If you’ve been to the “Red Brick” top floor, I mean the Office of the President Special Division, you’ll find among the many pictures of former Director Generals- Vernon Johnson Mwaanga’s black and white photo. Hey- as a young man, the fellow was handsome. For a man with a humble education he must have been intelligent too.
But let me tell Vernon Mwaanga something about rigging.
In 1991, when incumbent President Kenneth Kaunda lost the election to Mr Fredrick Chiluba, he cried foul. He asked what had happened to the women voters. As president and in-charge of the entire security services, Kaunda thought the election was rigged in favour of Chiluba. But even Vernon knows the intelligence reports must surely have pointed to the unfolding events to Dr Kaunda long before the election date that things weren’t going in his favour. There was nothing late Mr Kamima the intelligence chief at the time could have done.
In the 2001 election, when Mr Anderson Mazoka lost to Mr Levy Mwanawasa, many of us friends to Andy were convinced the election was rigged. Anderson was the most articulate and popular amongst the intellectuals and 73 tribes in the country, but that was not enough. Andy accepted the result; he would always wait to fight another day. It was not to be.
In 2006 most of us including former President Chiluba thought Mr Sata won that election. Mr Sata had the backing of Dr Chiluba who was popular on the Copperbelt, in Northern and Luapula Province. Similarly in 2008, we couldn’t believe Mr Sata lost to Mr Rupiah Banda by such a small margin. Mr Sata refused the result. He believed it was rigged. But as a man who loved his country, he prevailed on his members against violence. He had to wait for another day.
In 2011, Mr Rupiah Banda lost to Mr Sata. Mr Rupiah Banda could not believe the result. It’s rumoured he cried. He could only have thought the election was rigged. He became the second president to hand over power to an opposition leader gracefully.
In 2015, Mr Hakainde Hichilema lost to Mr Edgar Lungu despite having a three months head start and support from some PF and MMD members of parliament in that election. Mr Hichilema cried foul despite having lost all the other elections since he took over the leadership of the UPND in 2006. He always came in third place. In 2015, due to Lungu’s late start, he came in second but he still blamed his loss on the system-that it was rigged!
You hear it all the time. “The system is rigged.” On so many issues, people wrap themselves in abdication of individual responsibility to insulate themselves from the negative consequences of their decisions and actions. Still others use it to empower themselves, acting as political Pope and absolving others of their mistakes.
Context matters. In some cases, the system is rigged. In others, the system itself is doing the rigging.
Nowhere is “the system is rigged” theme been more commonly used than in the political world.
Hakainde Hichilema is a cry baby every time he loses. Every time he realises he’s been outsmarted since 2006, 2008, 2011 and 2015. Every time it’s clear he didn’t hire competent people who understand or even read clearly the election moods. But his refrain is hollow and damaging only to those whom he’s lying.
If the people who ran Hakainde Hichilema’s campaigns in 2006, 2008, 2011 and 2015 were not aware of what the election moods were, and merely concentrated on winning in Southern Province and a couple of votes in Western and North Western province. If Levy Mwanawasa, Rupiah Banda, Michael Sata and Edgar Lungu’s people were aware of election moods, that is what happens when you hire people who are not up to the challenges of their job.
The fact that Hakainde Hichilema has lost elections four times to four different presidential candidates surely does not speak well of his campaign lies that all the past elections he lost were rigged. The fact that some of his campaign managers since 2006 have defected to other political parties have been fired or replaced has gotten much less media attention than now Vernon Mwaanga and Hichilema’s loudly repeated charges today that he has all along since 2006, 2008, 2011 and 2015 elections been robbed.
With so many election demographics that vary from one election year to another, some of these statistics are bound to work out to one candidate’s advantage and another candidate’s disadvantage.
Mwaanga must realise that when Hichilema wins less than 11 percent of the nation’s votes (by tribe) and yet gets 100 per cent in Southern Province (from the same tribe), you don’t hear other candidates yelling or whining that they have been robbed-that the elections were rigged in Southern Province. But the cold fact is that Hichilema’s percentage of the votes is still higher overall than his percentage of the people (by tribe- nationally) who actually voted for him.
Apparently it all depends on whose ox is gored-and who yells the loudest, with the most irresponsible charges. It also depends on how conscientious the media are and how gullible the voters are.
When a politician, particularly one who attempted to broker alliances amongst opposition political parties, the standard bearer of a major opposition political party, with long-time political experience, a former intelligence chief complains “the system is rigged” against people getting ahead, it’s the same as telling them they should quit. It saps those susceptible to such things of their ambition and drive.
When you say this to people who are politically illiterate because of tribe, sexuality, economic status or whatever may be receptive to the idea. It resonates, maybe not that day, but someday. When something doesn’t go their way, they have an excuse.
The next time they fail to get say a job or lose one or can’t be adopted because they don’t have the required Grade 12 certificate, regardless of the circumstances, they can come quickly to the “realisation” the system is rigged against them and they can’t succeed no matter what.
Some people will quit, wait for some politician to “unrig” the system to remain loyal to the person and party who vows to “protect” them.
Vernon Mwaanga claims the system is rigged? This is a man who rose from simple beginnings and a humble education to become an Ambassador and Intelligence Chief at a very tender age- 24 maybe 25- and one of the wealthiest and most powerful men in Zambia. Except this time he won’t admit the system was rigged against more able and educated Zambians his age. His story, like that of Hakainde Hichilema, Godfrey Mwamba and so many others, embodies the Zambian Dream.
Why not just rely on that story, which would do Mwaanga and Hichilema a lot of good? It doesn’t give enough credit to Dr Kenneth Kaunda, Chiluba and the Zambian government for these men’s success.
“The system is rigged” absolves every one of the responsibility of their mistakes. You went to prison not because you were doing something illegal, but because the system was rigged. You can’t afford rent not because you wasted your money on other things, but because the system is rigged. You don’t have a Grade 12 certificate not because you smoked weed at secondary school rather than studying, but because the system is rigged. You’ll lose the August 11 election not because your political party hasn’t attracted enough credible leaders from all tribes in the nation, but because the system is rigged. The possibilities are endless, the blame and the results are the same.
If Mwaanga wants to talk about rigged systems, he knows all about one that truly is rigged- the ascendancy of Hichilema to the UPND Presidency in 2006.
Hakainde Hichilema can’t even win his party’s presidency without ethnic Tonga tribal elites pushing him over the top. The UPND has not held a credible party convention since the death of its founder Anderson Mazoka. Further, the August 11 election already is a victory for Hichilema before the first vote is counted. Unless Edgar Lungu, a fellow contestant in “the system is rigged” brigade, beats him in a landslide, he’ll still come out in the election with the same number of members of parliament, predominantly Tonga.
Yes, some systems are rigged. But not the ones Mwaanga and Hichilema would like you to believe. The economy is not rigged-the MMD under President Chiluba gave Hichilema’s company a contract to privatize Luanshya Copper Mines and he became rich. The education system that enables everyone to obtain a Grade 12 certificate has been free since 1964- it is not rigged. How the Presidency and parliamentary seats are won may be, but everyone knows the rules.
No, the real rigging in most people’s lives is the lie that someone other than the individual is responsible for the state of our lives.
These political campaign lies have been repeated so often by illiterate politicians, over so many years, that they have become part of a tradition that is almost never questioned. For example, demands for “equal pay” “minimum wage” or “gender equality,” proceed without even a definition of what that means.
Take for example, Inonge Wina, she was the Chairman of the PF and worked extremely hard to stabilise the party after the demise of President Sata and the succession battles for the party presidency that followed. Her subsequent elevation to vice president of the party was not rigged against her men and women folk. If, for some unexplained reason, she decides to step down this election, I doubt Edgar Lungu or the PF central committee will find an easy replacement amongst them (men and women) or with any other woman or man outside the PF with equal leadership qualities and standing in the Nation. No matter what people may say, “The system was NOT rigged” in favour of Inonge Wina. She was simply the best! I’m sure my elder brother Mr Alexander Chikwanda will agree -after all he was a good buddy to Inonge Wina’s late husband, Mr Arthur Wina (MHSRIP)-perhaps the best Finance Minister Zambia ever had.
“Gender equality” must not become a “rig game” at the expense of equal quality. For example, at our graduation in early 70s, women received more than three-quarters of the degrees in education and humanities, while men received more than three-quarters of the degrees in the sciences and we had no female engineering graduates. Perhaps the reason Professor Lameki Goma gave his famous speech “The Usefulness of Useless Disciplines.” So, when engineers are paid more than teachers partly because engineers work year round sometimes in rough, tough surroundings, while teachers work 9 months — do not be surprised by sex differences in earnings among college graduates. The system is not rigged in favour of engineers!
None of this is news for people who have checked out the facts. Researchers -including female researchers -have repeatedly turned up such facts for decades. But the politicians such as Mwaanga and much of the media prefer a moral melodrama, starring themselves on the side of the angels against the forces of evil.
The success of campaign lies based on “the system is rigged metaphor” from people such as Vernon Mwaanga depends ultimately on how willing the public is to be stampeded without bothering to stop and think.
Looking externally for redemption, fulfilment, or making anything great again is the individuals rigging the system against themselves. Perhaps Mr Mwaanga is saying these things from personal experience- that his ascendency to top leadership positions in the country during the UNIP era were not based on merit-after all-it was rigged!
Just a thought,