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Saturday, 18 October 2008

Chiefs and election fever (8)

Weekly developments on chiefs and the election fever as we approach the 30th. With just under two weeks left, endorsements from chiefs are gaining momentum.

Chief Nyampande of the Nsenga people in Petauke endorsed MMD presidential candidate RB early in the week. A position backed by Chief Ndake of the Senga people, who also happens to be the spokesperson for the Nsenga chiefs. For his part, Chief Nyamande cites MMD's "demonstrated capacity to take development to the Zambian people through good policies". Among the notable policies includes "the completion of Kakwiya rural health centre [in his chiefdom]... and the completion of Sasu health centre".

We always knew Mpezeni was strongly behind RB, given that it was Mpezeni's request for an easterner as VP that led Mwanawasa to offer the post to RB in exchange for his support. Mpezeni's support effectively leading to the death of UNIP. This week the
Post provided revealing insights on how far Mpezeni has consulted on his endorsement:

"You children of Mpezeni, children of Zwangendawa let's agree on one thing, we need to vote for that one (Rupiah Banda). I was in the Bemba land and Chitimukulu said they are behind us; they want to push us [easterners]. I was in Zambezi same, same. I was at chief Ndungu's place, he is also saying the same. Even the Tongas, I don't know whether it can be a lie but they are also saying the same thing but because we look at the majority between Southern and Eastern, you are leading here in terms of population," chief Mpezeni said.

That statement was always going to stir some strong reactions, and it wasn't long before the PF presidential candidate Michael Sata responded linking Mpezeni to what he characterises as 'Bandanian tribalism', at the same time suggesting Mpezeni may have been bought :

“We know the Paramount chief is not sincere and he should not use tribalism......We don't want umozi ku mawa, we want umozi ku Zambia....Mpezeni has endorsed the language of Rupiah Banda in Katete because Rupiah Banda must have met Mpezeni first and it is Mpezeni who told him to say what he said...If he[Mpezeni] doesn't [tread carefully], he's just going to invite unwarranted attacks on himself. That is not saying we have no respect for the chiefs, but Mpezeni himself has invited us....And we know Mpezeni as he is, he is saying that with some inducement.”

As always not all "easterners" are in full agreement with Mpezeni, Chief Mwajabantu of the Nsenga people of Petauke (or whose coronation is apparently under dispute) is quoted as saying that "only corrupt chiefs in Eastern Province could support Vice-President Banda", along the way aiming some fire at Minister Peter Daka. Clearly the chiefs are at war and not just with themselves:

"It's not a secret that easterners vowed not to vote for Rupiah Banda. This is why they sent Peter Daka to talk to chiefs and is here visiting chiefs....I challenge Peter Daka to deny this. They want to use these chiefs to dictate to their subjects to vote for Rupiah. This is what has happened here.....Peter Daka has failed to deliver to his constituency. He has neglected his constituency. So I call upon the Nsenga people and the people of Eastern Province that we shouldn't be cheated by these cheap politics exercised by some chiefs who are receiving khaki envelops....As chiefs, we are not supposed to force our subjects who to vote for. Let our subjects choose the president they want. It is clear that those chiefs have no vision, no direction just like Rupiah Banda because only corrupt chiefs in Eastern Province can support Rupiah.”

But he was not finished, leaving the harshest criticism for Chief Nyampande who earlier had endorsed RB, and questioned the legitimacy of Chief Mwanjabantu :

"The way chief Nyamphande was crowned is the way I was crowned. Yes, so he should stop being funny because I am ready to meet him anywhere. I am prepared to meet any chief who feels is capable to meet me, because they are hopeless..."

A name mentioned by Mpezeni is Chitimukulu. Earlier reports indicated that he had endorsed RB, something that appeared to have been comfirmed this week, albeit in roundabout way. The Post reported that the late Paramount Chief Chitimukulu’s grandson Makumba Mukuka disgrees with "the current Chitimukulu’s decision to endorse Vice-President Rupiah Banda as his preferred candidate in the October 30 presidential election".

“I have great respect for our chief but I don’t agree with his decision to support Rupiah Banda,” Mukuka said. He feared that the chiefdom would not develop if the preferred candidate lost the October 30 presidential election. “If we endorse Rupiah today and instead PF president Michael Sata or UPND’S Hakainde Hichilema wins the election, how are we going to get back to either of them?” Mukuka asked.Mukuka cited the late Chitimukulu’s stance of being non-partisan as an example that the current chief should follow. “My grandfather gained great respect because he was neutral and that is how a chief is supposedto be non-partisan,” Mukuka said.

In the meantime, ZNBC News reported midweek that more northern chiefs have moved to support RB :

Traditional rulers in Northern province have pledged to support Acting President, Rupiah Banda, in the October 30 presidential election. Speaking on behalf of eight Tabwa and Lungu chiefs, Chief Chitimbwa said traditional rulers in the area will support Mr. Banda in the election. Chief Chitimbwa was speaking when the traditional leaders met the Acting President in Mpulungu on Tuesday.

It would not be far fetched to say that Mukuku wishes the current Chitimukulu could emulate Mwata Kazembe , who continues to show a very balanced hand - perhaps its because he does not need to be partisan. Many believe that PF will carry the province, and therefore it does not make sense for Mwata to say anything. Nothing Mwata would say either against Pf or for Pf would change the dynamics of the race in Luapula. This week Mwata met UPND presidential candidate Hakainde Hichilema and advised him "to be brave and courageous during his campaigns" and to do all he can to strengthen the grassroots :

"We need to strengthen our presence at the grassroots level, that is where politics starts from there...If we get very strong on the ground, then we are home and dry...I know time is not with us. I think with me, you have my blessings. You have to be courageous and brave...I think in future, we would love to have a leader who people should be looking up to for hope. People have been looking for development and so this is the kind of leader that we want. And I think wherever you will be, this is the same message that people will tell you.”

Perhaps not surprising given Mwata's neutral stance, that Chief Puta has been keen to present himself as fairly neutral, even going as far as to bemoan the confluence of politics and culture : "Some of the politicians want to involve chiefs in their political disputes. Just recently some politician was claiming that I was not qualified to be chief Puta.."

I end this week by flagging up Gershom's recent post Chief's support unlawful which revisits the "Mwansabombwe incident", and the lessons it holds for the current electoral fever among chiefs.

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