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Perspective: Wynter Kabimba, the politics of Loyalty

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Sata (l) with Scott and Kabimba

Sata (l) with Scott and Kabimba

What has happened to the erstwhile General-Secretary of the Patriotic Front (PF) and Justice Minister Wynter Kabimba was the inevitable outcome of a system based on a front man while the real man stays behind, writes Zambian Eye Special Correspondent.

The front man is pushed to the limit and when all hell breaks loose, the real man can always say it was only the front man and not him!

The front man is hung out in the sun and is disposable and replaceable but the real man buys time in the shed by changing the front man depending on his calculations.

The arrangement would have been neat and still probably is for the real man but invariably the front man becomes progressively more unpopular and the only popular decision becomes to dispose of him because his exit will appeal to the gullible.

This is the trap that Kabimba may have found himself in. He did as he was told but the more he did so, the more of a pain he became to everybody until by August 28, 2014 he was disposable and was disposed of!

He was his master’s faithful voice and enforcer. It was he who moved the motion in parliament to lift former president Rupiah Banda’s constitutional immunity against prosecution. He is the one who ordered the Constitution Commission not to publish the draft and to print only ten copies. Up to his dismissal it is he who held the brief to ensure that there was no progress on the constitution! He was the lightning rod and there is little he couldn’t do in the name of the PF!

These were the politics of loyalty through and through. But clearly loyalty can count for very little. He is now out in the cold shorn of all the positions he had been loaded with and almost everybody in the PF is celebrating. Expressions of support for the party leader have come thick and fast. This in itself could have been the objective- to bring joy to an increasingly dispirited party and renew support for the leader.

The hope being expressed is that with him out of the way there will be a more united PF with a great a deal more cohesion. Some of those who had been estranged now say they are willing to return –somebody had to be fired before they would return! But is it really true that the problem in PF was Kabimba?

For, even with Kabimba gone the fact is, the PF has not become a better party. It remains the same: a fiefdom, violent and uncaring of convention.

Nobody is saying for sure why the halo has been so ruthlessly and thoroughly removed from above him. Nothing of what he did to deserve the harsh exit is known and speculation is that he may in reality have been the victim of poor leadership.

Increasingly in fact it is beginning to look pretty much like he may have been sacked for reason or none- somebody had to be sacked perhaps to make a statement and he was the convenient candidate having been used up and was no longer useful as a lightning rod.

He should have known or perhaps he did. There have been signs that his luck was running out or more accurately that he had run out of time. That campaign for his removal that erupted in the PF last year was sustained and severe on him.

Even in politics it is extreme for people to publicly display a coffin in scripted with your name and parade it as part of politics. It is in extremely bad taste. But that is what happened and more. It was a well-orchestrated campaign which though said to have been about the nomination of President Michael Sata as the sole candidate in 2016 was in fact aimed at him. The speed with which it changed direction suddenly to come to centre on Kabimba suggests it. The transformation was rapid and the foot soldiers appeared ready for it and well prepared.

For making the reasonable observation that the campaign was pre-mature and he wasn’t the only one of that opinion, the entire PF was in no time on him like a ton of bricks! The other PF figures that had expressed doubts about the campaign were quickly forgotten save for Kabimba.

It seemed that the initial campaign about 2016 was only a smokescreen meant to draw him out and it did. When he called for order in the party, he was accused of being anti-Sata and plotting to replace him in 2016. No proof was provided only the claim that he didn’t want Sata in 2016! What was clear all this time however was that the PF mainstream didn’t want Kabimba.

Ostensibly, the leader of this campaign was Geoffrey Bwalya Mwamba popularly referred as GBM but in quick succession, GBM proved disposable. It is clear therefore that he could have been silenced if he was on his own.

But in this case he appears to have been the Trojan horse in which someone else rode. Someone more powerful than GBM was behind that campaign-someone else was conducting an “audit”for 2016 and Kabimba for whatever reason(s) may have seemed the most threatening contender!

It was Vice-President Guy Scott who said in the aftermath of that rumpus that those who wanted Kabimba out were against President Sata and it made a great deal of sense. By himself Kabimba was consistently a political lightweight and owed everything he had to the president and this is why he hasn’t even a limb to stand on now. His becoming president was always a long shot because of his clear lack of political clout yet he was the most feared “contender”.

The possibility is real that he never was an aspirant. He had himself said not long ago that he would stand down if President Sata was no longer president. So, he appears to have been well aware of his political frailties. This is a man who could have been dismissed for no reason at all except perhaps bad leadership.

But he got what was coming to him. There is a sense in which he has suffered the fate of the snake charmer who gets bitten by his own snake! There is very little to be said for him except that it was bound to happen. In this case his dismissal proved once more that the full strength bite of the King cobra is un-survivable- it packs enough venom to kill an elephant. A human being is small fry!

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