Meluse Kapatamoyo provides "a view from outside" on the leading contenders for the top job. No doubt much of the material has already made its way some of your email boxes, but the article does contain one or two new revelations (or creations ?).
Who will be Zambia’s next President?, Meluse Kapatamoyo, Southern Times, Commentary:
The ruling Movement for Multi-party Democracy (MMD) is headed for a major split following the death of Mwanawasa and the forth coming presidential by-elections. So far, it is unclear as to who the party will nominate for the presidency but opposition political parties have already announced their candidates.
The MMD held its National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting on August 21. The NEC resolved that since the nation will be holding presidential elections soon, it's imperative that a presidential candidate be immediately picked without necessarily going to the national convention, the body mandated to elect party office bearers, including the president who in turn stands on its ticket. Suffice to say that even President Mwanawasa was not chosen through the laid down MMD electoral process but was merely chosen by the NEC when he contested the 2001 general elections.
The party has found itself in unfortunate circumstances where both the position of MMD President and Vice-President is vacant. These positions, in accordance with MMD constitution, can only be filled by its convention. The NEC has opted to pick only a presidential candidate for the November elections. The position of president and vice will remain vacant.
By September 5, 2008, the party would have chosen a person who they think would carry on Levy Mwanawasa's legacy. Several statements, arguments and suggestions are being made throughout the country and so far, Finance Minister Ngandu Magande, former Works and Supply Minister Ludwig Sondashi, Health Minister Brian Chituwo, Constitution Review Commision (CRC) former chairman, Willa Mungomba, and former Vice-President Enock Kavindele have filed in their documents for consideration. Others being speculated include the Acting President Rupiah Banda and the former First Lady Maureen Mwanawasa.
Former minister in Mwanawasa's cabinet, Dipak Patel, told the media recently that Magande was more capable to carry on Mwanawasa's vision and this seemed to swing the balance of power with more voices coming in to his support.
In the midst of this uncertainty, who has a greater chance of being the MMD presidential candidates?
Rupiah Banda, 70, Acting President.
RB, as he is fondly called, was called out of retirement by Mwanawasa. Banda is said to have delivered an electoral bequest of Eastern Province for Mwanawasa and the MMD. He was rewarded with the position of Vice-President after the 2006 elections. He has wide influence among chiefs in eastern province although he still has some connection with the United National Independence Party of the Kaunda era.
An experienced diplomat and businessman, time has found him where he ought to be. He has guided the nation during the illness and death of Mwanawasa and remains instrumental during the transitional period.
If he won the MMD presidency, he could be a strong candidate against PF leader Michael Sata. He is courting a seemingly political lightweight Bwalya Chiti, a royal from the Bemba Royal Establishment to be his vice.
Bwalya Chiti is said to be a vicious backroom that has resources at his disposal from ICT companies that he recently sold.
The combination is already being referred to as The Dream ticket. This ticket is aimed at creating a formidable force against the resilient Patriotic Front (PF) leader, Michael Sata who commands wide political support in Northern, Luapula, Copperbelt and Lusaka based on the 2006 general elections.
If selected by the NEC, Rupiah Banda can legally use extensive state resources such as ZAF helicopters, media coverage and government motor vehicles in the campaign, without repercussion, since he is Acting President.
The leverage of the advantage of incumbency can widely benefit him. He has shown ability to deal with issues in an independent manner. Many are saying that UNIP trained its leaders well and Banda is such an example who promotes good, over blind loyalty and private agendas. Government spokesperson Mike Mulongoti, Mbita Chitala, former Zambian ambassodor to Libya and MMD spokesperson Benny Tetamashimba have since openly supported Banda and are said to have influence in the party.The First Republican Dr Kenneth Kaunda (KK) has allegedly been paying Banda regular "visits". So are Banda's former colleagues from UNIP. It is said that in the event that the MMD does not pick Banda as a candidate, UNIP or a new party will adopt him to ensure that Eastern province's realistic chance at the presidency
The MMD on the other hand regards RB as an outsider. He is yet to renounce his UNIP membership and some argue that he does not qualify to be an MMD presidential candidate.
He is termed as a UNIP member. He has no constituency since he was only nominated and his popularity remain untested. He was born in Gwanda, southern Zimbabwe , where his Zambian parents were migrant workers.
In one of his last meetings, Mwanawasa stated that he wanted a younger leader than himself to succeed him. This "disqualifies" Banda and 61-year old Magande against Mwanawasa's wishes. Mwanawasa was 59 years.
Banda is a mere trustee in the party and his juniors in government are his party seniors. He seems to be reacting terribly slowly by remaining mute to events happening around the campaign from his opposing camps such as the First Lady, Maureen Mwanawasa, Magande and others.
Despite the odds pitted against her, Maureen seems resolute to contest the position though party spokesperson Benny Tetamashimba argues that the First Lady will not rescind her earlier position that she would not contest the elections. She seemingly wants to use a sympathy vote by claiming that she is best suited to take-over from her husband and complete the vision she shared with her husband. She is most likely going to put together Mwanawasa's vision as "theirs". A privately owned newspaper, The Post of 24 August, 2008 carried an editorial praising her and urging her to respond to the call to honour her husband's legacy by sharing what the late president envisaged for Zambia.
''If for a moment, she thinks that she is going to mourn, weep and cry like the rest of us and then attend to her husband's legacy later, there will be no legacy...Maureen has no choice but to make herself available, whenever needed, to make clear what her husband's legacy is,'' The Post said.
Despite the tradition and culture sensitivity surrounding Maureen as widow, there is an attempt by some sections of the MMD to continue "milking" the Mwanawasa family, a common practice among cadres who do not believe that there is an end to everything. They see the First Lady as a saviour — nothing else.
Ngandu Peter Magande
He is seen as an establishment candidate with support from a wider section of the society especially the business sector. The finance minister and former Africa Carribean and Pacific countries (ACP) economist is credited with stabilising the exchange rate, bringing down inflation rate and has helped bring in foreign direct investments and shore up donor support to Zambia.
He has aligned well with his long-time colleague and friend from the UNIP government, Bank of Zambia Governor, Dr Caleb Fundanga, to manage the economy. Magande's deputy and Mwanawasa's nephew, Jonas Shakafuswa has publicly supported him.
Magande joined Mwanawasa as his Finance Minister, when Emmanuel Kasonde was fired. Magande was the late United Party for National Development (UPND) leader Anderson Mazoka's economic advisor and has suffered the tag of "outsider".
His constituency seat is in Chilanga, Lusaka , and it is doubted if he can bring an electoral win even to his area of origin-- Southern Province.
His past attempts to stand as an MP in the Southern Province failed but his win of Chilanga seat in 2006 was strongly disputed by his opponents. Evidence of serious and glaring acts of rigging and fraud were cited. The Supreme Court has, however, recently ruled that Magande was duly elected.
It is feared that the support he received from Dipak Patel, a non-MMD member, but a very influential person especially among the business elite, merely represents a powerful but unelected clique known to control and shape policies of this country in the Mwanawasa presidency.
The other presidential aspirants will certainly contest but it would be a difficult decision by the MMD to choose either of them other than the above. The opposition
Michael Chilufya Sata
He remains the clear front-runner to win this election although his age, health and his foreign policy will deter him from winning the presidency.
His decision to reconcile with Mwanawasa, when he returned from South Africa from his medical treatment, has put him in good stead and as a leader with far sights.
Despite being popular in the urban setting of Lusaka and the Copperbelt, it remains unclear if he would win in Southern, Central, Western, Eastern and North-western provinces and for him to concentrate on the Copperbelt, Lusaka, Luapula and Northern provinces may not give him a clear victory.
On the foreign policy, after those alarming statements by his policies on China , Zimbabwe, Taiwan, and his other central policies seem to have received subtle revision. He has since dropped public rhetoric of "anti-Chinese and anti-Indian" approaches seemed to have gone under revision.
His harsh treatment of the 26 MPs that rebelled against him has earned wide criticism. Many wonder how he is capable of forgiving and reconciling with his arch-rival and arch-enemy, Mwanawasa and yet refuse to bring to the fold his own MPs, in the name of discipline. This has sent a chilling effect and reinforced the fear of dictatorial tendencies.
The 26 MPs have, however, no effect on the coming elections since no constituency is under election. This is a presidential election that can allow Sata to use party structures other than MPs.
His strong relationship with the Catholic is beneficial as he quickly picks the church social struggles and issues them as his. Sata, Mwanawasa and other leaders were the architects of the National Constitution Conference, but when the Catholic opposed it, he quickly joined in and rescinded his earlier position.
Zambia is currently in the process of enacting a new constitution that is expected to address important issues missing in the current document through a delegated body, acting through a piece of legslation, drawn from a wider selection of society.
With more than 400 members, the NCC will deliberate and formulate a draft constitution that will later be passed on to parliament for further debate and scrutiny before adoption.
HH recently cooperated with Sata and held a joint and well attended public rally against salary increments for constitutional officers. They were joined by civil society groupings and trade unions. At this rally, Sata presented HH as his running mate and showed as though an electoral pact had been sealed. There was a wild cheer from the crowd. The alliance presented itself as sure winner with safe guards to beat and insulate against state riggings.
Many held their breath. Sata did not seem to treat HH as his colleague and partner. He kept on referring to HH as "calculator boy", "computer boy", "under five" combined with good praises for HH's decision to join hands to defeat the MMD.
Many feared that the alliance would not hold. It wasn't founded well like the Forum for Democracy and Development (FDD), UNIP, and UPND which formed United Democratic Alliance (UDA) in the 2006 elections. It was preceded by shallow discussions without depth and wide consultation. The alliance that never was, quickly collapsed.Many saw that this was the quickest way for HH to raise his profile and have a fair chance to be president some day.
With the demise of Mwanawasa, the UPND quickly announced that HH would contest the elections and so far campaigns by his party cadres have started. Many people think that HH is a reasonable leader who at one time Mwanawasa had invited to run government together but he declined. He is seen as a potential young leader who may just surprise many if the MMD disintegrates. There is absolutely no reason why he can't be a good president but the stigma that surrounded his coming into politics, when Mazoka died still haunts his party, which is sometimes referred to as tribal.
He is respectable politician whom most people hold in high esteem. However, because he has failed to run the Heritage party and also has not opened up to work with other politicians, he is seen as a loner. He, however, has a great chance of becoming a president if he worked with parties like the MMD and the UPND. He also has a following among Christians and teachers whom he associates with at different levels. He is also seen as a Mr Clean.
Although it would be too early to predict the outcome of the presidential by-elections, history is being rewritten in the Zambian political scenario. There is likely to be a surprise but looking at the past, one of the above candidates may scoop the post. We just have to wait and see.