By Gershom Ndhlovu
The UPND/PF, or is it the PF/UPND, Pact has squandered the people’s goodwill with which it was welcomed when it was announced just over two years ago. Truth be told, this political alliance between the two opposition parties is going nowhere. It is high time the two leaders, UPND’s Hakainde Hichilema and PF’s Michael Sata, faced up to reality and went their own individual ways.
Going by the history of elections in Zambia, which are normally held between October and December, political parties taking part only have nine to eleven months to prepare for the local government, parliamentary and presidential polls. For the two Pact parties to be still talking about the possibility of harmonising, rather than polishing their joint, manifestoes, policies and other strategies is too little too late.
The two political parties squandered their chance to consummate their “marriage” in June of last year when they officially announced the formation of the Pact at a rally in Lusaka. It was there that they should have told the nation their way forward regarding the manifesto, policy, leadership and strategy-wise. The statements coming out of the two parties now are not helping matters at all.
The danger is that if both the UPND and the PF hang on to the Pact which, for all intents and purposes, only exists on people’s lips rather than on paper, they will disadvantage themselves because by the time elections are announced, they will not be ready regarding who is to be their joint candidates at local government, parliamentary and most importantly, their presidential candidates.
If the two parties were serious with their Pact, the citizens would have by now known the presidential candidate picked by representatives of the two parties and the bickering going on, would have been behind them. What should have been remaining at this point in time was to tighten the last bolts and nuts of the government-in-waiting.
The most unfortunate development of the Pact’s existence is that the two parties have rarely held rallies together or at least acknowledged one another at these fora. It would appear to any discerning eye is that there is a lot of distrust between the two parties. Both leaders also think they are better placed to be the presidential candidate.
“While it is true that choice of the PACT Presidential candidate is important, the Joint Economic, Social and Good Governance programme is even more important as this is the basis upon which the citizens of Zambia are pinning their hopes on for a better Zambia.
“UPND believes that reaching consensus on the joint Economic, Social and Good Governance programme and the choice of Presidential candidate (together with other positions) should be taken as a package, not in isolation. In any case, the UPND’s considered view is that whoever is chosen to be PACT Presidential candidate should commit to the agreed Economic, Social and Good Governance programme.”
Principally, the above quote from the UPND’s statement of a few days ago underlines fundamental points making it reluctant to give away its position of leading the Pact. On the other hand, it appears that the PF derives its strength in being the second largest party at least going by the number of MPs in parliament and possibly that its leader, Sata, emerged second in the 2008 presidential by-elections.
Going by media stories, it appears that the PF is in full swing campaigning for itself in almost all parts of Zambia including the perceived UPND strongholds. From this alone, the UPND should abandon the pretence of the existence of the Pact before it is too late, to go out and campaign for itself in areas where it is patently weak such as the Copperbelt, Luapula, Northern, Eastern and parts of Central Province before it is too late.
The PF has also not refuted media stories of its potential cabinet which did not have any member of the UPND in it. This in itself shows how whoever came up with that list views members of the Pact partner party. This error of omission or commission could have been understandable early last year but it coming out early this year, especially unrefuted, is inexcusable.
Both the UPND and the PF should realise that the presidential poll parade is not shrinking, but rather expanding. Before the two parties know it, there will be eleven presidential candidates, obviously most of them pretenders, on the ballot paper. This is the time the two parties take decisive action on what they want to do instead of pulling the wool over people’s eyes about the existence of a Pact that is not there at all.
For now, I say to both Hichilema and Sata, cut the pretence about the existence of the Pact, or come up with something more concrete.
(Read related stories/posts here and here)
Friday, 21 January 2011
By Gershom Ndhlovu
Tuesday, 4 January 2011
By GERSHOM NDHLOVU
In one day on January 4 2011, Dora Siliya, the MMD national spokesperson and minister of education has broached the issue of political violence in Zambia three times on her Facebook page. It is obvious that for her to bring up the issue for discussion, it is something that is of concern at the highest level of not only the ruling party but government as well.
In her first posting of the day, Siliya wrote: “As a Zambian I call upon all young people to refuse politics that glorify violence. It's unfortunate that some people are bent on making violence part of Zambian politics and are preaching doom as we head toward election. Real doom is not just a word but violence that can destroy our country. Let our voices be heard to be against violence. God bless.”
In the second posting of the day, Siliya, in response to a contributor on her thread, wrote: “… I could not agree with you more. Unless at family, household level, we condemn violence, vulgar language, hatred, and simply bad manners, we should not expect good values to permeate our society. Let's all look at ourselves and our homes and end violence in all forms. Let your voice be heard in this fight against violence.”
The recent most telling effect of political violence is the recent nullification of the Mufumbwe by-election which had been won by United Party for National Development (UPND)’s Elliot Kamondo by the High Court. The nullification followed the successful petitioning of the elections by losing MMD candidate Mulondwe Muzungu on the basis of violence that characterised the run up to the by-election.
Perhaps, the most ominous harbinger to the violence that has become entrenched in the country’s body politic is that which characterised the Chawama by-election in 2001 when then newly formed Forum for Democracy and Development (FDD) fielded Geoffrey Samukonga who was clearly the favourite to win the by-election after the then Member of Parliament Christon Tembo, now late, resigned from the MMD.
His resignation from the MMD had been precipitated by violence at the party’s national convention at which he and 21 other senior members had been barred to attend it for opposing the then Republican and MMD President Frederick Chiluba who had wanted to go for an unconstitutional third term. It was not surprising that there was violence in Chawama shortly after that convention.
Before the Chawama violence, a taste of what violence was to come was unleashed by MMD supporters at Kulima Tower Bus Station who waylaid people who had attended a rally at which Republican Vice President Gen Tembo, MMD vice president Gen Miyanda and other senior MMD members had joined the opposition to denounce Chiluba’s third term attempt.
The Chawama violence is, rightly or wrongly, blamed on Michael Sata who was then MMD national secretary. He himself did not last long in the ruling party after a National Executive Committee (NEC) outsider, Levy Mwanawasa was anointed as Chiluba’s heir. Sata had felt he was the rightful heir having backed Chiluba’s third term attempt and fended off people like Miyanda and Tembo.
Worryingly, in recent times MMD cadres have been issuing public threats to harm people speaking against President Rupiah Banda’s leadership. Those that have borne the brunt of the MMD cadres’ ire have included FDD president Edith Nawakwi who was publicly threatened with rape if she continued verbally attacking Banda, Mongu Catholic Diocese Bishop Paul Duffy for saying that people in Western Province were ready to kick out the MMD, and Father Frank Bwalya, a former Catholic radio station manager, who launched a “Red Card” campaign to kick Banda and his MMD out of power.
Some MMD cadres even publicly claimed that they had a militia with which they would go after Banda’s critics. However, following a public outcry against these proclamations of threats of violence, the MMD suspended two of the most vocal members, Chiko Chibale, a Kitwe district MMD official and Alex Mubanga, a Ndola District official.
Most telling of the creeping violence within the MMD was that which broke out early in December in which supporters of incumbent Lusaka Province chairman William Banda clashed with supporters of his opponent Nolobe Kuliye which forced the postponement of the provincial council at which a new executive was to be elected.
In responses to Siliya’s Facebook posting, William Banda has not been spared the blame of perpetuating political violence within the MMD and against the opposition, notably that which broke out during the Chilanga by-election nominations at Chilanga Basic School late last year in which UPND president, Hakainde Hichilema was caught up.
However, Siliya had this to say in one of the day’s Facebook posts: “And I see that many people want to reduce violence to simply William Banda or Sata's violence in Chawama and Kanyama where people where maimed with panga(s) or even UPND in Mufumbwe. No, this is a fight against violence by all decent Zambians. You have no excuse to excuse any violence. Let your voice be heard.”
The question I ask is, is Siliya taking leadership in the fight against violence and rightly so? Can she take the fight off the social media network into the public domain which the citizens are asking of the MMD?
Saturday, 1 January 2011
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.