Monday, February 10, 2014

The PF and its shortcomings

By Editor
Tue 26 Nov. 2013, 14:00 CAT

A revolution calls many. But to succeed, it has to continually purify itself. And the Patriotic Front is no exception. To achieve its goals, the Patriotic Front will have to change many things. It cannot continue to be the way it was two, three or four years ago when it was in opposition.

Some of the cadres and leaders of the Patriotic Front in opposition will not serve the party well in government and may fall by the wayside. Being in government entails having a lot of responsibilities and calls for a different type of behaviour. When in opposition, the attitude is generally that of trying to undo, to destroy. This cannot be said to be an easy undertaking, but it's nothing compared to the challenges and difficulties a political party faces when in government. To build anything, let alone a country, has never been an easy undertaking anywhere.

If those in the Patriotic Front do not change their approach and behaviour from the way it was when they were in the opposition, they will not achieve much. And moreover, change is an important part of politics and life in general.

President Michael Sata's approach to politics has changed a lot since he got into government. And he has the right to change. Politicians who don't change when circumstances have changed become irrelevant. Political parties that do not change die, and the Patriotic Front is a living movement and not a historical monument.

If the world changes, and we don't, we become of no use to the world. Our principles cease being principles and just ossify into dogma.
However, in saying this, we are not in any way implying that people and political parties should change their principles. They should change but not to forget their principles; they should change to fulfil their principles. They should change not to lose their identity but to keep their relevance.

Moreover, change is an important part of gaining the people's trust. But change doesn't come that easily and without friction. Contradictions give rise to change.

We shouldn't also forget that wherever there is power, that power is always contested for. The Patriotic Front today holds power and that power is being contested by many forces within and outside the ruling party itself. People are today trying to reposition themselves in the leadership of the Patriotic Front.

There were people who were not sure if the Patriotic Front would win the 2011 elections and wanted to play it safe. Some of them didn't want to be openly associated with the Patriotic Front in case things did not work out. And there are some who didn't want to be part of the Patriotic Front's leadership structures because it was too risky, politically and otherwise, for them to do so. And now that this risk is gone, they are trying to reposition themselves. They want to be incorporated in the leadership structures of the Patriotic Front. This in itself is a source of political struggle within the party.

Wherever there is repositioning, a fight erupts because rearranging things results in some people being displaced. Some people don't take demotions or marginalisation quietly or without a fight.

When the Patriotic Front was in opposition, the risks were high. Those who offered themselves to lead took the risks of being denounced, insulted, scandalised, humiliated in all sorts of ways. Look at the insults, humiliation, slander that Michael and some of his close and effective followers and supporters were subjected to! Recall the Chanda Chimba programmes!

Some of the people who are today claiming ownership of the Patriotic Front and trying to chase their friends were not subjected to any of such things. How many in the leadership of the Patriotic Front can claim to have been subjected to the attacks, hatred, malice, calumny that Michael and, to a relatively lesser extent, Wynter Kabimba were subjected to. Some of these people making a lot of noise today were actually friends of Rupiah Banda and the MMD. They also enjoyed good friendship with the anti-Sata and Wynter elements in UPND. Today after things are easy, the risks have been removed, the slander has reduced, they want to appropriate everything, all the power the Patriotic Front won in the last elections to themselves.

This is the situation the Patriotic Front finds itself in today. But is this a permanent state of things? The answer is a categorical no. This is a passing phase as Dr Alex Ng'oma correctly observes. And truly, the key leadership of the Patriotic Front will eventually put an end to this phase. It has no alternative but to put an end to this destructive but important phase if it has to retain the respect and support of the people. The key leadership of the Patriotic Front have to show the Zambian people that politics is not a Byzantine game but a real and meaningful part of their lives. Today's politics is about the search for ways of improving and securing people's lives. And the Patriotic Front, as the governing party, has to build a strong and active leadership that can keep that hope alive.

To some in the leadership and membership of the Patriotic Front, this is eating time; this is time for reaping of rewards. Few see it as a time for intensifying the struggle to liberate our people from the yoke of poverty, ignorance and disease. Very few people fight over work, sacrifice, risks or rewards. Very few people fight to stand in front or in the way of the bullet, of fire, of attacks. People fight over benefits of work, of struggle. And in part, this is what we are seeing in the Patriotic Front among those calling for the removal of Wynter as secretary general of the party. And, in fact, they have been very brazen about it. One of their complaints is that Wynter is not looking after them well; he is not giving them jobs; he leaves them out on trips abroad and so on and so forth - it's all about eating, benefits, rewards, positions. That's all they are fighting Wynter for. That is the source of friction, intra-party fights within the Patriotic Front.

Is Michael capable of resolving this? The answer is a categorical yes. And as Dr Ng'oma says, Michael "is a pragmatic politician with vast experience to end the intra-party struggles in the Patriotic Front". Michael has overcome many serious political challenges and went on to win an election. Michael expelled almost all his members of parliament for not obeying party orders. The expelled members of parliament started working with the MMD in government but still, Michael defeated their combined force.

But we know that a decent political party is not based on benefits, rewards, positions. It is based on duty. Duty to the people, the nation. Duty to each other. The duty to show respect and tolerance to others; civility in discourse and disagreements. One cannot claim they want a strong party when they ignore its very foundation: duty, respect and tolerance to others.

Progress and justice are the two rocks upon which the Patriotic Front will rise to the heights. Should they lose either, they will come crushing down until they are just another average political party, scrambling around for salvation in the ebbing tide of our national politics.

Michael, whether one likes or hates him, is a great leader. And it's this quality that made him win where others have failed. He knows how to lead in crisis by bringing people together through values and by the strength of his character. Actually, and in truth, the crisis that faced the Patriotic Front over the last two months is over. The losing side can be seen by all. And the winning side seems to be surrounded by humility, modesty and tolerance such that it's not difficult to see it for what it is. Again, this is the type of leadership Michael is providing. We are confident, we are sure there will be further realignment of forces within the Patriotic Front to keep it and make it remain what Michael wanted it to be.



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