Yesterday the nation read yet another homily of the Post in which the editor is purported to have argued, among many, that if anything happens to Michael [HE. President Michael Sata], “they”, will be held responsible and be in serious trouble. Most readers are still in shock as who these “they” that “now have the power” are. We are also in shock as what this may “happen” to Michael which may put “they” in serious trouble really is. It seems with the departure of Wynter Kabimba there has been a power shift from “them” to “they’, effectively implying that the head of state is perhaps not in charge.
It is now very clear that there are indeed, power struggles in the PF, or perhaps not anymore with the departure of the purported “cartel” figurehead. The long suppressed ambitions of various factions are now laid bare, and the battlefield for succession being prepared. Suddenly Chishimba Kambwili has taken off his busy schedule of fighting football referees when his favourite team loses to calling the Post names he would never have dared a few weeks ago—his confidence in politics is back with the departure of Kabimba. We also hear others that resigned on purported moral grounds are now willing to re-join PF now that Wynter is gone. Was Wynter really that strong that all these perceive heavy weights couldn’t match up to him? Perhaps that explains why his downgrade has hard hit his partners in the cartel.
We live in uncertain times indeed, but we have lessons to learn from and refer to from around the continent. For example, in late 2008, a Guinean newspaper published a photo of a frail and ailing President Lansana Conté, who appeared to be struggling to stand up. The photo stoked rumours of the president’s ill health. Its publication angered the country’s political elite, who hurriedly ordered the editor’s arrest. By the next day, on the instructions of security operatives, the publication’s front page carried an even bigger photo of Mr. Conté — this time smiling broadly and looking spirited. But he died just a week later, justifying the newspaper’s initial resolve to let Guineans know that his health was failing. We saw something similar in Zambia where the president was shown on TV shortly before his medical tour of Israel.
Most readers are still in shock as who these “they” that “now have the power” are. We are also in shock as what this may “happen” to Michael which may put “they” in serious trouble really is.
Since them, edited still pictures of him are the ones we see, and if on national television, the president’s voice is muted. And for months, the Post carried a deceit campaign that all is well with the president. Facebook too was being used by the president’s handlers to portray him as fit and healthy, in some cases to the extent of using old pictures of him to deceive the public. Clearly this is living in denial, but our question is for how long will this go on? In Guinea, the head of the National Assembly, Aboubacar Somparé, later explained that leaders hid the president’s “physical suffering in order to give happiness to Guinea.” This awkward reason was seemingly seen as desired to avoid succession squabbles in the ruling government and potential violence in the country. However, a few hours after the president’s death was officially announced, the army staged a coup. Clearly, living in denial threw the West African nation into political chaos that would have easily avoided had the political leaders faced the reality that was before them head on.
If what we are reading from the factions that have lost favour is indeed true in Zambian politics, this will get dirtier as these factions will use resources in throwing mud at their rivals, because the man who is expected to be in charge is showing signs of fatigue and has purportedly lost control. The debate of his purported inability to govern will get heated day by day. However, it need not be this way, not now, for Zambians have well known all this while yet the system has deliberately hid him, perhaps to “make them happy”. But clearly succession problems are there, and one would only hope that the PF is working out a good plan in-house. Honesty, Stability, expectedness and continuousness in leadership are important elements of good governance and these can be assured by a well-planned and -managed succession strategy. The events of the past weeks, and the ones ahead of us seem to be those of surprises, which, unfortunately, have potential to cause national panic. This need not be the case.
We expect that a succession strategy that is honest and transparent and ensures continuity in good governance need to be strictly constitutional. Infighting within the ruling party has potential to create factions that would unconstitutionally wish to usurp leadership. This is seen as being the case as purported in the Post of yesterday. But as the Post sanely argued, I doubt the Zambian people would allow such to happen, if at all there is anything of the sort in the making.
We are clearly constrained in commenting on the succession matter in the PF, if at all there is actually any seeing that the president is arguably “Fit and Working”. But reading between the lines, the recent events and comments from those who had the privilege of being close to the power circles call for genuine concern. We can only hope that Mr. Sata, in whose political dream we all live now, has it all laid out to ensure his political legacy, if any, continues. Mr. Sata’s political ambition and dream has made many people’s dream come true, and many others too have now pursued their dreams and are living the life of their dreams through his ambition. We hope that the strong leader he is, who, even in silence can pull off perhaps one of the greatest surprises in Zambian politics by doing a donchi kubeba on Wynter, we hope he can surprise Zambians by a consistent laid out governance plan and settle the uncertainties that are being created and fueled by those who have lost favour with him.