By Elias Munshya wa Munshya
The news that a group within the MMD has been formed to keep Michael Sata from coming to the funeral of President Frederick Chiluba should be a concern to all peace loving Zambians. In fact, even our gallant security wings have fallen prey to this gibberish by entreating Michael Sata to stay away from the funeral—in the name of “security”. The very thought that it could come to this is not only ridiculous but insolently immature. I wish to argue in this article that Michael Sata should be allowed to attend and mourn his former boss. This is consistent with our common humanity.
Those who believe that Sata had been an enemy of Dr. Chiluba have chosen to look at a fraction of history and ignored the whole. They are simply being economical with reality. There has not been any true enmity between Chiluba and Sata. What existed were mere political interests that took these two gentlemen in different directions—only since 2008.
To use President Chiluba’s mere political difference when he supported Banda over Sata in 2008 as the yardstick for projecting the enmity between the two does not just make sense at all. Michael Sata had been Chiluba’s closest political confidante for years.
It is impossible to define a politically successful Chiluba without mentioning the political engineering of Michael Sata. It is Michael Sata who has served Chiluba in more senior capacities than any other living politician today. Sata was Chiluba’s MMD national secretary, minister of labour, minister of local government, minister without portfolio, and minister of health. Michael Sata helped prop up Chiluba’s credentials as a leader of the common people. Sata supported Frederick Chiluba within the democratic movement of the late 1980s.
Sata campaigned for Frederick Chiluba both in Lusaka and Mpika. In fact, the relationship between Michael Sata and Chiluba is one of the longest lasting political relationships in Zambia today. Spanning from the 1980s Sata remained true and faithful to Frederick Chiluba until Chiluba dribbled Sata in 2001.
But after 2001, and after the subsequent prosecution and persecution of Chiluba under Mwanawasa, it was Michael Sata who came to the support of Chiluba. Sata openly mentioned that Chiluba had dribbled him.
And Chiluba openly admitted that he had made a tremendous mistake by appointing Mwanawasa. But after the theft persecution, Sata became Chiluba’s supporter again. Sata provided Chiluba with the support of the common man from the Copperbelt and Lusaka while Mwanawasa and the likes of William Banda wished Chiluba dead. The alliance between Sata and Chiluba was so strong that it was the PF MPs and PF supporters who would line up the airport roads to receive Frederick Chiluba from hospital in South Africa. In 2006, no one was surprised to see FTJ raise a feeble fist in the air and request the people of Luapula Province and the Copperbelt to vote and vote for the Patriotic Front.
At one time, after the second political fall-out between Chiluba and Sata, Chiluba was addressing a funeral gathering when PF supporters booed him. To this Chiluba answered, “There are no permanent enemies in politics, only permanent interests.” In so saying, Chiluba mentioned one rule that has helped all successful politicians including Michael Sata himself. In politics no one is a permanent enemy. It only takes an expulsion, or the so-called resignation to turn political friends into enemies and political enemies into friends. We saw it happen in 1991 where those who were eating at Kaunda’s table suddenly turned to the MMD and became friends of democracy overnight. Nothing changed among those people, their hearts remained the same. They changed camps due to political interests.
It is rather ironical, that it is William Banda—Chiluba’s long-time arch enemy—who has today been transformed into Chiluba’s ally. What confuses me and many others is that it is this Banda who, while testifying against Chiluba in the 1996 presidential petition, claimed that Titus Mpundu hailed from Congo and spoke a Congolese dialect of Lingala as a boy. So William Banda is now a friend of Chiluba’s while Sata is an enemy. It seems the death of politics and the politics of death are incompatible with logic.
In 2008, it was politically appropriate for Chiluba to support Banda over Sata. A minute after the death of Mwanawasa it was apparent that Mwanawasa’s Vice-President, Rupiah Bwezani Banda, had no political interest in the continued prosecution or persecution of Frederick Chiluba. Under those circumstances, Chiluba was no fool to repudiate such a gesture. He again aligned himself against Sata and of course the Cobra went ballistic. He was angry against Frederick Chiluba. And it is at this point that the current MMD cadres miss it, they equate Sata’s anger as enmity. It is not enmity and it should not be interpreted as such. There was going to be plenty of time for Sata to play politics. And in fact there was still going to be more time for Chiluba and Sata’s interests to be aligned once more. Had it not been for death…Sata and Chiluba were once again going to embrace each other.
Sata and Chiluba’s interests were going to be aligned once more if Sata were to win the 2011 elections. Some have opined that a President Sata was going to revive theft charges against Chiluba after winning the 2011 elections. But those who know history and politics understand very well that Sata cannot take Chiluba to court. They know each other too well to do that. Sata said what he said because he was angry. He felt like he had been dribbled too much. But with him in power, there would be no political benefit for him to continue prosecuting Chiluba. Mwanawasa prosecuted Chiluba only when it was politically expedient for him to do so.
Mwanawasa took Chiluba to court not because Chiluba had stolen; some Zambians believe Chiluba may have stolen just going by the million dollar suits, shirts, shoes and underwear. But that is not the reason why Mwanawasa took him to court. Mwanawasa took Chiluba to court because he was politically in a precarious situation. He wanted ways to silence Chiluba who was still president of the MMD and had the support of almost its entire executive. Sata would not have the same political dynamics at play and as such, he would not have gone ahead with continued prosecution.
Here if the MMD cadres continue with this nonsense, it is Sata who will emerge as the shrewdest of them all. It is Sata who should want to keep away from the funeral. It is he who can say I had been dribbled too much by this man. But Sata is not known to keep grudges, just like Chiluba was. He has thrown all that enmity aside and he wants to go and mourn and sing “icimbo” for his friend and political confidante. This Sata must be allowed to do, even if it will mean taking the whole battalion of Zambian police to protect him from senseless cadres.
In death even enemies become friends; death is just like politics after all!