Hunt for Successor 20:
Nine Months Later
A Zambian journalist training in Boston, Massachusetts, sent me a set of questions for his radio interview. The first question read as follows: “I see you’ll soon be writing your twentieth Hunt series. How would you rate the president? What grade would you give him, nine months in his presidency?”
I quickly scribbled a few notes:
A+: Excellent: Craftsmanship: He has molded the opposition into an effigy of the PF.
A: Very Good: Media: maimed it
B+: Good: Diplomacy: Loves the skies more than his predecessors.
C: Average: Governance: rules with an iron fist.
C-: Below Average: Development: Depends on external forces.
D: Poor: Criticism: He can’t stand it.
D: Poor: Economics: Hardly understands.
D-: Poor: Campaign Promises: unfulfilled.
E: Very Poor: Democracy: Deferred
F: Fail: Succession: Hates the subject.
I gave him a “D” for overall performance because I am concerned about the direction and future of our country based on his leadership. Human rights as well as our fundamental conscionable doctrines guaranteed by our constitution are being violated.
Nine months later, the cunning manipulative talent of the incumbent is still at work. He has consolidated his power and he is ruling with an iron fist. As things stand, he has tremendous influence over his fanciers. He has filled their hearts with enthusiasm and instilled hope in their minds. He has rewarded some with jobs.
They don’t care about his ambiguous background—about who he really is. He can make as many foreign trips; ridicule anyone; punish his critics; drag his opponents to court; bend the law; threaten or beat up protesters. They care less. As long as they are happy, they are willing to give him a chance—and make him immortal.
It has now become clear that the president does not understand the essential role opposition parties play in a transformational democracy like ours. Real and not pseudo democracy calls for an effective opposition that checks on the arbitrary and despotic behavior of the government. Our president has deviously gone ahead and put Zambia on a fast track to a one-party state, and that’s where the “A+” emanates.
Just as Bobby Fischer was a world chess grandmaster of all time, so is King Cobra a grandmaster of Zambian politics. In nine months he has separated himself from his predecessors by a larger margin of playing skill. A master dribbler he has paralyzed the media, and pulled the wool on the eyes of the opposition and the entire nation in his deft stratagem.
We the Zambian spectators are again in the coliseum watching the president, wrapped in Teflon, hack, slash, lacerate, scythe, fragment, and weaken the opposition in his bid to turn his PF into a hegemonic party. He is the master ventriloquist seated on a stool at State House with wooden dummies of the opposition performing vaudeville acts on his lap. It is safe to say that he’s got Tilyenji Kaunda, Elias Chipimo, and Edith Nawakwi.
By getting Tilyenji, King Cobra has turned UNIP, the oldest party in the nation, into a mannequin of the PF. It all began on the morning of September 27, 2011. Using his executive powers King Cobra named Lusaka International Airport after KK, the father of UNIP. Four days later, he appointed Colonel Panji Kaunda as Deputy Minister of Defence. With these two calculated moves UNIP was as good as buried.
Someone tell me, how Tilyenji, the president of UNIP who is KK’s son will compete in antagonistic terms with his PF siblings; Panji, who is now Deputy Minister of Works, Supply, Transport and Communication; Waza who serves as PF chairman for health; and Kaweche a staunch PF supporter who is now fighting in the courts of law to become MP for Malambo?
How does Tilyenji castigate his father for endorsing and sending kudos to the incumbent? The possibility is not even envisaged and therefore as long as Tilyenji is president of UNIP, the party is interred. He should step down and allow other UNIP members to apply mouth-to-mouth cardio-pulmonary to the dying party.
With UNIP euthanized, King Cobra has gone after his wrecked unlicensed Black Pearl, the MMD. For ten years he had served on the pirate ship. When it began to sink he jumped off together with his lieutenants, swam ashore and now he has ordered it destroyed.
The MMD is at the bottom of the sea and the stylish tele-evangelist Nevers Mumba, a strong believer of miracles, thinks he can salvage it. How can he when he failed to build an ark at the height of his charisma?
Let’s say MMD survives deregistration, the damage is still impossible to repair. FTJ knocked the engine and sold all the spare parts and pocketed the money. His corrupt crew ransacked the ship and left only a shell. Nevers Mumba will have to overhaul the entire party. It is a daunting task because even though he has a fast mouth, he is no match for the cobra’s forked tongue. The inscriptions “RIP” are lurking.
Once bitten twice shy. When one has been hurt before, a self-defense mechanism kicks in to avoid a repetition. President of UPND Hakainde Hichilema has been feeling bullied, cheated, used, bruised, duped and dumped by the incumbent. During their so-called pact, Hichilema got very close to the cobra. He watched him drag FTJ, LM, and RB sadistically into political morass.
When King Cobra iniquitously pulled out of the pact, the dejected Hichilema was left with a bitter taste in his mouth and a low esteem of his one-time partner. His present rage is a justified reaction to very real frustration. He has learned from the cobra that trickery, deceit, indispensability, shrewdness, boldness and bluff are a norm in Zambian politics.
When the political grandmaster took possession of the country, Hichilema rebelled and called him a flip flopper for changing positions on many national issues such as the Barotseland Agreement. As recent as April, Hichilema accused the president of instructing PF cadres to beat up the opposition political leaders at state functions.
Last month he attacked the president for taking the country back to the dark ages and told Zambians that they had jumped “from a frying pan into the fire.” And when the police applied brutal force to break up a protest by UPND youths in clear violations of human rights, he stormed into the office of Lusaka Province police commissioner and forced an investigation.
But as Hichilema and the country would soon find out, no one messes with King Cobra. He alone is entitled to trashing and messing people up. He has a narcissistic history of alienating opponents, colleagues, and getting away with it. In his own self-justification, he can insult or humiliate anyone on the planet without any empathy whatsoever.
How can we forget the day he ripped apart a cabbage at a PF rally in reference to president Mwanawasa’s poor state of mind. At the same rally he said that Mwanawasa’s brain was just picked from the tarmac after an accident and packed in his head. Wow. That’s the worst defamation meted on a leader who was going through pain after a fatal accident of not his making. And yet no one in Zambia condemned such senseless and heartless utterances.
When his relationship with FTJ soured the cobra called his once strong ally a thief in Judas Iscariot style, confirming that as National Secretary of the MMD he was fully aware of the plunder. In the last election, he spewed a load of bile on RB and called him all sorts of names. What is the fuss about a “Chibwi without a plan?” Come on now!
In his campaign days, the president was the most contemptuous of all the opposition leaders. He exhibited a dismissive attitude towards other people’s feelings, wishes, needs, concerns, and standards. The entire nation knew him for his caginess and prevarications.
While King Cobra is critical of other people, he is extremely sensitive to criticism. He is so infallible he can’t tolerate the least disagreement. Hichilema’s criticism has earned him a day in court. The president who enjoys immunity has sued him, a newspaper, a radio station, and a University of Zambia lecturer for “defamation” and is demanding damages. In doing so he is trapping himself. Call him to testify and put his past deeds on record. They will become part of history.
It is obvious that the cobra is having a problem with Hichilema. However, the same cannot be said about some of the ill-equipped, none-mass-based opposition leaders. The cobra’s got them in his pocket. Because they run “Personalized” political parties, they are small and weak and are what Schwarzenegger refers to as girlie men. Lacking experience, a strong base, and good connection with the popular constituencies, they have established their parties around their personalities and are intolerant to internal democracy. To become president is not the party’s but their personal ambition.
Elias Chipimo of NAREP was perceived by many to be on the right track until he fell for the trick and took a jolly ride to Brazil. Chipimo must be told that opposition parties are rarely successful in ousting the incumbent when they befriend him. There is no such a thing as a “loyal” or “friendly” opposition party. As a leader of a “government-in-waiting” Chipimo’s role is to check and poke the incumbent, especially if he is King Cobra.
It is naiveté such as exhibited by Chipimo and Edith Nawakwi (FDD) that make it difficult to form strong opposition coalitions to successfully railroad the incumbent and conquer him. Chipimo should be on Hichilema’s side. Both should be issuing joint statements and discussing pre-electoral coalition. When UPND youths were beaten up by the police, Chipimo, Mulupi, Nawakwi, Mutesa, and Miyanda should have sent solidarity messages.
They should have mobilized their supporters and staged a country-wide protest to condemn police brutality and evoke the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights as enshrined in the UN Charter.
General Miyanda (HP) who claims to be an experienced politician and is fully aware of this clause should have been in the forefront. But those who have worked with the general know that his involvement in politics is mainly a tactical maneuver. He is in it for himself. He has failed to transform the electorate into formal and active party membership.
In truth the general is a “here today gone tomorrow” leader who becomes active only during an election. His party continues to score low levels of institutionalization and weak links to society because he has failed to forward distinct policy alternatives to the voters. He has long ceased to be a significant conduit for Zambian politics. That’s why the cobra is not bothered about him. He too should step down and give chance to others. I will not waste my time writing about him and the other opposition leaders. They have no clout to challenge and defeat King Cobra in 2016 or 2021.
I gave the president a D- in his campaign promises because the passionate kaponyas who risked their lives to have the incumbent elected are back on the street selling the same merchandise and going through the same frustrations. Same applies to the miners, nurses, doctors, and lecturers. They are waking up to the same nightmares. The gap between the rich and the poor is not shrinking. The rich are the same venal people we have known since 1964, and the poor are the same underprivileged in villages and in Kalingalinga, Chawama, Marapodi, and Mutendere.
Zambia needs heroic intervention by superman. Time is now to find a fiery, but intelligent and innovative leader who can beat King Cobra at his own game. He has to be one energetic, cobra-like tactical individual who can lock horns, mano a mano, with the president and toss back fireballs at him; one who can tell him in his face that his reign ends in 2021. Change has to begin now.
Let me end with a pick from Dr. Martin Luther King: “Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability, but comes through continuous struggle. And so we must straighten our backs and work for our freedom (future). A man can’t ride you unless your back is bent.”
Come 2021, we need a leader who can focus a critical eye on our country’s educational system and turn our children into competitors in modern technology. It has been our past, it’s their future, therefore their turn.
Field Ruwe is a US-based Zambian media practitioner and author. He is a PhD candidate at George Fox University, and an adjunct professor (lecturer) in Boston © Ruwe2012