The Temptation of Nevers Sekwila Mumba (Part IV): Battle for the Soul of the MMD
E. Munshya, LLB (Hons), M.Div.
The calls are eloquently loud and menacingly clear. Some influential members of the Movement for Multiparty Democracy (MMD) want Nevers Mumba out. Dora Siliya, Lucky Mulusa, Michael Kaingu and Brian Chituwo are among a cadre of senior leaders howling for Nevers Mumba’s blood. They want to have a new convention so that the MMD NEC could get a new mandate from members. They feel that if the MMD continued on the same path, it will die. It does appear like they are having a “John come lately” moment since the MMD crashed a long time ago.
According to Honourable Lucky Mulusa, Nevers was elected and given some “performance deliverables” which he has failed to achieve. Since Mulusa wants to run politics like a business he feels that a manager who does not deliver the “deliverables” should be fired. I wonder, though, whether Mulusa and his group have the power to fire Nevers. Major Kachingwe tried it, and the High Court correctly said no. Never in the history of Zambian political parties has a party president been elected with a wish list of “deliverables”. Zambian politics, like anywhere else, is not an exact science. What so called “deliverables” was the MMD’s first president given in 1991? What deliverables was Sata given when he launched his one-man PF party? What about Hichilema, did the UPND give him a set of deliverables? With due respect to Mulusa, this thinking of treating Nevers like a manager who should deliver “deliverables” is unique, peculiar and quite innovative for its ludicrousness. As a political principle it is untenable.
In my estimation, the MMD is sinking now because it effectively died in 2001. It was destroyed by the very people who were responsible for its founding in 1991. It is the third term debate that obliterated the MMD as a party of any political consequence. It was only the “boma ni boma” power that kept it alive, albeit on life support through the Mwanawasa and Banda presidencies. After losing power in 2011, the life support machine also got swiftly cut off. And the demise became inevitable.
There is nothing any new party president could have done to turn around the fortunes of the MMD due to the public perception that the MMD is corrupt. What is even more surprising is that at least two of these leaders baying for Nevers’ blood have had their own parliamentary seats nullified due to, among other things, electoral corruption. For Zambians who already perceive the MMD as corrupt, it does not help that Siliya and Mulusa are spearheading the anti-Nevers campaign. Could it be then, that corruption could be the problem in the MMD and not necessarily Nevers?
Some are claiming that Nevers has failed as a politician to keep the MMD seats in parliament. I sympathise with this group a great deal. I have no doubt that they mean well, but choose not to evaluate Zambia’s political trends. In many ways Nevers’ temperament does not help him much. He appears pompous, aloof and politically out-of-touch. But that is hardly the reason why a party president should be removed. Even Hichilema has faced the accusations of being aloof. With time HH has learnt to loosen-up a bit, and this is working wonders for the UPND now. Under the current political environment, there is nothing the MMD can do to defend its seats in parliament. The MMD cannot hold on to their seats, especially the nullified ones, due to two realities. First, it is the unwavering support of the PF in Bemba-speaking areas and the second one is the rise of the UPND in the South, Copperbelt rural, West and Northwest. The only province that might provide some buffer for the MMD is Eastern Province. But it too is crumbling and UPND might be the beneficiary. Bizarrely, after MMD went for the 2012 convention, it had no Easterner among its top NEC leaders. This was strange considering the fact that all parties in Zambia must have an unwavering regional support to survive. The PF is regionally strong in Luapula/North while the UPND is strong in the South. Without a regional block, the MMD cannot survive. UNIP died because it lost the Eastern regional block in 1996. Had UNIP not boycotted those elections they would still be alive and well today.
Could Nevers have provided some magic to turn around the fortunes of the MMD and provide an alternative to Sata in the North and Luapula? Simply put, in spite of the cimbwi no plan economics of the PF; President Sata remains reasonably popular in the North. Neither Nevers nor Felix Mutati was going to be effective against Sata. The MMD is simply facing a very strong opponent in Sata. With regard to Luapula, the only constituency not under PF, Milenge, appears to be leaning towards PF too. MMD simply can’t match PF at the moment. And it is showing.
Michael Kaingu and Brian Chituwo have seats in the areas where Hakainde Hichilema’s UPND is doing very well. There is no way the MMD will do well in Northwestern and the Bantu Botatwe areas because those areas are returning back to the UPND. And it is not Nevers Mumba’s fault. Give the MMD presidency to Kaingu, or to Mulusa and see that they will not be able to stem the rise of the UPND just like Nevers has failed to dent Sata’s popularity in Chinsali and other areas. The MMD is in a precarious situation. They are facing difficulties from PF as well as UPND. Additionally, they are facing judgment from the courts of public opinion as the corrupt party. Public perceptions take time to change. It is expecting too much to think that suddenly Zambians will forget about the perception they have of the MMD. Conversely, the PF might be more corrupt than the MMD, but public opinion has not caught up yet. That being the case, it is ridiculous to begin firing Nevers now, for perceptions that he had no responsibility creating.
Mulusa says he is concerned that Nevers has stuffed the MMD NEC with his own men and women. This sentiment should be pitied. Party presidents always do that. If Mulusa wants a party where it would be different, it would be great for the gentleman to start his own party. Parties are made in the image of their leaders. Nevers is trying to fashion the MMD in his image too. I trust his judgment to have Muhabi Lungu as National Secretary. Specifically, then as regard the leadership challenge, going by precedence, it does seem that party presidents do stay safe in their positions, and it is the challengers that leave. If the four challengers decide to leave the MMD there will be lots of room elsewhere for them. They can go to UPND and of course they would be welcome in PF. And may be then, the public perception of party corruption will shift to the PF. Wouldn’t it be interesting to see Mulusa and Siliya join PF? Indeed they would be welcome in PF if Nevers wallops them again at the convention. And he is likely to do so.
The same people that destroyed the MMD are now turning back and blaming Nevers for this. In Milenge we have a saying for this: Nevers balemushinga amala ya mbushi. Other people destroy the MMD, they eat from the table of corruption and then they turn back and smear goat offals on Nevers so that they can say, it is Nevers responsible for the demise of the MMD!
But is he?