E. Munshya, LLB (Hons), M.Div.
In the 50 years of our independence, what really sets us apart as a people is the ability to reflect on issues after we have done our celebrations. Perhaps, after we have downed bottles of Kachasu and emptied tins of champagne, we really do come round to look at issues more critically. After we recover from Katubi and Katata, we always ask ourselves the critical question: “why were we celebrating in the first place”? Had it not been for this analytical character of our people, Zambia would have long disappeared from the face of the earth. No politician can hold Zambians hostage. In fact, no amount of the celebrations of even the most popular among our politicians can bewitch the democratic character of our people. We always come around.
A few days ago, if not a week ago, Zambians from all around the country, at least from the towns and villages we received reports from, had taken to potholed streets to celebrate the fall of Wynter Kabimba. There was a festive atmosphere among many that, somehow, the fall of Kabimba had given the nation a new break, a new dawn. Some Patriotic Front (PF) cadres in Kaoma under the influence of Shake Shake stated that they were happy with the fall of Kabimba because “he was the main hindrance to their development.” They mused that, Kabimba had brought them a lot of poverty, and as such, his firing will now truly bring “more money in their pockets”. In Kasama, GBM also led a march of PF cadres thanking President Sata for firing Wynter. Again, PF cadres danced and drank. A week could be a long time in Zambian politics. The same GBM who had been disowned by the PF structures in Kasama was now leading the same structures in disowning Kabimba. Some reports claim that the fall of Kabimba was celebrated in the same way, the PF electoral win in 2011 was celebrated: people spontaneously taking to the streets to drink, dance and cause mayhem in the hope that finally an answer had come. But did an answer really come? Or it is still the old story of people taking to the streets to celebrate a political milestone that eventually leaves them hungrier than before.
Days after celebrations of the fall of Wynter, several Zambians are asking themselves: “why were we celebrating in the first place?” In any case, how did the firing of Wynter come about? It is these questions that perhaps could bring some sobriety to a nation drunk on the good news of Kabimba’s firing. To me the dismissal of Wynter has not really resolved the main issues facing our country. In fact, contrary to the Kaoma cadres, the canning of Wynter will not lead to more money in their pockets. They are likely to continue suffering just like they were suffering under Wynter as Secretary General of the Patriotic Front. The reason is simple: the fall of Wynter has not fundamentally altered the character or the nature of the ruling Patriotic Front (PF) as a party that has no plan for the development of Zambia. It is ridiculous to expect anymore from the PF. It has no program to fight corruption. The PF has borrowed more money than any government in the history of Zambia. Rupiah Banda left reserves in the coffers that Sata and his PF have squandered on activities that do very little to help the nation develop. Having inherited Rupiah Banda’s Formula One road development plans, the PF have gone overboard to grant themselves contracts through the Road Development Agency (RDA), which unfortunately operates from President Sata’s office at State House.
With the firing of Wynter, President Sata has undoubtedly gotten rid of a very contentious and divisive figure in Zambian politics. But without a clear departure from the politics that made Wynter in the first place, I doubt if there will be real change in the way Sata and the PF handle issues of governance. As a demonstration of the fact that it will be business as usual, President Sata went on to personally appoint a new Secretary General of PF in the same way he appointed the guy he had just fired. Such actions are repugnant to democracy. Unless we change templates in Zambia, we are likely to be facing the same issues over and over again. That which is a problem with a template can only be changed if we reformed not only the persons, but also the templates themselves. We cannot resolve systemic deficiencies simply by changing people around. This is why, no amount of firings or sackings can bring about the change we need if the structures, templates and systems remain the same.
Going beyond Wynter has several implications. Zambians need answers as to how they are being governed. It does seems like a private newspaper that is an ally to both President Sata and Wynter Kabimba appears to be confirming Zambians’ suspicion. For its part the newspaper has gone to state that the firing of Wynter might have to do with President Sata’s “challenges, weaknesses, lapses”. The newspaper has not elaborated on this, but has further warned that if anything happened to President Sata, it will be the fault of they who engineered Wynter’s sacking. In the midst of this confusion and uncertainly, it is incumbent upon Zambians to demand answers from State House as to what these challenges, weaknesses and lapses are considering that they have led to the dismissal of a guy we all thought was the emissary of the president.
Zambians, as stated above, need to take seriously efforts at reforming not just the people, but also the structures and the templates of our government. This is more reason why we need to pay attention to the constitution making process. I believe that the constitution making process is an integral activity to the good governance of Zambia. While I do not believe that a good constitution by itself will guarantee good governance, I believe that a good constitution could help us a great deal in putting structures in place for good governance. What is really shocking out of the Kabimba saga is just how an unelected person managed to climb up to the highest echelons of power. Indeed, as mentioned above, without a clear reform to our systems, another person after the image and likeness of Kabimba could easily do the same thing.
Today Wynter Kabimba is gone. However, in our celebrations of his fall, we must be mindful of the fact that the struggle for a better Zambia continues. Problems in our country are bigger than Kabimba. As such, we need to go beyond him and capture the real issues stealing the prosperity of our people. This we must do even if we are faced with “challenges, weaknesses and lapses”.
Munshya, Elias. (2014). “Challenges, weaknesses, lapses: Beyond the sacking of Wynter Kabimba”. Elias Munshya Blog (www.eliasmunshya.org) (12 September 2014)