Today”s Post Editorial
There is growing indiscipline in the ruling Patriotic Front.
And this indiscipline is not new. The characters behind this unending indiscipline are well known and have been at it for a very long time. Many in the leadership of the Patriotic Front have in the past voiced their concerns. Miles Sampa has warned against tolerating indiscipline and disorderliness in the party. Mwenya Musenge has also spoken on this issue, warning that discipline was critical to the success of the Patriotic Front and was the basic guarantee of its triumph.
But it seems this and many other calls for discipline in the party, including from party president and President of the Republic Michael Sata himself, have fallen on deaf ears. The levels of discipline within the Patriotic Front are not sliding reluctantly down the slippery slope. They are eagerly skiing down it, extending it to the whole country, to institutions and individuals outside the party.
Every day, there are fights within the Patriotic Front. What are all these fights for? We know for sure they are not fighting over party policy on the economy and social spheres. We also know that they are not fighting over who should take this or that risk; who should be in the firing line or who should be the first martyr. There is no doubt that all these fights are over who should get what position and the benefits that go with it, or who should get this or that contract. It’s all simply about eating and repositioning themselves to eat, to loot, to rape.
We have written a number of editorial comments on the need for discipline and unity within the Patriotic Front. But no one seems to be reading or comprehending what we are writing.
Indiscipline is a bad thing. There is no disquisition about this. But if so, why is it being tolerated in the Patriotic Front? When bad things, wrong things are tolerated, it always means that there is someone benefiting from those bad, wrong things. This indiscipline we are increasingly witnessing in the Patriotic Front is being tolerated and fuelled because there are some members, cadres, leaders who benefit from it.
It is very easy to unleash a wave of indiscipline in a political party, but it is very difficult to stop it when the time or need to do so comes. Again, we point to the example of the indiscipline that characterised the African National Congress a few years ago. Junior party officials like Julius Malema were mobilised by Jacob Zuma and his friends to insult, humiliate and hound Thabo Mbeki out of the top leadership of the party. And they succeeded in doing so. Thabo was humiliated by Malema and his indisciplined comrades. They insulted Thabo without restraint. When all this was happening, Zuma and his friends were quiet, watching as if they were not part of that apparatus. But today, the same bells that tolled for Thabo are today tolling for Zuma.
When this was happening to Thabo, Zuma who wanted to benefit from his humiliation, despite having a lot of influence, politically and otherwise, kept quiet. They did nothing to stop that indiscipline, the insulting and humiliation of Thabo. Some of them even openly encouraged it while others tacitly fuelled it. Today, Zuma seems to be a victim of the same indiscipline they had allowed to dominate the African National Congress when it suited them, when it was Thabo and other comrades at the receiving end and not themselves.
Today, all one needs to do is to pledge some loyalty to Michael and exalt his name, after that they can go ahead and insult, humiliate, undermine anyone. They can even go and parade coffins, purporting to be containing the remains of living human beings without being challenged or stopped. Everyone in the party hierarchy keeps quiet. Once a ticket is bought, using Michael’s name, one is free to go for anyone in the party leadership or even outside the party. And the party leadership never protects anyone from such attacks; it always keeps quiet. Why?
When the calls for discipline in the party were made by Musenge and Miles, we supported them and called on the leadership of the Patriotic Front to give them favourable considerations.
We had the opportunity to discuss some of these things with leading figures in the Patriotic Front government. But the response we got was shocking. Some were not ashamed to defend this anarchy as being a democratic right of the members of the Patriotic Front involved. And these are people one would generally consider to be levelheaded and reasonable. They project themselves to the public as mature, sober and decent people when they are nothing but crooks who are always ready to use any means to get what they want. Some of the people we are talking about here are at the centre of the corrupt and tribalistic clique that is trying to assume hegemony over the destiny of the Patriotic Front and indeed of this country. These opportunists have defended indiscipline because they benefit from it. But indiscipline should not be mistaken for democracy because the two are very different. If anything, democracy requires more and more discipline. Indiscipline belongs to anarchy. And anarchy is not democracy. If anarchy is democracy, then it is certainly not the best form of democracy for one to pursue.
With the serious breakdown of discipline that the Patriotic Front is today experiencing, there is need to affirm anew the discipline of the party along the lines that were suggested by Miles and Musenge.
It is important to always remember that people follow disciplined politicians. Cadres without discipline irritate the masses and repel them.
The indiscipline, bad manners and language of some of the Patriotic Front leaders and cadres is starting to grate on the public. We have seen Patriotic Front cadres go round harassing people, intimidating people, roughing up people. This is indiscipline that must be stopped with all the urgency possible. There is need to respect the masses and not to rob them in any way. No one should be allowed to take a single needle or piece of thread from the masses. And all that is collected from the people for the party should be turned to the party.
And there is need to pay attention to politeness and civility in discourse. Speak politely. Do not hit or swear at people. The bad language, the insults from Chishimba Kambwili are unacceptable and form part of the indiscipline we are talking about. But the Patriotic Front leadership is doing nothing about it. Why?
You don’t mobilise people to vote for you, to support you by hitting them on their heads, by brutalising. That’s assault, not leadership. People respect those who respect them; people are loyal to those who are loyal to them. And discipline is part of the conduct needed to win people’s trust, respect and loyalty. And as Musenge correctly observed, that’s what wins people’s support and votes; that’s what assures people’s support and votes.
It shouldn’t be forgotten that it was indiscipline that destroyed the MMD when it was in power. They created a brutal force under the leadership of William Banda, and they thought by trying to silence everyone, by brutalising everyone, their will could prevail. We all know how easily they were kicked out of power – within 36 months, they were out of government. This is not because they did nothing. Some of the projects being undertaken by the Patriotic Front government were started by them. But still, people kicked them out of government within three years. The Patriotic Front leaders, cadres and members shouldn’t think they are immune from all that. This could also happen to them. They have enough time to change their approach and pursue a more disciplined path that will endear more people to them.