Friday, 6 February 2009


By Gershom Ndhlovu


I did not see the article which quoted Honourable Gabriel Namulambe, Presidential Affairs Minister, in which he argued against having a vice presidential running mate in an election, citing “witchcraft” as the reason until a friend drew me to it.

“Let us bear in mind that in Africa there is witchcraft and the vice-president might bewitch the Republican president in order to take over the presidency...,” Namulambe is said to have told National Constitution Conference (NCC) delegates.

Whether this was a joke or not, is difficult to say but this statement staggered me for its naivety and irrationality.

It, however, does not come as a surprise to anyone who followed the then acting President Banda on his campaign tour for the October 30 election which he later won. On his visit to a chief’s palace in one of the provinces, he told the nation that he felt protected from witchcraft. I suspect it was after some “protection” ritual was performed on him by the same chief.

With Banda and Namulambe’s statements, I feel that governance in Zambia has been taken to its nadir especially if what goes into the future constitution or, indeed, if government policies are predicated on witchcraft.

I would like to believe that Namulambe’s contribution against a vice president as a running mate of the presidential candidate in the constitution was Namulambe’s personal view. But if it was discussed with the President, then Zambians should drop their brows in shame and sorrow at the way their affairs are being handled.

At the same time, the argument by Namulambe has been a common phenomenon in African politics in the last fifty years of African independence.

Author Martin Meredith, in his book, The State of Africa: A history of Fifty Years of Independence narrates how leaders like the late Felix Houephet-Boigny of Ivory Coast and Zaire’s late Mobutu Sese Seko disdained the idea of a vice president, often saying that there was no number two, three or four, it was only Houephet-Boigny.

Mobutu likened himself to a chief who did not need to consult anybody on what decisions he took. As such he appointed prime ministers and disappointed them at will. It was not, therefore, accidental that there was a lot of insecurity among those appointed as prime ministers. Some unfortunate ones who showed an unhealthy interest in taking over from the man were incarcerated if they were lucky otherwise they were fed to the crocodiles.

In Zambia, from early on in the political life of the nation, the position of Vice President was done away with under President Kaunda. Two positions were created, that of UNIP Secretary General who was the de facto Vice President and that of Prime Minister but the office holders could be removed at will by the appointing authority.

The advent of multi-party politics and the ascendancy of the MMD to power did not help matters. The President still retained the power to appoint the Vice President such that in 10 years of President Chiluba’s tenure, no less than four people served in the Vice President’s office. The first was Levy Mwanawasa, now late, who was the MMD vice president then, followed by General Godfrey Miyanda, who was replaced with General Christon Tembo and later Enoch Kavindele who continued as President Mwanawasa’s Vice President.

Under President Mwanawasa, apart from Kavindele, three other people were to serve as Vice Presidents. There was Nevers Mumba, Lupando Mwape, and Rupiah Banda who took over the presidency upon the demise of the incumbent president, Levy Mwanawasa.

Ironically, it is under these circumstances that the NCC, Mwanawasa’s creation, has been debating the need for a vice presidential running mate in the presidential elections to avoid costly elections in the event of misfortune such as death befalling the incumbent.

Even more ironical, it is the people in Banda’s administration—who took over from a man who died in office—who are now saying a vice president can bewitch a sitting president for him to take over.

Surely, is Namulambe telling us something we do not know about President Banda in the art of witchcraft?


The pronouncement by President Banda that government will continue evacuating leaders to South Africa for treatment sounded the death knell for the University Teaching Hospital and other local health facilities to which the ordinary folk go when they suffer from debilitating diseases like heart ailments, renal failure, etc.

Poor Zambians have been known to die because they could not afford the cost of dialysis which is far and away from their reach while those with political connections have been evacuated abroad for colds, flus and ear infections.

I have visited hospitals in most parts of the country ranging from Sichili Mission hospital in Sesheke, to Chilonga Mission Hospital in Mpika, Kabompo Hospital and Nyimba Hospital, you name them. For the mission hospitals, the missionaries try their best to provide for the patients who are mostly villagers in surrounding catchment areas. Government hospitals are truly run down even the local District Commissioner would not want to be admitted to one.

For people from Kuku, Chazanga and Desai, going to hospitals such as Lusaka Trust—most Lusaka residents don’t even know where it is and yet it is just a stone’s throw away from the UTH—and Maina Soko Military Hospital which are just about the best quasi-public health facilities in the country is a dream. Being flown to South Africa for them would be a dream to end all dreams.

For President Banda to say leaders—Chief Justice Ernest Sakala, Parliamentary Chief Whip Vernon Mwaanga and Minister of Science and Technology Peter Daka have been evacuated to South Africa—would continue to be evacuated abroad is a kick in the teeth of the people who want to see an overhaul of the health delivery service.

The Zambian government can procure the machinery that those who are taken abroad go to be treated on for a local hospital, never mind the personnel because some Zambian medics and paramedics man these facilities at those foreign hospitals the leaders go to.

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