMD has changed its name to Movement for Anointing Democracy (M.A.D)?
The “Malawi Curse” which has haunted politicians and senior government officials from Eastern Province before, has come back to haunt presidential aspirant, Professor Clive Chirwa.
This was after Chief Government Spokesman Mike Mulongoti, who is incidentally also aspiring for the same post, brought it up. Chirwa’s “crime” like General Christon Tembo before him, is to come from an area bordering Malawi.
Those who care to remember will recall how one Bryce Mfune “brought out” evidence after evidence to “prove” that Tembo hailed from Malawi.
Each time President Kaunda appointed a Tumbuka those days, he would be accused of favouring his fellow “Malawians” as if they did not have the right to be appointed.
For those who come from the eastern fringe of the Eastern Province, particularly in the Lusuntha-Mqocha area of Lundazi with which I am familiar, what separates the two countries is simply a road called “m’gaba chalo”. People here criss-cross the border for weddings, funerals and to visit achibululu. When boys in some of the villages along the m’gaba chalo play football and kick it hard enough, it crosses the border for which they simply run--not to delay play--to pick it up. They don’t need passports.
It is not like the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe which is separated by the Zambezi River. That is why in that part of the country, it is very easy for people to sell Fertiliser Support Programme fertiliser into Malawi because they don’t walk long distances. It is just like taking it to the back of one’s house.
In short, people have relatives on either side of the border but what I wonder is whether Malawian politicians from the western fringe of that country are also accused of being Zambians.