By Field Ruwe
Thanks to Geoffrey Mwamba, the hunt for a successor has kicked off in earnest. The current battle in the PF between the “endorsers” and the “successors” has made succession a centerpiece of the party. It has become clear that the “successors” allegedly led by Wynter Kabimba, believe that the president is unwell. His impromptu trips abroad for treatment coupled by his move to build a retirement house, this early in his reign, is a possibility that he could soon retire. On the other hand, the “endorsers,” who include GBM and Willie Nsanda are convinced that the president is enjoying good health and therefore deserves the two terms. Daggers are drawn in the swath of PF darkness and people are getting hurt.
Okay, let’s assume for a moment the “successors” are right. If the president were to retire today, who would he choose to inherit his mantle? Would it be GBM or Wynter Kabimba, Miles Sampa, Given Lubinda, or indeed, his son Mulenga Sata? Would Sata pick from some of the PF stalwarts and confidants like Edgar Lungu, Emmanuel Chenda, Fackson Shamenda, and Chishimba Kambwili?
Let me start with GBM and Kabimba because it has become clear that their clash is that of ambition for the presidential succession. While their common denominator is allegiance to the president, each is working tirelessly to be a notch ahead in the Sata succession. They both believe the president might retire and that they are the “anointed successor.” This has become especially true after August 3, 2013 when GBM and his supporters endorsed Sata as the sole candidate way ahead of the next presidential elections.
In truth, when GBM hastily pointed fingers at his nemesis Kabimba, and accused him of holding covert campaigns of succession, he did so in a state of panic and from a point of insecurity. GBM and Kabimba hate each other’s guts. Their jostling for power has persisted since both joined the PF. We have watched them butt heads. Each believes he is the most powerful and a closer ally of the president. GBM’s endorsement tactic is aimed at flushing Kabimba out of the PF party. Kabimba is not bothered. He thinks GBM is sitting on eggshells. If anything he is relishing GBM’s maneuvers because they put him [Kabimba] in the political spotlight. He has some support. His strategy, therefore, is to lie low and allow GBM to find enough rope to hang himself.
The question is who would Sata anoint between the two? What would happen if he endorsed Wynter Kabimba? Many say that it would mark the end of the PF as we know it. Kabimba: Date of birth, January 12, 1958. Education: Law degree, UNZA; advocate of the Supreme Court and the High Court. Current position: Minister of Justice.
They say Kabimba’s tongue is like a machete that hacks without drawing blood. Walk into the corridors of power and you will hear echoes of disgust, dislike, or downright hatred for him. They say he is a man infatuated with his own reflection in the lake; a band-wagoner with severe egocentrism. He exudes a negative attitude at first sight. His self-centeredness is beyond redemption and his arrogance is as irritating and as unfathomable. He is a divisive individual who cannot win an election because he does not relate well to people. At the age of 55, he has archaic and retrogressive ideas like abolishing English in schools and replacing it with Zambian local languages.
How about Geoffrey Mwamba? Date of birth, March 15, 1959; MP for Kasama Central; Current Position: Minister of Defense; Education: Grade12.
Like Kabimba he too is seen as a PF hijacker. Many people say that he is not a politician, but a political shylock—a usurer of the waste kind who uses money to win elections. They say he invested in the PF in order to salvage his business at the hands of the MMD. Those who know Mwamba say he can be despotic, tyrannical, temperamental, and that he is an illiberal with a frosty smile; perhaps no different from the incumbent. And just like the incumbent, he too hates to be surrounded by intellectuals. He would usher in the same old politics of exploitation of men by man.
With these two gentlemen out, who would Sata turn to? Okay, how about Given Lubinda? He has been quick to attack GBM and his supporters. Lubinda: date of birth, May 15, 1963. Education: Diploma, Agricultural Business. Current position: MP for Kabwata.
Lubinda is the black sheep of the PF, perceived by his opponents as a master-defector, Judas and a chameleon. They say he is “Cactus Singh” because he carries a dagger in his thick hair with which to stab his colleagues in the back. Lubinda began to build castles in the air when he was Minister of Foreign Affairs. He found himself in the presence of the president more than any other cabinet minister. What Lubinda saw—the president’s poor health and unbecoming conduct during trips abroad—made him to start having illusions even in ignominy. Sata would not endorse him, not over his dead body.
Some speculate that the president may turn to his most trusted subordinate Edgar Changwa Lungu. Date of birth: November 11, 1956; Education: LLB; Current Position: Home Affairs Minister. Generally easterners are reliable and trustworthy. Back in 1901, Scottish missionaries described them as great egg-warmers. White settlers picked on that and employed them as house-servants. During KK’s reign, his best bedtimes were when Reuben Kamanga and Grey Zulu were his assistants. Sata feels equally safe to leave Lungu in his nest only for a brief moment.
How about Chisimba Kambwili, Emmanuel Chenda, and Fackson Shamenda? Kabwili; Date of birth June 3, 1969; Education: Diploma in Business Management/Administration. Current position: Minister of Youth and Sport. Nothing much can be said about Kabwili apart from he is perhaps the most violent cabinet minister. He is a PF cadre with no diplomacy. He settles scores with blood. Sata uses him as a grenade to blast dissidents. A grenade is a tool.
Chenda and Shamenda are honorable men. I know both personally. Shamenda is my “big brother.” I grew up with him in Maiteneke/Chiwempala, Chingola. He was always a leader in the hunt for wild berries and catching birds. As for Chenda, I shared a wall fence with him in Lusaka and we spent some time together. Unfortunately, they are both no nearer to spinning the PF mill the way Sata does. They do not possess the dashing personality and gravitas to pull off a national election. In a nutshell, they have a presidential ambition still to make.
If I were Sata, I would give Miles Sampa and his peers some serious consideration. Here is why: Sampa is young; born on December 26, 1970. He holds a Bsc in Agric. Economics, an MBA and is conversant with Banking Law. Most people born between 1960 and 1970 are liberal and want to be as technologically adept as the rest of the world. They do not have any colonial hangovers and are not intimidated by Europeans the way their seniors are.
In the PF such young people include Obius Chabu Chisala (1962), Wlybur Simuusa (1962), Dr. Joseph Katema (1961), Yamfwa Mukanga (1965), Joel Bweupe Ng’onga (1962), and Nathaniel Mubukwanu (1969). Such young men tend to be resourceful and self-sufficient. They grew up in tough economic times of IMF and the World Bank. They saw their parents pruned and declared redundant. They do not want it to happen to them. They are, therefore, likely to make technology the key driver to economic growth. They are likely to embrace globalization, free market capitalism, education, and strict pragmatic policies.
That is what this country urgently needs; an individual with enough political clout and ingenuity; one who can make a 360-degree turn and cultivate professional excellence among Zambians and make an exogenous rate of improvement in labor productivity. We need a young energetic leader who can embark on a comprehensive program of industrialization, with a focus on innovation, invention, and manufacturing; one who can drag our lazy intellectuals out of bars and make them help in the creation of a technologically apposite and apropos society, and save us from the shame of a sluggish people.
Would president Sata anoint Sampa or any of the aforementioned young men? I doubt it. Why? He already has a successor in mind, his first son Mulenga. Although the president would like us to believe that he harbors no presidential ambitions for his son, and his son may give the impression that he is not a man grasping for power, the human hereditary principle demands so. It has become clear in history that authoritarian and autocratic leaders are often monarchical.
Sata is the autocratic leader of the Patriotic Front party. The PF is his personal party. He methodically created it with his bare hands and owns the patent. It was like starting a business. He first consulted with his family and then informed Guy Scott that he was resigning from the MMD to form his own party. Scott and Sata’s close friends believed in him. They knew he alone could use his dashing and caustic charisma to pull the poor to his side. After ten years he succeeded.
When he got into office, he rewarded his confidants and turned his attention to acquiring absolute power. That’s what he is working on. The authority he wields over the Zambian people makes him believe he can create a Sata dynasty and pass the responsibilities and power to his son. It has become clearer to political scientists in Zambia that the president is intent on shoehorning his son to inherit the reins of power. Multiple ingredients for achieving the goal are already in place.
Well positioned as Deputy Mayor of Lusaka, Mulenga is different from sons of his father’s predecessors, who more or less stayed away from politics. He is a president-in-training. Now he is beginning to come out in the open more. He is serving as a bridge between the anti-successor PF cadres and his father. It is a great way of positioning himself strategically and of ensuring his family has a grip on power that will outlast its patriarch’s career. With the support of the cadres, Mulenga has become more powerful that any member of the PF Central Committee. The battle between the “successors” and the “endorsers” is therefore futile and a sheer waste of time. The PF already has an anointed successor.
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