By Gershom Ndhlovu
A few weeks ago, on social network site Facebook, I sent the following message to MMD spokesperson Dora Siliya:
“The MMD has just finished holding a series of provincial conferences at which provincial executive committee members notably chairpersons who are also members of the national executive committee, have been elected.
“In most cases, competition for the position of chairperson was discouraged and most of the rivals stood down at the last minute after being spoken to by the acting MMD president, Rupiah Banda who is also head of state. The move by President to talk out some candidates brings to question the “democratic” credentials of the party which has democracy in its name.”
Siliya sent me the following response: “What is good about MMD is that we are able to have internal democracy through negotiations, compromise, elections and dialogue. At the end, the voice of the majority prevails. Even when one individual tries to believe it's about them the party works out to show them that it is about the ideals of MMD based on a development agenda. In Southern, Northern, Copperbelt and Central there were more than one candidate.”
It is quite shocking that barely a few weeks later, MMD chairman for elections Mike Mulongoti should be dismissed as minister of works and supply and has his nomination as MP withdrawn for trying to stand up for democracy in the MMD. However, Mulongoti may not receive a lot of sympathy because he himself was quite abrasive to people like former defence minister George Mpombo who had been airing their views about democracy within the party.
Mulongoti should have defended the same principles he is defending now that he is gunning for the vacant position of party vice presidency, the post for which President Banda is supporting his Republican Vice President George Kunda. A lot of candidates at provincial congresses were pressurised to stand down and allow those that President Banda desired to work with. It is these people that Mulongoti should have spoken for before he ended up tying himself in knots, setting him at cross purposes with President Banda whom he says he, together with the late Benny Tetamashimba, brought into the party
Whatever the case, Mulongoti raises valid questions about democracy, or more appropriately the lack of it, in the MMD. If President Banda wants to choose the people he wants to work with in the MMD, then there is no point in holding provincial congresses and the national convention at which members are supposed to elect their representatives in the party.
Looking at the MMD now, it is a very different institution from the party that held its first convention at the beginning of 1991 which whose elections were truly and genuinely democratic. Those that have followed subsequently have degenerated into a handpicking circus.
In 2001, up to 22 senior MMD members were barred from attending the convention and challenging for the positions of their choice including that of president, which incidentally then President Frederick Chiluba was still interested in despite serving the constitutionally allowed two terms.
The 2005 convention did not equally go well as the then President, Levy Mwanawasa, froze the elections for the position of vice president apparently because he did not like some of the people that were likely to win the poll. In his words, he alleged that some candidates wanted to buy the position through bribery. The position has been vacant since then and the irony of it is that it is the same position that has burnt Mulongoti’s fingers.
May be the drama unfolding now just goes to show that the run up to the 2011 elections and what goes with campaigning is upon the nation and more drama is in store and as I say “watch this (political) space.”