STATEMENT GIVEN BY DR NEVERS SEKWILA MUMBA, PRESIDENT OF THE MOVEMENT FOR MULTIPARTY DEMOCRACY(MMD)AT THE END OF YEAR PRESS CONFERENCE.
December 28th 2023
Welcome to our end of year press conference. I address you this morning as leader of the Movement for Multiparty Democracy. I will draw wisdom for this speech from my long history as a Pastor of 44 years, as a former vice President, a diplomat, a husband, a father, a grand father and more importantly a Zambian citizen.
ENVISIONING THE FUTURE:
In a few days from now, we shall cross into 2024. Zambia as an independent state shall clock 60 years.
As leaders, we should ask ourselves some basic questions. How does a responsible 60 year old man look like? How do other nations of similar age look like?
If we do not make the vision for 2024 clear to the nation, we risk wasting our 60th birthday with politics as usual.
The new Movement envisions a mature Zambia in 2024 with a patriotic responsible citizenry. We envision a nation in 2024 which takes hold of its natural resources for the benefit of its citizens. We envision a nation in 2024 which is fully developed competing with the best organized and best run nations in the world. This summarizes my life long vision of ZAMBIA SHALL BE SAVED. I am restless to see this new Zambia start to take shape in 2024.
THE HISTORY OF MMD:
The Movement for multiparty democracy has turned 33 years this month. During this period, we have witnessed the fluctuations of the economy and appreciate possible interventions that can be used to stabilize and grow the economy.
When we took over government in 1991, the economy had almost tanked characterized by food riots and an unsustainable debt stock of $7.5 billion. UNIP socialist policies had ruined the economy. When MMD took over, we told the nation about the state of the economy and the pain we were all going to experience to get ourselves out of the economic crisis. Several interventions were made including an arrangement with the IMF which resulted in the privatization of parastatal companies.
This led to the biggest retrenchment programs Zambia has ever embarked on. People suffered, prices of essential commodities rose including that of mealie meal following the removal of coupons. Many Zambians were angry. The opposition UNIP made their political case that Zambians had made a mistake to remove them from power. The hungry and angry Zambians believed UNIP. Towards the 1996 election, it became clear that Zambians had had enough of the difficult economic situation. Kenneth Kaunda riding on this huge dissatisfaction announced his return to active politics. The rising UNIP was only stopped by a constitutional change which prohibited Dr Kaunda from standing on the basis that his parents were not Zambian. Many political analysts believed that if this had not happened, MMD could have been a one term government.
The naked truth however was that the mess that MMD was trying to clean up was created by UNIP and needed more than five years to fix it, especially that it took more than twenty years to create the economic mess. Even after President Chiluba warned the Zambians to tighten their belts, hunger prevailed and a new chant that MMD had failed took root. It took 10 years to correct the economic crisis created by UNIP.
Armed with this history, I refuse to act irresponsibly by claiming that Hakainde Hichilema has failed. What I know is that it will take time to heal the broken economy handed down by the Patriotic Front. Like at the time of UNIP, the PF had almost destroyed the economy and consequently lost international appeal which culminated in Zambians losing all hope in both the PF and Mr Edgar Lungu. This was evidenced in the one million vote gap between him and the winner Hakainde Hichilema. Like UNIP, the PF left a staggering debt stock which the world bank in 2017 had placed at $29 billion. Three times bigger than what UNIP left. This is unforgivable. The PF broke the record of being the only country to default on its debt repayment during the pandemic era. This further deeply injured our credibility and appeal as a nation. It’s only in Africa that such politicians like those in the PF will still hold the microphone and say they are returning to active politics and people clap for them. If there was any morality or remorse in PF, they should be going from radio station to radio station asking for the forgiveness of the Zambian people but instead they believe that the current economic challenges are an indication that Zambians should suffer targeted amnesia and go back to PF.
We shall have none of that as MMD. We read, we remember and we do have morals.
We are unhappy about the economic status like many Zambians but we agree with the process our colleagues the UPND have put in place to restore economic integrity. It would serve the UPND well to inform the citizens that the reconstruction of the economy is not going to be an overnight exercise. It shall take time. Not all the economic variables are under our control.
THE SETBACKS OF MMD:
The MMD came into government in 1991 with over 70% of the national vote. By the next election in 1996, the party faced their first setback. They lost popularity for introducing a liberalized economy and by keeping Kenneth Kaunda off the ballot. The second setback came in 2001 when president Chiluba attempted to run for a third term. The party split into three. Gen Christon Tembo’s FDD, Gen Godfrey Miyanda’s Heritage Party and later Michael Sata’s Patriotic Front. The result was that MMD barely won the 2001 election with 29% of the vote as opposed to Anderson Mazoka’s vote of 27%. This was the deepest decline of the MMD since inception.
In September 2011, the MMD faced their third setback with a devastating loss to the PF. Members scattered in fear and 11 MPs got jobs in Mr Sata’s government as deputy ministers. It was a dark day for the once mighty MMD party.
Following the loss, MMD held a national Convention in 2012. I won the presidency with almost 70% of the vote and led the party into four consecutive by election victories in Kasenengwa, Chipata central, Mkaika and Muchinga in central province.
Unfortunately after the death of Mr Sata in 2014, our late former President Rupiah Banda decided to return to active politics and split the party into three. After losing the court case, he took a substantial number mostly from eastern province to PF, a group of others migrated to the UPND and the other group remained in the MMD under my leadership.
This is the status quo we have painstakingly been working on until today.
So the accusation that my leadership has destroyed MMD does not even come close to the truth, but rather that we have paid the highest price to even keep what is left.
I am very proud of the resilience and loyalty shown by the current National Executive Committee to the cause of democracy.
THE FUTURE OF MMD:
The party has endured a seven year long leadership fight which was only concluded on November 5th 2019 through a land mark judgement from the High Court that declared me as the legitimate president of the MMD.
The result of this prolonged leadership fight was a dented party image that robbed us of the original trust that the Zambian people had reposed in our party when I took over as president in May 2012. Our opponents who led the onslaught on our party and lost in court, have tried to reverse the narrative that it is my leadership or lack of it that injured the image of the MMD. The truth is that through the vigilance of the current National Executive Committee the MMD has survived. Our team is not dull not to recognize the damage that has been caused to the party by those who now stand on the other side to place the blame on those who have democratically fought for the party in courts of law. Our intelligence tells us that, we cannot present the injured party to the Zambian people without a total make over of the organization. The party we shall be presenting to Zambia next year shall be a new phenomenon and we trust that we shall finally recapture our political space.
Exactly 12 months ago, the MMD National Executive Committee resolved to embark on a process of changing the face and configuration of the former ruling party in order to cast away its old image. We are glad to finally announce to the nation that the process is now complete and a full program to start in January 2024 is soon to be launched. This will be under a renewed Movement driven predominantly by the youth and the women folk. FURTHER, THE NATIONAL EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE HAS PROPOSED A NAME CHANGE FOR THE PARTY TO THE NATIONAL CONVENTION.
We shall start the year with a constitutional and policy conference to be immediately followed by an administrative convention to adopt the new constitution and policies. Later in the year, we shall hold a national youth conference and announce our national youth policy and shortly after that, we shall hold a national women’s conference at which we shall announce our national policy on women.
All provincial and district leaderships are being informed accordingly by the National Secretary of the party to start the preparations.
While multiparty democracy entails a tangle between the ruling party and the opposition, it should never slip into unreasonable toxic politics that eventually hurts the ordinary citizen whose interests we claim to represent. Politically, Zambia is in a bad place and headed in a wrong direction. We call on all political players to reconsider our ways and return to responsible politics.
We are all agreed that life has become unbearable for most Zambians, but we must also not behave as though this is the first time Zambia has faced economic challenges. The UPND must not be shy to inform the Zambian people as to the source of our current economic woes and the several interventions they are making to mitigate these economic problems. Effective communication is cardinal in maintaining peace and order in the nation.
Zambians from the four corners of our nation are facing huge social challenges. The cost of living has negatively affected the very weak of our society. Families are disintegrating as a result of social pressures. The youth continue to struggle to find a way they can stay alive under the economically troubled times. Statistics reveal that suicide rate amongst the youth has risen to alarming levels. Jobs are hard to come by. Although these challenges are not only restricted to Zambia alone, it nevertheless contributes to instability in the nation.
The high cost of essential commodities like mealie meal, cooking oil, foodstuffs has aggravated the social status and security of the nation.
Any party in government that finds itself in this situation will face relentless criticism. To day, the UPND continues to suffer the backlash of this anger from citizens but lethally packaged by opposing political leaders.
UPND needs to have an ongoing conversation with the nation and create hope that if we all hold together, we shall see a better tomorrow. UPND must generate hope in the midst of despair. Leaders are dealers in the commodity of HOPE. Beyond hope however, UPND must pull all their resources together and find a short term solution to mitigating the high cost of mealie meal while waiting for a long term solution. THE CURRENT STATUS QUO CANNOT BE SUSTAINED IN 2024.
Over the past two years, I have received relentless criticism that my patriotism has been compromised and I have been recruited as a praise singer for the UPND and President Hakainde Hichilema. Our critics have insisted that I should speak more openly on the issues of the economy and the state of democracy. I wish to assure the Zambian people that the same Nevers Mumba of yesterday is the same Nevers Mumba of today and with God’s help will remain the same Nevers Mumba of tomorrow. For forty four years I have fought the vicious fight for justice, equity and peace in our nation. I have carried the burden and vision of Zambia Shall be saved without fear. I have relentlessly pursued this vision through out all the seven administrations. Along the way, I have bitterly disagreed with some of the presidents whose values differed from mine and what I considered to be progressive values for Zambians. During the same stretch, I have agreed with several presidents whom I thought were pursuing a progressive path. In both cases, I have generated both allies and opponents. Today, I am being attacked for commending some of the efforts that President Hichilema is making. They consider my stance and that of the MMD as unpatriotic. To these colleagues, patriotism means to hate and insult an incumbent president or that whatever the opposition says or believes is what is considered patriotic. I however hold a different view. Justice and patriotism is colorless and can be found on either side of our political divide. As of today, the MMD believes that the governance path UPND has taken is worth our support. This does not mean that everything UPND is doing is right, but that their campus is pointed in the right direction. The true north. WE AGREE WITH UPND IN PRINCIPLE.
The health of any democracy depends on the free exercise of the God given Freedom of speech. Freedom of expression. Freedom of religion. Freedom of assembly and association. Right to equal protection of the law.
These are freedoms that must never be denied to any Zambian. These are fundamental rights regardless of political party or tribe. MMD will never abandon its fight for the protection of these rights. We therefore urge government and all state institutions charged by law in safeguarding these rights to do so in fairness and in the fear of the Lord. Any suspension or abrogation of these rights will always fuel instability and lawlessness in the country.
I wish to comment on the mantra, “SHRINKING DEMOCRATIC SPACE.” The UPND government has been accused of having shrunk the democratic space in the nation. We are of the view that this mantra is inappropriately used and a misrepresentation of the current situation. You can only shrink something that was in existence before. In our case, democratic space had been suspended and frozen in the PF era. MMD is ready to testify in any court having been one of the leading victims of suspended democratic space under the PF. In our view, the mantra should be, “UPND please “RESTORE THE SUSPENDED DEMOCRATIC SPACE.” Our assessment is that the freedoms existing now are incomparable to what existed under the PF. Democracy is an ongoing experiment. We cannot claim that all the freedoms are available to everyone at any given time. It is for this reason we must always keep fighting for what belongs to us. Where any of our freedoms are infringed upon, we must raise our voices or take the recourse of the law and go to court in order to stop the injustice.
The MMD shall insist on the full restoration of all freedoms in 2024 as enshrined in our constitution.
WEAPONIZATION OF TRIBE:
It is becoming clear that the politics in our nation has crossed the line of national reconstruction to national destruction by using the weapon of tribe.
A couple of months ago, a colleague, confronted me and accused me of siding with the enemy. He claimed that some of my tribesmen are deeply disappointed with me for seemingly defending the position of a tonga president. He claimed this is no longer politics but a tribal war in the making. I wish to address this.
This confrontation opened my eyes that whenever a people start to front tribe, we stop listening to each other and can never commend any positive achievement of the other as long as they come from another region. We have now reached a dangerous stage in our democratic process. This moment calls for statesmanship and patriotism. I wish to advise my fellow Zambians. We are enter-twined together as one people. To the Bembas, please understand this, Tongas are not going any where. To the Tongas, Bembas are not going anywhere either. We are stuck together in God’s infinite wisdom and this is true for rest of the 71 tribes. The quicker we get this the safer Zambia shall be for our children. The elevation of tribe in pursuit of political power reveals the bankruptcy of such a politician. I want to run for president and win based on the content of my character and capacity to govern and not tribe, an endowment I neither chose nor worked for. I am only Bemba because I was born to Bemba parents. Tribe should not be qualification for political power but rather the capacity of the individual.
I have also been confronted with concerns that most strategic positions in government are held by people from mostly three regions, Southern, Western and North Western. MMD believes that Democratic rights include the right to take part in electing the Government and the right to access and participate in the public service. Presidents appoint ministers and other constitutional offices based on several factors including qualification and capacity. In our case, our first president KK taught us that ensuring that every region is part of the governing system is a matter of national security. The constitution affords power to appoint to the President and in his own wisdom decides who should be appointed. The subject of certain tribes being left out has been a subject in all seven administrations. I am sure that anytime a tribal issue is raised the President does his own audit and makes necessary adjustments to improve on inclusiveness without compromising on quality of leadership. It is a delicate dance and every president has had to deal with it.
It remains for President Hichilema to ensure that this tribal balancing is constantly reviewed. The key to national unity is when every Zambian feels part of the body politic directing the affairs of the country.
As a party we have been deeply concerned at the slow process of prosecuting these cases. Earlier in the year we wrote to the President expressing our reservations on the lack of speed in expediting corruption cases. We proposed that changes be made that will allow for these cases to be closed within three months. We were therefore encouraged to hear the president assure the nation that corruption cases be expedited within five months. Although we feel this period is still too long, it is a huge step in managing this very devastating culture. Prolonged prosecution processes compromise the efficacy of the fight against corruption and transforms the fight into perceived persecution.
The recent case of the former minister of foreign affairs Hon Stanley Kakubo sets a precedence in how this vice should be fought moving forward. When damning evidence surfaces around any public servant, the moral thing for such an officer to do is to resign in order to allow investigative wings to carry out their investigations. We therefore commend Hon Kakubo for leading the way in this new way of handling any perception of corruption by a public officer.
Our corruption fight will only be dubbed legitimate when it encompasses those currently serving in government. There should never be an impression given that anyone holding office is protected from prosecution on the basis of the public office they hold. Only a president has immunity from prosecution. If they don’t voluntarily resign, the president should help them by firing them. We must win this fight.
THE CORRUPT HAVE BECOME MORE VOCAL AND MORE POWERFUL. THEY FEEL UNTOUCHABLE BECAUSE THEY CAN BUY THEIR WAY THROUGH THE JUDICIAL SYSTEM. IT IS TIME TO RESTORE MORALITY AND INTEGRITY IN THE NATION. IF WE DON’T CRACK THE WHIP FAST ENOUGH, WE SHALL BE CAPTURED AS A NATION BY THE POWERFUL CORRUPT.
The debate of presidential trips has been with us since Kenneth Kaunda days. Like any activity of government, a budget is allocated for presidential travels. Two things must always be satisfied. The availability of a budget for such an activity and the importance of the trip to be undertaken. Our view is that the president should be free to undertake any trip within the allocated budget. Secondly, the presidential trips must be fully assessed by a professional team to ascertain the viability of such a trip. We have to be satisfied that the trip will add value to the nation. As long as these two factors are satisfied, the MMD acknowledges the importance of presidential trips as a means to sell the nation’s potential to the global community.
THE CHRISTIAN DECLARATION:
Tomorrow the 29th December, Zambia shall celebrate 32 years as a Christian Nation. This declaration was made by President Chiluba of the MMD, the party I lead today.
The questions on the minds of many Zambians are many. How does the declaration contribute to the manner in which we govern ourselves?
How different is Zambia from other nations who have not declared themselves Christian? The MMD is unsatisfied with the manner in which Christian values are not being integrated into the life blood of our politics. The hatred and deep divisions in our nation could be reduced if Christianity was given greater prominence. This was the intention of the declaration, in his own words President Chiluba declared the following:“ I have entered into a covenant with the Lord Jesus Christ. I submit myself, the government and the people of Zambia to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. May this message reach all civil servants that the time for corruption is over.” He closed the declaration by announcing what he called a NEW DAWN for Zambia.
Up until today, this declaration is only used for romantic reasons. The MMD wishes to propose the deepening of this declaration by:
1. Holding all public officials accountable to the basic values of our faith, equitable delivery of goods and services to the people and upholding the values of justice and peace as taught in the scriptures.
2. To complete the construction of the national house of prayer to stand as a landmark of the declaration.
3. To combine the days of prayer and fasting with the anniversary date on which the declaration was made and make it a public holiday on which national unity shall be specifically promoted. More like the American day of thanksgiving.
May the declaration of Zambia as a Christian Nation remain the bedrock of our democracy, today and always.
May God bless the Republic of Zambia.
I thank you.