Wednesday, September 11, 2013

PF and factionalism
By Editor
Thu 22 Aug. 2013, 14:00 CAT

MICHAEL Sata faces no leadership challenge from anyone within or outside the Patriotic Front. No one can claim to have made Michael president of either the Patriotic Front or the Republic of Zambia. Michael created a political party that he skillfully turned into a movement, a united front of patriots.

It was not money; it was not doctorates but a humble and modest approach to the problems and challenges facing our people that made Michael occupy the position of trust and respect that he today occupies in the politics and governance of our country.

It also cannot be taken away from Michael that he is a political genius. How else could one have mobilised so much support for a political party of two people - Michael and his loyal disciple Guy Scott - in such a historical short time? Michael could have become president of the Republic of Zambia in 2006 or 2008 had it not been for other factors limiting his possibilities.

What makes Michael different from many of the politicians we have seen since the fall of UNIP in 1991 is his outstanding patriotism, his respect for other patriots and his belief in the importance of the independence of our homeland.

Michael is heart and soul a Zambian, an African. Michael doesn't try to be anything else that he isn't. Under Michael's leadership, one can go to sleep peacefully knowing that Zambia is not for sale and will never be sold. One can't say this about some of our politicians who worship money and power; who can sell the country to the highest imperialist bidder.

Look at the leadership Michael created for the Patriotic Front! Look at how national it is! Look at the quality of the key characters in it! Yes, there are some elements in the Patriotic Front who are of a low calibre. But they are also representative of the character and composition of our country. There is no society that is made only of good people. No section of the community has all the virtues, neither does any have all the vices. Even fools need to be represented in the governing bodies of society. They also have to be heard. Who understands this better than Michael?

It therefore doesn't make sense to try and build factionalism in the Patriotic Front and divisions in the nation in the name or under the banner of supporting or campaigning for Michael. He doesn't need this. It does a disservice to his selfless efforts.

If Michael was greedy, was a dictator, he would personally make every decision in the Patriotic Front and its government; he would govern the country and lead the Patriotic Front by decrees. He has the political support and prestige to enable him to do that. But Michael every day shares the leadership responsibilities with his comrades as if they are all equal politically and otherwise. Who in today's Zambian politics is doing that or can do that given the position and prestige Michael enjoys?

The campaign to endorse Michael as the Patriotic Front presidential candidate is not aimed at supporting Michael. It is aimed at the personal political agendas and goals of those involved. With or without them, Michael will still be able to succeed in any political goal he sets himself.

These endorsements of Michael would be tolerable if they were not divisive. But they are creating, within the Patriotic Front, unwarranted and unjustifiable factionalism, which is increasingly having elements of regionalism and tribalism.

The Patriotic Front is a party of Michael and Guy. All others are newcomers to this party. But not even one day has one heard Michael or Guy talk ill of other members and leaders of the party on account of them being new recruits. Some of the people who are leaders of the Patriotic Front today were personally invited by Michael.

And to despise them, or to try to undermine them, is to attack Michael himself. If one truly loves Michael, if one sincerely supports Michael, one cannot embark on a mission that tries to undermine and undo the leadership that Michael himself has personally constructed. Every top leader of the Patriotic Front and its government is there as a result of Michael putting them there. And none of them should consider themselves much closer to Michael than others. If they have a problem with the way their colleagues are conducting themselves, that cannot be addressed through divisive endorsements of Michael that are aimed at belittling and undermining others. Grievances about the conduct of other leaders should be directed to Michael himself.

There is need for the collective leadership of the Patriotic Front to pay special attention to these divisive tendencies and practices because they will have serious consequences for the party if not properly or adequately addressed.

Factionalism is very dangerous, and no party, no matter how strong it may be, that allows it to take root can survive. As we have repeatedly pointed out, experience has repeatedly shown that a political party divided into hostile groups loses its militancy. Protracted intra-party strife inevitably results in party members' concentration on discords. The party becomes distracted from political struggle and day-to-day work among the masses and loses its influence.

Part of the Patriotic Front's poor performance in the last parliamentary by-elections can be attributed to this growing factionalism within the party. The campaign for the Chipata Central parliamentary by-election was not free from this factionalism. And the Patriotic Front reaped the consequences of factionalism in Chipata Central. Committees at provincial, district, constituency levels are so often being dissolved because of infighting, factionalism.

But what is not being addressed is the fact that some of this factionalism comes from the virus that is being spread by the national leadership. It is therefore a matter of urgency for the Patriotic Front national leadership to try and address this cancer at its root - chemotherapy, painful as it may be, may be a necessary remedy.

And developing the correct strategy and tactics for the Patriotic Front with regard to this growing factionalism and all the vices that go with it will depend centrally on how the key leadership of the party assesses its actual and potential impact on the party. There is need for the top leadership of the Patriotic Front to constantly examine itself in a self-critical manner. A spirit of criticism and self-criticism is needed for the survival and continued revitalisation of their party. The early signs of divisive factional tendencies are clear to all. What remains is the taking of timely corrective action. Again, this may have to fall squarely on Michael's shoulders and his political experience and wisdom.

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