Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Is Freddie Mmembe’s Socialist Party the Right Answer for Zambia?

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By Jones K. Kasonso

This past weekend we saw the re-emergence of one of the toughest and most outstanding sons of Zambia. Freddie Mmembe owner of the now-defunct Post Newspapers has resurfaced on the national stage as a politician and presidential candidate. Doubtless for his writing and entrepreneurial dexterity, probably the most influential journalist since the founding of the republic, Freddie Mmembe is no small man as his stature suggests. His impact towers over Zambia since the third republic. To many of us, he is a hero and a person of unmatched courage who risked his life for truth, democracy, and justice in our country. If we were a country that places national leadership in the hands of those who have paid their dues in life and something for their country, the Dr. Freddie Mmembe has many personal attributes that would make a great President for our country. However, with that said let me be the first to question his current adopted political platform and ask the simple question: Is socialism the right answer for Zambia?

I listened to his stump speech on the evils of capitalism and his historical perspective was audacious if not even intriguing to an attentive ear. But I did not hear any constructive solutions for the problems of our country. In this, I was very disappointed. As a curious but critical observer, I saw three serious flaws in the socialist platform constituting: a misdiagnosis of the problem of Zambia, an inadequate definition of the problem, and a failed proposed solution.

A Misdiagnosis of the Problem of Zambia

In Dr. Mmembe’s view, the capitalist is the problem of Zambia. Not inept leadership. Not the lack of competitive focus in a globalized economy. Not the worldview of hunter-gatherers who don’t understand the gist of wealth or its purpose. Not the deficits in public policy and strategic implementation. Not the auctioning of the nation’s resources to foreign multinational corporations by our own clueless leaders. In the end, it seems to me the anti-western, anti-capitalism, anti-democracy posture and platform that Dr. Mmembe has adopted is more for personal recovery or self-preservation against a vicious ineptocratic PF government that for political survival closed his company. Clearly, a personal reason sits at the center of all aspirations to gaining political power. In this regard, we need candor from our politicians including the new entrants. An English novelist George Orwell (1984) was more candid in this when he wrote:

“Now I will tell you the answer to my question. It is this. The Party seeks power entirely for its own sake. We are not interested in the good of others; we are interested solely in power, pure power. What pure power means you will understand presently. We are different from the oligarchies of the past in that we know what we are doing. All the others, even those who resembled ourselves, were cowards and hypocrites. The German Nazis and the Russian Communists came very close to us in their methods, but they never had the courage to recognize their own motives. They pretended, perhaps they even believed, that they had seized power unwillingly and for a limited time, and that just around the corner there lay a paradise where human beings would be free and equal. We are not like that. We know that no one ever seizes power with the intention of relinquishing it. Power is not a means; it is an end. One does not establish a dictatorship in order to safeguard a revolution; one makes the revolution in order to establish the dictatorship. The object of persecution is persecution. The object of torture is torture. The object of power is power. Now you begin to understand me.”

Therefore, we must be awake to this reality. If retribution and survival against the Edgar Lungu administration have taken Dr. Mmembe to the level of abandoning his lifelong crusade for free speech intolerable under socialist regimes, then even his long-term followers have cause to pause and consider his motivations. It is not inconceivable that Dr. Mmembe has successfully courted Cuba to secure support to help confront the Edgar Lungu PF for using government to strip him of his enterprise. Unfortunately, the PF government appears to take the bait already and started fighting with Cuba. Dr. Mmembe has clearly won this round because he drew the PF to start fighting a bigger and more terrifying opponent.

An Inadequate Definition of the Problem

In Dr. Mmembe’s view, capitalism is synonymous with a 20th Century businessman called Cecil John Rhodes. But in research, any concept defined on the character of a single participant in that concept is susceptible to drawing apathetic inferences. Dr. Mmembe suggested that based on this one-character capitalism steals, kills and destroys. This was a very simplistic proposition. Capitalism a word coined in mid-19th Century during the industrial revolution is defined as:

“an economic system in which investment in and ownership of the means of production, distribution, and exchange of wealth is made and maintained chiefly by private individuals or corporations, especially as contrasted to cooperatively or state-owned means of wealth.” [dictionary.com]

It is this economic system that is responsible for transforming our world into a better place as private enterprise have soared to create products and services that have been replicated worldwide to meet customer needs, and thereby earn profits and retain equity in privately owned enterprises. Capitalism is the force behind the global integration of all peoples and the flow of capital, and delivery of superior products and services. Clearly, no one single country is an outright capitalistic society as every country in the world has some form or dose of capitalism with most western nations generally accepted to be based on this model. Dr. Mmembe himself is a prime example of an individual who invested and owned the means of production, distribution, and exchange of wealth at the Post Newspapers Ltd [in liquidation]. We can’t use him as an individual businessman to say CAPITALISM DOESN’T PAY TAXES or CAPITALISM WROTE NASTY STORIES ABOUT PEOPLE. That definition would be inadequate.

A Failed Solution

Dr. Mmembe’s solution is to bring back a failed ideology of socialism as a philosophy of governance for the beautiful republic. Socialism is defined as:

“An economic theory or system in which the means of production, distribution, and exchange are owned by the community collectively, usually through the state. It is characterized by production for use rather than profit, by equality of individual wealth, by the absence of competitive economic activity, and, usually, by government determination of investment, prices, and production levels.” [dictionary.com]

In answering the question: Is socialism the right answer for Zambia? Our traditional wisdom counsels that we anticipate the safety of a concept or object by way of comparison (Ichikwanka bachimwena kumampalanya). Socialism falls short of admirable models for resolving national problems. As an incredible journalist and chronicler of note, Dr. Mmembe knows that socialism is a failed concept from the defunct Union of Soviets Socialist Republic (USSR), Yugoslavia to Cuba, Venezuela and the post-independence Pan-African states. On the other hand, nearly all the tools that we are using to improve the human condition in the 21st Century are products and services hatched in capitalism. Whereas am no proponent of ultra-capitalistic administration of socio-economic services, that leaves the majority poor in perpetual debt, the contribution of the concept of capital and entrepreneurship is the most powerful ideology for upward mobility at the personal-level, firm-level, and country-level. I take the view that a moderated version of capitalism under a just and robust legal framework is a more constructive platform for crafting a prosperous future for our country than an experiment with an isolationist ideology.

Conclusion

In a nutshell, notwithstanding that it would be too premature to discount the Mmembe-Musumali proposition for us to have a look at socialism as a constructive political platform for addressing the current systemic problems of our country, the specific public policy propositions are what we must watch out for during campaigns. It’s suspicious, however, that a quintessential capitalistic indigenous entrepreneur in Freddie Mmembe would resort to socialism. Rick Godwin once said: “If something looks suspicious, it is suspicious.” With no notable models of success in the 21st Century prescribing socialism for today’s Zambia feels like a witchdoctor telling a barren woman that to have a child:” Ukembe sansa, no mubanga ichishimba mutima wakanyelele or imishila yamukole nomupapi ichishimba lino lya musungu.” (dig the roots of the trees called Sansa, and Mubanga and mix it with the heart of an ant or dig the roots of the trees called umukole, and umupapi and mixed it with the tooth of a white man). We all know the inevitable end of those types of solutions.

The author is a Zambian, An Author, A Consultant and Accounting Professor in Washington DC and holds Ph.D., CPA, CGMA, MBA, BSc., NATech qualifications.

34 COMMENTS

  1. Let’s wait and see what happens next and please don’t condemn Mmembe just yet for what he’s doing after all, he’s free to form his own Political party and is more of a Zambian than the Lungus, Allah B’s etc of this world. I can assure you that even those that have been in opposition for a while like bene HH, many more parties will sooner other than later join in to form a strong Political party to take Zambia forward. I for one may not like this guy Mmembe but, he’s our own. Let’s work together with him and even criticise him but; on positive note so that we may save Zambia our mother from these LOOTERS from Nyasaland and elsewhere.

    • @Jones, yes it’s possible:
      1. Akanyelele (ant) has a heart which can be harvested. If you think it’s impossible then ulicipuba. What bigger between ant and sperm which made Jones?
      2. Ino lya musungu (tooth of whiteman), but zoona Jones uchili kamushi. Just go to any dentist’s trash bins, pick as many teeth you want. You don’t need to go kuli malukula.

      Socialism is just same as PATROTISM or
      Make-Zambia-Again.

    • “It’s suspicious, however, that a quintessential capitalistic indigenous entrepreneur in Freddie Mmembe would resort to socialism.” – Axiomatic!!!

      As I said before, it does not look to me that the intent is to propagate a failed philosophy but to use it as a cover for something else.

      Much more, in normal settings, politics is the anathema of the wise and self made except if the ultimate goal is total servitude in which case it becomes a noble enterprise.

      It is for the above reasons then that entry is essential at someone’s prime … when one’s star is rising and not otherwise. I totally agree with the author on this being suspicious.

      But overall, Bo Freddie has every constitutional right to throw his hat in the ring and he’s already making a stir thus gaining just the…

    • Continued…

      But overall, Bo Freddie has every constitutional right to throw his hat in the ring and he’s already making a stir thus gaining just the right kind of free media publicity he desperately needs thus far.

      I am a capitalist to the core because I believe that socialism encourages laziness and a lackadaisical attitude but I wish him the best in his quest, nonetheless.

      Finally, a critical look at the geo-political spectrum of the smart people of the Zambian Enterprise, it is very clear that some of the political players are fighting against their own mid-life crises and extrapolating that on the rest of us.

      Zambia is currently soul searching for it’s own identity … so help us God!!!

    • MMEMMBE IS THE “DO AS I SAY AND NOT AS I DO” TYPE OF PERSON.
      HE WILL PONTIFICATE ALL THE SOCIALIST GARBAGE FOR THE MASSES WHILST HE CONTINUES TO LIVE A LIFE OF LUXURY WITH HIS FAMILY AND CRONIES.
      AND HE IS A NATURAL DICTATOR WHO WILL BROOK NO OPPOSITION!!!
      GO AND JUMP IN LAKE KARIBA FREDDIE MMEMBE

    • Yes that’s what Mmembe saying, as simple as that.
      Make Zambia great again !
      It’s Heritage: Village Concept.
      The spirit of Nshingu be upon you all.

    • Shallow analysis. I would have scored the essay 50% if the author had not divulged his qualifications. With all those coefficients behind your name you produce this?! 38%

  2. It’s sad to see Fred attempt to impose socialism on others when all his life has been that of a capitalist.

    • Who was that tax-collector in Bible?
      Capitalism and it’s taxes taught Mmembe a lesson.
      People change.

  3. Rumour has it he was against Prof Clive Chirwa building a reliable and modern railway system so that his trucks wouldn’t be out of business…. By now we would be hopping in and out fast trains between the copperbelt and Livingstone.I’m not sure this man cares for anyone but his capitalist self

    • Freddie and GBM ensured that Clive Chirwa is pushed out of ZR for their personal capitalist agendas.

  4. I feel sorry for Mmembe. Championing socialism today is the worst idea he has come up with but it is understood coming from someone he never used to pay taxes and his worker. The fact that he drove a Hummer is the midst of not paying taxes and his speaks tone about the person who wants to rule Zambia. He could have just joined his tribal cousin HH but he knows what happened to Sakwiba Sikota.

  5. One of the mistakes Zambian intellectual make is sprinkle some grated cheese on the surface of the mud and then jump in and scuffle with personalities.

    First, Mmembe did not own the post. He may have baked it’s base on which it grew, but after it acquired corporate status, it ceased to be synonymous with Mmembe. It is this misunderstanding that drove the vindictive actions of Lungu.

    Second, most academics and indeed practitioners have held on to the misdefinition of socialism. They often mistaken socialism for communism. The definition used by Jones in this treatise is the best example. China and Cuba frove the last nail in the coffin of communism at the turn of the century but socialism thrives alongside capitalism.

    • Totally agree … overall, most European countries have a blend of socialism to their politics. However, they tend to gravitate towards capitalism despite their socialist biases. What I see to be a huge obstacle to Bo Freddie is his ability to convince the masses what kind of socialism he wants to practice.

      The smart people of the Zambian Enterprise are extremely smart and they usually know what it is they are looking for at any given time in their choice of political leaders. They are not monolithic at all, they can easily grasp the underlining themes of many political strands at once.

      They are free moral agents who can’t easily be taken advantage of and if Bo Freddie aligns his party with the say the principle of Social Democrats, he’s dead on arrival but if he adapts Democratic…

    • Continued…

      They are free moral agents who can’t easily be taken advantage of and if Bo Freddie aligns his party with the say the principle of Social Democrats, he’s dead on arrival but if he adapts Democratic Socialism, he may have a chance.

      Democratic socialism is distinguished from social democracy on the basis that democratic socialists are committed to systemic transformation of the economy from capitalism to socialism whereas social democracy is supportive of reforms to capitalism.

      As an example, the Democratic Socialists of America define socialism as a decentralized socially-owned economy, but while ultimately committed to socialism they focus their political activities on reforms within capitalism.

      The hard sale for Bo Freddie is the actual term “SOCIALISM” which…

    • Continued ..

      The hard sale for Bo Freddie is the actual term “SOCIALISM” which an average bystander associates with everything that went wrong with our first 27 years as a nation.

      Otherwise, I totally agree with you that this is an excellent piece of analysis like you said even though being me, I would have loved the author to explain some forms of socialism like alluded to above.

      Great penship Ba Kasonso … keep it coming!!

  6. Excellent article and well balanced as well. Indeed, it boggles my mind as why someone would want to bring socialism in this modern day an era. A capitalist who was once ruthless with his newspaper and trucking business, suddenly losing focus and turning to an outdated ideology that cannot work. It is clear that he is driven by vengeance after his newspaper and trucks were repossessed for failure to pay taxes. This is the biggest challenge with African politics, now the political arena is awash with various political idioms and vague ideologies that will further confuse the electorate. 2021 will be very interesting, once again well written piece.

    • Why does it have such a silly headline?

      Is Freddie Mmembe’s Socialist Party the Right Answer for Zambia? This implies there is a wrong answer

  7. It is no surprise at all the little man Mmembe has come out of the closet. It is a well-known fact this little man has always been a supporter of communism, socialism. I mean the ka chap always runs a piece or two in “The Mast”, on the goings on in socialists countries. He used to do the same in the defunct “Post Newspaper”, he would prattle on about Castro of Cuba…it would be no surprise to find that he has actually built a Castro shrine in his backyard…what a dunder.

  8. Early days for sure but they have not laid down a platform of how socialism will solve the many challenges of the nation. For that is key otherwise as already said, then it means he has joined politics for himself not for Zambians which makes him no better than what we are have already.
    Cant wait to see how this capitalist himself will convince the nation that he has been living a lie of a capitalist and socialism is the way forward?

  9. … I begin in a strange way , as thoughts from Dr CM. King Fred built the POST , will likely build the party and contribute to multiparty democracy , that we have espoused and eulogized over and over from time in memorial …unless hypocrisy is the norm.

  10. “Socialism is a philosophy of failure, the creed of ignorance, and the gospel of envy, its inherent virtue is the equal sharing of misery.” – Winston Churchill quotes from BrainyQuote.com.

  11. Ba Jones, you have provided a breath of fresh air in the way we look at things at home. You genuinely sound like someone to do business with

  12. Tell me why do we have nincompoops as the only people who go into politics? Kambwili gets fired, he forms a party, HH goes into a party because he thinks tongas have been having a raw deal in politics and that he will be their savior, Kabimba goes into politics because Sata fired him, Miyanda forms his own party because when FDD was being formed he was n’t invited and now you have Fred forming a party because Lungu closed his life blood, the Post? Where are the patriots that want change for Zambia because they are seeing a wrong in the way affairs are being run and not because they want to get their tribe the presidency or because Lungu fired them or because Lungu closed their shop? Mmembe is as fake as they come. His party appears dead on arrival.

  13. Mmembe maybe just maybe could have fooled us before Zambian Airways. As a full Post enterpreneur and part owner of Zambian Airways, is that what Mmembe defines as socialism or he wants to redefine socialism and capitalism? Kikikikiki…..Mmembe, you want to be President in order to access our taxes and wealth as you have learnt from accusing innocent people, whom can you fool?

  14. Mmembe maybe just maybe could have foo.led us before Zambian Airways. As a full Post enterpreneur and part owner of Zambian Airways, is that what Mmembe defines as socialism or he wants to redefine socialism and capitalism? Kikikikiki…..Mmembe, you want to be President in order to access our taxes and wealth as you have learnt from accusing innocent people, whom can you fo.ol?

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