Saturday, December 17, 2011

Leading MMD

Leading MMD
By The Post
Sat 17 Dec. 2011, 13:59 CAT

OPPOSITION MMD's National Executive Committee (NEC) today meets to decide whether to choose an acting president or not at a time when the party is faced with a lot of challenges.

These challenges range from leadership, moblisation and re-branding. However, we feel that in the midst of all these challenges, the MMD leadership should first reflect on the state of the party.

In making these comments, we are aware that one can justifiably argue that what happens in MMD is purely internal and outsiders should not get involved.

Yes, this may be so. But it should not be forgotten that MMD is the biggest opposition party in Zambia today, offering checks and balances to the party in government, the Patriotic Front. So what happens in MMD has a direct bearing on the governance of our country. All we know is that to see wrong being done, and not speak about it, is a great betrayal.

The MMD we see today is not the MMD of 1990; it has changed, it has new cadres and leaders. The MMD we saw before the September elections was one addicted to violence. It is an MMD that failed to advance the principle of non-violence, of respect for the humanity of others. And we all know that the MMD was not founded on a platform of violence.

And the problem today in the MMD is that most of the members with both the courage and the ability to face challenges are no longer there, if they are there, they are no longer in the position to do so.

Most of the leaders in the party are either posturing or just making political stunts that add no value to the ideals of the party. With such leadership, the MMD is headed for serious problems. And only resolute and urgent action and a focused leadership will avert its impending Armageddon.

The state of the MMD should not surprise anyone. This is what happens when people lose their values and trade their principles at the altar of political expediencies. This is what happens when people abandon the struggle. This is what happens when truth is traded for lies.

There is no struggle any progressive person in MMD can wage with the current structure, composition and character - a party dominated and run by opportunists, corruption masterminds.

The MMD has performed poorly in terms of intra and inter party democracy. Voices of dissent have in the past been crashed or sidelined. The MMD in April decided to hold a party convention just for the sake of showing adherence to the party constitution, regulations and guidelines and deceiving the general populace that the party was democratic when in fact not.

What we have seen in MMD is a stagnation in democratic tenets. There is an explanation for the poor and unsatisfactory performance of the MMD on the aspect of democracy over the years it was in power. Since it's coming to power in 1991, the MMD abandoned the goal of the struggle for democracy in favour of a desire to stay in power at all costs and by all means necessary.

The MMD sought to restrict rather than broaden democracy to a point where people started to feel it was not possible for them to play a meaningful political role. What this meant was that the MMD had failed to develop a political culture that could be used to broaden democracy in Zambia outside monopoly politics, outside politics of blind loyalty. Even externally to guarantee their hold on to power, the MMD resorted to all kind of tactics, among them violence, corruption and intolerance.

Today, so many things are not sitting right in MMD. There are factions blaming each other for the party's loss. Currently, its leadership has no clear direction for the party. The MMD is a rudderless political party. The MMD is like an arrow at its journey's end and soon it might fail to pierce even thin silk.

In such a state, the MMD can easily be ‘sold' to the highest bidder, to the one with more money in his pockets. We say this because we know that the corrupt MMD members would not want to let go off the protection of the party. The party should therefore be on guard.

Even as we say this, we know that there is nothing wrong in a party changing itself, recruiting new cadres and leaders. Change is an important part of life. Political parties that do not change die. If things around us change, and we do not, then we become of no use to things. Our principles cease to be principles and just ossify into dogma.

We feel that the MMD needs a leadership that will steer the party to face its newly-found role as opposition however unprepared its leadership might be and no matter the difficult political and leadership situation they are in. Not a leadership that embraces corruption like we saw under Rupiah.

The great majority of our people have not forgotten that the MMD government ruined their hopes of a better future. There are some among our people affected by the policies and corruption of the previous MMD regimes who, genuinely so, long to wake up one day and find the MMD dead and buried. This is because the MMD had angered the majority, doing as they pleased.

Their deeds displeased the people and what followed was electoral disaster. We know that the regimes of Frederick Chiluba and Rupiah suckled from a corrupt udder and weaning its members off is not an easy undertaking.

There are too, others that want a change of leadership. Those who want the MMD to morph into a descent party, with a descent leadership. A leadership that listens to the people. A leadership that is not corrupt. They don't want the MMD to be a nursery for corrupt leaders, a ship carrying merchants of corruption. We feel that the future of MMD lies in the general membership and not only the NEC as the case has often been and is likely to be in the short to medium term.

We think that there are small first steps that can be taken on the path to rehabilitate MMD. For instance, in today's NEC meeting, it is important to ensure that Rupiah does not chair the meeting in order to give members freedom of expression and hence political space. If Rupiah is genuine with himself, he should excuse himself during today's meeting.

Another issue that NEC should extensively debate is the MMD constitution, which still requires review especially the provision abolishing the vice-president position.

Then whoever they pick, whoever they anoint, the decision should take into consideration the feelings of the people. To know those feelings, there is need for courage in the ranks of the MMD leadership to reflect deeply on the feelings of the general membership of MMD.

We can suggest that the MMD needs to go back to the politics of the early days of our Republic, to the politics based on morality. The MMD should try in a new time and in a new way to restore this concept of politics. And this restoration should not only end at the party presidency level. It should filter through to low-level officials.

This is because the quality of the low-level party officials determines the type of people who are elected as party presidents and consequently presented as candidates for the Republican presidency.
MMD should start having leaders who regard politics as a vocation, a way of building up society for the common good and not leaders who loot billions of kwacha which they end up burying and leaving hospitals without drugs and schools without books.

If MMD is to move forward, honest people are needed in the party. The MMD will not be a good party for any of its members unless its leadership makes it a good party for all of its members. If this is not done, there will be continued and increasing discord within the party. Experience has repeatedly shown that a party divided into groups loses its militancy.

Protracted inner-party strife inevitably results in party members' concentration on discords. The party becomes distracted from political struggles and loses its influence.

We therefore advise that the most democratic possible method be adopted to choose the new leadership of the party. A leadership chosen by one person or a small group of people will not bring the party unity that the MMD badly needs.

We are five years way from the next national elections.

An acting leadership won't do; MMD needs a properly and broadly elected party leadership to steer it in the next five difficult years. But the MMD should not allow the choosing of new leaders to become factionally divisive.

Again, we can only repeat that let us teach ourselves and others that politics and leadership should be an expression of a desire to contribute to the wellbeing of the nation rather than of a need to amass wealth corruptly.

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