By Patrick Zunga
With less than six months before crucial general elections on 11th August 2016, the former ruling Movement for Multiparty Democracy (MMD) has been competing not with others, but itself.
While her competitors are growing their membership, the MMD has been pre – occupied with expelling theirs and president Nevers Mumba’s media appearances have been dominated by attacks on his own MMD brothers and sisters.
In a short period of 12 months, the party has seen 3 different chief executives and has carried on for more than 3 years without a Vice President. The National Executive Committee (NEC) is now almost completely made up of appointees while elected officials have either resigned or been expelled.
To underline the problems in the MMD, a third of MMD’s serving members of parliament resigned to join the United Party for National Development (UPND) on Monday 14th March 2016,.
The list of strange happenings in the MMD is endless and worrisome to many including President Edgar Lungu who joined the long list of those calling for reconciliation in the former ruling party.
While addressing PF officials at Luangwa house in Chipata on 27th January, President Lungu said he would be happy if MMD president Dr. Nevers Mumba and former president Mr. Rupiah Banda reconciled for the sake of unity of purpose in the opposition party.
In response to President Lungu, Dr. Mumba, through a communiqué issued on 31st January said he had already reconciled with former President Rupiah Banda. On the same day, Dr. Mumba told ZNBC that he had been talking to President Banda and that the call by President Edgar Lungu for the two to reconcile came long after the two had buried their past differences.
He further said former President Banda and himself had put the differences they had last year behind them and that the two had already forged a new relationship. Dr. Mumba stated that there was no animosity in the communication between President Banda and himself.
However, barely 2 weeks later, former President Rupiah Banda told journalists that he was yet to meet Dr. Mumba together with other senior members of the MMD.
“You might have heard or read from our media some misleading and false statements relating to the supposed political agreements between myself and the MMD President Dr. Nevers Mumba. While I wish to make it clear that I bear no ill will towards the MMD president nor any other members of the party, I should state that I have had no meetings or discussions with him. When I return from Uganda, I am ready together with other senior members of the MMD party to meet with Dr. Nevers Mumba and his team, so that we discuss and come up with a solution that will be harmonious to concerned groupings in our party for peace to prevail in MMD.” Banda said.
And speaking during a live phone in Programme on Mkushi community radio a few days later on 4th February Dr. Mumba welcomed President Banda’s intervention to facilitate reconciliation in the MMD. “Mr. Banda does not have any position in the party right now but being our former president, he is our counselor, our advisor and an elder whom we can call on to provide guidance to us and we are looking at him as an advisor, counselor and supporter of the party that brought him into power. Those who want to fight, we are not interested in fighting, we want to move forward”, Dr. Mumba said.
During the same radio Programme, Dr. Mumba said: “Mr. Banda could help the party by bringing back the people that went to the PF and the UPND. The MMD is open to all those who left the part last year and want to come back and we believe Mr. Banda can bring back these people and create harmony in the party”.
Dr. Mumba’s statement was immediately supported by then National Secretary Hon. Mwansa Mbulakulima who told a press briefing on 29th February that President Banda was playing the role of unifier in the wake of deep divisions in the party.
However, a few days later on 4th March, Dr. Mumba’s spokesperson Rev. Reuben Sambo contradicted both Hon. Mbulakulima’s and Dr. Mumba’s statements when he told Hot FM radio that it was not true that the party had invited former President Rupiah Banda to reconcile the MMD. A few days later, Sambo reinforced his earlier statement when he told the media that the MMD did not need interference from its former leaders because it had a strong National Executive Committee.
But if Sambo’s negative statements were not clear enough, the events of 7th March left no one in doubt. President Mumba shunned pre – arranged reconciliation talks organised by Northmead Assemblies of God Presiding Bishop Joshua Banda and Evangelical Fellowship of Zambia Executive Director Rev. Pukuta Mwanza.
President Rupiah Banda and other members of the MMD who included Hon. Mtolo Phiri, Dr. Kalombo Mwansa, Hon. Mwansa Mbulakulima and Raphael Nakacinda along with the conveners waited in vain for Dr. Mumba and his delegation to appear for reconciliation talks.
And speaking after the failed talks, Bishop Joshua Banda said it is a pity that Dr. Mumba did not attend the first meeting especially that he is key to the reconciliation. Bishop Banda said reconciliation is inevitable if the MMD is to survive.
“We are seeking to bring reconciliation so we began the process and we will take time to talk to everyone who is important in this process and we are now identifying all the parties in this process. We believe that the MMD, as a former ruling party, has an important role to play and what goes on with them is important for the country.” Bishop Banda said.
A day after the failed talks, Dr. Mumba issued a press statement re – affirming his desire and readiness to meet President Banda. Dr. Mumba said that reconciliation between himself and President Rupiah Banda is the right thing to happen for him as a Christian and should not be seen as dependent on third parties.
However, a few days later on the 12th March, the MMD reconciliation process took yet another twist with Dr. Mumba now demanding a one–on-one meeting with President Banda. Speaking through a spokesperson, Dr. Mumba said he was for the idea of a one-on-one meeting with President Banda which would give an opportunity to the two leaders to have a relaxed and genuine frank talk to pave way for the party’s successful participation in the August general elections. Dr. Mumba was against the idea of using delegates in the reconciliation and healing process of the former ruling party that had been dogged with wrangles which had seen a number of its senior members either facing disciplinary action or expelled.
In response, President Banda appealed to Dr. Nevers Mumba to find it within his heart and in the calling of his vocation as a man of the cloth, to bring an end to the divisions and wrangles in the MMD.
“A one- on- one reconciliation meeting with me will serve no useful purpose because I have no ambitions in the party. Those who are aggrieved and in contention are the people Dr. Mumba must deal with to heal the party and bring it back to vitality.” former President Banda said.
The solution, he said, was dialogue with the suspended and expelled members of the MMD who wanted to play a role in the party to which they had belonged for a long time. Mr. Banda implored Dr. Mumba to resolve the wrangles in the former ruling party than resorting to disciplinary actions and expulsions because such acts would not help reconcile and heal the party.
The former President said he did not see the value of a one-to-one meeting with Dr. Mumba because the problems in the MMD did not involve him (Mr. Banda) but were between the members of the MMD and Dr. Mumba. Mr. Banda said in an interview with the Daily Nation that since he had no intention of coming back into active politics or support anybody else, he could not understand why Dr. Mumba was calling for a one-to-one meeting with him.
“I personally have no ambitions in the party, but I am worried as former President that the party is being torn apart and in the process losing the advantage it enjoyed over many of the emerging parties “former President Banda said.
He said as a former leader of the MMD, all he desired was to see the former ruling party reconcile and become united if it were to remain relevant to the politics of the country.
He said Dr. Mumba had been governing the MMD through antagonism and that there was need for him to reconcile with other members of the MMD who desired to participate in the political activism of the country through the former ruling party.
“The answer to the MMD wrangles is not to continue disciplining or expelling members from the party. Dr. Mumba must provide leadership and I am begging him as a christian leader to provide leadership in the MMD in order to bring together many members who are Zambians and want to participate in the political activism of the country within the MMD, the party they love and have always belonged to,” former President Banda said.
The former president said he had nothing against Dr. Mumba but his biggest desire was to see that the MMD was united again so that its members could freely and happily participate in the country’s political affairs.
The end to the circus in the former ruling party is obviously nowhere in sight. What is clear though is that the party is currently not focused on being competitive in this years’ elections.
After all that has taken place, can it be said that Dr. Mumba is serious with reconciliation in MMD? Is he the only political player with the luxury of time to spend valuable time on fighting, expelling and repelling his own instead of retaining and drawing more people to the MMD? Is Dr. Mumba actually interested in the political fortunes of the MMD in these elections and beyond or is he playing the role of an agent of other political parties?