Fear, confusion, and uncertainty are more congenial to the mood in the Patriotic Front party. The Geoffrey Mwamba, Given Lubinda, and Chishimba Kambwili’s premature victory dance on Kabimba’s political grave could come back to haunt them because none of them know who Michael Chilufya Sata is. Having met him in the recent past, they hardly understand his mind so well as to foreknow for sure his predilection.
These three myopic men, like many in the hierarchy of the PF, do not know why Sata is surrounded by so much secrecy and intrigue. They know him simply as the epitome of hardnosed grassroots politics, and as their current savior. They, for instance, do not know the deep-rooted and convoluted relationship between him and Kabimba. They do not know the emotional stress and pain that raged in him on that fateful day when he succumbed to parting ways with his alter ego.
It can be stated that on August 28, 2014, the recuperating Sata was dragged into a dilemma against his will, a decision thrust upon him, which he could not fend off as his mind had not recovered its steadiness. Upon his return from Israel on July 4, 2014, he was under pressure from intimate bedfellows to fire Kabimba whose presidential ambitions were over the top. On that fateful day, although Sata assented to the idea, he could not bring himself to believe that he had disowned a man who for years had been the scaffold of his calamities.
When Mwamba, Lubinda, Kambwili, and other anti-Kabimba cadres around the country began to publicly wriggle their waists in celebration, Sata uncharacteristically cautioned them. He did not want anyone to discuss the Kabimba dismissal. It took those with remarkable prescient to instantly read the tea leaves in the cup. They sensed something amiss, more so when he appointed Edgar Lungu as concierge of the Patriotic Front party and vanguard of the two ministerial portfolios of Justice and Defense.
Kabimba, fully aware Sata chartered his course, chose a more tempered exit. He calmly retreated to his farm. As Sata’s prodigy and an inducted member of the Sata cartel, he was thoroughly convinced that Sata acted under duress. A list of his foes ran through his mind—Mulenga Sata, Alexander Chikwanda, Edgar Lungu…
As he drove his tractor, at times with fury, his mind was inundated in a plethora of questions. He did not understand how a man from whom he had learned to be insidious and perfidious, and who had recently abled him to enjoy privilege by appointing him Acting President at the most critical moment of his health, had failed to defend him.
It was during this period of seclusion that a feeling stole upon him that he was not alone; that he was still basking in the adulation of loyal cadres, sympathizers, and aficionados within the PF like Geoffrey Chumbwe, Goodson Banda, and Kennedy Kamba, and most importantly, from a member of the cartel, proprietor of The Post and “Michael’s” nightmare, Fred M’membe.
The cartel on which M’membe’s life depended had suffered a severe blow. There was a lot at stake—ZK14 billion owed to the Development Bank of Zambia; more than ZK8 billion (unrebased) owed to ZRA; business malpractices and various pending court cases and lawsuits. A petrified M’membe had no choice but to become Kabimba’s chief propagandist. It was the only rat hole left for him and his newspaper.
During ploughing intervals Kabimba took time to read The Post and relished in M’membe’s lionization of him. On August 29, 2014, M’membe decried that the sacking of Kabimba was “the culmination of a long and sustained campaign of lies, malice and all sorts of propaganda against him. It is a continuation of the campaign that we saw last year being waged against him by well-known elements.” Here he was referring to the so-called “Bemba clique.”
While hypocritically praising and portraying “Michael” as a good man, he launched scathing attacks. On August 31, 2014, he wrote: “And if Wynter was not loyal to Michael, who was, who is? Can it be the people who just a few weeks ago were going round, saying Michael is not coming back alive from Israel and were politically repositioning themselves to take over…There are many things we can say on this score. But for the sake of Michael, we will keep quiet, we will leave things here.”
In a fraught effort to resurrect Kabimba, the brazen and unscrupulous M’membe went even further as to apply “Watergate” clandestine tactics on Alexander Chikwanda that would lead to Zambia’s first phone tapping by a citizen on a cabinet minister. Fearing there were more “smoking guns,” Chikwanda turned yellow and let sleeping dogs lie. Sata was equally troubled. He too feared M’membe could hit him with damning revelations. A Sataleaks scandal was already brewing. Presidential confidential letters and memos were finding their way out of State House to M’membe and rolling into public view.
By keeping quiet over such matters, Sata continued to unveil his vulnerabilities. The anti-Kabimba faction that included Mwamba, Lubinda, Kambwili, and others expected Sata to immediately expel Kabimba from the party and put him under some sort of house arrest, pending investigations. They also hoped he would revoke his protection for Mmembe and make him answerable for his crimes. When this was not happening they began to see the full extent of Sata’s relationship with Kabimba and M’membe, and some like Kambwili could not bear the spectacle. In fact, it is this that has caused Kambwili to lose his mind and appoint himself de facto president.
Something else was emerging: The delay to appoint a Minister of Justice or Defense was tormenting people like Lubinda and Mwamba who are itching to bounce back. Why would the president award two ministerial posts to one man? Speculations began to fly around—he does not trust anyone anymore; he is suspicious of the Bemba clique; he has forgotten names of his Central Committee; he wants to bring Kabimba back; he is about to promote his son Mulenga to cabinet level, appoint him Minister of Defense so he can act president, and succeed him should he retire.
The Mulenga speculation must not be trashed. It is an adroit political move that could see him succeed his father before we realize it. Like fireflies, indications of Sata grooming his son are conspicuously flickering and attracting gullible prey in a colony where 80% of the population can be easily swayed. Mulenga himself is at work creating a suitable resume. Lately, he has moved from been a reclusive and introvert to a gregarious fellow, always engaging the PF crowd and behaving like the anointed one.
When the international media reported that his father had died in a New York hotel, he took upon himself to hold a press conference at the Civic Center and spoke like a head of state: “I wish to inform the nation and the world at large that His Excellency the President Michael Chilufya Sata is well in New York contrary to the online and international media reports insinuating that the president had been hospitalized.” By doing so, Mulenga had steamrolled over the Acting President Edgar Lungu whose duty it was to inform the nation.
Prior to that, Mulenga had flown to South Korea on a so-called business trip to “woo” Koreans to invest in Zambia. He did this without the knowledge of the Acting President Wynter Kabimba. It has become clear that during both the Lungu and Kabimba acting periods, Mulenga has disrespected and disregarded their roles, and laid bare his desperate desire to succeed his father.
Mulenga knows that a debilitating illness is weighing heavily on his father and causing him unsteady leadership. As of now, Sata has done more than leave a gaping hole in the leadership of his party and the country. The party is embroiled in a crisis. Each day that passes, PF cadres are becoming more confused than committed to Sata. Some are sitting on the fence waiting to see which one among the lame ducks can stir them out of the quagmire. Mulenga is fully aware, and so is Kabimba, Scott, Kambwili, Mwamba, Lubinda and all those with presidential aspirations. In other words a free-for-all battle is raging.
In all this kerfuffle, Kabimba is the time bomb. In a party of egoistic, envious, vengeful, ambitious, violent, greedy, and fanatic people, Kabimba can cause havoc that is if he is not already. Among all the aspirants, he is the most strong-willed, imaginative, and opinionated. Even after being flushed out of office, he has remained a dedicated member of the party, simply by sheer of force of determination. Many within the PF, including those who ran on the street to celebrate his removal, are beginning to have second thoughts. His message to them sums it all up:
“Good morning comrades. Thank you for keeping in touch. I’ve been at the farm where I’m doing some work, and thought of sharing some pictures. I wish you a productive week ahead. God bless you.”
With these words the die is cast. Wynter Kabimba has crossed the Rubicon and is about to blast the PF party into splinters. As evidenced by a recent fight among PF cadres in the presence of Edgar Lungu in Livingstone, Sata’s party has become a good target for bombardment. A disembodied hand has appeared and written on the PF wall the words, “Mene, Mene, Tekel, Upharsin.”
Field Ruwe is a US-based Zambian media practitioner, historian, author, and a doctoral candidate. Learn more about him on his website www.aruwebooks.com. On it you shall access his autobiography, articles, and books. Contact him, blog, or join in the debate. ©Ruwe2012.