The second Zambian President, late FTJ Chiluba who ruled the former Northern Rhodesia and Barotseland from 1991 to 2000 once acknowledged and lamented that, ‘I personally gave Levy Mwanawasa state power freely and peacefully from my hands as a brother and friend but only to be paid back in malicious political persecution and vengeful evil while across Africa, many people die for this presidency and have never realized their dream to become one’. Empirically, Chiluba was correct on the puzzle of winning the presidency anywhere. Unlike Kings and Queens who are born into power and on the throne of authority, it is an established fact that, if there is one job that could be deemed the most difficult one to get anywhere in the world, then that job is that of the Republican Presidency both in democracies and authoritarian states.
Factually in Africa, the way to the presidency is certainly not the way to political heaven or paradise where one can dream of politically racing for state power and peacefully enjoying high profiled life with positive media headlines, guaranteed political freedom as well as the smiling aroma of adult respect and human dignity due to a good citizen. The race to the presidency is increasingly becoming the sure suicidal way to state hell and Golgotha crucifixion especially that the political space to campaign as well as conduct free, fair, transparent and credible elections is being closed every day from Limpopo to Cairo. Many opposition leaders in DR Congo, Algeria, Togo, Cameroon, Egypt, Sudan, Zimbabwe, Zambia, South Sudan, Chad, Central Africa Republic, Rwanda, Burundi, Kenya, Senegal or Equatorial Guinea can attest to this anguish political reality. In other words, the race to the African presidency is brutally bloody and politically vicious Armageddon war.
But the case of President Edgar Chagwa Lungu to power in 2015 is different just like late President Levy Patrick Mwanawasa in 2001. These two politicians were non-political heavyweights and never dreamt or fought to become a Republican President at any time but ended up into State House based on the choice and decision of a sitting Head of State and Government. Michael Chilufya Sata popularly known as ‘The Cobra’ single handedly founded the Patriotic Front (PF) in 2000 and paid many political prices on the way to power before he won the presidency in 2011. On 14th October 2014, President Michael Sata travelled abroad for medical treatment and appointed his Defence Minister as well as PF Secretary General, Edgar Lungu to act as Republican President. And following Sata’s death in the same year, the PF unanimously agreed to respect the Will of Sata by adopting Lungu as their Presidential Candidate and won it in 2015 as well as 2016 respectively. But Sata’s trio political family members- Christine Kaseba-Sata, Mulenga Sata and Miles Sampa did not support Lungu either in 2015 or 2016 as they openly wanted to succeed their ‘Political King’ both in PF and government. Instead, they ended up denouncing PF and Lungu by either joining the opposition UPND or going politically mute.
But 14th December, 2017, Miles Sampa, Sata’s nephew made a public announcement to rejoin the PF and dedicated himself to support Lungu as the 2021 presidential candidate. Consequently, the PF adopted Miles Sampa as its mayoral candidate for Lusaka bye election of 2018. This is a commendable gesture from Lungu in remembering the man who anointed into power in 2014-‘The King Cobra’. In the same vein, on 16th April, 2018, President Edgar Lungu shocked many Zambians when he appointed former First lady, Dr Christine Kaseba Sata as Zambia’s new Ambassador to France. On 14th June, 2018, the PF Secretary General Davies Mwila welcomed back Mulenga Sata, ‘The Cobra’s son into the party at the ruling party’s secretariat and called upon everyone to embrace as a child coming home.
While many political spectators have chosen to criticize Miles Sampa and Mulenga Sata for not being focused by denouncing and going back to PF, the fact remains that anyone from Sata’s family is PF for now as long as the party for their ‘Big Man’ is still in power. We need to understand party politics in Africa and the signature of founder members in these political movements. And for a man who got into state power as easy as Lungu in 2015 based on Sata’s personal choices, it can be very wrong, inhuman and immoral for him and his PF team to continue enjoying the benefits of being in government while Sata’s widow, sons, daughters, nieces and nephews or close relatives who birthed and nursed the ruling party suffer out there. So far, it is clear that Lungu and his PF leadership team are embracing and supporting the key folks around Sata’s family into state power as a sure way of paying back and homage to ‘The Cobra’ than any consideration others can think of thereof. Sincerely, it is the right thing.
In conclusion, we need to stress that Lungu must be commended for remembering and honoring the Will of Sata- the founder of the PF clearly wanted his close family members to compete for power and be in power using the PF as the main vehicle. By welcoming both Mulenga Sata, Christine Kaseba Sata and Miles Sampa back into ‘their PF’, Lungu and the PF leadership touched the spirit of their political mentor as well as honored his wish and dream posthumously. And by appointing Sata’s widow as Zambia’s ambassador to France where she enjoys all the diplomatic immunity, benefits and protocol recognitions, Lungu demonstrated to everyone that he is humanly thankful to the ‘The King Cobra’ who rationally schemed and purposefully ushered him into power beforehand on his dying bed even at the time when Lungu himself never thought about it. The rest is daily political talk, the rest is history as these close family folks to Sata are amongst ‘the true PF’ since the ruling party was born in them, from them and with them.
By Chris Zumani Zimba is a Political Scientist, Author, PhD Scholar, Lecturer, Researcher and Consultant