By Gershom Ndhlovu
It is now very difficult to follow pronouncements coming from the MMD regarding elections to the National Executive Committee at the forthcoming convention. Some NEC members, provincial executive members of various regions and low-level district and constituency officials have at various times stated “their” positions on which positions are to be contested, which ones are preserved for which candidates and, indeed, those that would be contested by a sole candidate.
Notably, the positions of president and vice president have generated a lot of interest. A number of MMD members at all levels have stated, obviously against the party’s constitution, that President Rupiah Banda who is acting party president would not be challenged at the convention while some cadres have indicated their support for Republican Vice President George Kunda for the position of party vice president.
So far, only Nason Msoni has indicated that he would challenge Rupiah Banda but whether his challenge would have an impact or not, is another matter. It is, however, the position of vice president that has attracted a number of candidates including the last elected MMD vice president Enoch Kavindele who has openly declared his interest.
Others who have been mentioned include Mike Mulongoti who is the current chairman for elections and Captain Austin Chewe who contested the same position at the last convention but it was frozen following allegations of serious vote buying among candidates. The MMD has never had a vice president since.
But what has prompted Mulongoti to come out with the statement that all ruling party positions will be open for contest at the convention? First and foremost, this statement should have been made much earlier when junior officials started talking about the Banda’s sole candidacy because these statements sent wrong signals to political observers and MMD sympathisers. Secondly, it appears that Mulongoti was forced to make the statement--not that it is unwelcome--when the George Kunda lobby started gaining ground.
Another very sober statement was that of MMD legal affairs committee chairman, Bwalya Chiti, who said all MMD positions including the presidency have always been contested. Again, Chiti should have clarified just after the low level cadres started calling for Rupiah’s sole candidacy.
“If you look at every election of the MMD, there has always been contestation of all the positions, the presidency included. That is the MMD, okay! So why should you fear? I think people who fear are fearing their own shadows, or it is a creation by candidates who may want to ensure that some people do not participate by creating that fear,” Chiti said.
This is exactly what happened prior to the 2001 convention when all the provincial councils, except Lusaka led then by Dr Boniface Kawimbe, supported the then Republican and MMD president Frederick Chiluba to not only go for the third term as Republican president but for the same as party president. Unfortunately, the party constitution was even amended to allow for it.
It was the Republican constitution that not only proved difficult, but it also undid all the man had stood for in terms of democracy and his other achievements. The person who succeeded him for both positions, Levy Mwanawasa, now late, even removed his presidential immunity and for the next seven who was to frequent courts of law like a common citizen on allegations of plunder of national resources.
I wonder why some people want to liken the MMD to other parties that have not had conventions or have been led by single leaders since their inception. The MMD to a generation that fought Kaunda’s one party rule is as important as UNIP is to those who fought against the colonialists. It would be good if it held aloft the standards and ideals that its founders and interim leaders such as Akashambatwa Mbikusita-Lewanika, Mbita Chitala, Arthur Wina, Humphrey Mulemba and even Chiluba set out with.
If the MMD was to easily morph into what UNIP had been before it, where no one was allowed to challenge President Kaunda, Zambians could have as well allowed UNIP and Kaunda to continue in power. But the irony here is that President Rupiah Banda comes from the UNIP background, a party whose membership he has never officially denounced. With him, is another UNIP stalwart William Banda who only joined the ruling MMD less than six years ago.
Perhaps with more and more sober and wiser voices of people who know the MMD constitution start rising up in the party, people who have been put off by undemocratic tendencies supported even by some of the most educated people within, will start cheering it once again.