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Sunday, 31 August 2008

A potential MMD split?

In a significant shift of the Zambian political dynamics, Maureen Mwanawasa has today come out strongly in favour of Magande, and in the process issuing a stern warning to the rest of the ruling party :

".....But I want to warn them that I am so strong. They shouldn't think that I am saying this from a weak position. I am a leader and therefore I must show leadership as I speak to the large masses who are going to read the message that you are going to give. Therefore, what I have said, I have said it with responsibility on my shoulder. I am able to defend every statement that you are going to write down. I would rather go down saying the right thing than be glorified for embracing things which will not do any good to the nation. The Mwanawasa legacy must be carried forward by honest people. If they are not, we will reach a separation stage...."

In fact the threat is principally aimed at the MMD NEC members backing Rupiah Banda. In the same article Maureen dismisses Rupiah Banda's credentials, almost questioning his integrity. A theme later developed in this Post Editorial which has now openly endorsed Magande, and has launched a scathing attack on Rupiah Banda and his backers:

".....There is a clear attempt to subvert democracy by going to provinces and asking them to issue meaningless statements devoid of substance endorsing Rupiah because he represents continuity. What continuity? We saw these tactics when Frederick Chiluba wanted to impose his third term upon our country; when Mwaanga together with other shameless charlatans were singing Chiluba's praises and supporting his third term fully knowing that it was immoral, it was a cheat, a deception, a manipulation of our people.

It is also clear that those championing Rupiah's succession bid are people who in one way or another did not get what they wanted from Levy. Some of them, like Mwaanga and Chitala, were people Levy had dismissed from his government. We all know what Arthur Yoyo stands for! We also all know what Mwaanga stands for and why Levy had sacked him from his government. Wasn't it because of lies and dishonesty? Are these people one can expect to be truly representing or championing the cause of Levy's legacy? The presence of Mwaanga, Chitala and other charlatans like them in Rupiah's campaign team speaks volumes about what Rupiah stands for and where they want to take the country. It's really not in the direction of Levy and his legacy but in the direction they are all known for...."

Incidentally, the lines have also been drawn among Newspapers. I was reading yesterday's state controlled Times Editorial. It is a stark contrast to the Post editorial and speaks of the benefits of preserving the MMD as a single entity post 5 September :

"...the MMD should learn something from the [USA] Democratic Party. Those who will not be elected should realise that at the end of the day, they are all members of the same party, which will be pitted against opposition parties that are determined to get to State House. Those who will not be selected will do well to mobilise their supporters to rally behind the party candidate in order to further the interests of their party..."

I am not sure on what basis the editor reaches the conclusion that it is in the "national interest" for MMD to remain a single entity. It strikes that the promotion of MMD unity goes a little too far here for a paper that is supposed to represent the interests of the nation. For one thing I think of many social costs and benefits of an MMD split. I am just not sure how he has balanced these out. I cannot wait until a more bold President can truly unshackle these national papers from state control. Tax payers should not be paying to keep such irrational assessments in circulation. I say "bold" because clearly the decision to privatise the Times and Daily would come with a significant cost to the incumbent. They would lose one of their principal forms of state control. Incidentally, this is what actually puzzles about the liberalisation policies of the 1990s. They sold everything except that which mattered most for people's freedom - the media. But I am ranting now, so I'll stop here.

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