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How will PF elect its presidential candidate?

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Given Lubinda, Edgar Lungu and GBM at rally addressed by Sata

Given Lubinda, Edgar Lungu and GBM at rally addressed by Sata

By Emmanuel Mwamba

Despite the promise that this was a sacred moment of national mourning, despite the call for calm, people, groups, and individuals in the Patriotic Front have been planning, deciding and plotting to attempt to influence, change and determine the future course of the PF beyond its founder, architect and charismatic leader, the late President Michael Chilufya Sata.

Things came to a head when suddenly there was an announcement on national television that, Acting President, Guy Scott had dismissed PF Secretary General, Edgar Lungu from his position.

Scott also announced that he had replaced Lungu with Chipili Member of Parliament, Davies Mwila.

The announcement was greeted with spontaneous riots and protests in Lusaka, Kabwe, and Kitwe, and a thick nationwide atmosphere of disaffection.

Diplomats quickly revised Zambia’s security rating from “peaceful transition to crisis.”

The anger and despondency was probably a build-up and related to an earlier decision taken a few days before on Saturday 29th October 2014 that made Guy Scott Acting President.

(Although many lawyers insist that the Zambian Constitution does not have a position called Acting President or Interim President, but instead has a Vice-President performing limited functions of the President as the office remains vacant until after a national poll)

Whoever had hatched this this wicked plot to dismiss Lungu was clearly divorced from any sense of political reality.

Because, Edgar Lungu had just given up the position of Acting President through a subtle but rather acrimonious process.

Following the death of President Michael Sata at King Edward VII Hospital at 23; 11hrs (Zambian time), maneuvers began to pressure Lungu to immediately surrender the position and hand over instruments of power to Guy Scott.

Central to this decision was the role that the Government Chief Legal Advisor and Attorney General, Musa Mwenye played during this entire episode. Details, maneuvers and arguments together with architects of this matter are probably thoughts for another paper.

Of importance and relief was however, the announcement that interim power had seamlessly and was peacefully transferred from Edgar Lungu to Vice-President, Guy Scott.

And Scott was the first white person to lead a democratic country (although in interim capacity) on the continental mainland, while Paul Berénger was the first white Prime Minister on the island of Mauritius from 2003 to 2005.

There is the case of William De Klerk of apartheid South Africa who was President of South Africa (1999-94) but became Nelson Mandela’s deputy.

So, clearly the folly of the decision to dismiss Lungu as Secretary General of the PF was highly miscalculated and highly irresponsible as the Zambian people were just digesting the tragic loss of President Sata, and the sudden shift of power from Edgar Lungu to Scott.

Earlier, Scott had banned Cabinet and Central Committee meetings but reports emerged that his decision to fire Lungu, was borne out of a high level meeting he held at Cabinet Office with known attendees.

But of critical importance was that the body of late President lay-in-state at Mulungushi International Conference and the nation remained in mourning.

Therefore the action appeared culturally insensitive especially for Scott, though a bonafide Zambian was a Whiteman.

This decision immediately brought an embarrassing colonial backlash against Scott who just a few days before, was basking in the glory of a new fancied position that attracted worldwide attention.

Following strong demands to immediately reinstate Lungu by the members of the Central Committee led by Chishimba Kambwili, an agreement was hammered out in which the Secretary General was reinstated.

This was communicated to the nation in a media statement issued on 4th November 2014 signed by both Guy Scott and Edgar Lungu.

But of interest were two conditions mentioned therein:

1. That the Secretary General will convene a Central Committee Meeting after the burial of President Sata on 11TH November 2014.
2. Any member of the Central Committee who intends to stand for election as President and Presidential Candidate, has to relinquish such a party position as without doing so,“ that may present a conflict of interest”

Another statement issued by the Secretary General on 6th November 2014 made reference to the party General Conference, an ordinary statement that has now been taken with hopeful optimism.

In his statement of hope to the nation, the Secretary General assured the country that the PF would give an example to Africa, that it was a party of peace, stability and order.

He stated that stability, peace and tranquility prevails and concluded that:

“…this will include the selection of the Presidential Candidate being done in a free, fair, and transparent process allowing anyone who want to be contender, the chance to do so”.

This announcement was followed up by unofficial “confirmations” from a variety of unauthorized sources that committed the party to a General Conference of about 6000 people to be held at Mulungushi Rock of Authority in Kabwe during the weekend of 21st November 2014

WHAT DOES THE PARTY CONSTITUTION SAY?

For the PF, the President of the Party is also the Presidential Candidate that the party floats and sponsors in the national elections.

The organs of the party of note to this decision include the Secretary General’s office, the Central Committee, the National Council (Central Committee +Members of Parliament +Provincial Secretaries + District Chairmen+ District Secretaries+ District Chairmen and Committee members of the Women’s and Youth Leagues, and Senior officers from the Party’s National Headquarters) and the General Conference which is the Supreme policy making organ of the party.

Fearing the extensive and sinister efforts made by former Secretary General, Wynter Kabimba, who in most circumstances replaced elected officials of party organs and structures with appointed, nominated or interim officials, the Central Committee might have to consider the structure register of 2011.

Below are specific details regarding the election of the President as provided for under Article 52.

ARTICLE 52
ELECTION OF THE PRESIDENT OF THE PARTY
. (1) The President of the Party shall be elected at the General Conference of the Party.
. (2) A candidate shall indicate to the Secretary-General of the Party his intention to stand for theOffice of the President of the Party not less than one day before the date of the General Conference.
. (4) The Secretary General of the Party shall submit the name or names of the candidates of the Central Committee for consideration and where there is more than one candidate the Central Committee may indicate support for one of the candidates.
. (5) The Central Committee shall submit the name of the candidate or candidates to the National Council for approval or disapproval.
. (6) The person whose candidature for the office is not approved by the National Council shall not be Eligible for election at the General Conference for the office of the President of the Party. 16
. (7) A candidate whose candidature for the office of the President of the Party is approved by theNational Council shall lodge his nomination papers with the Returning Officer appointed by the Electoral Commission supported by twenty (20) delegates from each of the Provinces of Zambia attending the General Conference.
. (8) If more than one candidate stand for the office of the President of the Party, each delegate to the General Conference shall vote for one candidate only and the candidate who receives the greatest number of votes shall be the sole candidate for election to the office of the President of the Republic.
. (9) Where only one candidate has filed nomination papers at the close of nomination, such a Candidate shall be declared duly elected President of the Party without conducting a poll.
. (10) A member of the Party shall not be qualified as a candidate for the office of the President of the Party unless he has been a member of the Party for five (5) years immediately preceding the nomination and he is qualified under the Constitution of Zambia for election to the office of the President of Zambia.
. (11) If the person elected as President of the Party is not elected as President of the Republic he shall Continue to be President of the Party until a President of the Party is elected at another extra ordinary General Conference.
The party has also developed its own party electoral regulations.
In the event of an election at the General Conference, the elections will be superintended by the Party Electoral Commission established pursuant to the provisions of Articles 64, 65 and 68 with a Chairperson and Secretary who are qualified advocates of the High Court and holders of current practicing certificates.
Electoral Regulation no. 9.1, stipulates candidates that are not qualified or ineligible to contest or stand or disqualified are those facing:
1. A member serving a suspension imposed by the party
2. A member convicted of a criminal offence
3. A member facing any form of disciplinary charge.
4. A member the Central Committee deems is not in good standing with the party
Lessons can be learnt from the MMD that has held numerous party conference with some supervised by Mr. Sata when he was its National Secretary.
In 2005, Levy Mwanawasa was facing an internal rebellion. He was struggling to wean off the party from the clutches and loyalists of former President, Frederick Chiluba. He also was facing a challenge from Nevers Mumba who he had recently fired as Vice President of the party.
Nevers Mumba was consequently expelled before he could even step in the Convention.
Although a founder member and a former Copperbelt University Student, Caine Mweemba threw his hat in the race, Mwanawasa was literally rendered unopposed.
The battle for control of the party shifted to the second senior most senior positions of Vice President and National Secretary.
Fearing that another official (Captain Austin Chewe) he felt didn’t represent his vision of the party would likely win, Mwanawasa froze the position and it was not available for contest.
Mwanawasa had also made it clear that he didn’t want Katele Kalumba, who was facing corruption charges in the courts of law to be part of his new team.
Despite presidential pressure on the NEC, provincial leaders and delegates, Katele proceeded to thump Akashambatwa Mbikusita Lewanika who was seen as a Mwanawasa candidate.
Similarly, In May 2011, Rupiah Banda held a Convention at Mulungushi Rock of Authority and attempted to use the opportunity to fashion a leadership of the party away from elements that “fought” him and supported the candidature of former Finance Minister Ngandu Magande in 2008.
Chongwe Member of Parliament and former Minister in Mwanawasa government, Sylvia Masebo represented this group and was accused of belonging to the ‘’Cartel” that was fighting Banda.
At this stage, Banda was suffering relentless attacks from The Post and was struggling to ward off the numerous allegations constantly being piled on him.
At the Convention organized by Banda and his aides from State House, Masebo surprised the uninitiated of conference politics when she thumped candidates that challenged her and despite strong overt opposition from President Banda.

DOES THE PARTY NEED TO GO TO THE GENERAL CONFERENCE?

Many party faithfuls are asking this question.

Will the party emerge stronger from the Conference? Will the General Conference be held in a peaceful atmosphere? Will it be a subject of manipulation by those ready to influence the outcome?

Will the party have enough time to heal from the fractious tendencies that plaque such conferences and emerge united to face Opposition candidates in a national election?

Will the party have enough time to organize this mammoth task of hosting a General Conference and still reserve resources to expend in the up-coming national elections?

Can the party consider saving the K3.7million initially budgeted for this Conference and devote such whopping resources to what matters most – the By-elections?

Will the party overcome the limited time available to market a PF Candidate who remains unknown to the country with 75 days remaining?

Isn’t there any other way of picking a candidate?

The Central Committee could consider Article 58 (l) and (m) under powers and functions of the Central Committee, which authorizes the party to make any rules and regulations and make, such decisions in the interest of the party and the country as outlined below:

Article 58: POWERS AND FUNCTIONS OF THE CENTRAL COMMITTEE
(I) Initiating and approving changes in the Regulations and Rules of the Party;
(m) Taking action, which in the opinion of the Central Committee is in the best interest, security and development of the Party and the State.
To save resources and devote their time (which time the party doesn’t have), money and prepare for a fierce and bitter contest that’s expected to emerge, the Central Committee could chose to pick the candidate or its wider body, the National Council than the cumbersome General Conference.

And since the candidate that will be chosen to take the party into a national election and is only meant to fill the vacuum created by the sudden circumstances that has befallen the party, the party could instead pick a mere presidential candidate who can take the party to the 2016 Elections.

Although the PF Constitution stipulates that the President of the Party is also the presidential candidate and is elected for a period of 5 years, this can be varied and separated by the Central Committee.

The MMD was facing a similar challenge in 2008, and took similar measures to avoid the Convention.

THE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES

The law stipulates that a national poll to elect a new Republican President should be held within 90 days from the period the office becomes vacant.

Already, about 15 days would be devoted to the funeral of the late president.

The PF is expected to pick a candidate and have enough time to market his suitability to lead the country against known opposition and established candidates such as Hakainde Hichilema of the United Party for National Development (UPND), Nevers Mumba of the Movement for Multi-party Democracy (MMD) and Elias Chipimo of National Restoration Party (NAREP).

The PF has an array of leaders capable of or jostling or positioning or posturing to take up the mantle and carry on the vision of President Michael Sata.

1. Edgar Chagwa Lungu-58 years – When appointing Edgar Lungu in his first government position as Deputy Minister in the Office of the Vice-President in 2011, President announced that he had appointed him as Deputy Vice-President. His supporters insist Sata meant exactly that. Edgar is considered as the front-runner. Although Minister of Finance, Alexander Chikwanda has acted as President most of the times, Lungu was given the opportunity in the critical period of the late president’s life. President Sata also appointed the Chawama lawmaker as Defence Minister, Justice Minister, Secretary General of the Party and Chairman of the Disciplinary Committee.

2. Geoffrey Bwalya Mwamba – 55years – the famous businessman popularly known as GBM, has always eyed the presidency and made his intentions clear during Mwanawasa’s government. He served as Defence Minister in President Sata’s government and led a faction to hound out former Secretary General, Wynter Kabimba. He resigned from his ministerial position when President Sata took offence about a visit he undertook to his grandfather and Paramount Chief Chitimukulu of the Bemba people. President Sata had publicly stated his objection to Henry Kanyanta Sosala (who he had earlier degazetted as Senior Chief Mwamba) to ascend to the powerful throne.

3. Mulenga Sata – 45 years – The youthful Mayor of Lusaka has been thrown in the race by the demise of his father. An engineer by profession, Mulenga made known his ambitious entry into politics when he contested his father’s former seat, Kabwata Constituency in 2001. He was unsuccessful. He reappeared in 2011 as potential candidate for Lusaka Central against PF Vice-President, Guy Scott. However a backroom agreement seems to have been done and he chose to contest the position of councilor. He was elected Deputy Mayor and later as Mayor, when Daniel Chisenga’s term came to an end. He was also elected as PF District Chairperson at the height of internal wrangles in the party.

4. Alexander Bwalya Chikwanda- 76 years – the veteran politician, economist and successful entrepreneur was seen as the anchor of the Sata presidency. He was seen as the only one (other than the First Lady) that could exert genuine influence on the man many feared. Although he has not openly expressed interest to contest the position, many have been trying to persuade him to stand as an interim leader to take the party until 2016. It remains to be seen if he will accept these overtures.

5. Miles Bwalya Sampa – 44years- Born in the sprawling township of Matero, Miles Sampa’s journey to leadership has been of enduring determination. Raised by a single mother, Sampa overcame all odds and went to Kalomo High School and later to the University of Zambia, where he obtained a degree in Agriculture Economics. He was Head of Treasury at Barclays Bank and later joined as Director at Finance Bank. He joined politics and contested the Matero Constituency, which he won with one of the largest landslides in the country. He was appointed Deputy Minister (Provincial Minister- Southern Province) and later served in similar capacity at Ministry of Finance and Ministry of Commerce.

6. Chishimba Kambwili – One of the founder member of the PF, the Copperbelt strongman emerged to spotlight with his anti-MMD antics with Kasama Central MP then Saviour Chishimba. He came in a by-election and replaced the late Roan Parliamentary, Cameron Pwele. In 2011, he was appointed Minister of Foreign Affairs but due to his brush and undiplomatic nature (like his boss), he was taken to the Ministry of Labour when he engaged in public spats with erring employers and companies he “found wanting” while touring in the blaze of TV cameras. He joined forces with GBM and fought Kabimba in a show of political force for party control.

7. Wynter Munachamba Kabimba- 56 years the disgraced former Secretary General is fighting a political fight that will either sink or lift him. Kabimba who had recently emerged as possible successor, fell out of favour when he was fired as Secretary General and Justice Minister and his nomination as MP was withdrawn. He was the leading contender supported heavily by Fred Mmembe, leader of the “infamous cartel” and editor of The Post. He had attempted to promote loyalty and discipline (only to the extent that one supported his ambitions). The former Town Clerk of Lusaka benefited from a long relationship with President Sata, together with Local Government Minister, Emmanuel Chenda.

8. GIVEN LUBINDA- The vibrant Kabwata law-maker made a seamless transition from UPND, to ULP and to the PF. His qualities improved the image of the PF and were Party Spokesperson until 2010 when Kabimba elbowed him out of the position. In the new Government, he was Minister of Information and later transferred to Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Later he was accused of engaging in acts of treachery and a campaign led by his archival, Wynter Kabimba was waged demanding his expulsion. He received a lot of support from his colleagues and members of the public. He was later handed out with a suspension of 6 months.

CONCLUSION

The succession process has been marred by underhand methods by outside forces led by Fred Mmembe, Editor and owner of The Post newspaper. The institution has been leading an onslaught of editorial attacks against only certain leaders such as Chikwanda, Chishimba Kambwili and now Edgar Lungu.

Mmembe seemed to have staked all his bet in Wynter Kabimba’s basket.

The institution was also in the process of obtaining national broadcast licenses for Radio and Television and if this was successful, its influence and sway on national public opinion was going to be dominant.

The PF should recognize that the sympathy vote arising from the demise of President Sata, would benefit the party if their house were in order.

The party has suffered internal wrangling and divisions that is now worrying voters. A perception has emerged that the political fights in the PF that have taken precedence over national development.

It’s important that the party uses this opportunity to resolve its outstanding and divisive issues and hopefully emerge stronger.

The Party leadership should recognize that at stake is the continuity of the vision and legacy of President Michael Sata, and the national hope is that they will dedicate their effort to a larger picture of picking a candidate that will win the party in the up-coming elections.

For if the party leadership continues to be embroiled in its wrangling and quarreling activities, they will sink a good sailing boat.

The Author is a Journalist, served as Press Aide for former president Frederick Chiluba and Permanent Secretary under PF government. 

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