Michael C. Sata and His PF in a Battle Front

ImageThe last two years of the former opposition party, Patriotic Front’s government have been a battle for governance. Certainly it has not been easy for them, inside and outside government. Some of the battles have been self inflicted.

Shortly after assuming power in September 2011 the PF began the realigning of ministries with a view to have fewer portfolios compared to their predecessors MMD. Ministries such as labour, foreign affairs, local government, environment, education, tourism among others had to be realigned or renamed several times before final names were arrived at. Ministers alike were moved from one portfolio to another. This process took the PF a year to settle down. Not only did this show a lack of preparedness to rule on the part of PF but it was also an expensive venture. A lot of inconveniencies were created among the civil servants in these ministries to the extent that it will take a long time to bring the situation to normality.

Similarly, most ministries have remained unstable at the permanent secretary level. President Michael Sata continues to frequently shuffle his permanent secretaries. There is a joke that permanent secretaries in the PF do not have business cards because by the time one is printed it would find a PS in another ministry. We have seen, for the first time, situations where a PS is appointed and within 24 hours transferred to another ministry even before being sworn in. Though these may seem like minor issues, they have a lot of bearing on service delivery by the PF. Instability not only negates productivity but also morale among civil servants. All these are the battles PF has created for itself.

It must be mentioned that while PF campaigned on reducing expenditure by having a smaller government, currently they have more ministers and deputies than their predecessors. The ruling party PF uses appointments into government as a carrot to appease or buy off its opposition and critics.

Further, the PF has been hasty in implementing far reaching policies. The creation of new districts, for instance, does not correspond with available resources. Since coming into power in 2011, the PF government has created over 40 new districts without any consultations with various stakeholders. Creation of more districts though positive, has not been systematically implemented. Political rather than economical reasons have overridden the implementation of the decentralization policy.

Another ambitious but hastily implemented programme being undertaken by the PF government is the massive infrastructure development. Through projects such as Link Zambia 8000, Pave Zambia 2000 and the Lusaka or L 400, the PF wants to transform the road network countrywide. These road projects have been in full gear since 2011 and are expected to be completed by 2016. Further, a number of universities, schools, and hospitals are earmarked for construction. But it is not clear how these projects will be completed as there are apparently no funds to match such massive developments. Government has instead resorted to massive borrowing thereby raising fears that the country could go back into a debt trap.

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In the second year of the PF in power, the party’s intra-party democracy was put to test. Unprecedented levels of intolerance within the ruling party were exposed with two factions of supporters of then Defence Minister, Geoffrey Mwamba (GBM) and PF Secretary General and Minister of Justice Wynter Kabimba emerging to challenge each other. A life was unfortunately lost while property worth thousands of kwacha was destroyed. Clearly the PF lacks a succession plan for its leader Michael Sata. It is difficult to image who will succeed President Michael Sata in PF should he decide not to re-contest, which is likely to happen, in 2016. In the meantime there is deep rooted mistrust within the hierarchy of the ruling party at various levels. And as long as PF continues to ignore holding credible elections at all levels, the party risks disintegrating after Sata. Even the recent resignation of GBM can also partially be attributed to succession wrangles between him and Kabimba.

In the midst of these squabbles the PF also picked up another feud with the Bemba Royal Establishment (BRE). The Bashililubemba thought they had chosen the heir to the throne of Chitimukulu after the death of another Chitimukulu. Alas they were wrong. President Sata refused to recognize the new Chitimukulu (Kanyanta Henry Sosala) maintaining that he was ineligible for the throne.  As the situation stands there is tension in Northern Province and in particular Kasama where government has sent a number of police officers to ensure that Sosala is not sworn in as Chitimukulu. This battle has already cost the PF one of its financiers during the run up to the September 20th 2011 elections- GBM who was Defence Minister. Many analysts have commended GBM for taking a brave decision in siding with Chitimukulu and therefore also risking his businesses.

Despite creating a ministry to look into affairs of chiefs, the PF government has generally not had a good relationship with traditional leaders. Apart from a few selected chiefs who openly campaigned for it prior to the 2011 elections, the PF has shown lack of respect for chiefs. Interference and lack of respect for the royal establishments has characterized the PF regime. For example, chief Madzimawe of Eastern Province suffered embarrassment when President Sata publicly rebuked him. Other chiefs who have been humiliated by President Sata include Senior Chief Nzamane, Chief Jumbe and Senior Chief Mwamba. Confronting and challenging traditional establishments such as the BRE is unnecessary battle that the PF can afford to lose.

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Another battle line has emerged with the civil society organisations over the release of the draft constitution. In its Manifesto the PF promises to deliver a people driven constitution through a referendum. The party also condemns the MMD for failing to give Zambians a constitution despite spending K120 billion on the process. Ironically, the Technical Committee on drafting the constitution that was appointed in 2011 by president Michael Sata has spent close to K150 billion (or K150 million rebased) since it was set up.

The PF government has refused to avail to the public the draft constitution that was handed over to President Michael Sata by the Technical Committee on Drafting the Constitution. The head of state has even accused certain individuals of trying to hijack the constitution and that the country already has a constitution. But the civil society has vowed to mount countrywide campaigns to force the government to deliver a people driven constitution through a national referendum.

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This is just among many PF campaign promises that the PF has failed to fulfill. For instance the PF pledged to restore the Baroste Agreement of 1964. But President Sata refused to restore the Agreement despite recommendations from the Commission of Inquiry that he set up to look into the issue. This situation has infuriated Baroste Activists in Western Province. It is evident that the PF has done a “donchi kubeba” (the slogan which literally means dupe them) by completely ignoring its campaign promises as contained in its Manifesto and also as pronounced by its leaders on various platforms. These are battles lines for the ruling party where they have now resorted to arresting leaders of the Baroste Land on flimsy case or unsubstantiated suspisions.

While the PF seems to have gotten away without implementing many of its campaign promises, the constitution promise may prove to be a battle that will bring them down. The ruling party has put its head on the chopping board by seemingly not being interested in enacting a people driven constitution. And 2014 will turn to be another year when the PF will be in battle fronts with many Zambians who want a new constitution before the 2016 general elections.

But will the PF government manage to win all these battles? This is a million dollar question which needs clear answers.

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Observers and the Church have cautioned the ruling party against taking an arrogant stance towards national issues. This is what cost the MMD power in 2011. The PF will do a great favour to its ambitions of staying in power for another term by adopting a consultative approach to national issues. Wining an election does not mean a government or party has been given a blank check to govern its people. It is just an endorsement of the people’s wishes and the beginning of consensus in national development. All the battles that the PF government is facing emanates from its failure to listen to various interest groups that are demanding that it honours its campaign promises. Most, if not all, the policies that the PF government has implemented or is implementing are in total contrast with its manifesto or pronouncements during campaigns.

Therefore the greatest challenge that the PF government will overcome is to begin to do in accordance to what it pledged before coming into power. This is the only sure way that PF will survive for another term in power.

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