By Muhabi Lungu
There comes a time when every political party has to undergo a severe existential test. That time for the MMD is now. That is why every genuine member of the MMD has to devote some reflective time to thoroughly think through a decision we are all called upon to make. All of us have a stake in ensuring that we select the most appropriate individual for the difficult task ahead of us. Now that a date for the Convention has been announced, let us all have a truthful and rational discussion about the type of leader required to lead our party at this time of special need.
Prior to the 20th September elections of 2011, the MMD had existed as an opposition Movement/Party for only fifteen months before it formed it first administration. Unlike its 1991 situation, the most probable likelihood, this time around, is that an election will not be held within a fifteen month period after electing its leader. The MMD will have to oppose, fight and survive at least for a full five year tenure in the wilderness. In this regard, I believe, that I have a locus stand and the experience (both positive and negative) to advise my fellow party members in making the right choices. A wise man once said, ‘if you want to know the quality of the Road ahead of you ask those who are coming back.
CRITERION FOR SELECTION
As a concerned member of the MMD and in particular reference to the selection of the MMD leader, I put forward a five tire criterion to be used as a basis for which we should elect the most eligible candidate. These are by no means the only qualities that should be used in this process of selection; however, I believe that they are the most critical and important ones in the condition and circumstance the party now finds itself. It is also doubtful, that any one of the seven announced candidates will fit neatly into all these qualifications and therefore attain a 100 per cent grade; there is no such thing as a perfect candidate.
In our peculiar set of circumstances, the first and most important criterion I put forward is courage. Gallantry; unyielding, uncompromising Courage; Showing no fear of dangerous or difficult things and circumstances that will befall him or his party. Difficulties will definitely come our way almost by guarantee and if a leader cannot weather the impending storm, our movement will be dead in the water. We should be under no illusion that this will be an easy ride and that our leader will be given a free rite of passage.
Immediately the MMD has a substantive President, that leader will become the main competitor and therefore an automatic target of the governing party. Every attempt will be made by the Patriotic Front (PF) government, even to abuse the judicial process. In order to destroy that leader. All effort will be brought forward to discredit, frustrate and obliterate his or her character. Whether, it is through accusation of corruption, immorality, theft, demonic practice or whatever will be found to be useful- it will be used against that leader. This is not a supposition or some lightly felt premonition based on my opinion but a fact of life backed up by empirical evidence strongly imbedded in our recent history. Fredrick Chiluba was a target of the Kaunda administration; Kenneth Kaunda was a target of the Chiluba administration, as was Mazoka and Dean Mungomba. Michal Sata, who was a target of the Mwanawasa and Banda Administrations, proudly reminds us of the 40 days he spent in jail.
Only a leader who will be perceived as non- threatening or of no competitive value will not be targeted. It is imperative that the leader we elect has to have the robustness to face difficulties and be brave enough to confront the aggressor. A leader who is eager to avoid confrontation or any type of difficulties will fail to provide leadership for the MMD. A leader who is only prepared to offer ‘constructive criticism’ in the face of an impending arsenal against him and his organization will fail to inspire confidence and demoralize all those who are prepared to hold their ground. Our opponent will not seek constructive criticism of our leader; they will seek his destruction and the obliteration of his party. Every party in government in Zambia has attempted to wipe out its main opposition by whatever justifiable pretext; and this is not about to change now. For me, this criterion, is extremely important and determines my preparedness to get involved as an individual.
The second criterion is that a leader in the opposition has to be by necessity a charismatic figure. Charisma as defined from the Greek word “gift.” The natural ability to energize the party base and provide inspiration and hope in the near future. A charismatic leader provides a vision and is persuasive to the extent that it transforms followers and prospective voters. The ability to effectively communicate a message to the electorate in a manner that gives them hope is extremely essential for an opposition leader. It necessarily must include the gift of oratory. This ability to connect with the voter should not be underplayed.
3. SUBSTANCE AND DEPTH
The third criterion is substance and depth of the candidate. Here, we are refereeing to the serious qualities and the ability to think/behave with maturity and competence regarding matters at hand. To have an economic track record, with impeccable professional skills and experience at wealth creation or governance. In this criterion I also include integrity as an important characteristic. If it were up to me, this would be the most important and most weighted criteria. Sadly, however, it appears that this criterion does not rank very highly on the list of most of our Zambian voters and often it is not considered as primary. Our electorate appears more persuaded by charismatic promises, even when those promises are not based on fact or reality.
4. APPEAL TO KEY ELECTORAL DEMOGRAPHICS
The candidate we elect as MMD president has to have the capacity to appeal and make a strong possible showing among three key demographic groups on our electoral map. These are as follows:
• The Youth Demographic
• The Christian Coalition Demographic
• Regional Demographics
Let me deal briefly on the last bullet point. In the Zambia of today, there are five key electoral blocks or electoral provinces which are rich in voter delegates. On the basis of the current electoral register, these ‘battle grounds States’, in order of size, are the Copperbelt, Lusaka, Southern, Northern and Eastern electoral blocks.
In the entire 21 year electoral history of Zambia, as demonstrated by six presidential elections held since 1991, No candidate has ascended to the office of the President of Zambia without obtaining a convincing win (at minimum) in two of these five ‘delegate rich’ (vote rich) electoral blocks and performing significantly well in a third. This is of course in addition to doing very well in the rest of the country.
THE CANDIDATE THAT FITS THE BILL
Above, I have given a criterion derived out of my own personal experience and observations spanning more than two decades of political activism. In this regard, it now becomes relatively easier for me to make a sound personal choice as to who should be leader of the party in the months ahead. Out of the seven MMD aspirants that have formally applied for the position of the MMD Presidency, and in accordance to the criterion set above, I believe that Dr. Nevers Mumba most appropriately fits the task at hand; he meets the majority of the conditions as itemized and discussed above. This is not to say that he is the best performer in each category set above nor is it to indicate that other candidates do not have greater strengths.
My only contention is that he picks up the most points, overall, and does particularly well in three of the five conditions set. Although he may not be first in two of the conditions, his performance there is good enough. I believe that the MMD would be putting its best foot forward in selecting Nevers Mumba as its fourth President.