In 1991, the Movement for Multiparty Democracy (MMD) ushered in a new dispensation of plural politics. The despotic United National Independence Party (UNIP) One Party state was set aside through the ballot box. A new economic and political dispensation was introduced and the results of that major shift are here for all of us to see.
Over the last 23 years, MMD has tried to remain true to its two fundamental values; Democracy and Private Sector driven economic policies. Each successive MMD president has built upon this legacy. MMD having been out of government for 3 years faces a defining moment; a moment where we can choose to remain true to the values that have distinguished us from other off-shoot political parties or to conveniently abandon those values to appease an individual.
As President of MMD, I am fiercely determined to ensure that the noble values of democracy and the rule of law are maintained and respected in our party. There shall be no short-cuts and no compromises. It was for this reason that our general membership asked me to take up the leadership of the party; to ensure that I fight to keep the honor and integrity of the values of our organization. I shall not disappoint our members.
Our members believed that I would not cower under the brutal crusade of the newly elected Patriotic Front (PF) party. They believed I would sacrifice my all to help preserve a party that had unceremoniously lost an election in 2011. They believed that I would give it a new face and consequently provide hope that MMD could be redeemed. That I did with the help of many committed MMD members. Today our members should expect no less from me.
In 2012 and 2013, the ruling PF unleashed a brutal sustained campaign to dismantle the MMD. Our property was confiscated including over 100 vehicles and hundreds of bicycles. Our members were intimidated and dragged to the Task Force on a weekly basis on trumped up charges. Our MPs were enticed to join the PF as deputy ministers. Almost all our 55 seats were petitioned. This was followed by unending by-elections as a result of nullifications; 23 Parliamentary and 150 Local Government by-elections.
Our party President Mr Rupiah Banda resigned as leader of the party on 26th September 2011, adding further gloom to the prospects of the party. The party was left at sea with no captain, leaving former Republican Vice-President Mr George Kunda (MHSRIP) to hold the fort even when his health was failing. A lot of our members became disillusioned and either withdrew from participation or chose to cross over to other parties. The party looked like its time to disappear from the Zambian political scene had come.
It was at this time that I put my name forward to stand as President of the party together with six other distinguished members of our party. I was rated as an under-dog in the race and told that I was not sellable. The three reasons given were that:
1. A Bemba cannot win an election because of what Mr Sata had done
2. I had no money to compete against some well-oiled candidates
3. A Pastor cannot win a political contest of that nature
After a six-month sustained campaign, my under-dog status was translated into a landslide victory of 70% of the vote at the 2012 MMD National Convention that used the 50%+1 electoral system, confirming the scripture which says “The Lord takes the foolish things of this world to confound the wise.” In another place, the Bible reminds us that “the race is not to the swift nor the strong, but that chance can happen to anyone…” For the record, I am only the second MMD president to have won by such a margin after the late President Frederick Chiluba (MHSRIP).
It was against this troubled background that I took the leadership of the MMD on 25th May 2012. Friends and financial supporters had abandoned the party. Debt was on every side. After taking over the leadership, the PF arsenal was directed at me. I was arrested several times, thrown into police cells and prison, all in a bid to intimidate me and our members.
A plan to de-register the MMD was hatched, based on PF’s knowledge that after a party loses power, no sponsor would be willing to help. The PF slapped us with a K400,000 bill for what they claimed to be unpaid Annual Returns with the Registrar of Societies. They gave us 21 days to pay or face de-registration. The implication of this move would have meant that all our MPs were going to lose their parliamentary seats. I took the lead and raised the necessary funds with help from some of our committed MPs and we saved the party from certain extinction.
Three years later, MMD is still standing against all odds. Going by the many people who would wish to contest on this platform, it is a confirmation that we have fought a good fight of faith and run a good race to preserve a party that should have folded up many months ago.
Our lawyers recently submitted papers to the High Court concerning a letter of suspension my National Secretary Mr Muhabi Lungu wrote to me with backing from some National Executive Committee (NEC) members. This action was taken after I made my position absolutely clear that I would not cede the presidency to any individual outside the provisions of our party constitution.
The MMD members who voted me in expected me, not anyone else, to challenge the ruling PF at the next Zambian General elections. I will however not touch the subject matter now before the courts of law, but will discuss the morality of some recent developments in our party, suffice to say that I was granted an injunction to halt my purported suspension.
There is a perception created by some of our opponents that I am a baby-sitter, occupying the MMD presidency for someone more qualified or more sellable. I wish to clearly state that I won the presidency of the party without any sponsorship from any powerful individual or any cartel with special interests.
It is for this reason that I declared during my inaugural speech that “I am my own man and shall not sell my birth-right to any individual or cartel.” I am here to serve the interests of all members. I am not for sale and MMD is not for sale. I stand as my own man and not as someone’s shadow. I have brought my own contribution to the table as a Christian leader, a former Vice-President, a Diplomat and a friend of the voiceless and handicapped.
I wish therefore to assure all our members nationwide, that I shall not be cowered, threatened or intimidated. Your party is strong and I am determined to fight in the deepest trench to defend democracy and the rule of law. I will uphold the constitution on your behalf as I have always done. The only way anyone can obtain the Presidency of MMD is to wait for the next convention and contest for the position. There shall be no back-door entries.
As we face this critical election, it is paramount that all Party leaders at all levels distance themselves from divisive attitudes and behavior. We must enter this election as a united force and not a divided team.
In this Jubilee year, Zambians are thirsty for fresh politics and fresh leadership. We must as a party walk with Zambians on this score. We cannot go against the wishes of the voters by forcing them to return to yesterday. We must provide a clear road map to the future. A future where Education is a right.
This fresh leadership will ensure that fertilizer, mealie meal and food prices are affordable to all Zambians. This fresh leadership will ensure that Zambians become the supreme beneficiaries of all our natural resources. This fresh leadership must clean up Zambia’s image in order to participate in the global economy and dialogue. This fresh leadership must unlock the innovation of every Zambian by ensuring that freedoms are protected for all Zambians.
Since independence, we have changed both governments and Presidents, but now it is time to change the politics. Let us go for Morality and Integrity in politics. My entry into politics is to change the color of Zambian politics. To create an environment of equal justice for all, regardless of political affiliation.
Moving forward as a party, I wish to assure all our members that I shall not allow or be part of any illegality but I shall uphold the party constitution.