Sunday, October 19, 2008

Rupiah has himself to blame

Rupiah has himself to blame
By Editor
Sunday October 19, 2008 [04:00]

WHEN dishonest people have problems, their first instinct is to blame others. And we seem to be burden bearers of Rupiah Banda's campaign problems. However self-created they may be, they are being heaped on us. Rupiah and his sponsors took the Zambian people for granted.

They behaved like many African politicians do; they didn't think they were accountable and answerable to the people. For them it was enough for Rupiah to be selected by the 56 members or so of the MMD national executive committee (NEC).

When Rupiah was anointed by the NEC, the arrogance of his sponsors was on display. They believed they had won the beauty contest to the extent that they even suggested it was not necessary to have an election. They started going around asking members of parliament from the opposition to forego the election because as far as they were concerned, Rupiah had already won.

They claimed it would be a waste of money to hold a presidential election when everything was clear that Rupiah would win.

This was the beginning of Rupiah's problems. Nothing to do with The Post, just the sheer arrogance of Rupiah and his sponsors. It was evident that Rupiah was quickly believing the lies that he was being told about how popular he was because he became so careless and somehow callous about public perception. For a man who claims to be politically experienced, he made some of the worst political choices a person could make.

One of Rupiah's first acts as MMD's presidential candidate was to choose the most arrogant and the most politically detached campaign team he could have assembled. For somebody in his position, it is shocking that he made such grave mistakes. He should not blame The Post for surrounding himself with the most uncultured political players of our time whose only discernible common denominator seems to be that they have axes to grind with one person or the other.

Rupiah's assemblage has landed him in problems and he should blame nobody but himself. His lust for power simply because it was available blinded him and now he is looking for people to blame. Why should Rupiah blame The Post for his problems?

Rupiah says we are against him because he defeated Ng'andu Magande who we were supporting for adoption as the MMD presidential candidate. We have no apology to make and we will never deny the fact that we preferred Magande over all the other MMD candidates. And this is justifiable because in our honest view, in our most sincere view, Magande is better than Rupiah for the job of president.

We believe that Magande has a better record of integrity and honesty, ability and dedication and concern for the welfare of all. Over the last 17 years of our existence, we have watched many ministers of finance come and go. We have exposed many scandals in relation to many ministers of finance.

Magande, to the best of our knowledge, has come out clean. Every honest Zambian has to respect the role that Magande played in helping Levy Mwanawasa manage the economy of our country.

And we are not the first newspaper in the world to state its preference over candidates. The United States, where some of Rupiah's image-builders come from, is about to hold its presidential election and we know that the Washington Post on Friday endorsed Barack Obama as its preferred candidate.

We also know that the Chicago Tribune and the Los Angeles Times, to name but a few of the United States' leading newspapers, have endorsed Obama as their preferred candidate. But nowhere have we read or heard John McCain or his agents call any of these newspapers or their editors unprofessional for doing so.

Rupiah should not blame us if his track record on honesty and integrity is not inspiring. It seems that is why he needed some image-builders to help him improve his poor records and public appeal. If Rupiah thought all was well for him, why did he have to cross the oceans and spend huge amounts of money to hire image-builders?

The problems that Rupiah, his sponsors and the MMD are facing are of their own making. They chose their candidate, it is their duty to sell him. They should have checked his record before settling for him. Having forgotten to check they should not blame us for reminding the people of what Rupiah has done in the past.

Can they honestly blame us for the wrong approaches Rupiah has made to his campaign?

Rupiah launched his campaign with corruption and bribery. Can they blame us for this?

At the very beginning of his campaign, Rupiah went to Petauke and started bribing the electorate with sugar and mealie meal bought with government money. We carried a story and pictures of his 'sugar daddy' activities in Petauke and questioned if this was in order.

Many people raised issues about this conduct. Even his own Attorney General advised him and other politicians to stop that type of campaigning. Out his own dishonesty, there was an attempt to deny the fact that he was campaigning.

But we published a verbatim record of everything that he said at that meeting and it showed clearly that the man was campaigning. The attempted denials by Rupiah and his sponsors clearly demonstrated how dishonest they all are. It also shows how desperate they are to hold on to power.

Why should an entire Vice-President start handing out small packets of sugar to residents of Petauke? Does it make sense for Rupiah to take government aircraft, government automobiles to go and personally distribute sugar in Petauke?

And to date we do not know of any other presidential candidate in this election who has gone around distributing sugar and mealie-meal or any other foodstuff or commodity to woo voters. We have not heard of Brigadier General Miyanda, Hakainde Hichilema or Michael Sata distributing sugar or mealie-meal anywhere. If anyone has knowledge or evidence of them doing so, please bring it to our attention so that they too be subjected to the same harangue and denunciation.

As though that was not enough, this same Rupiah was prior to this Petauke sugar misdeed trying to woo Eastern Province voters on the basis of naked tribalism and regionalism. How can somebody who is vying for the post of head of state commence his campaign on the basis of petty sectional and regional politics?

Rupiah went to Chipata and told the people of Eastern Province not to vote for anybody who didn't come from there and also told them to chase away other candidates who did not hail from there when they came there to campaign and tell them to go where they came from. Is it wrong for The Post to question and denounce such divisive politics?

For all his professed international and particularly United Nations experience, Rupiah is planting seeds of xenophobia, which has led to genocide in other countries. His callousness and dismissal of any challenge on this score should worry any decent and honest Zambian. Rupiah does not see anything wrong with what he said.

It seems given a chance he would say it again. All he sees wrong is us pointing out that tribal politics are wrong and can never lead to national unity and development. This is one of the crimes we have committed against Rupiah for which we will be sorted out after October 30.

When Mpezeni, the paramount chief of the Ngoni of Eastern Province, ordered his subjects to vote for akulu mphuno referring to Rupiah because he comes from the Eastern Province, nobody in the Rupiah camp raised any issues.

They are so desperate to win that they are prepared to fan tribal differences. Anyone who is honest and fair will know that as a newspaper we have never tolerated tribalism, racism, regionalism or discrimination of any kind. We have denounced anybody who has tried to launch themselves on the political scene on the back of regionalism.

Can Rupiah tell us what is wrong with this? If he keeps saying and doing the wrong things, that is not a problem for The Post to handle. It is for his sponsors and image-builders to deal with.

Since these campaigns started we have not heard a word of tribalism or regionalism or indeed any other form of discrimination come out of Brigadier General Miyanda's mouth or that of Hichilema or Sata.

It seems Rupiah is very prone to political accidents because just when the Chipata and Petauke sagas were dying down, he embarked on the James Lukuku bribery saga. Rupiah has not yet explained why he found it necessary to give K15 million to those young men.

His campaign manager Mike Mulongoti tried to justify this bribery which Rupiah was denying ever happened by saying as a big brother party, the MMD helps other smaller parties with money and there was nothing wrong with them giving money to Lukuku and his friends. Can anyone surely blame The Post for such political foolishness?

Can The Post be blamed for going to the archives and fishing out an October 1991 newspaper story showing Rupiah doing the same thing, involving himself in electoral bribery? We did not dig up just any story from 1991.

It was a story of Rupiah doing in 1991 exactly what Lukuku said he had done in 2008.

It seems that as the saying goes you cannot teach an old dog new tricks, and that indeed old habits die hard. Rupiah seems to be permanently wedded to a corrupt form of politics, to bribery and dishonesty. He has failed to make a transition to multiparty politics where accountability is paramount.

It seems to him anyone questioning his actions is an enemy. Rupiah says we have failed to dig anything about his past wrongdoing and that he never conducted himself in a wrong way when he worked for Dr Kenneth Kaunda. He challenges us to ask Dr Kaunda. Is he serious? Rupiah is in court with us. Let him call KK as his character witness, but he should know that KK did not work alone. We will also call all those that worked with Rupiah and KK. But Rupiah shouldn't miscalculate.

He should realise that for all his weaknesses, KK doesn't invent lies and the day he will decide to part from this line of telling the truth will be the end of him in all respects. Does Rupiah truly in his heart of hearts think KK will take the risk and tell lies for his benefit? We are ready to face KK in court as Rupiah's witness.

Since we started reporting on these elections we have tried very hard to limit ourselves to what is happening in the elections and address the candidates on what the candidates are saying and doing.

With the exception of the Lukuku saga where we found an exact replica event in 1991, we have not tried to stray from the issues that are arising now. But if Rupiah wants, as he suggests, we can take him on. We are ready to discuss his wako ni wako political practices. We are also more than ready to delve into his tenure at NAMBOARD and his stay at Lusaka City Council as governor.

His stay at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and his stint in the foreign service can also be subjected to scrutiny. We could also delve into his dealings with Jonas Savimbi, UNITA and the CIA in Angola. We have avoided all this not because we are incapable of digging deeper into these issues and coming out with questions seeking answers from him.

Our focus is on what is being said and done now. And it is not only us raising issues with what Rupiah and his sponsors are saying and doing. Last week, the church motherbodies raised issues with Rupiah's abuse of public resources.

They advised him to limit his use of public resources for the purposes of his campaign. Is it wrong for us to raise issues, which other people are raising, about Rupiah's use of three government-owned and operated aircraft? Is it wrong for us to question the use of police vehicles, Ministry of Health automobiles and other government transport that Rupiah had deployed or has allowed to be deployed in his campaign?

And to our knowledge, there is no other candidate in this election that is abusing public resources other than Rupiah.

Rupiah should not blame us for the ineptitude of his campaign. With all the problems and public scrutiny that they are facing, why were they carrying his image-builders in Ministry of Health motor vehicles? To expect The Post to keep quiet in the face of such blatant abuse is to fail to understand our role as a newspaper.

Rupiah is running a corrupt inept campaign and he should accept the consequences of this and not blame us for his problems.



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