Undoubtedly, the Movement for Multiparty Democracy (MMD) turned out to be the biggest loser from the political fragmentation of the campaigns of an election foisted on the country by the death of fifth PresidentMichael Sata whose illness was denied till he breathed his last.
What tore the MMD asunder was the brief return to the political arena of former President Rupiah Bwezani Banda who nearly toppled the man who succeeded him as MMD president, Nevers Mumba, save for the Supreme Court declaring the tele-evangelist-turned politician the party’s presidential candidate in the national elections.
|Rupiah Banda, Zambia's 4th President, changed the dynamics of the 2015 elections.|
Banda, better known by his initials, RB, had the support of a large number of MMD MPs as well as other national executive committee members such as National Secretary Muhabi Lungu, his deputy Chembe Nyangu, party vice president Michael Kaingu and other cadres in the lower ranks.
The woes of the former ruling party, in power for 20 years from 1991, did not just end with Lungu, the man who had denied on many a forum that RB was interested in taking over the party’s presidency to contest the 2016 elections—assuming Sata had lived ‘till then—but were compounded by another faction led by one senior MP and former minister in the RB government, Felix Mutati, throwing his weight behind opposition UPND leader Hakainde Hichilema, a candidate in the 2015 elections.
The MMD three way fragmentation left Mumba with very few MPs who went on to campaign for him in the elections in which he garnered a paltry14,000 votes. Emerging from the elections wounded, Mumba expelled Lungu, Nyangu and 17 MPs who supported RB and subsequently PF candidate Edgar Lungu to whom the former president turned his support.
Lungu Appoints MMD MPs
PF’s Edgar Lungu went on to win the republican presidency and, unsurprisingly, rewarded two RB supporters with full ministerial positions, namely Kaingu who is MP for Mwandi, and youthful Chipangali MP Vincent Mwale who made a name in parliament as the hard probing chairman of the influential public accounts committee.
Other pro-RB appointments are those of nominated MP Christopher Mvunga who was recalled from South Africa where he was working in the banking sector and handed the deputy finance ministerial position and that of former MP Lucky Mulusa as a presidential advisor. Ironically, Mulusa lost his parliamentary seat in a petition filed by the PF.
One would think that the PF as a ruling party would be immune to the problems faced by other parties. But, nay, apart from the fact that the PF was buoyed by incumbency, sympathy as well as the popularity of the deceased President Sata, its problems started even way before Sata’s demise. In fact, the sacking of the party’s national secretary Wynter Kabimba two months before Sata’s death points to festering problems in the party.
If the abscess matured with the sacking of Kabimba, what would be described as the itch started a year earlier when wealthy businessman Geoffrey Bwalya Mwamba, well known by the initials GBM, as early as 2013, three years before the scheduled presidential and general elections, started a campaign to endorse Sata as the candidate for the 2016 elections. Some quarters had by then sensed that Sata was ailing and would probably have no appetite to contest the elections.
Kabimba who was very close to Sata whom he had worked with as far back as the 1990s when the latter was Local Government Minister under Chiluba and the former as the Lusaka City Council Town Clerk, and had been appointed PF National Secretary in the run up to the 2011 elections later becoming Justice Minister, was against GBM’s premature endorsement campaign.
The shadow-boxing by the two senior cabinet ministers with GBM as Defence Minister, was to become a very divisive affair which saw many members of the party loathe Kabimba, accusing him of arrogance and bent on succeeding Sata, a man he referred to as his political mentor. When Kabimba was dismissed as party supremo and Justice Minister, there was jubilation all around the country.
Instruments of Power
When Sata passed on, the instruments of power had been left in the hands of Lungu, Defence Minister, Justice Minister and party National Secretary. The Constitution prescribes that the Vice President takes over. Incidentally, the substantive Vice President, Guy Scott, had never been left to act in the just over three years of Sata’s reign. Then Attorney General Musa Mwenye prevailed over the situation and forced Lungu, at the threat of a treason charge, to hand over power to Scott.
The PF was to organise a national convention, or is it conventions, to choose Sata’s replacement and a candidate to float for the republican presidency. The gathering was a shambolic exercise that left the party as divided as ever. There was intrigue, court battles, backstabbing and even racial innuendo against Scott, the then acting president.
A few weeks after the elections, the PF has already expelled Chongwe legislator Sylvia Masebo and her Kasama counterpart, GBM for openly supporting the UPND candidate, Hichilema.
The UPND presented a calm façade through the election campaigns, receiving support from MMD and PF MPs and officials. But it was embroiled in its own silent battles with some MPs who had particularly been appointed Deputy Ministers by President Sata, busy campaigning for the PF candidate and casting aspersions on their substantive party leader.
MPs Greyford Monde for Itezhi Tezhi, Richwell Siamunene for Sinazongwe and Poniso Njeulu for Sinjembela have been expelled from the UPND—for the second time as the cases of the first round of expulsions are still in court. The three MPs were appointed deputy ministers by President Sata and reappointed by President Lungu.
Expulsions Can Wait
The question is, can’t this round of expulsions wait until after the dissolution of parliament, as suggested by FODEP executive director MacDonald Chipenzi on Crossfire Blogradio? I mean, there are only less than 18 months before the next elections. All the parties can do is not to adopt the recalcitrant MPs for the 2016 elections.
We all complain about the high cost of by-elections and when the country is faced with over 10 by-elections, the amount of money spent on them could be better spent on some development projects somewhere in the hinterland.