Night of long knives retold By ANDREW KASHITA

Andrew & Caroline Kashita on 107.5 fm
Andrew & Caroline Kashita on 107.5 fm
Andrew & Caroline Kashita on 107.5 fm

THERE is a danger that history might get distorted – as always happens when incorrect views are allowed to gain currency without correction by those who were present at the time or have accurate information.
I am obliged to write to correct a paragraph which was included in the obituary to Lamba Clement Mukandwa Simpito published in your newspaper edition of April 25, 2013.
I do not remember meeting Mr Simpito when he was alive but when it is said that he chronicled the events which led to the formation of the Movement for Multiparty Democracy in 1990, I find it difficult to believe that he wrote what is contained in the paragraph: “Mr Simpito was also witness to the ‘night of the long knives’ when allies of the late President Frederick Chiluba within the MMD manoeuvred him into the presidency at the expense of politician Arthur Wina on the way to the MMD’s landslide victory in 1991.”
Even if he did not write this opinion, I still cannot believe that he witnessed events as depicted in the paragraph. I was present from the inaugural meeting at Garden House Motel in Lusaka (July 20, 1990) right through to the formation, registration and election of officers in March 1991 at Mulungushi Conference Centre. I participated in the election and was elected chairman of the Committee on Transport.
To go back to the so-called night of the long knives, the following is the historical transition from Garden House to Mulungushi International Conference Centre.
At the inaugural meeting as aforesaid, many people – estimated to number over 300 came representing either organisations, were invited in their personal capacities or found their way there for other reasons. It should also be remembered that meetings considered ‘political’ were only allowed if they dealt with UNIP matters sympathetically.
Article four (4) of the Zambianconstitution as amended by Act No 22 of 1975 prohibited the formation or establishment of any other political party.
The meeting of July 20, 1990 was called by Derek Chitala and Aka Lewanika to consider the “Multi-Party Option” which caused many other people to stay away for fear of being caught in the dragnet and sent into detention at the whim of the great leader of the nation at the time.
The meeting resolved to elect a committee with the instruction to “reintroduce multi-party democracy”, not to see how or when but to do so as the objective. The committee was called the National Interim Committee and was composed of the following (and their posts)
(1) Arthur Wina: former education officer before independence and first Zambian Minister of Finance, after; (Chairman)
(2) Frederick Chiluba: rose through the ranks of trade unionism to be Chairman of the Zambia Congress of Trade Unions; (Vice-Chairman, Operations)
(3) V.J. Mwaanga: former diplomat and editor-in-chief, Times of Zambia; (Vice Chairman, Information and Publicity)
(4) Levy P. Mwanawasa: former Solicitor-General and in private law practice; (Chairman, Legal Affairs)
(5) Keli Walubita: former Deputy Commissioner, Zambia Police Security
(6) Andrew Kashita: engineer, former civil servant (Permanent Secretary, INDECO managing director) and chairman Amnesty International Zambia; (Transport)
(7) Ephraim Chibwe: former Director Income Tax Department and diplomat; (Finance)
(8) Akashambatwa Mbikusita Lewanika: economist, former chief executive Zambia Clay Industries; (Secretary)
This was the interim committee whose members were prepared to be locked up or detained under the Preservation of Public Security Regulations.
Fortunately for them, President Kaunda dismissed the committee as of no consequence because, apparently, apart from Arthur Wina, all the others were deemed to be politically unable to make any headway towards the objective. The campaign was country-wide and it became impossible for President Kaunda to detain any or all of us because the reaction of the people of Zambia was quite different, but overwhelmingly in support of the objective and in December 1990 the President approved and signed into law the repeal of Article 4
The National Interim Committee duly proceeded to the office of the Registrar of Societies and registered the Movement for Multi-party Democracy as a political party.
The names above plus two will be found on the register where there will be shown no title of president or acting president. Having achieved the objective, there was need to recall the (adjourned) meeting of July 1990 to report progress and elect substantive officials.
MMD was formed with no one individual or organisation providing the funds. Indeed people paid their own way to meetings and travel; there was no one who was “boss” of the party.
Details of how the Movement made its way in the country can be recounted at the appropriate time, but the National Interim Committee and other interim subsidiaries in the provinces and districts had “One Zambia One Nation” in mind all the time.
Having fixed the date of the general meeting, a discussion arose as to who would be prepared to stand as presidential candidate from among us. Not one voice was raised. The consequence of this was that a team was set up to approach Mr Robinson Nabulyato, former Speaker of the National Assembly, who had turned up at a several of our rallies – to ask if he would agree to be our presidential candidate in the forthcoming election and face Kenneth Kaunda.
He declined because, he said, he considered himself to be too old to participate in the campaign which was bound to be vigorous and would involve travelling all over the country.
We then approached Mr John Mwanakatwe who was also in favour of the multiparty system. Unfortunately he also declined citing the energy-sapping campaign consequences.
By this time we had only a week or two to the general meeting, and it was decided by the committee to leave all positions open for any member to stand for any position. The membership cards were being sold even on the day the general meeting was to commence. There was no preferred or sole candidate process and those who came and had the MMD card at the time the election was called could stand if they got cleared by the MMD Electoral Commission.
The MMD constitution provided for the election to proceed downwards from the presidency, chairmanship, vice-presidency, committee chairmanships and trustees. Anyone who did not succeed in one position could stand for the next down to the position of trustees.
To refer, therefore, to the allies of Chiluba maneuvering him into the presidency of MMD at the expense of Arthur Wina is quite wrong.
During the run up to the election day I talked to Arthur Wina to point out that (even at that time) his health was not good, that the campaign with KK would be very tough and I suggested that he should go for the MMD chairmanship; he did not respond one way or another. I subsequently learnt from Princess Nakatindi that she had also talked to him along the same line but he appeared unwilling to heed the pleadings.
(Incidentally, Princess Nakatindi and her husband, hon. Sikota Wina, made considerable contribution to the MMD campaign. I as chairman of the interim Transport Committee was greatly assisted in organizing the travelling of the committee members).
The presidential post was contested by four: Arthur Wina, Chiluba, Edward Shamwana and Humphrey Mulemba. If there were any long knives, we never heard or saw them but it was clear that Chiluba had plenty of support from the trade union members who remembered how he had been detained (with Chitalu Sampa and Newstead Zimba) in the 1980’s and how the interim committee was able to organise certain meetings using trade union offices, in Choma, Kabwe, Ndola or Kitwe and Lusaka knowing that the trade unions could and did run their meetings without contravening Article 4 of the constitution or the Preservation of Public Security Regulations.
When the presidential election was over, the next one was that of Chairman of the Party. This was the position Arthur was encouraged to take but he refused to have his name go forward even when he was begged by many delegates to do so.
When the list of candidates was called and only two names emerged – Elias Chipimo Snr and Aka – there were calls for Arthur to be nominated and elected. Aka withdrew his name (and candidature) but Chipimo refused to withdraw. As a consequence Chipimo got elected unopposed as Chairman of MMD from 1991 to 1996.
Looking back it will be noted that because of continued bad health, Arthur Wina died in 1995. Even without taking into account the toll which would have been imposed on him, he would have died in office because the first term was to run to October 1996.
I regret the account is somewhat long but I hope the readers will benefit from this account of an insider!
Incidentally, had Mandela (following his release in February 1990 been President of South Africa and shown his attitude to his erstwhile political enemies, it is possible that Edward Shamwana might have garnered a larger vote than he did.
The author is former communications  minister