Friday, 14 November 2008


By Gershom Ndhlovu


In the few weeks before the last presidential election I heard two people, one a journalist with close ties with a Cabinet Minister and a provincial minister, and another a clergyman with very close with the MMD, say “Sata takatekepo ichalo”, loosely translated as Sata will never rule the country.

As much as the two people are my friends, I doubt if they know each other and if they do, they probably do not know how close I am with each one of them. In fact the first time the clergyman said this was in the run up to the 2006 elections and repeated it in the run up to the recently held presidential elections.

The finality with which my two friends would say this left me cold and very worried as to the intention of, and practice of the elections by the MMD as the ruling party. It may appear to me as though that the MMD and people somewhere in the government system have ruled out certain people from the presidency and Sata is one of them from the look of things.

I never took this matter seriously. In fact I dismissed it as just idle chatter among friends until after the last election when yet again serious flaws emerged in the handling of elections by the Electoral Commission of Zambia despite the best intentions exhibited by new chairperson, Justice Florence Mumba.

These friends do not give a reason why Sata “will never rule the country” but it may appear that this is an issue that is discussed in the higher echelons of government considering what links my two friends have. The clergyman actually had access to the late President Levy Mwanawasa if that should give an indication of how well connected he is in the corridors of power.

Clearly, statements like this undermine the democratic process of any country, Zambia included. People in authority should not determine whom they will allow to govern or not govern. Whoever subjects himself or herself to the will of the general citizenry through an election should be allowed to ascend to power without any hindrance at all.

The Constitution should be blamed for any flaws about any candidate as it does not address the brusqueness or the lack of it of a candidate and this is a characteristic that certain people do not seem to like in Sata.

If anything, the National Constitution Conference (NCC) should quickly be given a fresh mandate to review the Constitution in total now that we as a nation have just witnessed the death of a sitting president, a matter which was never adequately addressed in the existing and past constitutions. This should be an opportunity for those drafting the document to address issues of choosing leaders in an ordinary general election or in an instance where a sitting president dies.

As it is, we will have a written constitution that gives guidelines on the election of leaders and a mental constitution in the minds of people running government who would do anything to exclude certain people from ascending to power even if they were to be elected. This in itself has the potential to undermine the electoral process when it becomes a routine exercise because the results do not meet the citizens’ expectations.

This is what caused problems in Kenya after last year’s December elections when the opposition was clearly cheated out of its victory in favour of the ruling party and also in Zimbabwe early this year. Unfortunately, governance in that country has not normalised since President Mugabe “won” a re-run of the elections boycotted by the main opposition party last June. This is the situation Zambia risks sliding into if elections appear rigged in favour of the ruling party.

And if comments attributed to army commander General Isaac Chisuzi and Inspector General of Police Ephraim Mateyo a couple of days before the elections are anything to go by, the electorate could have been intimidated not to vote for certain candidates because of a perception of violence that was created in the minds of the people by the two officers.

If these issues are not quickly addressed in Zambia’s governance process, the country risks a citizenry that is detached from important political issues and a leadership which would be perceived as fraudulent.


Watching Barack Obama’s acceptance speech as US president-elect early on Wednesday morning, I could not help but shed a tear of joy for the country where people of African origin have struggled for equality for centuries.

While Obama is the one carrying the trophy on this lap of honour, credit should be given to people like Sojourner Truth, Harriet Tubman, Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King Jr and a whole lot of others who started or ran the race at one point or other.

There are so many heroes and heroines in America who have over time contributed to the struggle to reach the stage where an African-American will in just over 70 days take over the reins of power in America.

It was Rosa Parks, a seamstress, who gave the Civil Rights movement the direction it took which resulted in the rise of Martin Luther King Jr who was to give the now famous “I have a dream” speech, a dream now fulfilled in Obama.

One day in the 1950s, Parks, knackered from a hard day’s job, got onto a bus in Montgomery, Alabama and plonked onto a forward seat which was then reserved for whites and when told to take her rightful place at the back, she flatly refused.

The outcome of that event triggered the boycott of buses by black people in that part of the US and the modern civil rights movement was born.

But go on, Barack Hussein Obama Jr, the aftershock of your election is bringing about seismic changes in the wider world.

***The death last week of Wapolina M’kandawire reminded me of the fact that death always plucks the best fruit in the garden. Wapolina had unsurpassed passion for the arts.

1 comment:

Zedian said...

I also had in mind the Zimbabwean situation where Mubage and his ZANUPF have publicly declared that Morgan Tsvangirai and his MDC will never rule Zimbabwe. Surely that is the epitome of a political crisis which Zambians must use all effort to avoid at all costs.

I also think the unfortunate statements from Gen Chisuzi and Inspector General of Police Ephraim Mateyo must be looked into to see just what influence , if any, they had on the electorate casting their votes.

On the factors that led to the election of the very first African-American as US President, I suggested to a bunch of my friends last week that George W. Bush is another 'unsung hero' is this. For his appointment of Colin Powell and thereafter Condoleezza Rice to the all-powerful position of Secretary of State did wonders in placing African-Americans in great positive light, and changing public perception both at home and abroad.

BBC political analysts have also mentioned the "Palmer Effect", (The African-American US President in the TV series 24), which proved more powerful than any Bradley Effect which some people predicted would haunt Obama on election.

One of my friends responded rather colourfully as follows:

"It obviously looks like a case of where the arts lead, America will follow. A similar precedent was set by Star trek creator Gene Roddenbury with the introduction of the 1966 black female
character captain Uhura at a time when chifitas in the movies still worked on the plantation. He had to explain to the real american public where he got the notion that a black person could hold such high office, and he did that by saying that the period drama was set ''well into the future''. Amen !"