Could Nevers be Falling into Lungu’s Trap?

Nevers Sekwila Mumba
Nevers Sekwila Mumba

By David Kapoma

In the last few days, the planned alliance between the PF and the MMD has dominated the news headlines. Naturally, everybody wants to know how much of an impact this may have on the 11th August elections, and who stands to gain or lose. It is fairly clear that an MMD-PF pact is most likely to win in August because both parties would be united in mind and purpose. Not forgetting the fact that on the other hand the UPND still has chances of forming alliances with FDD, Rainbow and of course the new attractive girl in school, the Democratic Front (DF). This situation if came to reality could leave the case of winning republican presidency to chance.

Edgar Lungu has already consolidated his position in PF and he can obviously help out Nevers Mumba to unite the MMD with a view to getting a united MMD on his side. The combination of the two parties in a strong alliance would be unstoppable and the path for UPND to win the elections would be very difficult if they decide to go it alone .

Many pundits have hailed this alliance or pact as a good idea since they believe that the injection of MMD people into PF will help bring balance to the haphazard governance record of PF. President Lungu is still dealing with team Michael Sata and after this coming election, he shall be free to replace all the “useless ministers” to quote the words of the late president Sata. He shall be able to bring in more competent people from MMD.

Whilst on paper the alliance looks good, there are many problems with it and the MMD would do well to think very carefully about getting into bed with PF. For one thing, the MMD under Dr Mumba would be putting their fate in the hands of President Lungu and it is obvious that MMD would eventually get completely absorbed into PF. Coalition governments rarely (if ever) work in Africa due to immature politics we exercise.

President Lungu would naturally make sure that he consolidates his power. Leaving MMD as a stand alone party while in the alliance would not work for him because MMD would be the greatest threat to PF in 2021. They MMD would regroup and have the benefit of seeing the inner workings of the PF. So President Lungu would make sure he makes the MMD people very comfortable and one by one they would begin seeing no point in belonging to MMD. It would just be a matter of time before MMD became part of PF rather than risk becoming another UNIP.

Dr Mumba has said he is tabling the issue of the alliance with his NEC and considering his history with NCC and RP, he might be attracted to the prospect of being Vice-President to Lungu which may place him in pole position to become president in 2021. After all no one in Dr. Mumba’s position would turn down the offer of becoming republican vice President. However, him being President Lungu’s running mate is far from certain as President Lungu has already said that parties going into an alliance with PF should not assume anything about the running mate.

Indeed what would stop President Lungu from bringing Dr. Mumba close to him, working together for maybe 3 months, take over the MMD structures with money and other machinations and then dump Dr. Mumba when it comes to filing in of nomination papers? Why would he need him at that point? Nevers Mumba’s recent political history indicates that he can be very ambitious and has the ability of going into over drive at any point. In African politics, a strong veep is frowned upon and Nevers is known for being very charismatic and being able to take over the whole show as happened under Levy Mwanawasa.

The biggest problem with the alliance looking at MMD is that they would be betting their future on PF. If PF failed, they would fail with it. Nevers Mumba’s integrity and morality message would surely collapse as Zambians would judge him as the greatest hypocrite to ever walk the earth. Never’s is therefore, faced with a very difficult situation at the moment as he has to make a decision that suits his personal standing and character he has belt over the years. Being a man of God I am assuming that he is probably already consulting God on the next move. And I honestly sympathize with him.

Dr Mumba must ask himself if destroying his reputation forever with Zambians is worth it. He may perhaps become president one day, but it would be using a route that would leave him with a very badly damaged reputation. But then again,considering how short the memory of Zambians are, perhaps it may not matter five to fifteen years from now. If even the despotic Kenneth Kaunda could be looked at as a hero today, perhaps Dr Mumba would be looked upon favorably, especially if he turns out to be a good president which I think is possible.

Assuming Dr. Mumba does become Running Mate to President Lungu and become Vice-President, how would he handle corruption, cadre violence, incompetence, nepotism and all the evils in government? How would he react if opposition parties are teargassed? As Guy Scott once remarked, the veep is basically the chola boy for the president though with the amended constitution this may not be so real. Nevers would have no real power in government and could easily be sidelined the way Joyce Banda was sidelined in Malawi. He would be powerless to stop any corruption and I do not see it stopping under President Lungu . He would be at pains to defend a “corrupt” government that is unlikely to change its spots anytime soon.

One thing that puzzles me is how MMD is going into a negotiation with PF from a position of great weakness. Because they have not completed their party mobilization and reorganization, they have little to offer PF. It can even be argued that PF are only trying to stop MMD becoming strong again so they are dangling a carrot to the MMD.

If Dr. Mumba rejects the deal, he still has to face the wrath of PF who will go into overdrive to try to undermine his position as MMD president and they may try to kill off the MMD with renewed vengeance. Can Nevers survive? My view is that even if he got defeated in the end, he would earn a lot of respect for standing on principle and disprove all his critics and perhaps in future could still bounce back even stronger. But getting into bed with PF at this point would in my view complicate his life and disappoint a lot of Zambians like myself that have a lot of respect for him. I do not envy his position. This is a lose-lose situation for him in the short term.

One other interesting angle is if MMD remains alone and instead opts to do an alliance in the second round. Everything would be up in the air and it is difficult to predict how things would pan out. The positions of the parties would have a great bearing, especially who comes out first. If MMD came out a respectable third place with around 20% of the vote, they would have two good offers on the table from PF and UPND. I think MMD would be in a much better position to even command up to a third of all cabinet positions.

For now, we wait for the decision of the MMD NEC which is scheduled to meet this weekend according to the party. One thing I am certain of is that there are plenty of twists and turns still coming up. Relax, put your feet up and grab that popcorn and good bye for now!