By Gershom Ndhlovu
Just over 18 months ago, I wrote the article below for this column but for some reason, it was never used. With calls for Mrs Mwanawasa growing for her to go for the presidency, I have decided to run it.
In his early days in office as president of the Republic of Zambia, Levy Mwanawasa told the nation at one function that at the end of his tenure as head of state, he would love to leave the mantle to a woman.
What he did not state was who this woman would be and from which party she would come such that when Edith Nawakwi emerged as president of the opposition Forum for Democracy and Development (FDD), those who remembered what the president had said, thought his prophecy would come true in Nawakwi whose ascendancy to the top party post was greeted with excitement.
Mwanawasa’s words were enhanced with the appointment in neighbouring Zimbabwe of Joyce Mujuru as vice president who it was thought would step into Robert Mugabe’s shoes as the next head of state, the appointment in South Africa of Ms Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka also as vice president taking over from grassroots favourite Jacob Zuma who was sacked by Thabo Mbeki.
In Uganda, Specioza Kazibwe was Yoweri Museveni’s vice-president for a long time.
The recent election of Ellen Sirleaf Johnson as president of the West African nation of Liberia which emerged from a 15 year old civil war, as the first woman to hold the highest elective office in any country in Africa is equally motivation enough for a sitting president to consider leaving office to a woman, Mawanawasa no less.
It appears unusual in Africa for a woman to lead a nation as head of state, but recent history in the rest of the world proves otherwise. The most high profile leadership of Margaret Thatcher in Britain does not need any comment. Elsewhere, Mary Robinson of Ireland who went on to become United Nations Human Rights Commissioner, Mrs Corazon Aquino who came to the limelight after her husband Benigno Aquino was gunned down by the Marcos regime when he arrived from exile in the Philippines, Gloria Macapagol Arroyo also in the Philippines and the recently elected Angela Merkel in Germany turn the African paternalistic traditions on the head.
I suppose that even Zambia is ready for a female president even if Inonge Mbikusita-Lewanika and Gwendolyn Konie, some of the most accomplished women academically and career-wise, failed to muster any meaningful ballots in 2001 when they took part in the presidential elections, but it is who this person is or will be that matters.
The news that Maureen Mwanawasa is being considered the likely successor of her husband is what sends a cold chill up people’s spines. If she should become Zambia’s president, let alone enter the political fray, she should not piggy-back her husband, or indeed through the Maureen Mwanawasa Community Initiative which has been going round the country donating food and non-food materials to vulnerable communities.
Like Hillary Clinton who waited until her husband, Bill, left the White House for her to contest Senate elections and won as New York Senator as a Democrat, Mrs Mwanawasa should also wait until after they go back to Teka Farm when her husband retires before she can launch her political career.In fact, she herself said she could not follow Mrs Yoweri Museveni’s example to seek public office after the Uganda’s leader’s wife was elected to that country’s parliament, saying the office of the First Lady was very busy and wanted to concentrate on running it.
But even after Mwanawasa decides to leave office due to ill-health (God forbid) after suffering what has been referred to as a mild stroke over two months ago, it would not be right to pass on the baton to Maureen. This, if it happened, would be akin to the case of the Democratic Republic of Congo where Joseph Kabila took over from his late father, Laurent, and Togo where the constitution was changed overnight to allow the late Gnassimbe Eyadema’s son to take over.
Maybe it is a question of power not only being sweet, but it being sweeter in Africa such that most of the leaders on the continent want to cling to power, or if it fails, pass it on to relatives and close associates to the detriment of the much touted democratic processes.
A lot of things have changed all over the world. In America, Mrs Clinton is running for presidency by seeking nomination through primaries for the Democratic Party.
Prospects are high for her to become the first female president of America as they also are for Barack Obama who would be the first black in the White House if elected. Equally notable is the defeat of South African president Thabo Mbeki to the ANC presidency by Jacob Zuma who is set to take over as state president, bar his corruption court cases.
What has changed in Zambia is that what was a rumour then is now ‘reality’. Northern Province Minister Lameck Chibombamilimo, Chief Nabwalya and a few others are publicly calling for Mrs Mwanawasa to go for the presidency.
It is obvious that this group has taken a leaf from Argentina where lawyer Cristina Fernandez Kirchner recently succeeded her lawyer husband in elections less than two months ago, the same time the calls have been stepped up locally.
Except that these people are not calling for Mwanawasa to go for a third term but we are seeing a replay of 1998/99 when MMD youths led by then Copperbelt youth chairman Joshua Mutisa and one Ben Maliti kick-started a campaign for former president Chiluba to go for a third term.
The man got carried away in the erroneous belief that Zambians were gullible and would let him achieve his dream. The rest, as they say, is history.
But will those who harbour ambitions of taking over within the MMD take it lying down as Mrs Mwanawasa marches to (or more appropriately, marches within) State House?
Thursday, 24 January 2008
By Gershom Ndhlovu
Posted by Gershom Ndhlovu at 18:13
Thursday, 17 January 2008
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.
Posted by Gershom Ndhlovu at 18:06
Thursday, 10 January 2008
By Gershom Ndhlovu
Today Kenya is facing two distinct destinies. One is the possibility of someone with Kenyan blood in his veins on the brink of becoming president of the world’s only super power, the US. The other real possibility is that the country of Barack Obama’s paternal ancestors is on the brink of breaking up.
The reason why today Obama faces the possibility of making history as the first black American president is because of the democracy that has evolved over the last 300 years in that country. On the contrary, Kenya risks breaking up because of the failure of democracy in that country in the less than 50 years it has been independent.
On at least two occasions Obama has been to Kenya to visit his paternal grandmother who is still alive, on one occasion he was an anonymous traveller whose suitcases even ended up in South Africa, but on the other occasion as a US senator, everything went like clock-work. Even trees in the village he went to were given a coat of paint.
There is a possibility still that when he will be travelling on Airforce One as the most powerful man in the world, Obama may want to go back to that Kenyan village to eat nyamachoma and kachumbari prepared not by White House chefs, but by his grandmother, drink not triple filtered water from White House, but water from the stream near his grandmother’s village.
But at the rate things are going, this may not be possible if Kenya does not heal the rift tearing it apart because the Muthaiga Country Club (a club just outside Nairobi where the rich and powerful gather) gang of Mwai Kibaki has no respect for the democratic process. Kibaki, an old school politician wants, by hook or crook, to cling to power like his predecessors, Jomo Kenyatta who died in1978 after ruling his country from independence in 1963, and Daniel arap Moi who ruled for nearly 25 years. Kibaki was vice president from 1978 – 1988.
One fails to understand the rationale of African leaders who want to grow roots in the positions once they ascend to the top of the pile and this is one facet of Africa that the rest of the world does not understand. This is a total contrast with western leaders who are elected into office and willingly vacate when it is time to go. In Britain, former prime minister Tony Blair left even before his term ended.
It is only in Africa that there are record-holding presidents like Gabon’s Omar Bongo who now holds the dubious accolade of being the fourth longest serving head of state in the world. He ascended to the presidency in 1967. Power anywhere in the world is sweet, but it is definitely sweeter in Africa. It is the only reason that Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe, Angola’s Eduardo dos Santos, Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak and others are welded into their positions.
This lack of respect for democracy by African leaders coupled with massive corruption that goes with power, does not endear the continent to the rest of the world, but particularly the west from where Africa gets most of its development aid for it cannot even manage an election.
It is only in Africa that leaders want to rig elections for them to remain in power or, in rare circumstances, to ensure that their “anointees” take over. Sadly, Zambia has not been immune from this madness and it has been on the brink of the very things going on in Kenya today. Memories of the events following the 2001 elections when the UPND disputed the results that denied their leader, Anderson Mazoka, the presidency are still fresh in people’s minds. Even fresher is the violence that almost erupted when the PF was convinced that it was robbed of victory.
Even though they should not continue to be taken for granted in such matters, Zambians should be praised for the manner they have conducted themselves in similar circumstances
Posted by Gershom Ndhlovu at 18:14
Thursday, 3 January 2008
By Gershom Ndhlovu
The verbal ping-pong that has been going on for a while now between former president Frederick Chiluba, businessman Rajan Mahtani on the one hand and Panji and Kaweche Kaunda on the other, is only doing one thing, giving the nation a glimpse of what goes on in State House.
With all that has been disclosed so far, ranging from Mahtani’s companies allegedly grabbing business from parastatal companies, to Zahid Nizam and his Credit Africa Bank, to the unresolved Carrington maize deal, to RAMCOZ’s Gokul Binani, it appears that our presidents spend more time cutting deals for themselves and their friends than serving the nation’s interests.
How does one explain a sitting president phoning another president in a neighbouring country to introduce a businessman? How does one explain a sitting president ordering a businessman not to pay a debt to another businessman? There are a lot of questions that need answers if what we have heard from Chiluba, Mahtani and former president Kaunda’s sons is anything to go by.
Doesn’t this explain why only very few people, usually with connections to corridors of power, tend to prosper while the rest of the citizens remain ever more impoverished? Just what is the logic of giving a contract and paying a lot of money for that matter, to a company under construction and has yet to start production?
At a time when no meaningful explanation about the revelations from the on-going drama has been given by the government, it is strange that chief government spokesman, Mike Mulongoti who is also information minister, is threatening to lock up Chiluba for “breaching” the oath of office.
Stranger still is that Mulongoti’s threat comes at a time when President Mwanawasa’s name appears close to being dragged in the mud in these disclosures. Who doesn’t know that Chiluba’s integrity is in tatters for what we now know in the plunder of national resources and has to salvage it one or the other?
Not that Chiluba is an angel; he betrayed the citizens who entrusted him with the privilege of being president by his actions. But to threaten him with arrest for his “revelations” is over the top.
The best that can be done is for investigative wings to look into the allegations of some of the things he is saying. A number of people are privately attesting to the veracity of some of Chiluba’s allegations but cannot come out in the open for fear of being seen to side with him.
The beauty of things in Zambia now is that a head of state is immune from prosecution in the five or ten years he is in office but the spectre of being harassed by junior police officers looms large after his or her tenure for any wrongs committed at the height of sweet power.
Mulongoti and others will defend the apparent wrong doings revealed by Chiluba because they are enjoying the trappings of power. They should not, however, forget that this exactly what happened when Kaunda used to warn the nation about what was going on in the Chiluba administration.
The nation thought Kaunda was a bitter old man just out to get Chiluba for kicking him out of power. Kaunda has more or less been vindicated and he is today an internationally respected statesman.
On the contrary, Chiluba has just lost a civil case in London for abusing national resources and he is appearing in court in Zambia on criminal charges for abuse of office on just about the very things that “Super Ken” warned us about.
Taking that as a lesson, the nation should wake up and take what Chiluba is saying a bit more seriously because when the time comes, a lot of damage will have been done and not only that, another former president will be appearing in court for plunder.
The people appearing to be defending Mwanawasa now will move on, continuing to hold ministerial or diplomatic positions in another government and vilifying him.
Posted by Gershom Ndhlovu at 18:42