It all started in 2008 when late president Levy Mwanawasa died in France at the time the Fred Mmembe, Mutembo Nchito, and other cartel members wanted him the most because of the 14 billion Development Bank of Zambia (DBZ) debt.
Just as a reminder since most Zambian easily forget and Fred Mmembe knows this weakness, when Levy died, Zambians were bombarded with all sorts of news content and editorials in the Post newspaper begging MMD leaders to choose then Finance Minister Ngandu Magande as the successor as opposed to then vice-president Rupiah Banda.
The Mmembe team wanted Mangande because he is the one who organized the DBZ loan scandal that the Mmembe cartel did not want to repay as they had diverted the money for other uses instead of investing it in the defunct Zambian Airways airline.
Prior to Mwanawasa’s death, Mmembe and current president Michael Sata were not seeing eye-to-eye and you can search any Post newspaper story and you will see the amount of negative publicity Sata was receiving that time. In fact, at one time, they even completely blacklisted him and Sata’s only lifeline in media coverage were private radio stations particularly radio Phoenix and QFM that he is now publicly demonizing – what a shameless old man.
When the Mmembe project to install Magande as successor within MMD and the country failed, they quickly forged some marriage of convenience with their arch enemy then fearless opposition leader Michael Sata who was ready to tell the voters the sweet lies of ‘more money in your pockets’ that they wanted to hear.
But despite the massive deception that was being peddled by Mmembe through his Post newspaper against Rupiah Banda and MMD during the presidential by-elections, Banda still won by a slender margin.
Rupiah Banda’s rule
Immediately RB came into office, he forcefully turned against the Mmembe cartel and demanded that the DBZ loan be paid immediately. He did not want to have anything to do with them and for those who remember, then vice-president George Kunda kept on saying that there were some unelected people (Fred Mmembe and team) with weird behavior (homosexuals) who were attempting to unsurp state powers and wanted to control constitutionally elected individuals.
RB, Kunda and team did not want this cartel to take over state powers from them, but they did not do enough to quickly close them down for fear of human rights and infringement on media freedoms. RB’s mistake was to treat these people as id they were a genuine media organization yet these were people who were pursuing a completely personal business agenda that had nothing to do with journalistic work.
Yet from the time RB took over office, they found an ‘allay’ in Sata and his Patriotic Front (PF) opposition party. These people were organizing PF like it was their party. They used and recruited several other friends of theirs such as former dictator Kenneth Kaunda who had a serious history of hatred for MMD since they defeated him in 1991, Clive Chirwa, Fackson Shamenda, Mbita Derick Chitala, Mike Mulongoti, Fr. Frank Bwalya, Mark Chona (former Task Force Chairman under Mwanawasa) and some businessmen who had lost favours from RB’s adninstration.
As lucky would have it, this shrewd cartel were able to convince almost the entire Catholic Church leadership, civil society organisations, American and British governments and other Western nations as they kept painting RB and his government the most corrupt regime anywhere on earth.
Using the newspaper, they were even able to mobilise resources from the donor community so that Sata, the person they did not believe in his leadership style at all, wins the 2011 elections at all costs.
From the resources mobilized, they even had a parallel PF campaign team led by Bob Sichinga, Mike Mulongoti, Mbita Chitala, George Mpombo, Panji Kaunda and others who went in other areas as well campaigning for PF using donor money through the Press Freedom Committee of the Post newspaper that provided logistics such as fuel and allowances.
There was a third PF campaign machinery for PF led by civil society organisations such as SACCORD under Lee Habasonda, Transparency International Zambia (TIZ) under Goodwell Lungu and Edwin Lifuka who happens to be a catholic, Anti-Voter Apathy project led by Bonny Tembo who is now PF campaign manager, and all these were heavily financed by Western donor community who believed that when Sata wins, he would chase the Chinese and they stand to benefit from Zambia’s massive resources. As is well-known, Sata was always insulting the Chinese, Indian and Lebanese investment in Zambia and this message resonated well with the majority Zambian workers in Chinese firms who felt they were being mistreated and Sata would be the savior.
The UPND factor
PF and UPND were in a pact that was eventually carefully broken-up by the same cartel using their newspaper. By this time, a number of UPND members such as Panji Kaunda, Clive Chirwa, and others were convinced that the only side of the pact able to defeat MMD was PF. Panji was on every radio station claiming that he was still a UPND member but his party (UPND) cannot defeat MMD so it was better for people to just join PF with the sole purpose of defeating MMD and the rest will sort-out themselves when in power. What was important that time was power.
Even worse, the UPND campaign team did nothing at all to penetrate the PF strongholds of that time such as Copperbelt, Lusaka, Northern, Luapula and parts of Central province.
And UPND further played a huge role in the PF victory in that it only managed to dislodge MMD in many areas, such as Western, North-western, Southern, and parts of Central province.
So, under the simple majority victory that lacks 50+1 percent, this was a good strategy for PF. As a result, even Sata himself never even bothered much to campaign much in areas such as Southern province because he was tipped about this advantage and he did not want to disturb it.
But at the time, PF also found a loophole in Western province where people were complaining about the MMD ‘bruitality’ under Banda who had refused to honour the Barotse agreement. Using Inonge Wina and Fred Mmembe’s Lozi connection, Sata, who has no shame in telling lies, camped there telling the Lozis that he would give them Barotse Independence within 90 days of assuming power as the agreement was valid. As it happened, Sata won himself very unlikely but precious votes in this region through pure lies. It is belived the PF campaign monye in Barotseland were channeled through Fred M’membe’s mother in Mongu. Thye cartel further sponsored a group of Lozi youths to demostrate against the MMD government but on the other side instructed some police officers to shoot the demonstrators. They knew that people will blame government.
PF to power
With all the above factors, PF won power from MMD, especially that people also felt it had over-stayed despite the various transformations that it had gone through over the years. Clearly, the MMD of 1991 under Frederick Chiluba and Michael Sata was completely differently from the MMD of 2001 under Levy Mwanawasa and Magande, and certainly by 2008 when RB took over, it was just the name MMD but policy behavior was completely changed. If fact, many even argue that the actual MMD proper had become PF especially that the man at the helm was the Chief Executive and key player in the previous regime for 10 years.
When in power, the cartel quickly moved in to get what they had always wanted, which is controlling state institutions. They got hold of the Zambia Police Service through Stella Libongoni who is related to Fred Mmembe and Sata’s former concubine Inutu Suba, they controlled the Parliament through Speaker Patrick Matibini who even did his law practice with Mutembo Nchito, they controlled the Anti-Corruption Commission and the Drug Enforcement Commission. They further have people right inside State House such as George Chellar and other key government institutions and foreign missions abroad.
They initially lost out the key position of vice-presidency which they wanted Inonge Wina to occupy, but thanks to their shrewdness, they have finally reclaimed it in Guy Scott and of course they control the justice system in Zambia through Wynter Kabimba, and DPP Mutembo Nchito.
In short, these people can, at any one time arrest you through Libongani at Zambia Police, DEC, or ACC, try you through DPP Mutembo Nchito and send you to prison through Acting Chief Justice Lombe Chibesakunda, they well know Sata’s weaknesses and ill health.
The succession battle underway
The Fred Mmembe cartel has not rested as they still want the precious goal of the presidency itself. This project has not been buried and they still don’t trust Michael Sata. But they have studied Sata very well and know that all he needs is daily praising and worshipping. Remember the editorial a day before Sata removed Emmanuel Mwamaba from ministry of ministry of information, the one they put Sata above Jesus? Each time they are about to lose Sata, they easily unleash Kaunda on him to control him on their behave.
Initially, the cartel were convinced there could be no other threat anywhere other than UPND president Hakainde Hichilema, who has so far remained independent and refused to be used by them. In fact HH is even more user friendly to RB than the cartel.
But while all their missiles were pointed at discrediting HH, the Bemba group led by Geoffrey Bwalya Mwamba (GBM) has emerged and it has no diplomacy whatsoever. The GBM team is such a threat both and can even do more harm if tossed outside. They have stolen enough money within a short period of time and are now more rich than ever before and they combine it with thuggery behavior. Even Sata fears this team as they also have the support base which the cartel that want to install as president Wynter Kabimba, don’t have.
For now, even the missiles that were aimed at HH have relaxed on him as they are not sure how they battle may go, as they may end-up with him being a gentleman that he is. But what if the GBM group combined with HH now that they are being tossed outside the PF?
Look-out for more pointers in this battle and the minute to minute events that led to Finance Minister Alexander Chikwanda resigning and later persuaded to rescind his decision and why he accept, and possibly the way forward in this unfolding national uncertainty.