PATRIOTS for Economic Progress leader Sean Tembo has advised Zambians to look out for competence, selflessness and non-tribal qualities in their next Republican President.
In an article he titled “A look into the past to draw lessons for Zambia’s future” yesterday, Tembo analyses all Presidents in terms of their strengths and weaknesses.
He said there was no question Zambia had been mismanaged from the time it was handed over by the British in 1964.
“We have failed to exploit its numerous natural resources and put them to the benefit of our people. Almost 55 years after independence, the majority of our people live in total squalor with little or no access to decent food and basic amenities like clean water, ablution and shelter. And yet, in the midst of all this poverty and squalor is an abundance of agricultural potential, an abundance of tourism potential, an abundance of mining potential and a peaceful people that have never experienced any war or armed conflict,” he said.
“It is easy to ascribe blame to the various administrations that have run the affairs of this nation starting from the Kenneth Kaunda presidency to Frederick Chiluba, Levy Mwanawasa, Rupiah Banda, Michael Sata and now Edgar Lungu. In my view, each President did what they could during their tenure and they scored key successes and failures.”
Tembo said his article was aimed at highlighting fundamental weakness of each of the past and current presidents with the aim of learning a lesson for posterity.
He said in his view, Dr Kenneth Kaunda was the only President with a long-term vision for the country and worked tooth and nail to implement it to great success.
“All the other 5 of Zambia’s Presidents never really had/have the capacity to conceive and implement any long-term strategy for this country. However, KK’s undoing was his selfishness. He wanted to be the only one to lead this country and anyone that showed aspirations for the Presidency was met with brutal force! If it was up to KK, he would have loved to grow old and die as a President. In fact, it is his selfishness that has significantly contributed to Zambia’s underdevelopment in the past 55 years after independence,” Tembo said.
“If KK had served his 10 years up to 1974 and passed the baton to someone else such as Simon Kapwepwe, UNIP would still have been in power today and KK’s great vision for this country would have been preserved to a large extent.”
Tembo said Frederick Chiluba had great ideas to transition the state-run moribund economy which he inherited after 27 years of KK’s rule into a market-driven liberalised economy.
“And he did a good job of it too. FTJ’s biggest problem was that he despised KK too much and wanted to get rid of anything to do with KK, whether good or bad,” he said.
“This led FTJ to sell off state companies in a wanton manner and at give away prices, all in the name of privatisation, although the true motivation was to get rid of KK’s legacy as much as possible. FTJ was also as selfish as KK and anyone who showed interest in challenging him and his presidency was met with brutal force and just like under KK’s presidency, many people were sent to their early graves in very mysterious circumstances. In fact, so selfish was FTJ that he wanted to install himself as the new wamuyayaya, albeit without much success as the people blatantly rejected his third term bid, and he was forced to come up with a last minute successor in the name of Levy.”
Mwanawasa was a disciplined politician, although he was not necessarily the god that people try to paint him.
He said the best thing about Mwanawasa was that he was tolerant and he put a stop to state-sponsored political assassinations.
He also put a stop to the death penalty as he never signed any death warrants and none has been signed up to this day.
“I’m not sure whether Levy’s good nature had something to do with his Jehovah’s Witness roots or not. To a large extent, Mwanawasa was a very fortunate President in that two significant things happened economically during his tenure; firstly Zambia reached the HIPC completion point and a huge chunk of our national debt was forgiven, thereby freeing up resources to be spent on development projects such as infrastructure,” he said. “Secondly, copper prices on the world markets reached an all-time high and through his windfall tax, Zambia was swimming in cash which drove the dollar exchange rate to as low as K2.5. However, Mwanawasa was not without fault. While his two predecessors in the name of KK and FTJ succeeded to disguise their tribalism, Mwanawasa was very blatant about it and in my view, he was the first President to institutionalise tribalism in this country, without any shame whatsoever.”
Tembo said Rupiah Banda’s short presidency was nothing to talk about.
“However, in the quest trying to dismantle the tribal cabal that Levy had created in his government, Rupiah ended up creating a tribal cabal of his own,” he said.
“He engaged in reverse tribalism and was so preoccupied with it that he never saw Sata coming. One of the key failures of RB’s administration was the personification of the office of Republican President and how he tried to use the office to grant tender favors to his children and draw them closer to himself so that he could feel like their father once again. That is not to say that RB did not leave behind any good legacy. As a matter of fact he did.”
Tembo said the greatest achievement of Banda was to hand over power to Sata in a peaceful manner, which was very rare in the African setup.
“For that fact and that fact alone, l shall always see Rupiah Banda as the utmost statesman,” Tembo said.
He said Michael Sata’s presidency was chaotic and haphazard.
“In fact, the majority of the economic problems which the PF and its government are grappling with today are as a result of the many thoughtless and knee jerk poor decisions that Sata made during his reign,” he said.
“Some people try to give the excuse that he was sick during most of his presidency, and that affected his performance, but l don’t buy it. I think he was just too excited to be President and was marveled at the prospect of people following his instructions without question, regardless of whether such instructions were foolish or not.”
Tembo said in his view, the greatest legacy that Sata left for Zambia was the realisation that it was possible for an opposition political party to win elections and unseat a ruling party, without violence or military intervention.
He said it is that hope that keep most of opposition leaders going even in the face of unlimited obstacles.
“We always tell ourselves that if Sata did it, then we can also did it (pun intended),” Tembo said.
On Edgar Lungu, Tembo said he was an accidental president, who might have been shocked that he ended up into that office.
“If there is anyone who should believe in miracles in this country, Lungu should be that person. There are two good things that I see about Lungu. Firstly, he has embraced young people and has propelled them to decision-making positions, both in the civil service, in his cabinet and in his party,” he said. “Secondly, he says what is on his mind, no matter how awkward it might be. If he has no vision for the country, he will simply tell you that ‘l have no vision’ without any qualms whatsoever. If he wants you to engage in some corruption but not too much corruption, he will simply tell you that ‘ubomba mwibala alya mwibala, but not ukulya nembuto’. This makes our job as opposition slightly complicated as it is difficult to fault an honest person, even if they are honest in a bad way…if there is any such thing!”
Tembo said Preesident Lungu’s biggest failure was his large appetite for affluence using taxpayers’ money.
“His decision to go and purchase himself a brand new top-of-the-range Gulfstream private jet while he has not paid off peasant farmers that supplied maize more than a year ago, is the epitome of gluttony and selfishness,” he said.
He said Zambians should look out for three qualities in the next President – competence, selflessness and non-tribal.
“We need a competent President who can conceive and implement a strategic vision for this country in the manner and fashion that KK conceived and implemented a long term strategic vision for Zambia at the advent of his Presidency,” he said. “We need a President who can convert our agricultural potential, tourism potential, mining potential, manufacturing potential etc., into actual wealth for the benefit of our people. Malawi has only a fraction of the arable land that we have in Zambia and yet their agricultural production for tea, sugar etc., is many times that of Zambia. Kenya only has a fraction of the tourism potential that we have here with our four exotic lakes, well stocked national parks, victoria falls etc., and yet Kenya earns more than 10 times from their tourism sector compared to Zambia. The examples are endless.”
Tembo noted that when Sata was in opposition, he sounded like he understood where and why the country was failing and he created the perception that once he ascended to the Presidency, he would quickly turn it onto a path of progress and prosperity.
“However, he proved to be an absolute disaster once he was given the reigns of power. In my view, a competent presidential candidate must not only be ascertained on the basis of his or her economic theories, but must also demonstrate their competence in practical terms through things such as a properly constituted shadow cabinet as well as alternative National Budgets that make sense and can be subjected to scrutiny by the people,” he said.
“Any opposition leader who is incapable of constituting a shadow cabinet or drafting an Alternative National Budget, is not worth their salt and possibly a fraud, regardless of the quantum of their testimony that they are shrewd economic managers.”