Last week, the Movement for Multiparty Democracy National Secretary Muhabi Lungu announced that the National Executive Committee voted to suspend its President Nevers Mumba and adopted former President Rupiah Banda as the MMD candidate for the 20th January 2015 presidential by-election.
The Rupiah Banda supporters say that it is his democratic right to contest to be the MMD presidential candidate. The Nevers Mumba supporters argue that Banda’s time is past. Both camps are actually correct, except for one small caveat. Banda has to come in through the front door and not the back door. If MMD had held a party convention and elected Mr Banda as their president, it would have been a fair result, even if it was unpalatable to many MMD members, particularly the youth.
My small contribution to this debate is to examine the argument that there is a separation of the MMD presidency and the MMD candidacy as suggested by Mr Vernon J Mwaanga . ie that the former does not automatically imply the latter. A few simple questions can help settle this debate:
When the about one thousand delegates elected Dr Mumba as MMD president on 25th May 2012, were they thinking that they were merely electing someone to keep the MMD President’s seat warm but who may not be the Republican presidential candidate? Imagine if at that convention delegates had been told that the person they were electing (Mumba) may not be the one to contest the Republican presidency against the Patriotic Front in 2016 and that someone else could possibly come in and take the seat and be the Republican president, effectively making the MMD president position meaningless. How do you think the delegates would have reacted? Would the grassroots members who sent the delegates with instructions on how to vote been smiling?
The answer to these questions is obvious that I do not need to even state it. Moreover, once you go down the slippery slope of saying that the MMD president is not the automatic candidate (as suggested by Mr Michael Kaingu), then what is to stop some rich powerful person hijacking the MMD presidential candidacy every time there is an election looming? What is to prevent this chancer from waiting until the date of elections is announced and then proceed to dish out brown envelopes to enough NEC members to make him the chosen candidate, in total disregard of the MMD convention’s choice? In short, this kind of precedent would effectively elevate the NEC above the MMD party Convention.
A check of the MMD constitution reveals that there is no provision or reference to a presidential candidate anywhere, only the election of a party president who traditionally has become the flag-bearer in the following presidential elections. Some have argued that there is a separation of the MMD presidency and the MMD candidacy, as proved by the Frederick Chiluba Third Term situation where Levy Mwanawasa was chosen as the candidate while Chiluba remained party president for a while after Mwanawasa was elected Republican President.
However, this argument fails because at the time, there was a very unique situation. Chiluba bulldozed his way and made the MMD convention amend the party constitution and give him a third term which he won at the 2001 MMD convention. But a similar bid at national level failed and he was ineligible to stand as Republican President. This crisis triggered a NEC meeting that adopted Levy Mwanawasa as the MMD candidate for the 2001 elections.
In 2008, Mwanawasa died and there was a vacancy created in the President’s office. This prompted another NEC meeting to put forth Mr Banda as the MMD candidate and to be the interim MMD President. The current situation is completely different because Dr Mumba is a sitting president and is eligible to stand for the January 2015 by-election.
Another point to consider is that even if Mr Banda is eventually the MMD candidate, how would Dr Mumba in good conscience campaign alongside him, knowing that his position has been usurped and that it could have been him (Mumba) to go to Plot One? It would raise a very awkward absurd situation. What would become of all the supporters of Dr Mumba who voted him in with 70% of the vote at the MMD convention? And then if Mr Banda were to win the Republican Presidency, would Dr Mumba remain MMD president with powers to get Mr Banda expelled? And if he used those powers, what then?
It is clear that the Rupiah Banda camp have not carefully thought through the ghastly consequences of their action, some of which I highlighted in an earlier article. Whenever politicians do something as patently absurd as this, there is a high chance there are brown envelopes involved. I leave the rest to your imagination.