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The birth and rise of a political giant

[By Melvin Chisanga]

If you want to make it in life but you have been a rolling stone, jumping from one business to another, just try and match his determination and patience in his political career and you will be certain to have an excitingly successful business career one day.

Today’s Vantage Point chronicles an abridged version of the political journey of one politician who, despite their several efforts to slow him down, many presidents have failed to distract his focus away from his determination and resolve. I must however confess from the onset, about how big the risk I run to write history, as this man is in the business of breaking records for fun, thereby requiring a constant updating of his timeline.

Since he stepped onto the political arena as the preferred successor of Mr Anderson Kambela Mazoka in 2006, Bally’s life has not been the same. Having lived a private and quiet life until this time, I believe very few people would have quite ably managed to switch lifestyles as did Bally, especially against all those odds and in such a short time.

For most of us, it took until then to learn of one Zambian prodigy who, at only about 45 years old, had already become a business mogul not only locally but commanding international recognition and respect too. It is note worthy that at the age when many would still be busy hunting for jobs, or at most just peaking in their careers, Bally had already experienced almost everything that the corporate world has to offer, even at the highest level. His sights had already been set on what many will only think of when they are put out to pasture; farming.

Bally’s rise to prominence in his political career has not been a bed of roses. Emerging as winner in an emergency convention that pitted him against candidates that, judging from their post-convention decisions to leave the party, felt they deserved the party presidency more than he (Bally) did, Bally had to endure a lot of talk that was characterised with a lot of tribal undertones. As is normally the case with many political parties after a convention, the UPND fell prey to the post convention leadership chasms which resulted in the resignation of some disgruntled senior party members like Mr Sakwiba Sikota, Mr Patrick Chisanga and Mr Given Lubinda, inter alia.

With the 2006 general elections already on the horizons and in demonstrating the clarity of his mind about his latest resolve to preside over the affairs of this country, Chiminya, as he has fondly come to be called by those who know his never-give-up spirit, did not waste time mourning the “departed” political casualties, but quickly put on a pocker pocker face and bravely led his party to the elections. That marked the entry onto the Zambian political arena of one Bally, who has now become a national household name.

As is usually the case with many projects in their infancy after some major changes to key personnel, the now Chiminya-led UPND, despite having “lost” the 2001 elections barely by a hair’s breadth, experienced a noticeable dwindling in both its political fortunes and clout. However, understanding the difficulties that his party was going through for what they really were: a passing phase, Bally remained rather unfazed. Instead, his focus, as true as the compass needle is to the north pole, remained affixed to restoring the party to the former political heavyweight Mr Mazoka had grown it into.

Meanwhile, as the saying that one man’s loss is another man’s gain clearly puts it, Mr Michael Sata’s PF, which despite being separated by a meagre three years in formation with the UPND, was not a force to recon with in the 2001 general elections, capitalised on the UPND internal divisions in the lead up to the 2006 to claim part of its (UPND’s) political market share in every possible way. Coupled with the multifaceted loss of popularity that the MMD under the stewardship of President Rupiah Banda, the official opposition status position that the PF had supplanted the UPND from going to the 2011 polls, won them that election.

Still on the 2011 PF election victory, there are two things that I came to learn about us Zambians regarding our personal political stripes. Though politicians try to portray us as being radically polarised in our political orientations, there always arises a situation whereby political party affiliation comes head-to-head with our own survival, and if my history serves me right, we have always sided with life. After all we can only practice politics when we have life.

The first point I am trying to drive home is that when it had became inevitable to change government in 2011, regardless of which party they symphathise with, the basic thing that people looked at was the political vehicle that, though it did not have enough fuel to take us to the next refueling point, at least had more than any other. It was, among others, for this reason that even non-members voted for the PF. Don’t ask me who I voted for, but I call it unity of purpose.

Who remembers how the entire country burst into celebratory mood upon news breaking that PF had won the elections? If we had united to do the job, what more with celebrating the results of our sweat? As was seen from the masses of jubilants that thronged the byways and the highways throughout that night, of which I was part, we again demonstrated how easily we do lay down our party arms to rally even behind our own rival to support them in their happiness. This is what magnanimity in defeat entails.

Enough of the PF rise to power, especially after how they have turned all our election night celebrations into our daily sorrows with their absolute failure to walk their big talk. The disappointment is real and regrets are true. I try to imagine how, if I can feel this let down by the PF even as a person who did not engage into those wild celebrations, what more with those that conceived babies on the night as a result of the generosity that characterises such times of bliss? Sorry.

Building on the successes whilst remedying the weaknesses that had just cost him another election, no sooner had his previous campaign trail dust settled down than Bally started reorganising his party for the next election. Urging those of his followers that could not deal with the loss easily to take heart and not to allow their focus to be lost with the elections, he managed to hold his party together to focus on the next challenge.

During Mr Sata’s reign, he sought to cripple Bally even by publicly instructing the then DPP Mr Mutembo Nchito to investigate and arrest him on trumped up privitisation charges in March 2013. This was after Mr Sata had earlier circulated a dossier detailing Bally’s wealth per investment portfolio to the press and threatened to submit the same to the Commonwealth, which Bally had called upon to investigate human rights abuses, which the PF was committing.

There are many incidences that could be cited as Mr Sata’s efforts to slow down Bally but all proved exercises in futility. As was proved by Mr Sata’s failure to effect an arrest on him, Bally is clean. It is laughable therefore, to hear and see some PF members asking their current president to do what their revered and eulogised late leader failed to do, citing the privisation of mines a generation ago as the reason.

In what could be deemed as the confirmation of Mr Sata’s fears, Bally’s party leapfrogged Dr Nevers Mumba’s MMD to reclaim its former position as the official opposition party in the 2015 presidential by-election caused by the demise of Mr Sata the previous year. Since that time, Bally’s popularity has been growing in leaps and bounds and this is evidenced in his performance in the infamous 2016 general elections which only separated him and Mr Lungu by the population of Chama.

Meanwhile, the Mr Lungu seems to have picked up the Bally-hunt agenda from where his predecessor left off, as was seen in the Mongu saga where Bally was slapped with treason for a traffic offence. After holding him in prison for about four months, the PF realised that the Bally they had in their custody was an international trophy who they could not simply raff up like a common man. The long and short of that arrest is that they had to yield to the mounting pressure from outside and within to release him.

They are relentless in finding a way to quench Bally’s growing popularity, which has gained momentum like a bush fire, devouring every resistance standing in its way. This time around, they sought to have inside information about Bally with which to launch their decampaigning attacks. It was shocking that Bally’s own vice was identified as the sitting duck, and like Judas in the Bible, he was bought to sell Bally, except we don’t know the price.

The PF celebrated their catch, but their celebrations did not last long as they soon realised that the size of their catch was not commensurate with the amount of data contained in him in every way of the word ‘size’. Excited about his promise to spill the beans about Bally, they sponsored him to traverse this country spewing childish hate remarks against Bally, which only betrayed the size of his stature, age and former position. They must be disappointed to realise that he could not vomit not even a single seed of beans as promised.

With his x-ray eyes, Bally must have long read this man’s mind and seen him as a person not deserving his confidence. That could have been why he restricted him to only peripheral party duties and not opened his eyes to see how he (Bally) plans to animate his vision for this country. Just imagine what would have remained of Bally if he had exposed himself too much to this man. Now relegated to a mere party member in the PF, he is trying to make himself relevant by engaging in such cadre behaviour as drawing boundaries for Bally, really?

Going into next year’s elections, Bally is a clear favourite and the PF know it. That is why seeing how Zambians have not been interested in all their propaganda fabrications against Bally, they now want to restrict his freedom of movement. They have heard how Zambians once more want to do what they know best when they want to punish a stubborn regime: throw their weight behind a candidate with the highest chance to defeat the incumbent, regardless of their political inclination. It is called a revolution and even objective members of a ruling party do take part.

To those who are still in denial, can’t you smell the coffee? Don’t hunt what you can’t kill because Bally looks set to be the next big thing waiting to happen in this country. You can deal with your propensity to continue making efforts to bring him down by simply looking at how Bally has deified so many odds to become the hope for Zambia’s tomorrow. He is deserving of a living legend status, isn’t he? Our situation is beyond party, tribal or personal pettiness and I am yet to see one better positioned to retrieve this country from the jaws of a failed regime than him.

melvinchisanga@yahoo.com

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