…What Criteria Has He Used To Arrive At That Person?
Was it a Freudian slip when President Edgar Chagwa Lungu told the nation that he was learning a lot from veteran Zimbabwean leader Robert Mugabe and shortly after, disclose that he was grooming a friend to take over from him? Not that there is anything wrong in grooming anyone to take up the mantle after his stint, but the problem with this is that the President is already stifling internal party democracy by curtailing anyone with ambitions of democratically contesting the presidency.
The other problem I seem to find in President Lungu grooming a successor is that he has barely been in office for less than four months and in that period he has already identified a potential successor. The question is has he identified that person based on their hardwork or other factor that we may not know about? Anyway, this is a topic for another day.
The issue of “anointing” a successor in the ruling PF is still fresh in people’s minds which resulted in a very fractious national convention which selected President Lungu as the party’s national presidential candidate following the death of President Michael Sata, the party’s founder, in October last year. There had been eleven candidates vying for the position of party leader and subsequently as national presidential candidate.
Two national conventions were held one after another in November last year with court injunctions and counter-injunctions flying back and forth to determine which one was the more legitimate convention and therefore producing a legitimate presidential candidate. With the support of party national chairperson Inonge Wina, the Lungu faction emerged winner in the political melee to succeed President Sata.
Instruments Of Power
All this was because President Sata, on the last trip which saw him hospitalised in a London hospital where he subsequently died, left the party’s national secretary who was also Minister of Defence and Minister of Justice, Edgar Lungu, to act as President. This act alone saw Lungu, hitherto, a little known lawyer who entered politics through representing Sata, himself a litigious politician who frequently fell foul of the law for his political activities. Lungu was to later give a shot at the Chawama seat losing it but winning it in 2011.
President Sata, on his numerous foreign outings, had left a lot of people to act in his place and never once did he leave his then Vice President Dr Guy Scott to act despite the fact that he was constitutionally the one who should have been acting as President in his (Sata’s) absence. Irony of ironies, though, is that Scott took up the mantle upon Sata’s death and saw the country’s transition to the next election in which Zambians elected President Lungu.
The scramble to succeed President Sata started more than a year before he passed on and the process claimed the scalp of the man who the nation saw as the one to take over from the founding party president whom it was being speculated at the time that he would not go beyond 2016 compounded by rumours of ill-health.
President Sata sprung a surprise, stripping Wynter Kabimba, the party’s national secretary and justice minister of all his positions. Kabimba was a powerful figure who was, protocol-wise, third in the hierarchy from President Sata and Vice President Dr Scott. Incidentally, the party chief executive officer attracted the ire of the party membership across the breadth and length of the country with cadres carrying coffins demanding his removal as administrative head of the party.
President Lungu and his supporters fought the internal succession battle on the basis of him being anointed by President Sata by virtue of being left the instruments of power. As Acting President, Lungu also officiated at two most important events, the golden jubilee independent celebration and Sata’s funeral, the two events that probably won him national admiration.
For President Lungu to say that he is grooming a successor, he obviously is killing the ambition of not only the people who challenged him at the parallel conventions, but others within the party who could have emerged after his tenure as party and republican president.
If President Lungu is grooming someone to take over the reins as PF leader who would then go on and contest the national presidency along with candidates from other political parties, well and good. But to anoint someone to take over the republican presidency whatever it takes, then we start worrying about the lessons he is learning from President Mugabe.
President Mugabe has ruled Zimbabwe with an iron fist for over three decades and has been known to manipulate polls and with it, the flagrant use of violence to coerce people to vote for him and, as happened in 2008, traumatized opposition MDC leader Morgan Tsvagirayi into withdrawing from a poll run-off.
Failure Of Intra-party Democracy
Without dwelling on national democracy, clearly PF intra-party democracy is the victim here and it also just reflects the party’s history in which office bearers have mostly been appointed by the party founder, President Sata. Even the national convention that elected President Lungu was flawed to a large extent as he, himself, was elected more by acclamation than by ballot.
In fact, President Lungu fired some senior party officials and appointed others in their place in the wake of the debacle of the national conventions.
Already, there’s finger pointing in the PF with accusations of some members harbouring ambitions of challenging President Lungu. Former Cabinet Minister in President Sata's administration, WylburSimuusa has been on the receiving end from PF National Youth Chairman Chishimba Kambwili who is also Minister of Information and Broadcasting who stated that there was no vacancy for presidency in the PF.
Whatever happens in the ruling party, political commentators will have a lot on their plates.
[Photo credit: Henry Salim's Facebook page]