By Gershom Ndhlovu
It is very difficult to appreciate United Liberal Party (ULP) president, Sakwiba Sikota’s logic that the forthcoming presidential by-election should be abandoned to allow acting President Rupiah Banda to continue the late President Levy Mwanawasa’s mandate until 2011.
Much as we appreciate the colossal costs that will go with the exercise, this is the price we have to pay for not only the faulty constitution we have in place but also for the enhancement of democracy and the rule of law in the nation.
One would have thought that Sikota would have been wearing a lawyer’s hat rather than a politician’s hat which is controlled more by emotional rather than rational thought.
I will say that we are lucky as a nation in the sense that we have the controversial National Constitution Council (NCC) sitting in the midst of all this constitutional mess which one hopes that it would now be cleaned up. This is where the Chifumu Banda-chaired NCC should strongly recommend that a vice president is a running mate of the presidential candidate in an election.
The current situation is absurd. Just look at how many vice presidents we have had since 2002 when the late Mwanawasa assumed the presidency. Four in six years, meaning that on average, vice presidents have held office for 18 months each showing that these people serve at the mercy of the president who has the prerogative to appoint and disappoint them. Mwanawasa started with Vice President Enoch Kavindele from the Chiluba administration, followed by Pastor Nevers Mumba who was poached from the opposition National Citizens Coalition, followed by Lupando Mwape and subsequently Rupiah Banda, essentially a UNIP member whom time, fortune and circumstance has favoured with the presidential trophy.
At this point, the constitution should re-define the role of the vice president instead of one who just dispenses relief food and tents in the wake of droughts and floods. The American model of the relationship between president and vice president, would suit us in the circumstances.
Political parties would also help if they consolidated democratic practices within their organisations by adhering to their party constitutions. Clearly, the way Mwanawasa dealt with the issue of the party vice presidency did not help matters when, on his demise, MMD NEC members had to sit to pick a candidate for the presidential by-election instead of a vice president automatically assuming the presidency.
The democratic credentials of the biggest opposition party, the PF, are equally nothing to write home about. The goings on at the UPND convention at which Hakainde Hichilema was elected is a millstone around the opposition’s party’s neck--democratic principles were thrown out the window for the sake of the late Anderson Mazoka’s fellow tribesman replacing him.
Political parties should internally be strong to avoid manipulation by sitting presidents. The MMD itself has been manipulated by the two presidents it has had in the last 17 years of its existence. First it was President Chiluba who treated it like his personal turf and then President Mwanawasa who did not have a vice president when he was elected party president.
The problem is basically that NEC officials and other members who end up as national conventional delegates are afraid of challenging the party and republican president simply because of the favours that they get or they expect to get from him for singing the loudest praise songs of him.
The praise singing has already started for MMD presidential candidate Rupiah Banda who is most likely to be elected MMD president at the next convention in two years’ time.
This last week I have come across two quotes on the internet regarding issues of governance:
The first one which caught my eye on the New Zambia blog is this: “Why did Mwanawasa surround himself with his relatives and in-laws? Kaunda had many faults but none of the members of the central committee were his hard core relatives, not even Chiluba. Perhaps they chose people they had worked with in the journey of life.
Why did these people [sic] prefer an outsider for VP. These questions are cardinal to understanding the future of
The stress and pressure of not being able to chastise his relatives is what caused his uncontrollable BP and of course his death. Nepotism and hero-worshiping led the doctors who were supposed to be treating him to spend afternoons kneeling down in the Zambian oval office, nepotism led to the entire president being treated less adequately than my father whose doctor is a frustrated physician and a member of the Royal College but does things by the book so my 90 year old father is alive, poor but well. My president was being treated by doctors who can’t remember the last time they read a journal on cardiovascular diseases, receiving orders from the first lady.
"Why on earth do you expect my husband to eat like a poor man with no salt" and of course the medics would say not to worry perhaps just as he wishes.”
Whether this contributor wrote from facts or not is difficult to say, but it brings into perspective the Machiavellian philosophy of leadership of not listening to advisors which can lead to tragic consequences.
The second quote is on a friend’s Facebook internet social network page which says: “Doesn’t matter who you vote for, the government always gets in.” A nugget of wisdom there, Ross Day.