By Dr. R. Mtonga
Zambia’s nascent democracy is coming of age very rapidly.
As a young nation at 47 years of age this year, Zambia is a long way from ripening and reaching the ultimate in democracy.
It is a well-studied and indisputable fact that the vast many Zambians alive today do not even have the slightest memory of life before independence in 1964.
Very few indeed remember what it was like to live under British Imperial domination and let alone how the struggle for independence was conceived, orchestrated and won.
Oddly, though, the historical archives are replete with the heroics of the freedom fights, the majority of whom are nameless and faceless.
A visit to the Zambian National Archives or the Lusaka Museum will fully repay the labour in that regard.
Doubtlessly, the fleeting passage of time has entombed some of the precious landmarks in Zambia’s match to freedom.
Names of the gallant sons and daughters of the soil connected to Zambia’s political liberation are forever etched onto the colours of the national flag.
One would run out of space and time to catalogue heroes and heroines that put their pride, lives and limbs on the firing line to secureZambia’s dawn as a proud nation.
Among luminous names that come to mind effortlessly are Julia Chikamoneka, Robert Chiluwe, Mpundu Mwape, Simon Mwansa Kapwepwe, Nalumino Mundia, Munukayumbwa Sipalo, Humphrey Mulemba, Reuben Kamanga, Alexander Shapi, Alexander Grey Zulu, Mama Kankasa, Mary Fulano, Chieftainess Nkomesha, Christine Mulundika, Zenia Ndhlovu, Joshua Simuyandi, Daniel Munkombwe, Ludwig Sondashi, Harry Mwaanga Nkumbula, John Mwanakatwe, Kenneth David Kaunda.
This starry host of foot soldiers dismantled the British Imperial hegemony with resoluteness and selflessness.
It is clear that many women in Zambian politics, ancient and modern played and have continued to play a crucial role in shaping Zambia’spolitical destiny.
This fact, though rarely appreciated, can be seen not only on the fading pages of Zambian political history, but also in the current skirmishing manouevres to increase the number of women in politically-sensitive decision-making roles.
Many women, and rightly so are asking for more political space to show-off their wares.
In terms of political party hierarchies, however, not many women have seen the upper echelons of power.
The late Gwendoline Konie tried her hand at this and failed lamentably to attract votes.
She was in fact humiliated so much so that her influence was akin to a negative stain on the political fabric of Zambia.
Her resounding failure is only conspicuous by contrast. General Godfrey Miyanda, arguably Zambia’s most unprecedented “nearly-presidential material;” could easily have shed tears for Gwendoline had it not been for the fact he was mourning for himself at the time when late president Levy Patrick Mwanawasa took all before him to the dish washers! In modern times, one Edith Nawakwi has arisen with the clouds.
She was thrust into the lime-light during the glory-days of the Movement for Multiparty Democracy (MMD).
Hitherto an unknown marketeer at Northmead Market, Nawakwi soon became a force to reckon with by Kenneth Kaunda’s United National Independence Party (UNIP).
Nawakwi, a tough-talking doyen of the MMD, was a darling to many that had been baying for change to the chagrin of the UNIP die-hards.
Come 1991, Nawakwi, a bosom member of Frederick Chiluba’s inner circle was among the few women cabinet ministers. She was the first Third Republic minister of Energy and Water Development.
Later, the Nawakwi scored another first as the first and one of the youngest ministers of Finance in Zambian history.
Nawakwi also served as minister of Agriculture and Cooperatives.
The dizzy heights that Nawakwi had scaled in the MMD in those days, however, came to an unceremonious and abbreviated end with the Frederick Chiluba’s ill-advised and ill-fated unconstitutional third-term bid managed and orchestrated by Mr Michael Chilufya Sata, currently the self-anointed and sole owner and leader of the amphibious Patriotic Front Party.
Nawakwi was among the 19 MMD bigwigs that took the walk of honour, aided and abetted by the cunning King Cobra the then minister Without Portfolio and Chiluba’s chief praise singer, alongside late General Christon Tembo, and others to form the Forum for Democracy and Development.
Nawakwi’s light continued to shine in FDD as the first-ever female vice-president of a political party in Zambia.
History was still onher side as she later became the president of FDD via Munali as a member of Parliament, a seat she won against many odds.
This proud daughter of Chief Nawaitwika’s village is a true-firebrand in her own right.
The current FDD president is here today aspiring for Plot One. The question, therefore, that begs an answer is; has the hour come for the combative Nawakwi to take over the mantle from the larger-than-life Rupiah Bwezani Banda of the MMD? Many readers will agree that wrestling power from the formidable and almost indomitable RB and his MMD jagger-naughts will take more than wishful thinking.
RB is currently a favourite to retain power. He is heads-and-shoulders above his rivals.
All doubting Thomases need only wait for the election results announcement by the chairperson of the Electoral Commission of Zambia Justice Ireen Mambilima, when the moment comes, to confirm this assertion.
Nawakwi seems to be relying on gender to woo votes. It does not seemlikely though that the women of Zambia are minded to throw their choice into Namakwi’s basket.
The Women’s Lobby Group, with a faltering membership, is not a force to talk about. Nawakwi is better advised to look elsewhere for votes.
The men folk on the other hand seem not ready to lend their weight to a female presidential candidate this voting term.
The name Nawakwi is not heard even in hushed tones at watering holes.
Many would rather retire to their beds than consider Nawakwi a topic worth its salt in political terms.
The students, from the look of things, do not seem to have set their sights on Nawakwi either.
One would be excused to think that Nawakwi is more of a political orphan than a serious contender in this year’s tripartite elections.
Nawakwi’s political platform of note, the media, unfortunately will not be taking part in the 2011 presidential elections.
The current laws do not allow institutional or college voting. The law needs to bechanged to accommodate this and it appears a bit late for Nawakwi to push her luck through this channel.
It must be granted that Nawakwi must be allowed to enjoy and exercise her right to aspire for any political office in the land as she hasdone in the past.
After all Zambia is a democracy. Just for the avoidance of ignorance, this year’s elections are not forthe faint-hearted or fat-witted but for men of stamina.
Boys and girls this time round will do better as cheer-leaders and not contenders. Standing vertically at 178 centimetres or nearly six foot, Nawakwi is well and truly blessed with a good physical height.
But even with that metric or imperial measurement in her favour, it will be a tall order for her to land the job at Plot One. It will, therefore, be foolhardy for Nawakwi to throw her hat into these elections alone as she will, as it were, be committing political suicide by falling on her own sword.
The good news, however, is that Nawakwi has many options still open toher.
She would either go back to the drawing board or join hands with other political groupings with a shouting chance.
Nawakwi could also endorse one or other of the potential presidential candidates or standin Munali or Isoka East constituencies as a parliamentary candidate.
Nawakwi as a farmer and business woman could alternatively go greenand contribute from those angles too.
After all feeding the poor isnobler than presiding over them or entering a race the Nawakwi will gloriously and lamentably lose.
This is not a threat; it is a timely advice to Nawakwi. May the dead remain silent.
[Times of Zambia]