By Field Ruwe
I believe I have the nerve to write about Zambia’s perennial politician Brigadier General Godfrey Miyanda, a man who can dazzle his nominal audience with unexpected whiffs of brilliance. After he pontificates, he, like the cumulonimbus cloud, vanishes into hibernation only to appear at an opportune time. For the sake of the reader, cumulonimbus clouds produce violent storms of rain, thunder, hail, and lightning. Just like the General, they rattle the serene scene and vanish.
Senior politician Godfrey Miyanda aged 71 on his birthday, has vanished from the political scene. He can best be described as a not too large man, moderately tall, and solidly built just like the soldier he is. In suit and tie his stature befits the image of a national leader. At first sight, his face, a mixture of infantile and mature features radiates amiability, competence and leadership. Soft-spoken and courtly, he tries very hard to sound intelligent, and well versed.
Miyanda’s adherents do not know where he is, and yet they still believe in him. They hold him in high esteem and extol him as one of the sharpest knives in the kitchen. They believe he can handle any weapon with the greatest lightness and skill; that he articulates ideas with rare precision. Some say he is presidential material. Others say had he survived another four years as FTJ’s deputy, he would have succeeded him.
Why didn’t he survive the four years? Why has he vanished? Who is Godfrey Miyanda really? Why is he such a disaster at politics? Is he a masquerader, a fraud, a narcissist, a selfish and dangerous man, or is he the real McCoy?
There are many clues to the questions. I have chosen to begin with Miyanda’s demotion of December 2, 1997. I use it as a crochet to weave through several beads of his political muddle and show that he has vanished because he has a leadership problem. By the way, the date in question is when Chiluba relegated him from vice president to Minister of Education and dashed his tantalizing prospect.
Although it was speculated that the demotion was due to his failure to respond to the growing pressure of the opposition, Miyanda’s tendency of driving in and out of ZNBC in full presidential motorcade, and issuing important policy statements in “the state of the nation” style each time Chiluba was out of the country, was the main cause.
Miyanda’s role as acting president exposed his leadership problem. It showed that he was not as judicious as first thought. He was not a fluid thinker—a tactician; that he was power hungry; and that power was causing him to flip his lid. Left with the instruments of power, his narcissistic trait took over. Narcissism is an excessive interest in oneself. It was this odd behavior that triggered suspicion in Chiluba.
Michael Sata, Chiluba’s confidant at the time, summed it up fittingly when he described Miyanda as a danger to society; “especially as he was linked to an attempted coup plot.” Sata was referring to the 1980 coup attempt on Kaunda.
Miyanda’s role in the coup attempt is best described in the Musakanya Papers as that of drawing blood by the barrel of the gun. And in the book “One Zambia, many histories,” edited by Jan-Bart Gewald et al, Miyanda was assigned to smuggle weapons to the Chilanga farm. A trained battalion commander, he was to take charge of a combination of rebellious Zambian soldiers and Katangese rebels. The attempt failed. Miyanda and eight others were arrested and sentenced to death in 1983. He escaped to Zaire (DRC) and was later captured.
Since 1980, the coup stigma has stuck to Miyanda like a leech. The name “Godfrey Miyanda” is never far from dreadful political speculation. In 1989, he was implicated in a plot to topple Kaunda but was acquitted. In 1991, he was accused of plotting Levy Mwanawasa’s death, but was exonerated. From the 1990 Luchembe abortive coup to that of Captain Solo’s in 1997, Miyanda’s name chimes in the ears of too-many-a-soul even when he is innocent.
What is not clear is why Chiluba appointed Miyanda as vice president even after a report from the Mwanawasa accident commission of inquiry insinuated he planned to assassinate him. The Global Pentecostal Movements book edited by Michael Wilkinson provides the clue. It points to Miyanda’s Pentecostal credentials, and I might add, to his role in cleansing State House of “evil spirits” and hounding out his chief foe Kaunda. His tenacity to face an overpowered Kaunda head on, won him some considerable fame.
Actually, Miyanda’s rise to fame was not so much as a Christian or soldier but as an artist (artiste). Back in 1976, members of the Chikwakwa Theatre founded Tikwiza Theatre. Among the pioneers and early members were Masautso Phiri, Faniel Sumaili, Mumba Kapumpa, Matilda Malamfumu, Parnwell Munatamba, Dickson Mwansa, Mapopa Mtonga, and Godfrey Miyanda.
Before their trip to Nigeria for the Black Arts Festival (FESTAC‘77), leadership and theatre policy bickering developed between Miyanda and some Tikwiza members and led to his subsequent exit. Some members described Miyanda as an egoistic individual with a grandiose view of his own “talents.” Others said he was obsessed with power; that he wanted to snatch the realms of power from the actual founders.
Miyanda’s obsession with power was best described by Sata in 2001: “Brig. General Miyanda was Aide De Camp (ADC) to former president Dr. Kenneth Kaunda and because of that he was [in 1976] promoted and sent to run the Mechanical Services Branch (MSB) which he took over at 04:00 hours like it was a coup and instead of running it effectively as a company he used it for military exercises which he later used and was implicated in a military coup.”
It is his preoccupation for power that earned him a demotion in 1997. Some observers say that another reason for his demotion to Minister of Education was due to his lackluster attitude. This forced Chiluba to voice his concern about the lack of enthusiasm in some members of the cabinet. “Lackluster” synonyms include undistinguished, uninspiring, and lifeless. The word is associated with laziness.
General Miyanda is a good example of all that glitters is not gold. Since he entered politics he has proved that although he has an insatiable appetite for power, he is not a leader. He is not a team-builder, but a team-exploiter. He is not open to vigorous give and take. He takes all. Most of all he profits from the vulnerabilities of others.
Let me explicate: When Miyanda was appointed Minister without Portfolio (1991-1993), he vanished into his own cocoon and left no tangible achievements of lasting impact. As vice president (1993-1997), he left FTJ to his own devices and concentrated on his own reveries. He did not understand his role vis-à-vis the dynamics of pressure groups. By the time he was fired as Minister of Education (2001), he had contributed only lip service to education in Zambia.
Miyanda’s lackluster attitude is even more evident in his Heritage Party. It shows that he lacks the sense to lead the people along the path they wish to travel. His self-authored party manifesto exposes him as an obtuse politician dangerously disconnected from reality. It is an indication he is unfamiliar with the great ideas of success. The so-called Village Concept which he defends fiercely lacks intelligibility and coherence. It shows that the man is a hammerhead committed to the cave.
The afore-stated explains why his Heritage Party, which he formed in 2001, has continuously polled poorly 8.1% (2001), 0.76% (2008), 0.17% (2011), and 0.34% (2015), the worst performance by any approbated politician. These results are proof that Miyanda lacks the flair to engage the public’s emotions; that as much as he is a senior politician, his failure to win the hearts of the electorate is symptomatic of his poor leadership.
After fourteen years of mediocre performance, the Heritage Party can be termed as a titular organization masquerading as a political party, and its leader as a catastrophe. Sadly, Miyanda ranks among the most intractable politicians in the country. He will not give up his Heritage Party because it makes him politically relevant. He is able to rub shoulders with those in the corridors of power. It is this that makes him a masquerader.
Most of all, the Heritage Party is his kingdom. The title of “president” exudes power and confidence. It helps him to get funding, attend state functions, shield his ineptitudes, and go on air to voice his “village” opinion. And as party president he can run the party the way he wishes, and vanish whenever he can. This is what makes him a fraud. It’s time members of the Heritage Party dragged him out of hibernation, or better still, replaced him.
Field Ruwe is a US-based Zambian media practitioner, historian, author, and a doctoral candidate. Learn more about him on his website www.aruwebooks.com. On it you shall access his autobiography, articles, and books. Contact him, blog, or join in the debate. ©Ruwe201