“Ifintu ni Inonge”: The making of the Edgar Lungu candidacy
E. Munshya, LLB (Hons), M.Div.
It is November 30 2014. Delegates have gathered at Mulungushi Rock of Authority in Kabwe. The Patriotic Front is supposed to be having its Extra-ordinary conference. The acting president of the Patriotic Front, Guy Scott, called the conference, but for some reasons best known to himself he has decided not to attend the conference. He is not prepared to officially open it. As the delegates gather and wait for the official opening, it becomes apparent that their president would not show up. In fact, he would not even come near the venue of the conference.
Then enters Inonge Wina, the chairperson of the Patriotic Front. She ambles to the platform at Mulungushi and makes an announcement. She is calling the meeting to order. In spite of the absence of Guy Scott, the general conference must go on. She mentions that she had been in a meeting with Guy Scott and it seems like he would not be attending the conference. However, PF must move on to select a leader to succeed President Sata.
Wina enjoys reading, gardening and cooking. She holds a degree in history and sociology. She was the first CEO of the Young Women Christian Association (YWCA) shortly after independence. She has worked in the government as a civil servant and as a politician. As a passionate women’s rights advocate she volunteered her time on various boards. In 1996 she was elected national chairperson for the NGOCC, an alliance of civil society organisations. Her active political involvement started with the United Liberal Party in 2006. After winning the Nalolo seat in 2011, she was appointed to cabinet in the new government.
In making that announcement in Kabwe, Wina brought to culmination a whole month of speculation and crisis within PF. She had made it very clear, that as Chairperson of the Patriotic Front, she was not going to be intimidated in the discharge of her duties by Guy Scott or anyone acting on his behalf. By standing up to power, Mrs. Wina had drawn upon the inspiration garnered from her own lifetime. Born in 1941 at Suibumbu Village in Senanga, she had served in civil society promoting gender equality and advocating for women’s rights. For her, resolving the crises in the Patriotic Front was just one of those duties in her life.
At first, she appeared to have been a neutral arbiter of conflicts beginning to surface just after the passing of President Sata. The main players in the conflict were Guy Scott on one side and Edgar Lungu on the other. She appears to have been quietly trying to have these two camps iron-out their own differences outside the glare of the public. But Scott’s infamous act to fire Lungu as Secretary General before President Sata was even laid to rest, rubbed many PF stalwarts the wrong way. As a peacemaker, that she is, she joined several PF leaders to have Scott rescind his decision to fire Edgar. To his credit Scott reversed his decision. Relations in the PF then went from bad to worse. It seemed that most of the MCCs had picked their side. They wanted Lungu. Most of PF MPs as well had decided to back Lungu for the presidency. On the other hand, Scott visibly did not seem to like Lungu. But in spite of Scott’s clear contempt for Lungu, it appears like there was consensus in the central committee, in cabinet and among PF parliamentary caucus that Edgar was going to be the PF candidate.
With the worsening relations within the PF, it was clear that resolving the conflict required some courageous leadership. It was at this juncture that Inonge’s guidance was going to be evident. She determined that the best way to resolve these problems was to give people what they wanted. She was not going to play neutral anymore. She had taken time to listen to the MCCs, to the MPs, and to the cabinet members. Consensus seems to have gone towards Edgar Lungu and she seems to have decided to make that happen. In many ways, therefore, she chose Edgar Lungu and she was going to do all that she could do to have the PF pick the candidate that consensus seems to have settled for. It also seemed clear that in spite of the emerging consensus, it was only Guy Scott and a few of his colleagues that did not want Lungu. Scott was going to do everything in his power to block Lungu. But doing so would not come without cost to the Patriotic Front. It is this cost, that Inonge wanted to avoid. And so the battleground was marked and the swords were drawn, Inonge Wina had picked a side and she was going to fight to the finish.
Consistent with Guy Scott’s reactionary and clueless leadership, when he noticed that Inonge had taken sides, he decided to drop her from PF. She responded with the bulk of MCCs to suspend Scott. Until that time, the pro-Lungu MCCs had lacked a credible spokesperson. All that changed when she emerged as the spokesperson for them. She brought credibility and integrity. The more Scott reacted against her, the more unreasonable he appeared. When on 30 November 2014, she stood at that platform to call the conference to order, it was all clear that Lungu was going to be elected. If PF stalwarts had picked Edgar, it was just natural for her to be the facilitator of that process rather than being the hindrance to it.
When later, in December she was asked about what had actually transpired at Kabwe, her answer was to the effect that she decided to go on with the meeting because she was concerned about the ruling party supporters who had travelled long distances to come and attend the meeting. She did not want to disappoint them. She wanted to have them go back having elected their leader. And so it was her pragmatism that finally won the day. Zambia needs pragmatic leaders like her.
After the election of Edgar Lungu, Scott proved that he still had some fight in him. He went ahead and conducted a fresh accreditation process and held another conference on Monday, December 1. But as far as Wina was concerned, the PF conference had already elected Lungu. What Scott was doing according to her, was illegal. She decided to go to court to compel Scott to not go ahead with his conference. Having obtained the injunction against the Monday meeting, Inonge Wina addressed the press with new PF president Edgar Lungu and presented to him the party’s adoption certificate. The work she had started was going to be brought to completion. At that same meeting, Lungu fired Bridget Attanga as Secretary General of the Party and replaced her with Davies Chama. This is perhaps one of the most significant tactical decisions that would prove decisive in giving Lungu the PF presidency.
Edgar’s route to the PF presidency has been fraught with great difficulties. Without the resolute leadership of one Inonge Wina, it could have been even more challenging. Lungu won because Wina did all she could to have him become the candidate. A president Edgar Lungu should look no further than Inonge for the choice of our country’s vice-president should he win in January. Inonge Wina has really earned her stripes. Vice-President Inonge Wina has a good ring to it. Ifintu ni Inonge.
Munshya, E. (2014). After Sata: Inonge Wina and the making of the Edgar Lungu candidacy. Elias Munshya Blog. http://www.eliasmunshya.org, 30 December 2014