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Perspective: PF – The uneasy road to Mulungushi Rock of Authority

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MCC meeting at State House

MCC meeting at State House

It hasn’t been easy for the Patriotic Front (PF). Without President Michael Sata, the party has struggled and listed badly to the point of breaking up, writes Zambian Eye Special Correspondent.

The chain of events that unfolded following the death of Mr. Sata was quite disturbing and unworthy of a governing party-it was all a mess!

Thank God, the pulling and shoving now appears over and sanity would seem to be returning to the trouble-torn party that has so far fought the fiercest battle against itself!

The road to the general conference at Mulungushi Rock of Authority has been hard and acrimonious-replete with disagreements, stand-offs, grandstanding and intrigue. But all that was always going to happen at a general conference was an election-an opportunity for the wider general membership of the party to participate in choosing the party’s standard-bearer in the January 20, 2015 presidential by-election. Why that should in this day and age be controversial beats the imagination.

The late president’s passing has exposed the PF and the picture that has emerged is less than edifying. Old habits do truly die hard. Since formation, the PF has never had any real election. At the first convention in 2011, election was by acclamation. It was more of a coronation than an election! Effectively therefore all the office bearers but notably the Central Committee that has been flexing its muscles in the past few weeks are Mr.Sata’s personal appointees. They are without a mandate and they know it!

Against such a background it is probably not too surprising that ordinary members were not thought to be part of the reckoning in the transition. It is a totalitarian approach and there were many in PF who wanted to exploit it to protect narrow sectional interests.

The Central Committee considered it its sacred duty to “ram through” a presidential candidate of their choice without wider consultations within the party even though every party belongs to its members. They seemed unaware of the inappropriateness of their course of action. They were completely without remorse and were self-assured!

Their autocratic approach made the PF look really bad: undemocratic, violent and unrepentant. It seemed in fact only a matter of time before violence would flare-up and there was some of that with some goons rushing to Cabinet Office on an unclear mission!

Attempts to suspend or override the acting party president for simply insisting on wider consultations on the candidate smacked of real desperation. Something maniacal seemed to drive the whole effort. The central committee seemed to act not from support for their “sole” candidate but out of some real fear of the consequences of somebody else being elected.

It tainted even their candidate as he mostly was made to look like a hostage of vested interests within the PF! The central committee managed to create the impression that it was either him or they would sunk! But what explains this desperation which was felt all-round?
Perhaps those who accuse the “vultures” in the PF and those who have committed crimes to be trying to install their puppet in order to safeguard their ill-gotten loot are right?

There was of course an understandable urgency to be attached to the matter of a candidate in view of the timelines. However, this urgency should have been from the outset on convening as soon after the burial as possible a wider party consultation so that a rough consensus of choice could be arrived at. Surely, the need and context for such a consultation should have been readily understood not least by the central committee.

But no. Instead there was a hardening of stance towards “ramming through” their choice. All the haste and exasperation was for the coronation of the candidate they chose for unknown qualities using an equally unknown criterion. It was anaked attempt to impose a choice on the party and the unsettling thing is that there was a real desperation about it.

Even their candidate seemed unprepared for his new popularity. It was clearly driven by a force(s) he did not seem to be familiar with. It seemed more than mere political support. It seemed a case of SOS with the call coming from the central committee of course!

It is a lasting shame that a political party in this day and age can still be wedded to these methods. Their time is long gone and nobody in this frame of mind should be holding down a senior party position in Zambia. So, it is not only a presidential candidate and leader that the PF urgently requires. It needs a new and more enlightened central committee even more urgently. Otherwise the party will be consigned to the dustbin of history and pretty soon!

These events were very damaging to the image of the party and the morale of supporters. All the dirty linen washed in public could have been cleaned up quietly in a constructive meeting of the central committee. But the current central committee appears incapable of any constructive action or decision. Political parties should not live in the past but in the present. The Zambia where diktat held sway is fast receding into the past.

The PF obviously lost sympathy and some votes with this display. They will need both as they will be crucial in what is already shaping up to be a tight and bruising race. What is more, the party will be without Mr.Sata, its most seasoned and charismatic campaigner. For the first time in many years too there will be a level playing field as no candidate will have ready access to state resources particularly transport. There is a tough fight ahead for everybody and is not time for complacency or misguided zeal such has been on display since Mr.Sata’s passing.

The PF didn’t look organized or clear but confused-a party with a majority at the top that reckons wider consultation involving ordinary party members is a waste of time!

But at least in the end, the central committee seemed to come to its senses or simply failed to prevail with its outmoded approach. But whichever, the general conference is now set and there is a good field of candidates-nine. What is important there is to vote. The PF could still undo whatever damage can be arising from its very poor showing since the death of Mr.Sata by doing things correctly and not relying only on the acting president Guy Scott.

Only an orderly and credible conference will do otherwise the price to the party could be extremely high. But if it is able to organize a real conference and a credible election it could gain some traction and possibly even a new momentum.

It badly needs that. For, after Mr. Sata’s exist it has only managed to create a reputation for itself as a trouble-torn party governed by arbitrary rules with a central committee that exercises questionable authority over the party and that could be fatal come January 20, 2015.

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