Monthly Archives: July 2015

Damaging Zambia: Why parliamentary floor-crossing dents our democracy

By Elias Munshya, LLM, M.Div., M.A., LLB, B.A.

 Multi-party participatory democracy is deeply weaved in the very fabric of Zambian democracy. It should be an offence under the penalty of treason to undermine our democratic foundations fortified by the concrete beams of multipartyism. Zambians fought Kenneth Kaunda’s one-party participatory democracy because we knew the benefit that lay in having parties freely compete for support in the market place of democracy. Weak and sometimes inefficient as they are, political parties provide a primary platform to debate ideas and policies that strengthen our nation. In our constitution, presidential candidates must be members or should be sponsored by a political party. In parliament, our constitution recognizes the role that political parties play by crafting our democratic instructions in terms of the ruling party, the opposition party and other political parties.

Levy Patrick Mwanawasa

Levy Patrick Mwanawasa

Parties are important for several reasons. First, they provide a platform to test political ideas and persuasions. Second, parties provide a platform to assess leaders, at least in theory. Third, parties provide checks and balances. If political leaders go against party policy, the party that sponsored them can always attempt to bring them into line. Fourth, political parties provide the restraint desirable in political players. Left on their own, MPs can grow brains and get into serious mischief. Fifth, political parties are smaller models of what national governance should look like. We should be able to look at how someone runs their political party to judge how effective or ineffective their leadership could be. Sixth, and most importantly, political parties provide a stage for political organisation, civic association and electoral mobilization.

Our constitution protects our multi-party system by putting in place mechanisms by which the party political system must be respected. A member of parliament, who resigns from the party that sponsored her to parliament, must relinquish her parliamentary seat (Article 71[2]). This is a reasonable system to ensure that political parties have a voice in the governance of the nation. Additionally, if an MP is not conforming to party policy, the party has the right to suspend or expel that MP. Party leaders should have the power to intervene, suspend and expel their erring MPs. That is the nature of our system.

The idea that MPs who go to parliament should be beyond the reach of party discipline is repugnant to me and certainly distasteful to our democratic system. Multi-partyism is the system we have chosen for our selves and we had better make good use of it. I know some people who hate political parties. Well, here is some news to such characters; the Zambian system is a party political system. We do partisan politics. We are a partisan nation. And that is well within the nature of our democracy.

It is in this vein that we must interpret the recent remarks by Geoffrey Bwalya Mwamba (GBM). On Wednesday 22 July 2015, GBM got appointed to the position of Vice-President of the United Party for National Development (UPND). However, he refused to step down as the Patriotic Front (PF) Kasama Member of Parliament (MP). Essentially, GBM wants to do a double tobela. He wants to be a Vice-President of the UPND while at the same time serving as a member of parliament for a different political party. The Zambian constitution forbids what GBM claims he is doing. By joining the UPND, he has lost the parliamentary seat, which he acquired as a member of the Patriotic Front.

Double tobela

Double tobela

Both UPND president Hakainde Hichilema and GBM know that they cannot hold on to a PF seat. I think though, that their words are some kind of a protest at the way President Lungu and his predecessors have wantonly ignored the sacredness of our party political system. Beginning with Levy Mwanawasa, presidents have unashamedly poached opposition MPs by appointing them to cabinet and then using them for partisan interests of the ruling party. In the case of Edgar Lungu, he has poached several UPND MPs, and in spite of legitimate protests from the UPND leadership and membership, Lungu has not relented in using these UPND MPs for Patriotic Front partisan business. Perhaps the most bizarre of these machinations was when Movement for Multiparty Democracy (MMD) MP Vincent Mwale served as campaign manager for a PF parliamentary candidate in the recent by-elections in which the MMD, which sent him to parliament, was supposed to participate. The idea that Vincent Mwale is beyond the reach of his principal Nevers Mumba is an affront to democracy. Equally, the idea that Greyford Monde should be beyond the reach of UPND discipline when it is the UPND that sponsored him to parliament is ridiculous. In fact, it is as ridiculous as GBM defiantly grandstanding that he has a right to be a PF MP when he has clearly joined the UPND.

Zambia United

Zambia United

Apparently, President Levy Mwanawasa started this deplorable practice. According to Levy, since the constitution says the President can appoint a cabinet from parliament, the president could appoint to parliament any MP she wants. Levy was both right and wrong. He was right that a president could appoint any MP, but Levy was wrong to preach that the president could ignore opposition political party leaders by poaching MPs without sanction of the sponsoring party. The constitution should never be interpreted in ways that undermine multipartyism and pluralism. A president who wants to work with opposition MPs should first get permission from the particular party. Under this arrangement, both the president’s party and the concerned opposition party will then have some kind of an alliance (or coalition) to rule together. Brazenly poaching MPs from parties does not advance our democratic ideals it undermines it.

President Lungu should forthwith reconsider his appointment of opposition MPs and have these MPs amenable to the discipline of their political parties. Lungu cannot justify his actions simply because Levy did it. “Levy did it”, is not justification enough to break, damage, and then undermine a fundamental character of our democratic system. If Lungu really likes Levy, he should copy the good things Levy did and not copy Levy’s bad manners. Levy helped Zambia reduce kaloba, he invested wisely in infrastructure, the kwacha was under control and he fought corruption. Those are the good things to copy.

For now, I am almost certain that there will be a by-election in Kasama. GBM cannot sustain the claim to a PF seat. As the by-election approaches, I am sure the UPND will make huge gains. GBM’s move to the UPND is certainly a game changer. God bless our partisan republic.

Elias Munshya

Elias Munshya

Beyond Kolopa.com: Hichilema, by-elections and the future of the UPND

By Elias Munshya

This article appeared in the Zambia Daily Nation Newspapers. It is reproduced below.

It is another batch of by-elections and another kolopa.com of the United Party for National Development (UPND) by the Patriotic Front (PF). The PF has its own tactical and strategic blunders. They are, however, the ruling party and as such, they are getting some advantage of incumbency. There is still a lot of time to discuss what I have noticed to be serious glaring gaps in the PF overall strategy to date. I will defer that discussion to another date. Since the opposition United Party for National Development (UPND) is not the ruling party, it bears the greater burden of the two parties to show a strong strategy in the political process. If Hakainde Hichilema is to beat Lungu and the PF in 2016, he had better come up with a better plan. What we are seeing so far is a “chimbwi no plan” approach.

After losing to Lungu in January 2015, we thought that the UPND would critically evaluate its role and make some changes to its strategy. It is rather surprising that the party’s way of doing things has remained the same. It is ridiculous for the UPND to believe that it can use the same strategy it used before January 2015, and expect to win in 2016 and in between.

Weeks after this article was published in the daily nation, it appears that GBM might become UPND Vice-President at tomorrow, Wednesday July 22 conference.

Weeks after this article was published in the Zambia Daily Nation, it appears that GBM might become UPND Vice-President at tomorrow, Wednesday July 22, press conference. We will come back with an analysis of what that will mean.

Hakainde Hichilema has left intact the same team that led to his loss. While the PF has made changes to their team, Hichilema has done nothing. The UPND needs some shake up. I do not advocate for the removal of Hakainde Hichilema, but HH must shake his team a little bit. It is now six months since the 2015 loss, and yet, he has not dared to make some strategic changes to his UPND squad. The only change to have taken place in the UPND was the resignation of Richard Kapita. But what the UPND needs is some deliberate retooling of its top leadership. Hichilema must bring in fresh blood such as Maureen Mwanawasa into the top UPND leadership. He could also need to look at the position of Secretary General of the party. I am afraid, the current occupant of this position has been ineffective and for a Chief Executive of a major party, he virtually is unknown. It is time to replace Chibwe with someone more vibrant. Maureen Mwanawasa would be a great choice for this job. She is strong, she is vibrant, and she is the real deal.

Hichilema must also move quickly to find a new vice-president to replace the departed Kapita and the current Canisius Banda. I have been of the opinion that the one to replace Kapita should be a Bemba-speaking candidate. Such a choice will help balance a key weakness perceived by a section of the population about the UPND. While empirically, the UPND is tribally balanced, there are some very loud perceptions out there that seem to suggest that it is a tribal party. Hichilema needs to manage those perceptions by wisely dispelling them. And by integrating a Bemba Vice-President, the UPND will be adding an important layer to dismissing such perceptions. UPND does not have a reality problem it has a perception problem. And in politics like everywhere else in life, perceptions matter.

Elias Munshya

Elias Munshya

During the January 2015 election campaign, we all thought that the golden era of the UPND had finally dawned. And the results showed a great showing of the UPND in nearly all parts of the country. But in order to win in 2016, the UPND will need to do even better in its non-traditional areas. It is rather surprising, that after the elections, all the politicians, particularly Bemba ones, have now abandoned HH. The question we are asking is, “why does HH fail to make these people stay”? So far, they appear like they support HH and the UPND but they have not done anything tangible to show that they are willing to invest their political capital in the UPND. The likes of Mucheleka, GBM, and Mutati all appear to be quite reluctant to commit. Without serious commitment from such politicians, the UPND will continue in its failure to move its narrative forward. We have, of course, seen HH appear with GBM. But in almost all instances he appears with GBM, they are either roasting michopo at the Hakainde mansion, or they are busy boogying to Pilato’s “Alungu ana bwera” at GBM’s extravagant wedding for his daughter. There is nothing wrong with two rich guys drinking expensive drinks and celebrating a daughter’s nuptials, the problem is with the perception that such activities bring. Instead of just being BBQ buddies, GBM should commit to the UPND, resign his seat in Kasama and do something more tangible for his newly found party. The time to do so is now. Waiting until campaign period opens up in 2016 might be too late.

Many Zambians still believe in HH. But HH must do more to show that he believes in himself. So far, he appears to be unsure of himself. He appears insecure and weak. The UPND team needs revamping. HH must do something more daring and take some risks. He is a rich businessman and he has learnt risk taking through his productive life as a businessman. He needs to translate that experience to the UPND. Change something, fire someone and bring in new blood. If GBM, Mutati and Mucheleka will not commit, HH should be decisive and shove them off for people that are actually willing to commit. There is just no time left. Beauty pageants should now be over. Time for roasting BBQs at the mansion is over. A team that is willing to work hard for HH must be recognised now and assembled quickly.

And just as a suggestion. HH can also try to talk to Nevers Mumba. It is obvious that Nevers’ talks with Lungu have failed. That should provide an opportunity for HH. Every one knows that the MMD under Nevers will not go anywhere because politics has changed to disfavor the MMD. But that is not to say that Nevers cannot be useful elsewhere. If Nevers cannot approach HH, HH should approach Nevers and try to make a deal, the one that could help the UPND in the long run.

HH at one time, did say that President Sata was running a “chimbwi no plan” government. However, the same can be said of HH now. He needs to show that he still has something more for Zambia; otherwise, it will be another kolopa.com in the next batch of by-elections and terrifyingly in 2016 as well.

Cuundu Chaitwa: Leveraging the power of regional politics in Zambia

E. Munshya, LLM, M.Div.

Regions are vital ingredients of our democracy. Without regional power and peculiarities, Zambian democracy would have long perished. The best way for Zambia is a heterogeneous political polity and a diverse confluence of various regional patterns and preferences. Instead of castigating regionalism, we must now, more than ever, embrace it and leverage it for national development. The issue should never be about destruction of tribes and regions, but rather equal respect for all and by all. And that includes respecting “cuundu chaitwa”.

Elias Munshya

Elias Munshya

While we were all intoxicated by the charm of Frederick Chiluba and his team of magicians in the 1991 elections, there was one region that stood firm against the Movement for Multiparty Democracy (MMD): the Eastern province. The Easterners did a “wako ni wako” and decided to stick with Kaunda’s UNIP. Those 25 seats held by UNIP in the east saved Zambian democracy. Those seats assured checks and balances in parliament. They provided a cushion. Had Frederick Chiluba won all the seats in parliament, we would have lost our democracy. In 1991, and years after that, Zambian democracy was saved because a region decided not to follow the whole country in the sweeping of change.

Shortly after the 1991 defeat, Kenneth Kaunda retired from active politics. However, he still had interest in the presidency and this interest became a great source of instability in UNIP. Kaunda finally returned to the helm of the ruling party. What ensued was a bitter political fight between Chiluba and Kaunda. The fallout was acrimonious. Kaunda decided to lead UNIP into the boycott of the 1996 elections. And with that boycott Chiluba accomplished what he had failed in 1991 – total control over all the constituencies and all the regions. The MMD’s control of almost all seats in parliament after the 1996 elections led to its natural consequence: Chiluba was going to be “wamuyaya”. He was now commander of the entire republic and as such, his lieutenants in the MMD started promoting a Third Term. He had reason to do that because he had the requisite numbers in parliament and there was no region and no party to hold him accountable. But then another region emerged.

After the 1996 elections, it is the rise of the United Party for National Development (UPND) that would help refurbish our democracy. In the ensuing by-elections between 1996 and 2001, the UPND swept all of them in Southern Province. With those wins in the south, Anderson Mazoka’s party was going to develop into a real national party. By the 2001 elections, it was the UPND which had become the biggest opposition party. It had a loyal region in the south and it has been so for many years. After the disappointing fall of UNIP after 1996, there was virtually no opposition of consequence until the emergence of Mazoka.

Cuundu Chaitwa

Cuundu Chaitwa

Having one party win all the seats in parliament, has not worked very well for Zambia. When Chiluba had almost all the seats after the 1996 elections, he began to contemplate the “wamuyaya” doctrine. When Sata’s Patriotic Front (PF) swept to power in 2011, the Secretary of the PF, Wynter Kabimba would be heard boasting that Sata and the PF should become the sole party. Kabimba saw the PF’s victory in 2011 as indicative of the fact that Zambians now wanted to have the PF as the sole political party. Kabimba’s one-party project flopped because, there was clearly one region that was not going to tolerate his nonsense: the Southern Province. Had the south not been an opposition stronghold it would have been easier for the ruling party to try and push through some undemocratic “wamuyaya” changes. Currently, Davies Chama the new Secretary of the Patriotic Front has also been heard stating that the Patriotic Front might as well be Zambia’s sole party. Indeed, it does appear like the PF is sweeping the East and if they make gains in the Northwest and Western, they are likely to command unhealthily large sections of parliament. The only real antidote to their venom is the faithfulness of the south to the opposition UPND.

In the Third Republic, the south has been a great blessing to our democracy without which we would have long gone back to the Kaunda days. So instead of feasting on our condemnation of the political behavior of the south, we all must be grateful that the south has remained a stronghold of the UPND. The UPND’s message is now seemingly resonating across the country and very soon the party might as well grow to become a ruling party one-day. I just hope that if and when it rules, there will be a region that will stand up and say no to the UPND so that we maintain great checks and balances. For now, the UPND and the south should continue holding the PF accountable. Doing so is a great service to the people of Zambia.

Zambia comprises regions, and tribes and a dose of diversity. We cannot have any one party dictate how all this diversity must behave politically. So instead of using the One Zambia One Nation as a tool of pretense and hypocrisy, we had better say thank you to regions that have not tolled that UNIPist line and have instead decided to exercise their democratic right differently.

Politician and businessman Hakainde Hichilema

Politician and businessman Hakainde Hichilema

Regionalism in Zambian politics will almost certainly bring political players to the table. It will ensure that no one party dominates the entire political process and take us to the abyss. Regionalism will help our country to truly devolve power to the regions and districts. Regionalism will prevent the people of Milenge from voting for a party on a promise that the party will build a bridge in Malambo. Regionalism will help us ask the question: if you need a vote from my region, what will you do for Milenge? It is not enough to get votes in Milenge and then disappear to take development to Mandevu in Lusaka. Lusaka is a region in Zambia but so are Mongu and Kazungula. One Zambia, many regions.