Chris Zumani Zimba, Political Scientist, Author, PhD Scholar, Lecturer, Researcher and Consultant
When I met him in 2013, he said few words but to the point: “comrade Zimba, you are a great citizen because of your courage to write and publish your political ideas into books. Even after death, people will know what you believed in and stood far. In this world, many people hide their political ideologies as they fear criticism, don’t want to be known or opposed and hated. As such, my team here at the Post Newspaper will review your books and do everything possible to support you”, he concluded. How Fred addressed me and what he said in our short interaction was empirical proof that he has been and is ideologically focused and politically socialist. In most cases, both socialists and communists address each other as ‘comrades’ as opposed to the British Mr or Mrs. It is the language of people who believe and are engaged in a revolutionary political warfare-the way Julius Malema addresses his party members and leaders or as the Chinese applause their founding political father, comrade Mao Zedong. Now it explains why Fred and humanist KK seem close.
On 3rd April, 2018, I bumped into Boniface Chembe-fellow Political Scientist around Longacres and he was quick to name the political tree for the day. “The Socialists are here and they look pretty good, numerically health, politically organized and intellectually loaded from a distance”, what do you think about them, he asked. “Most of us still don’t know these Socialists in terms of their party values, ideologies or manifesto whether they are classically pure, left, right, center, center left, center right or something else of their own. But they look very different from the classical Socialists we know. Imagine the Vice Secretary General is their Presidential Candidate for 2021 and leader of the party. Hey, they already broken the principle of democratic centralism which is core to all classical socialist or communist parties. But they look to be here to stay as compared to the ‘Rainbow Party’ which sounds fake by name, I replied as Chembe was religiously nodding. What do you make of Fred M’membe, their Presidential Candidate for 2021? He asked. My comprehensive answer to this second question is what I have chosen to share in this article.
Firstly, when Argentina or Barcelona is playing, it is not a tough game for many rival teams; unless when the master himself, Leonel Messi is fit, wearing jersey number 10 and skillfully playing too. At global level, Leonel Messi is the Great Kalu of club football arguably only comparable to and competing with one CR7-Cristiano Ronaldo of Portugal and Real Madrid. The two iconic legends of modern football are consistent players who are so brilliantly skilled and vastly experienced to the extent that each game they play, they either make global headlines or adverts if not both. This is how political players and observers need to fairly understand and treat Dr. Fred M’membe now that he has joined active and partisan politics as a Presidential Candidate for 2021 under the Socialist Party. The Socialists have picked the Leonel Messi of Zambian media and politics which makes them both tough and good for this political game. Treating him as a new comer to Zambian politics just because he is not yet a national household name like RB, HH, Lungu, Nawakwi, Chishimba Kambwili or Inonge Wina will be childish folly and ignorance as this is the man who has played this game from the fall of Kenneth Kaunda to the rise and Presidency of Michael Chilufya Sata and Lungu.
Secondly, Dr. M’membe is politically huge than them all. There is no politician today who can come close to Fred in terms of their personal contributions and sacrifice in creating a democratic, accountable, transparent, equitable and just Zambian society than him. This man has fought lone political battles for democracy and good governance on behalf of Zambia and Zambians against all the six presidents and was ready and willing to sacrifice everything for this national cause. He has been fulltime at the heart of Zambian politics for more than 25years. Politically, Dr, M’membe is like that Red Indian in the ‘Apocalypto Movie’ who was running the thick Amazon forest with closed eyes but never missed the jungle directions and hiding holes. When it comes to Zambian media and politics, Fred is the man with complex political passwords for us and clear institutional memory for all; he is a privileged Zambian who has been a king maker, mentor and destroyer from the days of KK to Lungu. Hence, when we say the Socialists are here, some of us mean just Fred.
Thirdly, if you want to talk about a Zambian politician who has strong roots and connections as well as command huge influence and respect in the private media sector today, make no mistake- no one will come close to compete with Fred M’membe. As a journalist and Managing Editor for the Post, his name is recipient of media awards such as MISA’s Press Freedom Award of 1995, International Press Freedom Award of 1995 or the World Press Freedom Hero Award of 2000. He dedicated his life for decades to build the Post Newspaper from nothing in 1991 to successfully growing it into national, regional and global media house with offices in Cuba and the US by 2015. As we speak, there are hundreds of journalist and media practitioners both in public and private media houses who were ideologically tutored, directly worked or were inspired by him. This is another tough strength M’membe brings to the Socialist party and Zambian politics- it’s like competing against Silver Belasconi in Italy. His vast media connections, experience, respect and influence makes M’membe both politically dangerous and brutally good for the Socialist Party and Zambian politics.
Fourthly, Dr. M’membe is tough tested and brutally compatible with Third World politics. If you talk of another Dr. Chishimba Kambwili who can dear the PF government and Lungu with ‘a punch for punch approach without politically guarding or hiding the face’, then Fred M’membe is that man. M’membe’s thousands of editorial comments summarize and speak his tough character. He is the Botswana’s Ian Khama-straight talking and brutally frank. He does not harbor political phobia or false diplomacy to speak the truth as he is a natural political aggressor. This political character is good ingredient for African opposition politics where being politically aggressive and tactically brutal helps to withstand oppressive regimes and win voter numbers. Therefore, if the PF and Lungu have been preparing for a political battle, now it’s time for them to start preparing for political war because Fred is a dangerous political warrior and fights without fear, rules or mercy. From his tone, he is running with the brave altitude and sharp spear of Nsingu Mpezeni, the adorable son of King Zwangedaba who opposed and fought blood battles with open hands against armed British colonists in Chipata’s Northern Rhodesia in defending his territory. It is with this spirit that Fred has joined politics.
Fifthly, is Fred financially stable and materially strong to support his Socialist Party like Lungu and the ruling PF? I don’t know exactly about his financial status. But I believe that his money is purely in plenty of his national, regional and international connections and networks. I personally think that Dr. M’membe brings huge financial and material resources to the Socialist Party in a special package; his name is their political collateral and surety for the party to attract funders and well-wishers anywhere in the world. This is another strength Fred poses and should not be trivialized because financial stability is crucial fuel for any successful political party that aspire at national or presidential level especially in the modern era either in a poor or rich country. Once a political party has good and big money with consistent financial floor to their structures and supporters across board, then that party is ready to compete fairly and favorably against the ‘Mukula boys’ in the ruling PF.
Sixthly and lastly, Fred is a terrific academician and schooled fellow without jokes. This is someone who has done accounting at the Copperbelt University and is a qualified member of the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) with a Master in Economic Policy and Planning from the University of Zambia. M’membe is a qualified lawyer with a degree from the University of Zambia and is an advocate of the High Court and Supreme Court of Zambia. He holds a PhD in law and is not a honorary Dr. like Cosmo Mumba. Thus, it will be political folly for anyone to ignore or undermine such a brilliant rival and dynamic politician as he has all the professional knowledge and intellectual capabilities to redefine and change the Zambian political narratives at will. With such academic credentials, he is the right man to lead the Socialist Party-socialism is too scientific and technical. In Dr. M’membe, Zambia has an educated man if not the most informed Presidential candidate in 2021 which is good strength and value he brings to politics.
In conclusion, when McAntony was called upon to address the Romans during Julius Caesar’s’ funeral, he promised them and said that “I have come to bury Caesar and not to praise him” because Brutus and many people feared him. For me, I will say the opposite-‘I came to praise Fred and not to bury him’. I chose to write this article to praise the personality, skills, experiences, connections, intellectualism, influence, charisma and resources Dr. M’membe brings to Zambian politics as well as media life and not to bury him as some would want to. In anyway, Fred is politically resurrected and cannot be buried now or tomorrow as those who fear him must now prepare to play Barcelona with Leonel Messi on the pitch. Maybe this explains why ‘genius PF authoritarians’ expelled the Cuban Ambassador and deported many of his supporters who had come to attend the launch of the Socialist Party. But will the PF expel and deport M’membe who is true Zambian?