By Dr Parkie Mbozi
ONE OLD adage says, “Patience pays”. I would add another one, “Loyalty pays more.” A third one goes, “A vulture is a patient bird” (because it waits for an animal to die on its own and rot before it pounces).
All these adages apply to the ‘thesis’ of this article. It is that if only Nervous Mumba, the current President of the Movement for Multiparty Democracy (MMD), had been as patient to the cause and loyal to the appointing authority as Joe Biden has been, he might have ruled Zambia. Biden’s election as the 46th President of the United States of America offers to our local politicians a lesson about the rewards of loyalty, patience and perseverance.
Mumba and Biden have a few things in common. First, both kicked off their working careers in different fields before ending up in politics. Second, both saved as vice President and were both unexpectedly hand-picked by their boss. Third, before their unexpected appointments as Veep both failed their respective individual shots at the Presidency, twice in Biden’s case. These similarities notwithstanding, the two guys have different approaches and experiences in a variety of ways. Of interest to this article is that: 1. Biden stayed loyal to the appointing authority and saved in the position for the two full terms of his boss while Mumba was fired within 17 months of his appointment. 2. Biden has been rewarded with the highest post in his homeland. 3. Mumba, on the other hand, is fighting for the Presidency of Zambia which I argue that was within his grasp on a silver platter.
Let’s look at Biden’s case first before we contrast it to Mumba’s. He was raised in Scranton, Pennsylvania, Delaware. After receiving a bachelor’s degree from the University of Delaware in 1965 and a law degree from Syracuse University in New York in 1968, Biden began his career as an attorney before quickly turning to politics, serving on the New Castle county council from 1970 to 1972. He was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1972 at the age of 29, becoming the fifth youngest senator in history.
About a month after his entry into the US senate, Biden’s wife and infant daughter were killed in a car accident, and his two sons were seriously injured. In a recent CNN documentary Biden reveals that contemplated suspending his political career and even committing suicide after this tragedy. However, Biden was persuaded to join the Senate in 1973, and he went on to win reelection six times, becoming Delaware’s longest-serving senator. In addition to his role as U.S. senator, Biden also was an adjunct professor (1991–2008) at the Wilmington, Delaware, branch of the Widener University School of Law.
As a senator, Biden focused on foreign relations, criminal justice, and drug policy. He served on the Senate’s Foreign Relations Committee, twice as its chair (2001–03; 2007–09), and on the Committee on the Judiciary, serving as its chair from 1987 to 1995. He was particularly outspoken on issues related to the Kosovo conflict of the late ’90s, the Iraq War (2003–11), and even on apartheid in South Africa.
Biden pursued the 1988 Democratic presidential nomination but withdrew after it was revealed that parts of his campaign stump speech had been plagiarized from British Labour Party leader Neil Kinnock without appropriate attribution. His 2008 presidential campaign never gained momentum, and he withdrew from the race after placing fifth in the Iowa Democratic caucus in January of that year. On August 23 2008 Barack Obama officially announced his selection of Biden as the Democratic Party’s vice presidential nominee, and on August 27 Obama and Biden secured the Democratic Party’s nomination. On November 4 the Obama-Biden ticket defeated the John McCain-Sarah Palin ticket. In November 2012 Obama and Biden were reelected for a second term.
As vice president, Biden played an active role in the administration, serving as an influential adviser to Obama and a vocal supporter of his initiatives. In addition, he was tasked with notable assignments. He helped avert several budget crises and played a key role in shaping U.S. policy in Iraq. In 2015 his eldest son, Beau, died from brain cancer; Biden recounted the experience in Promise Me, Dad: A Year of Hope, Hardship, and Purpose (2017). Biden, who enjoyed high favourability ratings, announced that he would not enter the 2016 presidential election, noting that the family was still grieving. Instead, he campaigned for Hillary Clinton, who ultimately lost the election to Donald Trump.
Biden’s close relationship with Obama was evident when the latter surprised him with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, with distinction, on January 12, 2017, just days before they left office. When Obama presented the rarely given honour, he referred to Biden as “my brother.” Later that year Biden and his wife established the Biden Foundation, a charitable group involved in various causes. Biden remained very close to the Obamas even while out of office.
During the primaries for 2020 Democratic Party nominations, Biden did not hide his wish that Michelle Obama would be his running mate. Biden’s unwavering loyalty to Obama was a key factor in his endorsements for nominee of the Democratic Party by influential African-American groups, such as the Black Caucus and Black Lives Matter, and individuals, such as House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn. Obama was also a key factor in Biden’s campaigns especially in key swing states, most of which Biden went on to win. “Michigan, Joe Biden is my brother. I love Joe Biden and he will be a great president,” said Obama during a joint campaign in Michigan.
Obama’s sharp criticisms of his successor Donald Trump were catalytic to the public resentment of the Trump administration. Obama passionately accused Trump of failing to take the coronavirus pandemic and the presidency seriously. His eloquence is said to have helped energize voters across the country, especially black voters, at a time of hopelessness due to the impact of the Covid 19 pandemic. It ultimately helped deliver the 46th Presidency of the US to the Biben-Harris ticket.
Mumba was born in 1960 in Chitambo at Chitambo Mission, northern Province. He grew up with his parents and 11 siblings in Chinsali, in a religious home. His father Sunday Mumba was a teacher and pastor at the United Church of Zambia. He was baptised as a member of the UCZ by Rev. Paul Mushindo. Mumba had his primary education at Chinsali Basic School. After getting very good grades at his Grade 7 examination, he was selected to go to one of the best schools in the country, Hilcrest Technical High School. Whilst there, he joined the Zambia Cadet Cooperative Force (ZCCF) and rose to the rank of Provincial Commandant for Southern Province.
He then went to the Zambia National Service for one-year compulsory training. Here he had hoped to become a full military man, but he changed his mind, left, and went to work in the mines on the Copperbelt province. Whilst on the Copperbelt he joined the Pentecostal Movement and joined Maranathan Church where he became a church elder under Bishop Sky Banda at age 19. The following year, in 1980, he left and founded Victory Bible Church and Victory Ministries International where he excelled as an evangelical television preacher.
In 1997, he founded the National Christian Coalition (NCC), a Christian political movement. It was registered as a political party in 1998. It participated in the 2001 Zambia general election, where Mumba emerged as 5th out of over 11 candidates.
In May 2003 President Levy Mwanawasa appointed Mumba as vice-president, ignoring dissent within his own party. Mumba took over from Enoch Kavindele who sacked together Finance Minister Emmanuel Kasonde, Information Minister Newstead Zimba and Inspector General of police Francis Zonda.
On October 4, 2004 (17 months after his appointment) Mumba was sacked as Vice President for Insubordination. He was accused of sparking a diplomatic row with neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) over claims he made that then fugitive Xavier Chungu, the former Zambian intelligence boss, was being hosted in the DRC and Congolese businessmen were funding Zambia’s opposition. Mwanawasa had admonished Mumba over the accusations and apologised to the Congolese government. Mumba, however, refused to acknowledge that his comments were imprudent, much to Mwanawasa chagrin.
“I am Mr Mumba’s boss and I am entitled to some form of respect in line with the oath that ministers, including the vice president, take when I appoint them. Since he did not regret what he said, I regret that I appointed him and I have with immediate effect removed him from office,” the Daily Mail newspaper quoted Mwanawasa as saying. Lupando Mwape took over from Mumba. However, Mwape was unavailable for re-appointment as Veep having lost his Lukasha parliamentary to the PF in the 2006 general election. This paved the way for Rupiah Banda’s equally unexpected entry as nominated MP and subsequently Mwanawasa’s Veep for the 2006 – 2011 term. Banda ‘resurrected’ Mumba’s political career by appointing him Zambia’s High Commissioner to Canada from 2009 until 2011.
On 25 May 2012, Mumba was elected as President of the MMD, which had been in opposition since its defeat in the 2011 presidential election. He had a go at the Republican Presidential in January 2015 where he amassed a paltry 14,609 votes (0.88%). He missed out on the 2016 elections due to court actions over the Presidency of the MMD.
It can be argued that had Mumba remained loyal to his appointing authority, he would have been with him for the second term (2006 – 2011) until Mwanawasa’s untimely death on August 19, 2008. He might have gone on to win the 2008 by-election, as Banda did, and, who knows, the 2011 general election.
Only time will tell whether the likes of GBM, Canisius Banda and Richard Kapita will not wish they had remained loyal and persevered a little longer.
The author is a Research Fellow with the Institute of Economic and Social Research, University of Zambia. He is reachable on pmbozi5ATyahoodotcom. Some of the data used is lifted from Wikipedia and other online sources.