By Chris Zumani Zimba
Following public debates on the imbalance of cabinet appointments under the PF government since 2011 in terms of regions and ethnic groups, I have been compelled to share my views on the history, necessity, challenges and recommendations on why and how this could work.
A historical perspective-national wide character of ruling parties
Both UNIP of Kaunda and MMD of Chiluba were political parties with a national character-with true countrywide membership, voter support and parliamentary seats. This made it very easy for both Kaunda and Chiluba to appoint cabinets that were regionally and ethnically balanced.
Based on the national character of UNIP following the assimilation of the ANC, it was very easy for Dr. Kenneth Kaunda to appoint the first cabinet of Zambia on the premise of regional and ethnic balance with the following names in their order of seniority: 1. Kenneth Kaunda; 2. Reuben C. Kamanga; 3. Simon M. Kapwepwe; 4. H. Dingiswayo Banda; 5. Justin Chimba; 6. Mainza Chona; 7. Solomon Kalulu; 8. Peter W. Matoka; 9. Elijah Mudenda; 10. Nalumino Mundia; 11. John Mwanakatwe; 12. M. Sipalo; 13. James J. Skinner; 14. Arthur L. Wina; 15. Sikota Wina; 16. Grey Zulu; 17. Lewis Changufu; 18. Aaron Milner;
In like manner, the national character and hybrid parliamentary representation of MMD made it very easy for FTJ Chiluba to appoint his 1991 cabinet premised on the “One Zambia, One Nation” mantra with the following names in their order of seniority: 1. FJT Chiluba; 2. Levy Mwanawasa; 3. Bri. Gen Godfrey Miyanda (Rtd); 4. Benjamin Mwila; 5. Vernon Mwaanga; 6. Newsted Zimba; 7. Emmanuel Kasonde; 8. Dr Boniface Kawimbe; 9. Dr Guy Scott; 10. Michael Sata; 11. Dr Ludwig sondashi; 12. Dr Roger Chongwe; 13. Ronald Penza; 14. Arthur Wina; 15. Rev Stan Kristafor; 16. Andrew Kashita; 17. Ephraim Chibwe; 18. Keli Walubita; 19. Alfeyo Hambayi; and 20. Dawson Lupunga
The challenges today-regionalistic character of both PF and UPND with perpetual enemity
Why is it impossible for Lungu in 2019 just like it was impossible for President Sata in 2011 to appoint a classical “One Zambia, One Nation” cabinet? Was it possible for HH to appoint a regionally and ethnically balanced cabinet had he won in 2011 or 2016?
- Both PF and UPND are regional parties with membership and MPs only in certain provinces-Northern, Muchinga, Luapula, Copperbelt, Lusaka and now Eastern too for PF while UPND sits mainly in Sothern, Western and North Western. This constitutionally dictates the outlook of the current regionally imbalance cabinet appointments;
- PF has zero MPs in Southern province, which makes it very difficult for the Republican President to appoint cabinet ministers outside where his party has no MPs;
- Had HH won the 2011, 2015 or 2016 presidential elections, his cabinet would have been historically so imbalance and pathetically so unpopular in terms of regional and ethnicity equity since most of UPND MPs merely comely from Southern, Western and North Western provinces;
- Even if Lungu decides to open up to appoint UPND MPs in his government today, the likelihood is that none would accept because of the fear of HH’s political actions or their own fellow UPND and southern voters;
- PF and UPND have not harmonized or resolved their political enemity or differences of 2016; this makes it practically impossible for Lungu to appoint MPs from his brother’s party; and
- The fact that UPND has a harsh tone against President Lungu and the PF government by consistently branding them corrupt betrayers and failures, the basis of creating a political marriage at cabinet or government level is automatically eroded.
Lessons for both PF and UPND
- When PF formed government in 2011, President Sata had no way out but to appoint majority cabinet ministers from regions where PF gave him MPs i.e. Northern, Muchinga, Luapula, Copperbelt, Lusaka and partially Central provinces. In 2011, Eastern province MPs were not in the picture or cabinet until when President Lungu decided to collaborate with MMD in 2015.
- Had HH and Sata formed the PF and UPND political alliance before 2011 general elections, the first cabinet appointments of the ‘PF and UPND government’ todate could have been dominantly Southern, Western, North Western plus the five stronghold provinces of PF.
- Had PF failed to win an electoral partnership with MMD in 2015 todate, PF cabinet appointments could have remained purely Northern, Luapula, Muchinga, Copperbelt and Lusaka without Eastern province.
Recommendations and going forward
- Sustaining a unitary system is also not helping to unit heterogeneous Zambia. The best system at hand to unit Zambians is a federal system where each province will have its own semi-autonomous regional government, cabinet, parliament and systems that are accountable and answerable to the national federal government. This way, each regional will take governance ownership and responsibility for themselves without feeling discriminated and fighting for few slots at national level as the situation remains. The challenges are politically real, visible and suffocating but the solutions can only work with broad stakeholders consensus outside party politics and selfish leadership;
- Our politicians must work to prioritize political reconciliation, mutual respect and tolerance in the interest of national unity and one people. This is the only way they can create possibilities of working together either at local government, parliamentary or cabinet levels. Currently, this is not the case for PF and UPND anywhere in Zambia; very unfortunate indeed; and
- The NDF proposed a coalition government, which has been widely opposed by many stakeholders. Apart from seeking to prevent unnecessary re runs at presidential level, the coalition government is designed to compel Zambian politicians to work together and thereby emerge with a cabinet and government that represents all or most of the regions and dominant ethnic groups in the country. As awkward as it appears, the concept of the coalition government is one of the most progressive resolutions in helping to restore or revive the “One Zambia, One Nation” type of cabinets and governments of the UNIP and MMD eras.
Chris Zumani Zimba is a prolific Zambian Political Scientist, Policy Analyst, Author, Blogger, PhD Scholar, Researcher, Consultant, Public Health and Tobacco Control Advocate. So far, he has authored more than 10 political and academic books as well as published over 100 well researched articles. Chriszumanizimba.firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com; +260 973 153 815 for calls or WhatsApp. This article is made possible by Centre for Multiple Democracies, Good Governance and Peace (MDGGP) under Chrizzima Democracy University (CDU). But the views are attributed to the author and not CDU.