By Emmanuel Mwamba
Just in a period of six years, Zambia has lost a second president in office.
As it was in 2008, the political terrain has dramatically shifted and power centers are being re-aligned.
The political landscape has become one big shifting sand dune.
Alignment of political foes and friends, relationship of conveniences and speculation are underway.
Night meetings, office meetings, car park meetings, hotel meetings, meetings and meetings will be the order of the day as people position, size and pick their opportunity that this tragedy and adversity has brought.
For many are inspired by the saying: ‘’Opportunities come once in a lifetime. But opportunities have to be seized in the life of that opportunity”.
But it’s this period when leaders are called.
Jeremiah 17-16 states; “I have not run away from being your shepherd; (for) I have not desired the day of despair”. For it’s a period that a shepherd arises to lead.
In one single night of 28th October 2014, the political scene in Zambia and Africa was shaken into history.
For a Zambian of Scottish descent is at the helm of an African country.
For how can a man, many said was merely ceremonial in function, and couldn’t act as President, be one to do so?
Many are asking; “How can a man President Michael Sata never gave an opportunity to act as President, though enjoying long, historical and political friendship with him, end up in the same position”?
And others are shocked at the out come and are uttering words of “treachery, betrayal, and disloyalty” for their view, expected Guy Scott to respect the implied and express wishes of President Sata in life and death.
Someone stated that: “In politics, they don’t stab you from the back! The moral standing is so low that they face you and stab you from the front”!
Scott’s supporters have argued that his commitment to the ideals of the country and his relentless campaign during the ten-year campaign of PF adequately earns him the position he finds himself in today.
He gave the PF as an opposition party, credibility and an aura of international support. Many say Guy Scott has traversed the hinter land of Zambia more than many Zambian leaders.
So in circumstances like this, what counts is what the law says and not the demands of moral imperatives. This scenario was sharply at play on the day that President Sata died. And in this case it’s Article 38 (2):
‘’Whenever the Office of President becomes vacant or, in the absence of the Vice President, or if the Vice President is unable, by reason of physical or mental infirmity, to discharge the functions of his office, a member of the Cabinet elected by the Cabinet shall perform the functions of the Office of President until a person elected as President in accordance with Article 34 assumes office.”
SO HOW DID WE END UP HERE?
Following that shock appointment of Lusaka Central Member of Parliament and
Former cabinet minister, and Africa’s only second white Vice-President after De clerk of South Africa, Guy Scott as held on to this office by clutches of straw.
When Guy Scott was appointed, the former ruling party-MMD immediately through its equally former Vice-President, and former Law Association of Zambia President, George Kunda, raised concern about Guy Scott’s new portfolio and threatened to mount a legal challenge against his appointment.
When President Michael Sata started taking his foreign trips in January 2012, including one to Rio, Brazil, he left the Minister of Finance, Alexander Chikwanda to act as President.
George Kunda immediately threatened to sue Mr. Scott for holding the office of Vice-President as Scott, although was a Zambian, was of Scottish origin and both his parents were of foreign parentage.
Kunda contended that if the country could have a Vice-President who couldn’t be allowed to act as President when he was in the country and during the absence of President Sata, then such a vice-president should not hold that office in the first place.
But Attorney General, Mumba Malila sprung to the defence of Scott and quoted Article 38, and 39 of the Republican Constitution:
“In the event that there is a vacancy in the office of President, in terms of Article 38 and or in case of temporary absence of the President, the Vice-President could act as President, even if he may not meet the qualification for election to the Office of President. What he cannot do is to stand as President”.
Malila emphasized that constitutionally, the appointment of Guy Scott as Vice President was premised on sound law.
Further Malila also quoted Art.45 (2), which states that; to appoint a Vice-President, President Sata was only required to pick from amongst the members of the National Assembly and Guy Scott already qualified as a member of the National Assembly.
George Kunda’s position has always been supported by former vice-president and self-taught lawyer, Gen. Godfrey Miyanda who contends that;
“It is my view and contention that Dr. Guy Scott doesn’t qualify to be President under the current constitution” Miyanda further contends that Guy Scott didn’t even qualify to be appointed as Vice-President.
And Canadian lawyer and scholar Elias Munshya has stated that; ‘’the law is on the side of Guy Scott. The politics may not be on the side of Scott, but he is qualified to lead the transition”.
But the argument many people relied upon, including family members was that Guy Scott would be persuaded by the moral argument that President Michael Sata had never allowed him to act as President, and in the event of a sudden eventuality, would stand down for which ever minister was appointed by President Michael Sata to act as President.
Rome based catholic priest, Fr Chanakila Muyunda recently affirmed that view when he stated that, since October 2011, President Sata had never allowed or gave an opportunity to Guy Scott to act as President and therefore the tradition should be respected even in his death and during the subsequent transition.
This legally flawed argument assumed proportion of truth, despite being an entirely moral argument, and in some circles it began to be considered as a legal fact.
This was compounded by the failure by government to disclose that President Sata was suffering from poor health and needed regular specialized medical attention.
Because if this fact was laid bare, maybe the PF leadership was going to give itself an opportunity to consider this scenario being played, sadly after the demise of its leader.
Despite the above sound arguments from both sides, clearly the appointment of Guy Scott as Vice-President of the Republic of Zambia was a contentious, historical and was always going to be an issue of wide ramifications.
For today, Zambia has made history as Guy Scott has become Africa’s first white head of state (albeit in acting and interim capacity), 50 years after achieving independence from colonial authorities.
But another case similar arose in1896.
When Chitimukulu VII Sampa Kapalakasha died in 1896, and the title remained vacant while the traditional succession process was so vicious and contentious and threatened a Bemba civil war. Further the kingdom was threatened by foreign invasions.
During this period, a French white father missionary, Father Joseph Marie Stanislaus Dupont had been trying to obtain permission to set up a new mission at Milungu from the likely successor to ascend to the Chitimukulu throne, Senior Chief Mwamba III.
Dupont was the first Vicar Apostolic of Nyassa and later made as Archbishop, which covered Malawi and whole of Northern part of present Zambia.
During this period, Dupont became Senior Chief Mwamba’s medical doctor. He was also renowned for his knowledge in Bemba culture and traditions and was nicknamed Moto Moto.
Before he could ascend to the throne of Chitimukulu, Senior Chief Mwamba died, thereby leaving both thrones vacant.
In rare circumstances, over 33 chiefs and sub-chiefs in council, elected this white father to act as Senior Chief Mwamba and in effect act as Chitimukulu until a suitable replacement was found.
Dupont accepted the appointment to help to forestall trouble in the kingdom. Later suitable heirs to the thrones of Senior Chief Mwamba and the Chitimukulu were installed. Dupont is remembered founding the mission in 1899 near Kayambi in Chilubi.
THE HEALTH OF THE PRESIDENT, MADE TABOO BY IRRATIONAL SECRECY
Many are sad that government failed to handle the health and information of President Sata in a transparent and humane way.
Even when he was clearly unwell especially in the last few months, government officials denied Zambians information and issued preposterous statements insisting that the President was as fit as a fiddle and was enjoying the best of his health.
When Zambians were confronted with sad pictures of a frail and clearly unwell President in April 2014, which immediately evoked feelings of concern and anxiety, government officials played down the concerns.
Minister of Foreign Affairs Harry Kalaba regularly issued ridiculous statements to Radio Phoenix such as “the Opposition leaders questioning the health of President Sata are malicious”. “Sata will outlive his enemies that wish him dead”, President Sata is enjoying the best of his health”.
Of concern was the manner President Sata was carted around to; South Africa, India, United Kingdom and Israel in a secretive and hushed manner.
Recently the nation held with bated breath when President Sata opened the fourth session of Parliament on September 19th 2014. He looked seriously unwell.
But Zambians were shocked to learn that the following day, he was taken to attend the General Assembly of the United Nations in New York!
President Sata’s many medical trips and visits were disguised as official trips and instead of eliciting from the church and citizens sympathy, prayers and support, the irrational secrecy surrounding his trips only managed to excite ridicule and scorn from his critics.
This created unnecessary and undue pressure to government officials. And when pressure mounted on the presidential delegation and government to disclose the whereabouts of President Sata, he was made to always hurry back home.
That is why; his last medical trip to the United Kingdom was handled quite well.
For the first time, the trip was announced appropriately, “the president has gone for a medical check up”.
This time, there was little speculations and mockery from the opposition as this statement was greeted with prayers and sympathy from across all political players and the general citizenry.
Although this is not the time to apportion blame, time has to come when we as a nation have to discuss how our presidents have to be handled.
For the above described manner does not convey that President Sata’s circumstances were treated with dignity and honour by his handlers, befitting his office as head of state and leader, and befitting his stature as a parent, husband, grand father, and uncle to many.
SO WHAT HAPPENS?
When President Sata is interred, the frenzy for the scramble for presidency will kick in high gear. An election has to be held within a period of 90 days from the date counting from October 28th 2014 to elect Zambia’s sixth president.
This however is a by-election and the winner will take us to the scheduled General Election in 2016.
Although there are broad concerns about the position of Acting President, this position has limits and strictures. It’s a caretaker position.
In-fact Guy Scott will remain a substantive Vice-President performing the functions of the President. Although he may perform some of these functions like receiving credentials from ambassadors, and high commissioners, sign bills into law, he cannot however fire his cabinet colleagues.
Further Scott will not move into State House. He will however hold Cabinet Meetings and some functions at State house. But will not become a resident of State House.
For purpose of emphasis, Guy Scott remains Vice-President performing constitutionally prescribed limited functions of the President. He is an acting President.
It is for this reason, that there will be no Vice-President appointed in his stead. He remains the substantive Vice-President acting as President during the transition.
I have heard about looming petitions and impending court actions to challenge or prevent Guy Scott to act as President.
In my humble view, the PF and others should concentrate on the difficult work that lies ahead.
For the PF and it’s Central Committee will have to consider and elect from the array of interested candidates intending to take over from President Sata a presidential candidate.
Among those said to be vying to be elected as presidential candidate for the PF include;
1. Defence Minister, Justice Minister and PF Secretary General, Edgar Lungu
2. Former Defence Minister, Geoffrey Bwalya Mwamba (GBM)
3. Former Secretary General and former Justice Minister, Wynter Kabimba
4. Mayor of Lusaka and president’s son, Mulenga Sata
5. Finance Minister, Alexander Bwalya Chikwanda
6. Deputy Minister of Commerce, Miles Sampa
7. Former Foreign Affairs Minister and former PF Spokesperson, Given Lubinda.
Others said to be in the race include, ‘’Bashi Nono” Robert Sichinga, Minister of Commerce and Industry, Foreign Affairs Minister, Harry Kalaba and a wild card being drawn from Panji Kaunda, Deputy Minister of Works, Supply, Transport and Communication.
For the opposition, shifting of cards is also underway. Hakainde Hichilema of the United Party for National Development (UPND), who has been attempting to win the presidency since 2006, hopes that this opportunity gives him the presidency.
The UPND has institutional stability and despite its losses in the last few years, hopes to finally grab power from the PF taking advantage and preying on the internal strife in the ruling party.
Others of interest and waiting in the in the wings include Nevers Mumba, leader of the former ruling party, MMD, who is attempt to fend off Rupiah Banda’s recent manauevres.
Others are Elias Chipimo of NAREP, a youthful leader that has never taken advantage of the youth, a block vote that determines who becomes president.
But of interest are speculations about Rupiah Banda’s return to politics and his efforts to be the “Opposition’s” candidate. Young people are alarmed at the prospect of another old leader. So Banda’s chances are dim, as he has to look for a party vehicle to sponsor him and face an electorate that rejected him just three years ago.
Others attempting to seize the chance at the presidency include upstarts like Dora Siliya’s Genuine Political Platform (GPP) which will join Mike Mlongoti’s People’s Party (PP), Dr. Fred Mutesa, of the Zambia Empowerment and Development (ZED) and a plethora of many small political parties.
Despite the intense backroom maneuvers and politics, it is important that sufficient time is accorded to the dignified mourning of President Sata.
The peace and security is usually fragile during a time such as this. Therefore it is hoped that sobriety and restraint would be allowed to take center stage instead of selfish and greed we have witnessed so far.
The PF has been engaged in an internal war for the last 3 years and it is the hope of its members that with a sense of unity and purpose, the party should unite and marshal support and pick a candidate that is capable of taking the hopes and aspirations of President Sata forward.
For this government is still enjoying plenty goodwill because of its infrastructural and developmental initiatives.
Despite the opportunity that lies before them, will the Opposition cease this moment and wrestle power from the PF.
Let’s watch the developments as they say, “One Week is a longtime in politics”.