Saturday, October 25, 2008

(LUSAKATIMES) Analysis: Questions for General Miyanda

Analysis: Questions for General Miyanda
October 24, 2008
By Mingeli Palata

Brigadier General Godfrey Miyanda stands as one of Zambia’s most honest and upright politicians with a political history springing from as way back as the Kaunda days when he was believed to have been unfairly dismissed. He was part of what I like to call the young turks or founding members of the Movement for Multi Party Democracy and was part of the first MMD Government.

Over the years the General has earned himself an honest reputation of integrity, financial strictness and of course an unwavering desire to serve this country as President. The man served fairly well as Vice President and as Education Minister among other portfolios he held. The general strikes me as a very interesting individual. Why? When he left the military he started a taxi business while rising through the ranks of the Movement for Multi Party Democracy. Godfrey is a devout Christian and if you would like to know he was a strong supporter of Zambia’s declaration as a Christian nation.

Miyanda served in the Chiluba Government up until the infamous third team bid. He, along with other Minsters and Members of parliament left the Movement to form the FDD and HP. He made his first appeal to the Zambian people to vote him as President in the year 2001. In his campaign, he sold integrity, zero tolerance to corruption and a rather strange village concept.

The General’s presidential bid was not as he had hoped. He didn’t do too badly though. He got 4 MPs to his name and around 7.4% of the Zambian vote. That’s good for a man who rarely smiles.

In the years that followed, the General’s MPs were ‘stolen’ from him by the MMD and he gradually lost ground among the electorate. But then again, the General has bounced back on the political arena asking us to vote him as President in the year 2006. His bid again was unsuccessful. Interestingly the man was rumoured to have disappeared after the elections. I doubt if that rumour was true, but it surely goes a long way to tell you about how the general public perceives him.

It is true that the General is making an honest plea to the Zambians to vote him in as president and that he has the best of intentions at heart (I hope), but there are a few questions that I strongly feel you as a voter have to think about before the polls.

The General served during what has come to be known as the dark ages, the first ten years during which the MMD ruled this country. Independent scholars and indeed the general Zambian populace reckon that the period was marred by gross mismanagement, job losses, closure of industries and corruption. If there is a period most Zambians regret it’s that ten year period. Now notice that during Chiluba’s ten year rule, General Miyanda never resigned nor did he condemn whatever was taking place there. When the late President Mwanawasa was not happy with the way FTJ was ruling the country, he resigned from the Vice Presidency and later challenged Dr. Chiluba at the MMD convention. When Akashambatwa Mbikusita Lewankia was not happy with the way government was being run, he resigned on principle. Doesn’t the fact that Miyanda never resigned from the 10 year long MMD government make his supposed integrity compromised?

General Miyanda sells his ‘integrity’ as one of the reasons why we should vote for him. I am sure with integrity comes strong belief in a set of principles and values, which a person of integrity would never ever compromise. Let’s say the General does not condone corruption and mismanagement of public funds; how come he served in a government that is believed to have been characterised with the very vices he stands against? Let’s make another assumption and say that the General was not part and parcel of the alleged corruption and mismanagement, so he was not part of it. If he was not part of it but knew like we all did that those vices were taking place, what does that say about his courage, convictions and indeed his ‘integrity’? Why couldn’t he stand up against what was taking place? The last thing Zambia needs is a leader who can’t stand his ground.

Recently, the General was interviewed by Mr. Kenneth Maduma on Radio Phoenix and the same questions were posed. In response the General said he believes in the rule of the majority. He said he came out strong on most of the wrong things the Chiluba government did and when it came to the vote and he lost; he always respected the majority. I thought that was a lame excuse.

What surprises most Zambians is just how the General ‘disappears’ so to speak and goes into Political insolvency and manages to resurface just when we are having an election. The general can be silent for five years and just pop up when its election time. The same was the case in this Presidential by Election; the general came from nowhere and said he was standing. The role of an opposition political party in a democracy is to provide checks and balances for the ruling party. An opposition political party is supposed to critique what government is doing, it is supposed to provide alternative solutions to that of government, yes an opposition political party is supposed to speak for the voiceless, the vast poor majority of Zambians. I am not sure the Heritage Party and its leader have done that. The General is too quiet on various issues that affect the common man in the country. I don’t know if he can blame anyone for thinking he doesn’t care about the plight of the Zambian people. I don’t know if he can cry foul if one was to think that he is out of touch with the reality of the Zambian situation.

The Heritage party is also yet to qualify its relevance to mainstream Zambian politics. Unlike other political parties, the HP remains dormant for five years then suddenly reappears when its lection time. The HP will never hold a rally to speak against a proposed increase in salaries and allowance for constitutional office bearers. The party’s structure and activities are not known to the average Zambians. I don’t remember hearing the HP holding internal elections for its office bearers and that speaks volumes on HPs internal democracy. If an opposition political party led by an army General is not known to hold regular internal elections then would we be wrong to conclude that the party has dictatorial attributes? Would the Zambians be wrong not to trust the General to defend their country’s democracy?

Other than the General’s strange personality, there is a lot more he needs to do to win our vote than just claiming that Rupiah Banda was sent by the late President to ask him to be his successor. He needs to remove the fear factor from the Zambian minds and asking photographers not to take pictures of him during a radio phoenix interviews is not the way to do it.

Allow me to end by quoting the late Anthony Kunda, a former Lusaka based BBC reporter who had a one on one interview with the General and wrote;

‘Another criticism is that he can appear dogmatic and overly strict, liking to do things his way and no other. ‘

‘When I have interviewed him as a journalist I have found him to have rather a severe personality. He rarely smiles. ‘

‘He can also be quite forceful. The last time I went to interview him he demanded to see what was in my notebook, to check that what I was writing was what he actually said. ‘

‘Although he was really very insistent I managed to keep my notes to myself on that occasion. ‘

‘Mr Miyanda, 56, was removed from the army some 20 years ago after being accused of involvement in a failed military coup in 1980. He was subsequently cleared of all the charges.

Although he has never lived in a village, he professes a deep respect for village life and village values.

So deep is this respect that his party’s political philosophy is called “The village concept.” ‘

‘Unfortunately not many people understand what this rather vague notion means, least of all some members of the Heritage party itself. If he can get Zambians to understand it between now and the polling day, he might just get the top job. ‘

Editor’s Note

The Author wishes to acknowledge the error made in the previous article where he stated that Bob Sichinga was the UPND’s Vice President at the time of the Late Anderson Mazoka’s death. This was not the case. Kindly accept the apologies.

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