By KENNEDY LIMWANYA
PATRIOTIC (PF) strongman Michael Sata was trying to play smart when he suspended Kasama Central Member of Parliament (MP) Geoffrey Bwalya Mwamba from his party position last week.
In reaction to the unilateral decision to suspend him, Mr Mwamba tendered a short-lived resignation from politics, threatening to end an 11-month stay in Parliament.
As in most of his actions, by suspending Mr Mwamba, Mr Sata had hoped to make political capital and portray himself as a no-nonsense leader who did not condone any transgression.
Because of the dishonest and hasty manner in which the suspension was made, it did not take long before Mr Sata’s real character was exposed.
Through his action, Mr Sata failed to achieve his intended objective and, instead, laid himself bare as a desperate dictator who would, single-handedly suspend a senior member of the party without calling for a disciplinary or central committee meeting.
If Mr Sata is going to be the one suspending party members, where then do the aggrieved parties seek recourse if not satisfied with the punishment meted out on them?
Democracy is certainly not Mr Sata’s cup of tea.
Contrast this with President Rupiah Banda who, despite the uncharitable remarks directed at him by George Mpombo and Ng’andu Magande for close to two years, chose not to interfere and allowed the due process of the MMD constitution to determine the duo’s continued stay in the party.
No matter how heinous the offence that Mr Mwamba may have committed, he was entitled to civilised treatment in accordance with the party constitution, if the PF has any, and no individual decisions should have been entertained.
Little wonder Mr Mwamba fleetingly threw in the towel, threatening to force the second Kasama Central by-election in less than a year.
By no means would Mr Mwamba’s resignation absolve him from the public shame that has come his way after performing John Cena’s sport on his wife, Chama, following a marital row.
But neither does Mr Sata have any right to take it upon himself to start issuing suspension letters as if he were running a personal farm.
Mr Sata’s high-handed action, meant to create an impression that he brooks no indiscipline, is just as horrendous as Mr Mwamba’s instant justice on his wife.
Why didn’t Sata suspend Mushili?
If Mr Sata wants Zambian people to believe that he is a disciplinarian, here is food for thought.
Zambian people still remember that not long before Mr Mwamba committed domestic violence on a defenceless wife, another senior PF member and Ndola Central MP, Mark Mushili, had been convicted for attempting to defraud the Zambian Government of millions of Kwacha.
Did Mr Sata discipline Mr Mushili for committing an offence that would have deprived Zambian people of resources for drugs in hospitals and desks for schools?
He did not. In Mr Mwamba’s case, Mr Sata rushed to take action as a way of trying to show that he was in charge, albeit in a horribly wrong way.
There must be some undercurrent suggesting that the relationship between Mr Sata and Mr Mwamba is not that warm.
Following Mr Mwamba’s short-lived resignation, Mr Sata went on to issue a statement that leaders should live by example and that the PF central committee would in future have to be more careful when scrutinising would-be parliamentary candidates.
Further taking a jibe at Mr Mwamba’s financial muscle and physical build, Mr Sata was quoted by The Post as saying: “It doesn’t matter how much money you have. It doesn’t matter how nourished you are” political parties always pleaded with the poor people for votes.
Mr Sata has a long history of teasing people for their physical appearance. Is this not moral bankruptcy?
Yet, this is the man who fashions himself as a possible president of the independent Republic of Zambia!
Mr Sata’s commandist leadership style is the reason most right-thinking members of the PF have distanced themselves from the personal decisions that have only served to attract rejects to the party, all in the name of “politics is a game of numbers” despite some of the numbers being political garbage.
Take, for instance, the decision that Mr Sata took to stop his MPs from sitting on the National Constitution Conference when it was constituted by the late president Levy Mwanawasa.
Selfish political interest
In a vainglorious quest to advance selfish political interests, Mr Sata differed with the level-headed members of the PF who had argued that enacting a national Constitution was a call to patriotic national duty and they would, therefore, serve on the NCC.
That well-thought decision to serve the Zambian people is what marked the estrangement between Mr Sata and close to 20 intellectually-balanced MPs like Peter Machungwa, Reverend Violet Sampa-Bredt, Ernest Mwansa, Joseph Kasongo, Elizabeth Chitika-Molobeka and Faustina Sinyangwe.
The only conclusion one can draw from Mr Sata’s problems with the independent-minded PF MPs is that the former colonial police constable enjoys being surrounded by sycophants who do not question his comical decisions.
When time came for the NCC delegates to vote on whether a Republican president should be elected by simple majority or by a 50+1 method, Mr Sata awoke from his slumber to lobby the same delegates to adopt the latter.
That time, Mr Sata must have regretted the day he differed with his MPs who had decided to sit on the NCC.
He could not lobby them because he had been calling them names for choosing to do what they felt was national duty.
Mr Sata’s decision on the NCC may be likened to the one that was taken by Dr Kenneth Kaunda when he led his party UNIP on a boycott of the 1996 general elections after the national Constitution was tinkered with to bar him from contesting the presidency on account of his having already served two presidential terms.
That suicidal decision marked the beginning of the end of UNIP, the party that had ruled Zambia for 27 years until the 1991 elections that ushered in Frederick Chiluba and the MMD.
UNIP has never been the same since that political faux pas that decimated the party’s representation in Parliament and all but returned Zambia to the one-party State epoch.
These are the invariable catastrophic consequences that emerge when the self supersedes greater collective interest.
For Mr Sata, divergence of opinion is anathema, and his life philosophy may easily be interpreted as “if you are not with me, you are against me.”
It is, thus, not surprising that PF’s electoral accord with the UPND has been thrown into a state of confusion.
It is nothing but a question of dubious political attributes, for how do people who mean well for the country fail to resolve a small matter of who to lead the two parties into the 2011 general elections?
If UPND’s Hakainde Hichilema thought that those who had advised him against going to political bed with Mr Sata were ill-willed people, he must have realised by now that shifting a snake from one hole into another does not turn it into a worm.
A cobra will always be a cobra!
It spits on any object it perceives to be a danger to its existence, and there are many victims to testify against the venomous “King Cobra”.
Edwin Lifwekelo, Edward Mumbi, and Charles Chimumbwa have all served as PF secretaries-general during the party’s nine years of existence and have very interesting tales about their working relationship with Mr Sata.
Even Guy Scott, the current unelected PF vice-president, was once secretary-general until Mr Sata elevated him.
Since the PF was founded in 2001, it has never held a convention, and that is why Mr Sata is today one of the longest-serving unelected presidents of a political party.
Again, whether the PF miraculously goes to a convention before the 2011 general elections will have to be Mr Sata’s decision and not that of the political party.
Democracy at its worst, this may be described, and it is rather ironical that Mr Sata has to be the one accusing President Banda of being stubbornly undemocratic.
In the MMD, the party leadership has insisted that before going for the 2011 elections, a convention will be held for the office bearers to seek a fresh mandate.
Today, the PF is courting Mr Mpombo, whom the MMD has just expelled, hoping that the party can use him to discredit the ruling party.
If Mr Mpombo does join the PF, he will be teaming up with a party that does not want to hear of anyone mentioning a party convention. It is taboo to talk about it.
In the MMD, at least Mr Mpombo enjoyed so much latitude that he could even use unpalatable language against President Banda in order to force an early convention where he thought he could stand as presidential candidate.
In the PF, no such talk.
PF life president
It is like the 73-year-old Mr Sata is the PF’s life president, which even raises more concerns on whether the party’s constitution was not just authored by the unchallengeable political comedian.
Here is a party that seemingly has no guidelines on how to fill vacancies, leaving everything to Mr Sata’s whims.
It is Mr Sata who appoints himself, appoints a vice-president, appoints a national chairperson, appoints a secretary-general and appoints members of the central committee, the UNIP style.
This is absolute failure of leadership.
Need someone not remind Mr Sata that the world has moved on?
Even the behaviour of some of Mr Sata’s MPs who resign at will and rescind their decisions the next hour, appear before court after court denying paternity of their children, and batter their wives mercilessly, are all a reflection of Mr Sata’s failure to lead.
Even though politics is about numbers, there must be a way of regulating those numbers.
Leaders must lead by example and show that they can be responsible parents.
Whether Mr Sata and his men have lived true to this is anyone’s guess.
Following Sata’s footsteps
Remember the questions that Dr Chiluba raised not too long ago on Mr Sata’s life outside his matrimonial home?
Is it any wonder that Mr Sata’s lieutenants are following his footsteps?
However, there are some exceptions in the PF and one of these is Dr Chileshe Mulenga, the PF deputy-secretary-general who has decided to part with Mr Sata’s undemocratic practices.
Mr Sata had sought to appoint Dr Mulenga as chairperson of the PF’s research bureau, whatever the party researches on.
If the party cared enough, it would be researching on acceptable democratic tenets. But it appears that it is Mr Sata who even appoints which material is to be researched on.
One cannot, therefore, blame Dr Mulenga for choosing to ditch Sata’s PF which does not inspire hope but thrives on hoodwinking naïve minds.
“My resignation is a matter of principle, because upholding the constitution of any club, let alone a political party in any country, is a principle that cannot be compromised,” wrote Dr Mulenga in his resignation letter dated September 4, 2010.
If the culture of appointments in the PF is backed by the party constitution, any Zambians entertaining thoughts of putting their votes on the PF must re-think their position.
Everything the PF has been doing is a reflection of how it would handle State affairs if voted into power.
Dr Mulenga does not condone Mr Sata’s wanton violation of the PF constitution.
“Once the constitution is compromised, dictatorship and misrule are ordained. I cannot, therefore, remain in an organisation in which it is okay to dissolve duly elected constituency committees just for the sake of making greedy political opportunists comfortable,” said Dr Mulenga who joined the PF in 2004.
If anyone has been wondering why the PF-UPND relationship is failing to hold, and who the cause of the problems is, at least this provides a clue.
TIMES OF ZAMBIA