A cult is defined as a system of religious veneration and devotion often directed towards a particular individual or object. Whether this individual is of questionable virtues is often inconsequential to his horde of followers for all that matters is the unbridled access at the dinner table and by extension, the accruing benefits that come with proximity to power, be it financial or otherwise.
Dissecting Zambia’s body politic through the eye of a needle, provides a sobering assessment. While there exists, a few genuine mass-based political groupings, it’s worth observing the proliferation of of loosely stitched ensembles disguised as political parties. Whether it’s by design or not, nearly all of Zambia’s political formations tend to elevate their leaders to near folklore status.
Need we forget that our history is replete with some of the dumbest political slogans ever created specifically to reinforce this reckless gambit. KK wamuyaya, Sata is PF and PF is Sata, and the hour belongs to Chiluba are just a few that spring to mind. Granted leaders are mortals, it’s conceivable that they will at some point depart the political scene – either while in office or on expiry of their term. Dare we forget that the country has on two occasions lost sitting presidents in untimely circumstances.
What then will become of the Patriotic Front (PF) post – the Edgar Lungu Presidency? Would the United Party for National Development (UPND) survive the demise of – God forbid its leader, Hakainde Hichilema? Beyond Edith Nawakwi, what does the future portend for the Forum for Restoration of Democracy (FDD)? Who is the Deputy President of the National Restoration Party (NAREP) – we know the President is Elias Chipimo Jnr.
Has Nason Msoni got a following beyond his inner circle of friends? What makes Harry Kalaba and Chishimba Kambwili believe that their respective parties can outlive them? Did Akashambatwa Lewanika, retire with him, his Agenda for Zambia (AZ). The less we ask about prospects for the Movement for Multi-Party Democracy (MMD), the better; it’s a party in a comatose. Most important though, is there a specific reason as to why our political parties are devoid of tangible succession strategies?
One of the lesser used but crucial doctrines that provides a health snapshot of the state of a governing or opposition political party, is its ability to manage an orderly transition in the event of death or resignation of its incumbent leader.
Therefore, a diligent succession plan is essential for it provides the electorate with a crystal ball to assessing political stability and continuity – in the process insulating a country from the possibility of earning a leadership by default – a sangwapo Presidency.
Post -the Levy Mwanawasa era, the bruising battle for succession – which was intrinsically linked to the State Presidency, somewhat contributed to sending the MMD into a downward spiral. All that was left was for king Cobra to inflict a fatal bite on a mortally wounded MMD. And the rest as they say is history.
Then why didn’t President Sata learn from Mwanawasa’s untimely passing regarding the need to groom a deputy – for Guy Scott’s ineligibility was a foregone conclusion? Although Sata never pronounced publicly ‘Donchi Kubeba’ regarding his preferred successor, Harry Kalaba, pontificated otherwise. He remained resolute to the claim that King Cobra did in fact have an heir in mind. Now that he Kalaba has been cast into political wilderness, would he still stand by his claim that President Lungu was indeed the anointed one? Truth is, we may never know.
Even if that were the case, fact is, ours is not a monarchy such as that one – in which a mere birth right anointed Prince Charles as the rightful heir to the British throne. Our democracy demands that political power flows from the electorate and the electorate deserve the right to scrutinise those aspiring for the highest office of the land?
For all his good intentions and purpose, it’s difficult to figure out why Hichilema is still at the helm of UPND – this despite suffering a quartet of loses at Presidential polls. What does his continued stranglehold over the party say about the rest of the UPND faithful? Aren’t there enough candidates worth of his ilk to take over the leadership mantle?
Blame it on politics of cult personality or otherwise, lack of mentoring or succession planning, has proved to be one of Zambia’s biggest political dogmas – since independence. For the good man, he is, KK had 27 years to groom a successor yet he missed the shot. The result? UNIP is dead. For almost 10 years, Frederick Chiluba could not identify a worthy leader to take over from him – a factor that nearly prompted him to fiddle with the constitution so he could engineer a lengthy stay. The consequence? MMD is dead. For the sake of a sustainable democracy, you would hope that both PF and UPND have aces up their sleeves.