Chiluba vs. Kaunda: The greatest election contest ever?

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Fwd  Chiluba vs. Kaunda  The greatest election contest ever    news   Zambian Eye MailBy Nsambila Mbolela

Zambia looks as though it has lost excitement against multiparty politics in the 25 years ago since it staged the greatest election contest in history. The excitement which was embraced by thousands of young, old people and foreign political pundits for “The 4 feet vs. 6 feet David-Goliath” has fallen apart. Cadres armed with sticks and stones now fill the streets where Chiluba and Kaunda traded political and policy knockout punches for the epic election.

But Copperbelt, the capital region and birthplace of multiparty politics in Africa, even though is now laden with economic poverty, remains proud of having staged one of the most important Africa’s changing election contest of the 20th century on October 31, 1991.

Then the world was scared that Chiluba, aged 48 and fighting his way back from trade union to the political top after his ban for refusing to bow to Kaunda’s demagoguery, would suffer a humiliating beating by the fearsomely powerful Kenneth Kaunda, the only leader Zambia had known in 27 years of independence.

Chiluba soaked up the pressure during the campaign, fighting back his opponent all the time with free market economic policies and freedom of speech in the name of multiparty politics, and knocked Kaunda (Goliath) out in the tenth month with a lightning political knock out. “The battle is won. Victory goes to the people. There is no victor, no vanquished. There is one nation. We are going to move on.” President Chiluba proclaimed. Considering that Chiluba was imprisoned in 1981 on charges of treason, Chiluba became a legend, a proverbial David, folklore maikalange, an unsung contemporary father of multiparty politics in Africa, still without a pantheon on the continent of African, and under-appreciated in his own nation-Zambia.

Since then, dozens of politicians men and women have tried at the shot to be leader of Zambia. Some have succeeded and others have failed. Majority have become nomads wandering from one political party to another, singing slogans from the same opposition hymn books they once rejected, often appearing delusional without knowledge of why they are still in politics.

Chiluba won the election fight and also the hearts of the stakeholders of multiparty democracy, which is now known as the free global world. “Chiluba was one of us. We considered him a citizen of the world who was living in Zambia. Kaunda had grown arrogant and lost touch with reality. He did not like to listen to anyone’s advice and that was a factor in his defeat,” added retired European expatriate miner now living in UK.

Freedom fighters, now old and tired of politics, view Kaunda — who had already aggravated the Zambians by banning political parties in 1972 which evoked memories of the brutal rule of the former colonial masters Britain.
Kaunda was too moody, even if he was African like us. He liked people he could control and intimidate and was really interested in power and control than effecting meaningful change. Chiluba completely won the occasion. Even his pre-heavy weight knockout punch deriding Kaunda, “The greatest lesson we can learn from the past…is that freedom is at the core of every successful nation in the world,” has gone down in political folklore. Kaunda was totally out of touch with reality, Chiluba a non-politician on the Copperbelt became a symbol of the fight against oppression in Zambia, felt entirely at home and abroad.

The politics we know now is not what Chiluba envisioned. That is not what politics should be, there has to be the spectacle. Chiluba was a stylist and a technician. While the Zambians were going to the polls, all major TV networks were packed in the streets of Zambia for the outcome of the elections.

In a reversal of roles, the outspoken Chiluba won “The 4 feet Vs 6 feet David-Goliath” 25 years ago but has gone to rest in eternal peace, while brooding politician Kaunda has turned into a silent icon. Death ended the visionary that was Chiluba’s trademark. The man who once said “privatization is bitter pill but it the pill what will cure” no longer speaks in public and is rarely seen.

In a reversal of roles, the outspoken Chiluba won “The 4 feet Vs 6 feet David-Goliath” 25 years ago but has gone to rest in eternal peace, while brooding politician Kaunda has turned into a silent icon. Death ended the visionary that was Chiluba’s trademark. The man who once said “privatization is a bitter pill but it the pill that will cure” now rests at Embassy Park Cemetery.

Chiluba’s privatization bill has been indeed bitter and controversial. While the jury on the Chiluba’s privatization of the mines is still debated (even though I believe that mines were killed by UNIP’s misuse of mines revenue), the one thing we all can agree on is that the privatization pill has injected foreign capital (investors) in Zambia. Chiluba enlisted the help of men and women of goodwill from all corners of the earth to help develop Zambia. All the private universities festooned in Zambia, hospitals, buses and mobile phones companies, shopping malls, massive imported new and old cars, building of own Nigerian houses, are as a result of Chiluba’s bitter privatization pill. In essence privatization is about private citizens, local and foreigners, taking the initiative to develop their own lives instead of waiting for the government to do it for them.

Death is public enemy number one. If Chiluba had done all he had wished to accomplish, ZESCO would have been injected with the privatization pill and put to rest, like UBZ and ZTCC. With the death of ZESCO, Zambia’s energy crisis (load shedding) would have been resurrected by foreign investors specialized in energy services. Why is that we have competition in the telecommunication industry but we don’t have competition in energy industry? In my view, ZESCO is the last standing dinosaur needing to drink Chiluba’s privatization pill.

Chiluba turned Zambia into a global symbol of greatness beyond politics, his fight for workers rights and social justice creating a legacy that saw him empower Zambians with freedom of speech — should be emulated in raising today’s political discourse to the level of substance and policy debates.

I say Chiluba was the greatest man because there has never been a man so short and so good at what he did, gave birth to a free market economy Zambians are proudly enjoying.  I say politics was too small for Chiluba. He changed the very world of multiparty politics. No other politician I know commanded the vision and intellect to stimulate policy debates like Chiluba. I don’t know when Zambia will ever again see a substantantive and policy ridden election contest like Chiluba vs. Kaunda. That’s why for me despite all the human imperfections we all possess; Chiluba vs. Kaunda will go down in Zambia’s political history as the greatest election contest ever!

Mr. Nsambila Mbolela, is a native of Mufulira-Copper-Belt, currently based in the USA, a founding member of Zambia Institute of Transparency and Accountability (ZITA). ZITA is a Zambian Think Tank non-profit organization based in Canada-Zambia, whose mission is to promote public debate and awareness on issues of good governance, democracy and free and fair market economy in Zambia and Africa as whole. The author is a regular political and economic contributor to this organization.  


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Start: 2019-07-01 End: 2019-07-31