“Since the death of my husband, I have watched with pain the unfolding events and divisions within the party. Our people are concerned with the acrimony and at times shameful violence that have characterised our party’s attempt to find a successor to the late president. These divisions, if not contained, pose a real threat not only to the future of our party, but to the achievement or realisation of president Sata’s dreams…” warns Dr Christine Kaseba.
This is very correct and true. This is the way things stand in the Patriotic Front today. It is a very divided, undisciplined political party.
But this confusion, chaos, indiscipline and violent behaviour did not start now. It was there even when president Michael Sata was in charge. Many people, including ourselves, several times warned the leadership of the Patriotic Front of the dangers of not dealing with such an unacceptable and disheartening conduct. For all his praiseworthy deeds, Michael miserably failed to construct a disciplined and united political party. Divisions, factions, acrimony and sometimes violent behaviour was encouraged, tolerated and rewarded by the key leadership of the Patriotic Front. Today, they are reaping the rewards of encouraging and tolerating such negative conduct. They allowed the setting of one humble faction of the party against the other. They set one individual against another. It is said that you cannot know a person completely, his or her character, his or her principles, sense of judgment, not till he or she has shown his or her colours, ruling the people. Experience there is the test. But as always, those who plant seeds of mistrust, fear, divisions, violence and selfishness always reap exactly that. The people they were yesterday teaching to hate others, to humiliate others, to hurt others are today set on them. We have witnessed one of the worst intra-party electioneering never seen in recent years in our country. They have canvassed so strongly and indeed, viciously, along very divisive, acrimonious and sometimes violent lines, that one wonders whether the Patriotic Front really has a national party leadership or factional leaders.
Even from a personal and rather selfish angle, this way of electioneering, of seeking adoption as a presidential candidate of the party must be condemned as completely negative and evil. If those who are today seeking hegemony over the Patriotic Front are honest to the cause which their party was founded for and to the reasons why Zambians voted for them; if they are honest with their own people, they must from time to time take a critical look of self-inspection. They must think and think again how best they shall serve and not about how important they are as leaders of our people, or how they can safeguard their own positions as leaders. Why must they? Don’t they hold those positions in trust for our people? They must remember that they are not elected kings or queens, and if they believe so much in the importance of their people, they must not devise artificial methods of bottling their feelings up. On the other hand, those who elected them and those who are their advisors must help them by not doing things that will go to their heads to make them falsely feel they are special, they are the chosen ones, the anointed ones. It is, however, extremely important to understand and appreciate the principal cause of factionalism within the Patriotic Front. It is careerism, patronage, nepotism, business ambitions and corruption that is the principal cause of all this chaos, confusion that we are today continuing to witness in the Patriotic Front. But other political parties are not immune to this. We can see elements of it in the MMD.
Things may appear quiet in the UPND, but these elements are also present there. For better or worse, the other political parties simply don’t have the resources or the patronage rewards of the Patriotic Front. But they need to be extremely vigilant about the grave dangers of abusing political party positions for careerist and patronage purposes. There were some early warning signs of the dangers of all this in the Patriotic Front. But they were ignored because the key leadership wanted things that way. It will take a very strong leadership to unite the factions that have emerged in the Patriotic Front. Bringing back people who are every day fighting each other, hacking each other, insulting each other, people who see each other as enemies, will certainly not be an easy undertaking for any leader, no matter how well-meaning they may be. What may happen is that whoever is adopted as the Patriotic Front candidate may have to re-create the party.
We don’t see how the faction supporting Edgar Lungu will accept or will be accepted by the others if they lose. They have gone too far to easily or quickly retreat and be accepted. We are not saying it’s impossible. We are simply saying it will be a very difficult undertaking. The Patriotic Front is indisputably a very divided political party and bringing people who have been fighting each other to work together for a common cause requires very good leadership. But there is the other danger of the Patriotic Front actually losing the January 20, 2015 presidential election. As we have stated before, experience has repeatedly shown that a party divided into hostile groups loses its militancy. Protracted inner-party strife inevitably results in party members’ concentration on discords. The party becomes distracted from its political campaigns and day-to-day work among the masses of our people and loses its influence. The leadership and supporters of the Patriotic Front shouldn’t cheat themselves that it’s all done, come January 20, 2015, victory is theirs. They can lose this election. Who ever thought Rupiah Banda could lose power three years after winning it? The Patriotic Front has been in power for three years and the same thing that happened to Rupiah and the MMD can happen to them. There is nothing special about them. MMD thugs had taken over Lusaka, intimidating and brutalising everyone. They were made to look like they were in control. But how many votes or seats did they win in Lusaka? The Patriotic Front, especially the faction under the leadership of Edgar, is behaving exactly the same way. They shouldn’t cheat themselves that whoever is adopted by the Patriotic Front will win, it’s a done deal. The rough-handling, marginalisation that many outstanding Patriotic Front cadres have experienced at the hands of the group that is today supporting Edgar will certainly leave a strong legacy of bitterness and resentment – the walking wounded – that will take a very long time to heal, reconcile. There is need for the leadership of the Patriotic Front to take a very self-critical approach to what is going on, to what it is doing.