Saturday, September 06, 2008

NEC process was undemocratic, charge MMD presidential aspirants

NEC process was undemocratic, charge MMD presidential aspirants
By Mwala Kalaluka
Saturday September 06, 2008 [04:00]

SOME MMD presidential aspirants last Thursday complained that the process that the ruling party's National Executive Committee (NEC) used to choose its candidate in the forthcoming presidential by-election was undemocratic. Addressing a packed auditorium during a public discussion organised by the Press Freedom Committee of The Post at Mulungushi International Conference Centre (MICC) in Lusaka, the candidates accused the NEC members of looking at faces in the selection process.

The candidates that presented their plans and manifestoes during the discussion were former works and supply minister Dr Ludwig Sondashi, finance minister Ng'andu Magande, Ndola businessman Nason Msoni, former Copperbelt University Students Union (COBUSU) president Cain Mweemba, Ndola resident Charles Ngesa and MMD chairman for commerce Sebastian Kopulande.

All the presidential aspirants asked Zambians to give them a chance to lead Zambia to its destiny, as they felt they were best suited for the job. But members of the audience asked each one of them to explain what they would do should the MMD NEC settle for them.

Other questions posed to the presidential aspirants related to how they would address the persistent closures at the University of Zambia (UNZA), how they would fight corruption and continue with late President Levy Mwanawasa's legacy.

Kopulande said the selection process of presidential candidates in the MMD ahead of the presidential election was getting back to the UNIP days when people were not allowed to exercise their democratic right.

"This issue should have been taken to the people," he said. "This is why we founded MMD in the 1990s when UNIP was electing leaders by public proclamation...This seems to be rearing its ugly head into our party and we are going to fight that."

Kopulande, who claimed to have written some of President Mwanawasa's landmark speeches, said he was a policy specialist of high repute and that he was not being driven by opportunism in his quest for the presidency.

"We are all here for we believe in democracy," Kopulande said. "The circumstances that brought us here are not pleasant at all, after putting our president to rest, a new chapter has began for Zambia."

Kopulande said even though he was an underdog, he was the right man for the job.
"President Mwanawasa may not have appointed me as his successor but he trusted me with his words," he said. "My government will have no side deals. There shall be no room for underhand. We will fight corruption in the streets, in the homes and in any place where it rears its ugly head."

Kopulande said people like him were not ready to wait for 2011 before they take a shot at the presidency.

"2011 is three years from now. Three years is too long for us to wait; the legacy must continue," said Kopulande.

Dr Sondashi on his part said it would be very easy to confuse or to corrupt the over 40 people that were mandated to choose a presidential candidate.

"Money has started exchanging hands and if that is continued then you can know what is going to happen tomorrow yesterday," he said. "Then you can know why people clap hands when some people are talking."

Dr Sondashi proposed that intra-party elections should be legislated so as to avoid complaints that someone had been favoured.

He pledged that once elected Republican president, he would see to it that people in the rural areas have money in their pockets and that he would provide equal opportunities for Zambians to exploit their potential, apart from fighting crime with tenacity.

Sondashi said having been part of the older generation that created the mess in the country, he was of the view that the old people should remove the country from the mess, instead of shifting it to the younger generation.

Magande told the crowd that he was disappointed with a senior NEC member who said that he could not be elected as a presidential candidate for the party because he is Tonga.
He said he had the right credentials to take the country from its present situation into the future, building on what president Mwanawasa had achieved.

Magande said he was fortunate to have had worked for a very difficult leader who demanded results at all times.

"I want to know from NEC where I have failed after delivering the country from minus two development? Do not look at my face. One of the senior NEC members said, 'we can't vote for Magande because he is Tonga.' I do not know where my Tonga is,"

Magande said. "In 2003, president Mwanawasa identified from 10 million Zambians and appointed me as Minister of Finance. None of you objected.

All I ask is that tomorrow yesterday the NEC should be level headed; they should not look at faces, they should not look at tribe, they should just pick the best person to lead Zambia."
Magande said he does not operate in dark corners.
He said he was a very clean and that it was surprising that people were accusing him of wanting to write off a debt Zambian Airways owes to National Airports Corporation (NAC).

"That is the only case you want to peddle to stop me from helping my country," Magande said.

Responding to an assertion by a member of the audience to explain that he was arrogant and inconsiderate, Magande replied: "I am not arrogant, I only say things the way I see them."

But another member of the audience told Magande that president Mwanawasa only found it fit to have him as finance minister and not as president.

However, Magande explained that he did not know why other people were appointed to various positions but that he knew that he was appointed finance minister due to his experience in economic management and national planning.

Magande also said he was not ready to apologise over his statement that the problems at UNZA were a consequence of financial indiscipline because people that receive public funds should also be ready to account for it.

Magande said the problems at UNZA was the only mark he would fail to score out of 10 marks because there had been no audited records of the institution's accounts for the last five years.

Msoni said in his response that a presidential candidate who would be elected through corrupt means would be hard for them MMD to sell.

"I will not be surprised tomorrow Friday if I get a zero vote because the current matrix favour the status quo," Msoni said. "Corruption will rear its ugly head but the end product would be hard to sell. This will be the demise of MMD."

Msoni said he had been fighting wrong things within the MMD at a time when some people that were in leadership positions were hiding in cupboards like squirrels.

"For a longtime our people seemed to have been walking away from the real deal; I am the man for the top job," he said. "I have paid a price for democracy."

Msoni said State House was a difficult institution to manage and that only a courageous man like him would be best suited to occupy it.

"I am sure we are not prepared to take a boy there," said Msoni. "If Dr Mwanawasa was vicious at fighting corruption, then I am twice as vicious...anybody who is going to receive those new salary increments, I am afraid they are going to pay back with interests. I shudder to see leaders enriching themselves, where is our morality?"
Mweemba said he was seeking the presidential office because he felt that the ingredients for the country's development had not been well mixed.

"I have fought for multi-partysm. I was one of the main organisers for the MMD convention," Mweemba said. "I worked hard to make sure that young people are advocates for change. It is us who fought running battles with the police, so we should give the direction this country should go."

Mweemba described the current trend where the government delivers top dressing fertiliser before disbursing basal fertiliser as economic sabotage.

However, Ngesa argued that the country's greatness had been reduced because of leaders that were selfish and this was the main reason he wanted to become the next president.
"I want to become the next president of Zambia. I have got a vision for Zambia, come along with me," Ngesa said amidst laughter and heckles. "My vision is that Zambia recaptures its lost glory."

Ngesa, who had issues with the money that Zain Zambia, which he kept referring to as Celtel, was making from Zambians pledged to get back the over K71 trillion that the company makes from the procurement of airtime annually.

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