The crisis of presidential by-election

The crisis of presidential by-election

By Emmanuel Mwamba
Who shall take the Day?
It’s been a whirlwind week.
It’s a week when politics took over the national discourse.
It’s a week when political developments moved from the serious, to the comical when Rupiah Banda bulldozed his way and persuaded a motley group called the National Executive Committee (NEC) to oust a legitimate and elected President, who had tried hard the last three years, to brand and rebrand the MMD.
Clearly Rupiah Banda is out of steam and too old for a young voter that has lived through the anxieties of having another old man for a President.
And Banda should have considered his enduring status of a former dignified head of state, his state pensions and benefits, and the struggle the family is currently going through of his spouse, Former First Lady, Thandiwe Banda’s fight against cancer.
But Banda is said to be pursuing active politics to attempt to take charge of affairs of the state, than to allow the infamous group called the Cartel, to put him through public humiliations, persecutions and prosecutions.
He probably is keen to take over the MMD and not necessarily stand as a candidate but use it as a bargain chip with the UPND, a party
That was the comedy of the MMD.
The bright hopes in the PF turned to a farce that turned, to absolute horror and to finally, abomination.
It started with what appeared to b a hopeful gesture.
The supreme organ of the party in-between General Conferences, a 53 member body, the Central Committee defied its Acting President, Dr. Guy Scott and convened what turned out to be a lawful Central Committee Meeting.
Its respected National Chairperson, Inonge Wina, a veteran lawmaker, chaired the meeting, The Committee picked Defence Minister, Justice Minister and Secretary General of the Party, Edgar Lungu as its Presidential Candidate.
This process was preceded by a petition of support from 63 Members of Parliament that endorsed Edgar Lungu as its presidential candidate.
It appeared the process was surgical and complete and promised to save the pain of a wrangling and warring party that has been at each other’s throat for three years.
It was not to be.
Guy Scott in his now known despotic ways simply cancelled the resolutions from the Central Committee and ignored the strong support it received from the 63 lawmakers.
He announced that in its place, a General Conference would adopt a candidate and contrary to the provisions of the party statutes, unilaterally issued a Notice and invited applications to prospecting presidential candidates and warned, “He would not allow shortcuts”.
Scott also assigned himself the roles and functions of the Secretary General and invited applications to be lodged at his office.
To assume that Scott was pursuing Democracy and was keen to ensure that the party acted in democratic and transparent way, would be to delude oneself, as Scott has now been known to only promote the interests of outside forces.
Critical to the Scott’s rules was a mandatory requirement that members of the Central Committee vying for the presidency should relinquish their position in the Central Committee.
Like the Notice itself, this requirement was illegal and unconstitutional. But Scott had engaged himself in illegalities from day one and blatantly disregarded the law, regulations and procedures, and was therefore not going to back down even if he was reminded.
Scott caused the transfer, despite the restrictions of the law on the matter, Chanda Kasolo from Luapula Province to Ministry of Information.
Kasolo quickly blacked out Edgar Lungu out of the public media. Kasolo, a relative to President Sata was so zealous in his work that he appeared on television to justify his illegal actions.
He also infuriated political parties when he imposed only one person to speak for these amorphous organisations.
After Scott’s notice, a ‘’democratic” floodgate that has never been seen in the party, opened. The qualified, the unqualified, the disqualified, the eligible and ineligible all proceeded to file with Scott.
First was Miles Sampa, a youthful Member of Parliament from Matero, and a nephew of President Sata, gathered his supporters, marched and filed his bid.
This was followed by indications from former Defence Minister, Geoffrey Bwalya Mwamba (GBM), that he would file.
In a last ditch effort to reinforce its decision to support Lungu, the Members of Parliament held a press conference and demonstrated that their list had now grown from 63-70 MPs. This was an amazing feat, as the list included 11 Ministers out of 17.
The high number of Ministers supporting Lungu embarrassed Scott, as this was a clear moral vote-of-no-confidence in his leadership and his numerous schemes.
The number of MPs had also risen beyond one-third of the house (53). This number can bring an impeachment to the floor of the house.
The same day, a grieving widow, Dr. Christine Kaseba-Sata visited Embassy Park the final resting place of her husband. She surprised many when she issued a statement claiming that Guy Scott was the anointed one and her husband had trusted him to run the transition.
Her statement in light of other earlier activities by Miles Sampa, and Chanda Kasolo, that invoked the name of President Sata in their politics, forced the family to meet and Mulenga Sata, Yvette Sata, Rachel Banda, Sylvia Bambala Chalikosa, and Mrs. Monty Tembo issued a stern warning; ‘’Family members, close or distant should speak for themselves and in their own capacities and should not invoke in vain, the name of President Sata”.
But the card to invite candidates to file for nominations was a clever ploy as it diminished or relegated the importance of what the Ministers and their MPs had achieved and the threat it posed to Scott’s government.
As Scott’s deadline neared, filing of nominations racked up.
Mulenga Sata, eldest son to President Sata and Lusaka Mayor also surprised many when he filed his nominations. He gave a condition that his nomination was only valid to the extent that a General Conference would be held. He also pledged to give the party a K41, 000.00 towards the hosting of the Conference.
From optimism when Edgar Lungu finally filed his nominations and “stepped aside” from his position as Secretary General, the day degenerated to horror and what many called a day of abomination.
Bashi Nono (Robert Sichinga) who is a “Sebele” to President Sata also filed. This brought the number of President Sata’s relatives to three (Miles, Mulenga and Sichinga).
Then information filtered that, widow to the late President, Dr. Christine Mwelwa Kaseba-Sata, had thrown her hat in the race.
This information was treated with alarm and it lit social media with debate so strong and sometimes the language was openly abusive against Kaseba.
She underestimated her dignified position as respected mother of the nation who was expected to behave as such.
At 19hrs ZNBC, people were shocked to see a broad smiling Kaseba, a widow that had already shed her black clothes (imipango).
It was barely 9 days since her husband was buried, and many asked: How could she? Whatever the urgency of her political ambitions, she was expected to mourn her husband sufficiently.
In fact ordinary citizens are still gripped with grief and to witness Kaseba’s political acts was an unfortunate move against tradition and culture (which matter the very voters she would like to target, take seriously) and was deemed as un-African, and un-Zambian.
Dr. Kaseba seems to have hit a raw nerve. She has enjoyed massive goodwill built over the years and was seen as the anchor to the Sata presidency but that seemed to have evaporated in a few hours.
Her miscalculated and culturally insensitive move was also ill timed. She was loved as a First Lady but not as a candidate.
She has failed to learn from Maureen Mwanawasa, whose only crime in 2008 was to show support to Ngandu Magande. She had issued a statement that claimed that Magande was the candidate late President Levy Mwanawasa preferred to succeed him.
The opposition leader then, Michael Sata asked Maureen to see “Alangizi”.
The backlash was strong. Despite this endorsement from Mrs. Mwanawasa, Magande lost. This was also despite the strong support Magande received from The Post (or because of The Post).
This poisonous support literally ended Magande’s political career, a promising career with international standing and strong leadership fizzled out, and his shining star dimmed to inevitable obscurity.
Many fear that the political urges she is being pushed into will result in the same sad fate as Magande’s.
And Dr. Kaseba’s final nomination portrayed a family that felt entitled to the leadership of the PF that had enjoyed the trappings and benefits of power but was too greedy to give it up.
For how can one explain a race with the mother, son, nephew and Sebele in it and all jostling and scrambling for a position that should go to any able member and colleague of President Sata?
Whoever advised the former First Lady to contest this race has subjected her to a double loss, the loss of her husband, and the loss of her own good name.
Some are stating that her strength as a woman and educated candidate, and the quality that she would be deemed as a neutral candidate will overcome the criticisms she has so far suffered. Clearly these are justifications that won’t hold.
Leaders are destroyed because we fail to tell them what’s good for them. We therefore have an obligation to state what builds our leaders and the nation.
WHO BENEFITTED FROM THE FUNERAL?
As soon as President Michael Chilufya Sata was put to rest on 11th November 2014, the succession scramble in his party, hit into high gear.
In fact the funeral provided a perfect setting and platform to change public opinion.
In his tribute, PF Secretary General Edgar Lungu stole the show when he received an outstanding response and several cheers and applause interrupted his speech.
When Lungu broke down towards the end of his speech, the crowd were moved into uncontrolled emotions and wept with him.
Mulenga Sata, eldest son to President Sata also received warm reception with his unscripted address.
The biggest loser of the day appeared to be Local Government Minister, Emmanuel Chenda whose speech centered around “Michael this, Michael that”.
Many felt that Chenda could not address the late President in such simplistic and disrespectful manner and wild guesses were made that the speech was written by Fred Mmembe, Editor of The Post as his (in)famous editorials constantly referred to President Sata as Michael.
Acting President Guy Scott also received some good applause with his brief bullish speech.
Who are the Movers and Shakers, who shall influence what?
GUY SCOTT
Guy Scott has been facing a hostile resistance against his rule.
The party’s supreme organ in-between conferences, the Central Committee have been his biggest thorn against his rule.
But Scott did not help matters.
His rule has been characterized by unilateral decisions he makes which have made him unpopular amongst his colleagues in Cabinet and the Party.
His first Act as Acting President was to cancel Cabinet and Central Committee Meetings without giving either reasons or justification for such a drastic move.
Scott’s problem is not that he is white, but because he is perceived to be the head of a group now popularly known as the “Cartel”.
This amorphous group is said to control levers of power and officers in key strategic institutions and decision-making bodies such State House, Parliament, and the Executive.
The group is said to be headed by Fred Mmembe, and Wynter Kabimba and has grown in its influence and its hold on state power and institutions.
However reports that Fred Mmembe and The Post owe state institutions in taxes, subscriptions and fees to Zambia Revenue Authority, NAPSA, and Development Bank of Zambia, has created a nasty backlash with members of the public recognizing or perceiving that the force and schemes used to control state institutions is designed to merely evade or escape such obligations.
Also the manner in which he uses The Post as a tool of intimidation, blackmail and unfair coverage against his perceived opponents has made Zambians rally behind the very under dog the paper wishes to destroy.
So the negative perception about the Cartel has grown so much that being associated with it, has become a liability.
The Cartel has become a toxic mixture in politics that even those perceived to be close to it have recently issued public statements denying proximity to it and creating a measurable distance away from its toxic influence.
So when Guy Scott cancelled meetings, this infuriated his colleagues who accused him of running the country from “Bwinjimfumu” (the road where The Post is situated on).
Unpopular decisions like the dismissal of PF Secretary General Edgar Lungu are said to have been made by the Cartel.
The dismissal was followed by spontaneous riots across some parts of the country and Scott was forced to promptly reverse his own decision.
They questioned matters relating to who made and approved the budget of the state funeral and its expenditure in the absence of Cabinet.
After the burial, Lungu as Secretary General convened the Central Committee to consider the issue of the Presidential Candidate and the mode of adopting such a candidate.
Scot promptly issued an announcement to cancel the meeting, as he had not lifted suspensions or cancellation of meetings.
This created a tense stand off as his Secretary General insisted that the meeting would go ahead.
In fact, in defiance of the directives by Scott, the meeting just didn’t go ahead, it was a resounding success.
The meeting enjoyed a full turn-out and was chaired by the PF Chairperson, Hon. Inonge Wina.
However, Scott remains Acting President, and his decisions and directives will determine how peaceful and event free the transition will be.
EDGAR LUNGU, MULENGA SATA, GBM, MILES SAMPA, ROBERT SICHINGA, CHRISTINE KASEBA, CHISHIMBA KAMBWILI, GIVEN LUBINDA AND MPANGULA
A candidate will emerge from one of the above.
It remains to be seen whether the party will hold itself together and will be sufficiently unite to fend off a challenge from the United Party for National Development (UPND).
The recent happenings in the PF will make it lose its goodwill, will likely squander the sympathy vote, it will also crack the strong foundation and vision laid by its founder President.
CONCLUSION
The race appears to be a two-horse race between an unknown candidate of the PF and Hakainde Hichilema of the UPND.
Hichilema, who has been participating in elections since 2006, is probably not enjoying the tag that he cannot win the presidency for the UPND. He is therefore expected to invite alliances and individuals to help him have a national character, and mount his last effort to capture State House.
For the PF, this is its election to lose. It has a sympathy vote from Zambians and a strong development agenda laid by President Sata.
There are many candidates that will participate such as NAREP, UNIP, and Heritage Party, a party with Gen Godfrey Miyanda who always wakes up from political slumber and joins the fray during an election.

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