*Following the passing on of Zambian president Levy Mwanawasa, I have decided to post this week's column on the blog four days earlier than usual and a day earlier than it is published in the National Mirror. I wish to express my sincere condolences to President Mwanawasa's family and the Zambian people at large for the death of the man who showed extra-ordinary courage in the manner he handled national issues. The country needs a leader with similar attributes if we are to move from where Mr Mwanawasa has left off. May His Soul Rest In Eternal Peace.
By Gershom Ndhlovu
I found the following extract in a story in one of the dailies very interesting. It clearly shows the power struggle that is brewing in government in the absence of President Mwanawasa who has been admitted to a Paris hospital for close to seven weeks now.
…And Mr Mulongoti has said there is no acting Vice-President in the country because the incumbent, Rupiah Banda, has continued to carry his position while acting as head of State in the absence of President Mwanawasa.
Mr Mulongoti, who is Minister of Information and Broadcasting Services, said in an interview in Lusaka yesterday that there was no one acting Vice-President because the appointing authority was not around.
“There is nothing like that. The appointing authority is not here. In fact, appointments of such nature should be announced to the nation. So, it must be dismissed because it doesn’t make sense,” he said.
Minister of Defence, George Mpombo, was quoted in the media yesterday as having allegedly referred to himself as acting Vice-President.
And when contacted yesterday, Mr Mpombo, who is also acting leader of Government business in Parliament, said the issue was being blown out of context.
“I wouldn’t want to comment on this matter. But all I can say is that the issue is being blown out of context. In the latest Cabinet set up, I am number three, so that should tell you something,” he said.
This is the sort of confusion that can and should be avoided at any cost if the leaders on the ground adhere to the constitution, Article 36 in particular, which is clear in such a situation. The ping pong about who is doing this and that or who is where in the hierarchy is undesirable for now.
We would all like to see President Mwanawasa completely healed and take up the mantle again, but from what the minister of health, Brigadier-General Dr Brian Chituwo told the nation in his ministerial statement (which, strangely, was disputed by fellow Cabinet ministers among them Mpombo) recently, he will not be discharged very soon.
One does not need to be a professor of political science to see the vacuum that has been created by President Mwanawasa’s absence and the ensuing power struggle. What those in control of the situation should realise, and the sooner the better, is that Zambia is bigger than an individual and it needs to move forward in all areas. It should not necessarily be bogged down by the absence of one man receiving treatment in far away lands.
To call for the invocation of the provisions of the Constitution should not be a question of loving or not loving President Mwanawasa as some shallow-minded politicians want to put it.
The presidency of a nation should not be treated the way you would treat a company chief executive who is away on sick leave and someone is acting in his capacity. There are major decisions to be taken which an acting president cannot take such as firing a recalcitrant minister. In fact an acting president, on his own, cannot remove anyone appointed by the substantive president.
Who are we as a nation going to listen to if not Vernon Mwaanga, the seasoned politician and diplomat who correctly read Dr Chituwo’s statement and, accordingly, advised, albeit cautiously, on the way forward?
Taking a position of denial in this matter will not help the nation at all. Yes indeed, we need prayers and even the miracles that Foreign Minister Kabinga Pande referred to recently, for the recovery of President Mwanawasa but, unfortunately, those are outside what the Constitution provides for.
It is imperative for Cabinet headed by Acting President Rupiah Banda, Chief Justice Ernest Sakala, Speaker Amusaa Mwanamwambwa and others in government to provide leadership by advising on the way forward regarding the constitutional replacement of President Mwanawasa. If a decision were to be made now, Zambia would have an elected leader by November or latest, December.
The Medical Association of Zambia has not been very helpful in the manner it has been making ‘political’ statements regarding the appointment of a medical board to assess President Mwanawasa’s condition. It would have been better for the association to remain silent and await a decision by Cabinet to set up a medical board of Zambian rather than French doctors to advise on President Mwanawasa’s future as head of state going by what the association’s president would want us believe.
According to MAZ president Swebby Macha, a medical board must wait until President Mwanawasa recovers, which from all indications, will not be soon.
At the height of fugitive Xavier Franklin Chungu as Director-General of the Zambia Security and Intelligence Service, or the Office of the President (OOP) as it is commonly known, officers in the organisation nicknamed Faustin Kabwe as FAKE. Whether this was by accident or by design, I will never know.
On a few occasions, I found myself covering functions that had to do with Chungu and Kabwe especially Mansa’s St. Clements Boys’ Secondary School, their alma mater, through an association called SCOBA or St. Clements Old Boys Association. It is from there that I made a few friends in the Intelligence and came to learn Faustin Kabwe’s nickname, FAKE.
It is at functions like these that one learnt the true meaning of the word “extravagance” because the dictionary definition falls far short of what these people exhibited during these excursions which usually involved intelligence officers from Lusaka, Copperbelt and Luapula Province gathering in Mansa for what, ostensibly, was a private function graced by the OOP DG.
I am not surprised that FAKE is now behind bars for a matter involving the sale of Ndola Trust School for which he organised a donation of computers by Systems Innovations, a company that installed security systems at various government institutions and its name has now come up in various court cases involving plunder.
FAKE has been smoked out, but there are many more people with dubious dealings who need to be smoked out. Strangely, the Foreign Affairs Minister, Mr Kabinga Pande, thinks that those who fiddle with the books in foreign missions do so as a matter of administrative oversight.
No Sir, they need to join FAKE at Chimbokaila.