Is this the biblical return of the prodigal son or it is simply shameless opportunism?
In April this year, Besa Chimbaka, who was Luapula Province UPND chairman, resigned to join the governing Patriotic Front.
From 2006 to 2011, Chimbaka was Bahati Patriotic Front member of parliament and was later appointed Luapula Province minister by Rupiah Banda.
Rejoining the UPND at its secretariat in Lusaka yesterday, Chimbaka, who was welcomed by Mutale Nalumango, said,
“I could not drive on the bush road because the PF I knew was completely distorted, completely disarranged, completely confused. I found no room [in PF], I found no interaction, I found no friend. Therefore, this is a sincere apology; I’m not afraid [and] I’m not even shy to say it…The PF today is a danger not only to me but to your lives. It’s a danger to your children, it’s a danger to national security and I want to call upon all of you [that] as UPND, we must strongly struggle harder and further than we have always done. I want to be frank; sometimes we are very complacent. But the thing is this; we have an uphill battle to free the people of Zambia.” That is all Chimbaka had to say to be welcomed and cheered back into the UPND.
Asked whether he had decided to rejoin the UPND on account of not having been given a job or not being paid by the PF, Chimbaka said politics was about divergence. “I look at this as a golden opportunity because what I didn’t see and know in PF, now I see and I know. There was literally nothing I got from PF, except for the chitenge that they tied around my neck. I never got anything, my dear.”
Clearly, inconsistency should be counted among the cardinal vices of our politics.
Our politicians are liable to being driven off their chosen courses when they least expect problems. Now it seems that if a politician wishes to hold to unwavering in line in politics, his career is likely to be spectacular – and difficult or even short. Perhaps only a highly skilled follower of Machiavelli could escape from this predicament, by gaining reputation for consistency without deserving it.
The unappetising prospect for Zambian politicians, then, is that they are almost certain to have to change their positions from time to time.
Humans aren’t perfect; that’s what makes us humans. We often say one thing but do another. Despite this, we’re still creatures of habit, and we often seek to find as many patterns as we can and grasp on to them tightly. However, when it comes to Zambian politics, the only pattern that we often see is that of politicians changing their minds and swallowing their vomit.
One would think that pattern-seeking individuals would never support or tolerate politicians who are quick to change their minds, who are jumping from one position, political party to another. We say we want leaders who are principled and consistent. However, we support, tolerate and even cheer politicians who are consistently flip-flopping. Big press conferences are held to welcome such politicians as they jump from one position, political party to another despite their inconsistencies.
Why are such politicians supported, tolerated, cheered?
They’re are supported, tolerated, cheered because by changing their positions, they start to represent a larger number of the Zambian people. Essentially, they are trying to be populist.
Consistency doesn’t attract that type of support and cheers.
Catering for the Zambian public and telling them what they want to hear does. It’s cheap politics. As long as we support, tolerate and cheer politicians that flip-flop, that jump from one position, political party like a monkey on a tree, our politicians will continue to do so. Our politicians may have their own directions in mind, but we are the oil to the machine, so to stay in politics, politicians need our support and cheers .
Now, isn’t this counter intuitive and defying our expectations of what we want in our politicians? Don’t we want consistent politicians?
In short, yes. We supposedly want consistency, but it doesn’t seem to be salient when it comes to our support and cheers. Taking a look at Chimbaka, we can see his inconsistency. The inconsistency that has apparently helped him stay in the political limelight – big press conferences being held every time he changes his position, political party.
Chimbaka has been consistently inconsistent in his politics. He furthered himself politically by doing so.
Despite it all, despite all of the inconsistency, Chimbaka is still welcomed with big press conferences! In fact, it might not be despite the inconsistency that he is being highly welcomed back to the UPND, it might be because of the inconsistency. We just might not realize how much we like to hear our own positions being reinforced, even by someone who didn’t always hold that position.
The question we need to ask ourselves is, do we want to hear something inconsistent politicians say that we agree with, or do we want to hear something consistent politicians say that we don’t agree with?
Anyway, we shouldn’t forget that many of today’s critics of Edgar Lungu and his Patriotic Front were once his supporters, and we want to ask them the question: why were you right then and why are you wrong now?
Is it a question of better late than never?
We fear that we may not quite understand how Zambian politicians think. Our politicians don’t seem to recognise “right” and “wrong” positions. Instead, they may seem to consider that all have roughly equal positives and negatives, and which you choose to emphasize depends only on your priorities.