By Field Ruwe
It is 2013. If this year the opposition does not find a way of organizing itself, we are stuck with Michael Sata for the rest of his political career. I can tell you now that the Sata Dynasty is in the making and once created it will be impossible to dismantle. We will become a North Korea. Zambia will become a totalitarian hereditary dictatorship and a “Hermit Kingdom” like Zimbabwe, isolated from the rest of the world.
Why do I say this? It is because our “Democracy Index” is fast falling. The Democracy Index is supposed to measure the state of democracy in a country. It is based on 60 indicators grouped in five different categories: electoral process and pluralism, civil liberties, functioning of government, political participation and political culture.
After a year of Sata’s presidency, Zambia has failed in all the categories and can now be categorized as a “flawed democracy” operating under a fledgling authoritarian regime. All signs point to a single-party state organized around Michael Sata (founder of the Patriotic Front Party), his family, and closest allies. Read Wynter Kabimba’s twisted lips: “It is not the PF who wants the one-party state. It is the people of Zambia.”
We may have succeeded in stopping FTJ from a third term bid. We must not bank on this one. There is a big difference between Frederick Titus Chiluba and Michael Chilufya Sata. Chiluba was covertly (quietly) aggressive. In trying to dominate and control us, he was deceptive enough to hide his behavior and true intentions. In the end we caught him—just on time.
Sata is the opposite. He is overtly (openly) aggressive. When he is determined to get something by hook or crook, he is open, direct and without shame. He uses “Reward Power” tactic to destroy his opponents. Beneficiaries respond in kind by blackmailing, defecting, or by carrying through with orders, requests and directions.
Remember how when he was sworn in, he made the destruction of The Post a priority? Right before our eyes, he ransacked the paper and left only the shell in the name of Fred Mmembe.
A year later, the newspaper is toothless and its Managing Editor wallows in the corridors of power, avoiding being run over. He spends the bulk of his time defending his ego and hoping for a bright day. Today, George Chellah, Amos Malupenga and other former senior staff have assumed powers beyond him.
Sata is still using distraction and diversion techniques to keep Mmembe off focus so that he can keep himself free to promote his self-serving hidden agenda.
It is with this same “Reward Power” weapon that Sata wishes to blast the opposition and create a one-party state. He put it to test back in June 2012 when he seduced Elias Chipimo (NAREP) and Edith Nawakwi (FDD) to accompany him to the Rio+20 summit in Brazil. He took them on a trip so as to lower their defenses. He wanted them to surrender their clout and ability to fight him.
He chose them not because they were the most aggressive opposition leaders. They posed the least threat. As a master manipulator and explorer, he was exploiting their greatest weakness—lavishness and opulence. Both Chipimo and Nawakwi have experienced certain kind of pleasure in the past; Chipimo through up-bring, and Nawakwi through the MMD. Sata wanted them to relive it.
By asking them to accompany him on a free jolly ride overseas, he awakened in them the desires they have very little control over. With this positive reinforcement, they succumbed to him, and he felt respected and comfortable in their presence.
When he posed with them for photographs at Heathrow in London, and in Brazil he was showing us how powerful a manipulator he was and how gullible the opposition was. In the end, using his “Reward Power” weapon he knocked the molars out of their mouths. With only a few teeth left, Chipimo and Nawakwi went down their knees and thanked him for wounding them. They have not been the same since—more so Nawakwi.
I have said it before and I will say it again, FDD is going nowhere with Nawakwi at the helm. Marksman Sata shot her off the radar when he appointed her to oversee investment in the bio-fuel enterprise,
He quickly reloaded his “Reward Power” and turned it on a Catholic Priest of all the people—Father Frank Bwalya. Sata knows that religion is always a factor in Zambian politics. He uses Christian rhetoric to portray an image of empathy, morality and truthfulness, and makes political gain from his image as a Catholic.
There are about three million Catholics in Zambia (about a quarter of the population), making the church the largest religious institution. Previously, the church was a collaborator with the ruling party to preserve the status quo until the Evangelical FTJ declared Zambia a Christian nation. With that the Catholic Church was relegated to a pressure group and an auditor of public life.
In the past years the church has, intentionally or unintentionally, fronted a young Zambian priest, Father Frank Bwalya, to pose as a political activist. Sata knows how dangerous Bwalya is. Back in 2010 when Bwalya was arrested on suspicion of calling for the removal of Rupiah Banda, there was a massive protest.
Although they are friends, Sata knows that Bwalya is an ambitious agitator and provocateur, running an “opposition party” called “Get Involved or Die Zambia.” He is perhaps the biggest threat. Sata crippled him with a ZESCO Board member blast. He too has not been the same since.
As at December 31, 2012, opposition parties were circling the drain like refuse, and it may be safe to say goodbye to almost all of them. Fully aware of their vulnerability, Sata has turned his “Reward Power” arsenal into a weapon of mass destruction and he is shooting at the opposition trapped as they are in the drain.
Working within his presidential powers and with no care for consultation he is poaching opposition law legislators and party executives—offering many of them deputy ministerial jobs and executive positions in the corporate world.
It was a gesture such as this one that sent Nawakwi’s FDD in disarray in 2003 when Mwanawasa awarded key members of her party cabinet positions; Dipak Patel (Commerce Minister), Geoffrey Samukonga (Deputy Commerce Minister), and my buddy Chance Kabaghe (Deputy Agriculture Minister).
Sata is not doing it in the same spirit as Mwanawasa. He is hoping that the appointments will put the last nail in the coffin of the opposition.
First, Sata has targeted the MMD, a party hamstrung by its own internal divisions. Even though to some people Nevers Mumba has made some impressive strides in this short period, it is too little too late.
Like Andrew Kashita has said, the MMD is on its deathbed. I have repeatedly said that it has long stopped to breathe. Now I can predict that the MMD is headed for a big splinter. It will take something pretty dramatic to stop the tsunami.
A political dilettante, Nevers Mumba, is handing Sata a real opportunity to completely annihilate and cremate the MMD. His failure to find a way of connecting with his rivals in his party is most unfortunate and could be at his own peril, politically.
Where is his pastoral knack to bring the lost sheep together? Members like Major Richard Kachingwe have a right to freely express their fears and grievances, even to doubt their leader’s loyalty to the party.
If it is true that Mumba’s readmission to the MMD was rejected at a meeting chaired by Mwanawasa, MMD National Chairman Kabinga Pande, who Kachingwe says attended the meeting, should confirm or deny the claim. And if indeed Mumba is still running the Reform Party he should issue a statement to clear the air and apologize to his new followers. Being leader of the party does not make him indispensable.
Most of all, Pastor Nevers Mumba should have publicly castigated the people who beat up Kachingwe and prayed for their forgiveness. How is he going to save Zambia if he cannot save people in his own party? Expulsions and suspensions are fodder for Sata.
As for Hakainde Hichilema, he has not gone over the hump of identity and belonging. His party is still usurped by tribal politics. He is struggling to tap into the people’s natural fear of supporting what they perceive as a “Tonga” party.
When he travels beyond southern province people see him the same way they saw Harry Mwaanga Nkumbula—a political leader of the Tonga people. This perception limits his ability to expand and pose a formidable challenge to the shrewdest and craftiest of them all. If elections were held today, Hichilema would still be playing fiddle to Sata.
This is Hichilema’s sixth year since he assumed the leadership of UPND and immediately received the endorsement of KK and got 25% in September 28, 2006. Many were hoping for an upward trend, but it has not been the case. He has remained in third position with a declivity performance of 19.7% in 2008, and 18.17% in 2011.
I have said it before that of all the opposition leaders, he understands Sata better. He has looked into Sata’s bloodshot and fierce eyes and seen what other opposition leaders have not. He knows how crafty and narcissistic Sata is. After the experience he had with him, it is etched in his mind that Sata is an exploiter of the worst kind.
This year Hichilema needs to figure out how to win. He needs to move his base from Lusaka to the Copperbelt and create strong UPND branches in Mansa, Kasama, and Chipata. There are a lot of disgruntled PF, MMD, and UNIP supporters to tap on in these areas. Most of all, the UPND and MMD must find a way of creating an impervious alliance.
As for senior “politician” Brigadier General Godfrey Miyanda, he’s is not worth the mention. He is either a smart conman or a heartless exploiter. Same can be said about Tilyenji Kaunda. The Heritage Party is fictitious and UNIP is deceased. As for the remaining opposition parties, I shall treat them the same way the U.S. treats the Green Party.
This year an energetic and assertive leader with social and political influence, one who is charismatic enough to enlist the support of miners on the Copperbelt, marketeers and kaponyas, chiefs, and religious leaders around the country, must emerge among us and put an end to this one-party nonsense. Come on Zambians, let’s make this a better democratic country—a country in which we all have an opportunity to realize our dreams. Happy New Year!
Field Ruwe is a US-based Zambian media practitioner, historian, and author. He is a PhD candidate at George Fox University and serves as an adjunct professor (lecturer) in Boston. ©Ruwe2012