By George Lubasi
There are two schools of thought regarding PF after Sata. There are those who think it is too early to talk about succession in the party. This view is also shared by one of their media supporters, The Post who argued in a recent editorial that all efforts should be concentrated on delivering and that succession should be set aside. Then there are those who think that Sata’s successor should be identified now, rather than later.
Apart from these two distinct camps, there is also one group composed of people who regard themselves as the ‘owners’ of the party either by blood connection to the leader or by the amount of money they pumped into the campaign. This group believes it should either have the final say on who succeeds Sata or one of them must as a foregone conclusion succeed Sata. The alternative to this is a group that regards itself as the intelligentsia and is quite dismissive of those who want to succeed Sata based on blood relations or financial muscle.
Wynter Kabimba had repeatedly stated the reason he had declined to serve in government was because he wanted to concentrate on organizing the party. He said it was important to have some people remain outside government so that they could remind those in government about the promises the party made. It is from that premise that Wynter has had the audacity to tell off ministers for what he perceived to be their ignorance of the party manifesto.
From a distance, Wynter appeared to carry a genuine approach to selflessness and loyalty to the party. But the often unstated objective of Wynter remaining outside government was that by going round the country in the name of organizing the party, Wynter was building a support base for himself with presidential ambitions in mind. By going round the country to organise the party, Wynter made himself the most common senior official that the grassroots saw and interacted with. He was seen as the express image and representative of Sata.
Ever since the succession battle erupted, the rival camps have been working on certain permutations. Wynter believed by going round the country and mobilizing the party, he was putting himself in pole position. But the other camp led by GBM believed that by being in Cabinet, they were closer to the centre of power, and therefore, geared to win the top slot when the time comes. GBM has been trying to recruit Alexander Chikwanda to the camp, but Chikwanda has said he has no interest in party battles. However, those close to Chikwanda hint that it’s not necessarily lack of interest but it’s because Chikwanda feels GBM is ill-suited for such a role – even as a mere campaigner.
What was oblivious to GBM &Co. was that Wynter may not have been in government, but being Sata’s confidante as well as being in charge of the entire party machinery made him a powerful figure. This is something GBM’s camp refused to acknowledge even when they saw Wynter frequenting State House to consult with Sata on a number of issues regarding party and government. GBM’s camp has informants at State House to inform them of Wynter’s interactions with Sata.
Recently when there were press reports of a power struggle, Wynter outsmarted his opponents by quickly pledging loyalty to Sata. That effectively preempted any accusations that he was working against the man at State House. His pledge of loyalty was handsomely covered by the party’s propaganda outlet, The Post. From a tactical angle, Wynter had apparently beaten his opponents to the game as there was no one accusing him of anything. This was at a time when GBM was busy with his ‘assassination scheme’. Unlike Wynter who has taken a self-effacing approach to the issue of succession even when he might be interested, GBM has taken a rather clumsy route. Amid a chain of spirited denials that the PF government is nepotistic, GBM has come out in the open to declare his presidential ambitions and justify Sata’s ‘family forest’ because those are the people who stood by him.
GBM’s camp had always thought having Wynter outside Cabinet was a plus to their ambitions as they misleadingly believed that kept him from the inner circle. Therefore, the appointment of Wynter as Justice Minister is not only a slap in the GBM camp but has now added a new twist to the succession battle.
Unlike in the past when the lead opponents operated from different bases (Wynter at the party secretariat; GBM in Cabinet with some informants at State House); they will now come face to face.
Sata is torn between his family obligations and financial indebtedness to GBM& Co, on the one hand; and on the other hand, to Wynter who is believed to have played no small part in organizing the party ahead of the last election that brought PF to power. In addition, Sata and Wynter have long, historical ties that appear too strong to be sacrificed on the altar of a power struggle.
Which way the battle goes is pretty too soon to tell. But the battle for succession is certainly on; those that claim it is too early to discuss it or that it does not exist are living in denial.