Friday, 5 September 2008


By Gershom Ndhlovu

Clearly, MMD’s chickens are coming home to roost.

In 1995, only Levy Mwanawasa, the man we mourn today was the only one brave enough--I am sure out of principle because he probably knew he did not have enough chance of winning--to challenge President Frederick Chiluba for the MMD presidency at the party’s national convention at Mulungushi International Conference Centre.

At that convention, Mwanawasa was called all sorts of names for trying to rock the gravy train that everyone else was enjoying probably through the brown envelopes that were then becoming fairly common. As expected, Levy lost terribly and he sunk into political oblivion, if we may call it that.

A few years later, in 1998 and 1999, after it became apparent that President Chiluba was engineering a third term, Benjamin Mwila who was then MMD national treasurer and Cabinet Minister, publicly indicated his desire to take over the party presidency and eventually, the Republican presidency.

A group of hardcore Chiluba supporters who could not countenance anyone challenging President Chiluba ensured that Mwila was hounded out of the party. It was at this point that any semblance of democracy in the MMD was overshadowed by those who were intent to see Chiluba go for a third term of office at any price.

Things came to a head in the ruling party in 2001 when a group of senior MMD members, known as the MMD 22, led by the then MMD vice president Brigadier-General Godfrey Miyanda and Republican Vice President General Christon Tembo openly challenged Chiluba’s third term intentions by joining hands with the opposition in denouncing the ploy.

The 22 were unceremoniously booted out of the party at a charade of a national convention at Mulungushi Rock in Kabwe where some of them were physically manhandled and dragged out of the convention arena. Chiluba was overwhelmingly retained as party president. The only hurdle was the Republican Constitution which invariably allowed him two terms.

Chiluba then fell back on Levy Mwanawasa whom he anointed as his successor and vigorously campaigned for to take over the Republican presidency. Chiluba retained the MMD presidency which he was forced to give up a few months later after it emerged that his camp was allegedly bent on undermining Mwanawasa’s national leadership. Chiluba paid a heavy price. His immunity was removed and he now faces a myriad of court cases for allegedly plundering national resources.

Obviously, the MMD, like the rest of the nation, never anticipated that Mwanawasa would die in office, an unfortunate event that now seems to have unleashed the hidden democratic potential in the MMD. At the time of writing, there were at least 15 people intending to contest the race to be picked as candidates in the forthcoming presidential by-elections.

Mwanawasa had himself at some point indicated that he would play a role in choosing someone who would take over as MMD president and contest the Republican presidency in 2011.

An obvious weakness in the MMD was the freezing of the post vice president apparently because there was a lot of corruption among the candidates at the convention 2005 national convention where he or she was to be elected.

This is the moment, after Mwanawasa’s demise, the nation is watching with baited breath whether or not the MMD would emerge intact after a candidate has been picked to contest the presidential by-election sometime in November. So far there has been mudslinging matches between supporters of some candidates, calling each other names. Others have simply been nominal candidates right from the beginning. No one is talking about them or indeed, for them.

If at that point in history when Mwila launched his bid for the MMD presidency he was allowed to go the whole hog, if Miyanda and Tembo were allowed and if the late Paul Tembo had been allowed to “win” the vice presidency, the MMD could not have reached this point at which it is teetering on the brink, unless the 1991 spirit is allowed to prevail.

But again, nations that are today bastions of democracy went through even more challenging travails than Zambia has ever gone through as a nation born just over four decades ago. What the nation is experiencing today such as the death of a sitting president and over 15 candidates expressing interest in taking over, should provide it with important lessons for the future beginning with those currently trying to write the Constitution.




It is plain immoral and scandalous that the Ministerial and Parliamentary Offices (Emoluments) (Amendments) Bill, 2008 should be assented to as law when time comes and our ministers and the privileged few should be earning close to, if not over, K400,000,000 per year while doctors, teachers, nurses, policemen and other public workers on whom society hinges upon for smooth and continuous operation should earn a fifth of the above amount.

The stories in the papers as they appeared, just talked about huge increments without giving the figures involved until one disillusioned Zambian sent me an e-mail attached with the document signed by solicitor general Dominic Sichinga proposing sickening figures for a country whose 80 percent of the citizens live on less than US$2 per day.

The proposed income structure for the Vice President is K99,227,544 per annum, K94,199,870 special allowance (whatever it is), K90,000,000 responsibility allowance and K66,400,000 utility allowance.

These figures do not differ markedly for other Constitutional office holders but on the contrary, the monthly housing allowance for doctors is not enough to rent a decent room in Misisi in Lusaka or Sinia in Ndola. It is worse for teachers, nurses and policemen.

Most of the politicians who will be earning K400,000,000 or close to it are probably old Form 2 and want to justify it by how much Bank of Zambia governor Dr Caleb Fundanga earns. In any case, even the Bank of England governor, Dr Mervyn King earns way more than the Prime Minister, Gordon Brown.

Politicians anywhere in the world, more so in a poor country like Zambia, should know that they are in government for service and not fattening their already fat bank accounts.


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