Tuesday, April 02, 2013

(STICKY) MMD's future

COMMENT - "For instance, the hundreds of thousands of dollars the MMD used to get as donations from some corrupt copper mining companies will no longer be forthcoming. And that is how neocolonialism works.

MMD's future
By Editor
Mon 01 Apr. 2013, 14:00 CAT

There is no doubt the MMD is facing many problems and challenges. And if the party does not get its bearings right, it's headed for extinction.

And it will be very difficult for the MMD to come back and play a meaningful role, let alone bounce back to power, if a lot of things do not change.

One of the greatest challenges that MMD will start to face in the coming days is the issue of money. This is a political party which for 20 years survived on being parasitic on the state and on donations from corrupt elements who were doing business with government.

For instance, the hundreds of thousands of dollars the MMD used to get as donations from some corrupt copper mining companies will no longer be forthcoming. The opportunities that the leadership of the MMD had to divert public funds and to engage in all sorts of money laundering schemes to finance the party's political activities have dried up.

The type of membership that the party developed over the last two decades is one that was not bound by principles, standards or values to each other and to the party itself but by the benefits of being in government and in a position to manipulate government business and resources in their favour. These things are now gone. For now there is a burning desire to get back into government and reclaim these things.

But this desire is not being matched by reality. There are some people in MMD who have serious difficulties believing and accepting that they are truly out of government; they simply can't believe that it's over.
The benefits were too huge to lose overnight. Some of them don't know what to do now. Those who stole may try for now to spend a bit of money on cadres because they need them, they need to show some political muscle. But as it is well known, cadres, especially those from the MMD, don't move if money has not changed hands. Rupiah Banda needs them for his cases.

So money is being spent on these cadres. They don't leave their tuntembas to go to court and hang on there the whole day without being paid. These are hired cadres. This is the political culture the MMD operated in over the last twenty years. When in power, money was not so much an issue for the MMD. Of course, there are still a few MMD leaders with a bit of money, but soon they will realise that they need that money for their own welfare and their contributions to party activities will start to diminish.

Leadership is also a major challenge for the MMD. The party does not have the type of leadership that can inspire confidence and help retain its members and attract new ones. But without the retention of old members and the ability to recruit new ones, the party's membership will continue to decline, and so will its political fortunes.

The leadership problem is not new to the MMD. It more or less started with Frederick Chiluba. His choice of Levy Mwanawasa, who had retired from politics, as his successor, marked the beginning of the crippling of the party in terms of political mobilisation. Levy, for all his merits, was not really a political man, a party man. Government activities were more important to Levy than the party, than the politics. And Levy's understanding of politics was relatively not that high. Look at the men Levy appointed as his vice-presidents - Nevers Mumba, Lupando Mwape and Rupiah Banda. Who were these men politically in the MMD to deserve that second highest position? They were political nobodies at the time of their appointments and remained so thereafter.

Are these people capable of building or consolidating the MMD? The answer is a categorical no. This may provide some good explanation why Rupiah, after receiving Levy's sympathy vote in the 2008 election, could not retain power three years later. And some people may think that since Rupiah was president and still has a bit of money and clout, they can latch on him like ticks and survive politically. There is no political blood in that old body for people like Nevers or even Hakainde Hichilema to survive on. A tick can only survive if it sticks on a body that has enough blood, failure to which it will eventually drop dead. It's over for Rupiah and no miracles can bring him back to any meaningful political life.

Equally, Nevers is not up to the job of running such a financially, politically and otherwise troubled political party. It requires a much more competent, much more intelligent, much more popular leadership to return MMD to a competitive level.

MMD's situation is not very much different from that of UNIP. Of course, UNIP had a much more clearer political outlook than MMD, which is an omnibus of opportunists of all hues. But even with its clearer outlook, UNIP lacked and still lacks a credible, popular leadership. But fortunately for UNIP, it had business assets and it has turned itself more into a business entity than a political organisation. UNIP leaders are much more business executives than political activists.

They have money, and that's all. They participate in every election without the result improving in any way. Like in the Olympics, their participation is much more anchored on the spirit that participation is more than winning. Moreover, they have the money to do it.

MMD has neither the money nor the other things needed for a political party to continue in existence or to prosper. And unfortunately for them, the vultures in UPND have seen that they are battling for their lives and have descended on them to finish them off. What UPND failed to do to the Patriotic Front it will succeed in doing to MMD. This is not because UPND itself is any more viable politically than the rest. It is simply because although thin and frail, it has the experience, resilience of living and surviving on very little and it can be on its feet much longer.

The internal strife or intra-party struggles that characterise today's MMD are an inevitable consequence of the poor leadership and the disappearance of the immense financial resources the party used to enjoy. Where there is eating, there can be a bit of harmony. Where there is hunger, there is usually confusion.

Clearly, there are many problems and challenges the MMD has to deal with before the Zambian people can again look at it as a viable alternative. And worse still, the MMD as a party, is increasingly getting discredited because of its support for Rupiah and his corruption. This they share with their bed-fellows - the UPND. For this, the political price will be very high, and it will, one way or another, have to be paid.

As for their pulling out from parliamentary by-elections, we don't think they have much of a choice. It will increasingly become difficult for the MMD, and indeed UPND, to win an election. This is not because the electoral process is being manipulated by anyone, but simply because they are increasingly becoming discredited because of the wrong positions they are taking on issues. It may be difficult for them to see and accept this. But it is something they will ignore at their own peril. Things are not good for them and the earlier they realises this, the better for their future and political survival.

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