‘A Rebuttal to Chitala’s Election message to Zambians’

By Kaela Mulenga

In a piece published in a Zambian Post newspaper (Rupiah, MMD’s carnage, Mbita Chitala, The Post Commentary – April 27,2011) – Mbita Chitala asserts that he is now ready to render support to Patriotic Front (PF) of Michael Sata rather than MMD run by President Rupiah Banda. And he gives three good reasons for doing so: lack of multi-party constitution, poverty incidence and demand for zero tolerance against corruption.

But Chitala’s commentary cannot just pass without an addendum or rebuttal. His aspirations needs to be put in a context so that the people can understand what is at stake. The first thing that comes to mind is: why is he doing this at this late hour? Has he come to that conclusion because indeed the PF’s Manifesto, vision of the country and the way the party is run is much more superior to MMD’s or is he just looking for some personal gain? Moreover, by pronouncing support for Michael Sata is it increasing the chances for PF to beat MMD or no value is added at all?

Let’s examine some of these premises closely. By claiming that he (Chitala) is one of the founding members of MMD – this goal is meant to appeal to the same sensibilities and conditions of 1990s. Then, unions, students, women, Churches, civil society, unemployed and others banded together to get rid of KK’s UNIP system. At that time, there were long queues for food basics everywhere in addition to a very strong wind of change blowing from Eastern Europe. Do we have the same situation today? Yes, more or less if you consider Chinese shooting workers and factor in the Tunisia/Egyptian fever.  But the assumption on which Chitala bases his analysis may or may not work because there are many Zambians who think that the situation after all is not too bad – at least economically.


So although the reincarnation of original MMD’s ideas in the skin of PF might be good, there is no unanimity. But good only if one makes that examination on level playing field. To begin with, there is a perceived PF’s ‘democracy deficit or deficiency’, in the sense that PF’s leadership has not come about through a proper democratic channels. No conventions or national elections have taken place. Is that not a problem or it should be brushed aside?


In the early days of MMD – Chitala and Akashambatwa  Lewanika (Aka) – belonged to the intellectual wing of the party. At that time, they themselves did not give any opposing voice a chance. Nobody could critique them until very late into Chiluba’s (FJT) 2nd term in office. That is the time when FJT was trying to hijack the party with intentions of securing the 3rd Term. So shouldn’t we be afraid of revisionism? If RB has managed to convert MMD into UNIPISM, why would we not be afraid of the same policy honks hijacking policy making in PF-run government? Besides, is there a shade of a difference between Sata and Banda? Both are in 70s, both are former UNIPISTS, and both like money and women. On each of those reasons Mbita advanced, there is no guarantee that Sata can deliver. If there was, would Zambians be foolish enough not to see that?


When MMD started promoting corruption – the Chitalas were silent. At least they said nothing until when the cancer had spread. Constitutional bungling started then. Late John Mwanakatwe gave it a shot, not to mention other attempts – nothing happened when those of Chitalas were Ministers. Now they want to preach a different language.  I see this myself as the beginning of a ‘transfer process’ of same crop from one regime to another. Look at it as a tectonic rearrangement of maintaining power.  Mbita Chitala and Sondashi’s messages are one and the same thing – that they do not want to cede power to a new generation. Both Chitala and Sondashi, if I may add George Mpombo are currently on the periphery of power block. They want in, hence the outbursts.


Ludwig Sondanshi the other day was even rebuffing the demand for youth presence/inclusion, using ‘lack of experience’ as an excuse. But yet the need to rejuvenate and modernize the political structures is very real. Up to today, the methods of organizing party activities remains the same across the board and those on top are old ‘madalas’ – albeit some of them are aging freedom fighters. Unless power is reallocated to involve even youth: the monopoly of power (rulers in UNIP moved to MMD1, then to MMD2, etc.) in the same hands will produce the same results – no change and hence, poverty for many.


Preaching overconfidently to Zambians on what is good or not good for them – as Chitala has initiated, may not be as successfully as it was then in 1991.  Thus, no one knows for sure if Zambians would buy into Chitala’s message. If they do, then Chitala can consider himself still a force to be reckoned with. Because only if he can contribute (positively) to the election of PF can we say that he is making a contribution. If not, his voice would only pass as any other from a ‘job seeker’. This is accentuated because, since MMD got basterdized after Chiluba – Chitala cannot boast of maintaining critical/influential members and MMD followers whom he can move to PF.


Only those with strong theoretical ideals about the “new Zambia” would be convinced by Mbita Chitala’s message. Diasporan Zambians may be such a group buying into this explanation. But these people, due to ‘absenteeism’ can’t vote therefore useless to PF’s election.


Zambians are notorious for resisting political change. Maybe that is why it is an island of peace. It took a Tsunami-like wind blowing from Eastern Block before they were convinced that KK was a relic. They seem to be guided by the instinct of “stick to the devil you know”, than the one you do not know. This idea alone could be sufficient enough for RB to pull through regardless of what Chitala and other pundits say. If words could move mountains, who can surpass those streaming out of The Post? There is nothing Chitala has said which people haven’t read from the Post before.


Moreover, Chitala’s appeal tends to be more ideological than political. Unlike Panji Kaunda’s practical approach of visiting Zambians province by province to garner support for PF – Chitala catalogues mishaps of RBanda’s modern MMD. Whether these concerns register with ordinary Zambians of course, remains to be seen. Remember, most Zambians believe and vote with their bellies. That is why as the election day approaches, bags of meal meal, kapenta, cooking oil and other necessities fly around.


As the process of distributing bribes takes off, simultaneously, ground troops are consolidated. And the party which makes the most contact with the people on the ground wins the day in that area. It is here where I think PF risks missing some votes. Can Chitala’s message rectify this? No! MMD continues to be a carpet grass party than any other party in Zambia. Take a case of Barotse (Western) and Eastern Provinces as an illustration. In these areas, yes, even Eastern Province – PF has lukewarm support. But we have never heard that PF is taking steps to consolidate this support. There have been no big noises, otherwise we would have heard. If actual visits/trips by Mr. Sata to some of these places cannot be done, clear public statements from PF are needed to endorse this support.


Therefore, it is not sufficient to pass academic comments such as the one issued by Chitala and hope that all is well. Even on the Copper Belt where PF is loved, consolidation is necessary by the ground troops. Simply put, with or without ‘good words’ from sympathizers like PPF, Chitala, Mpombo, Sondashi or anybody – PF has to energize its ground troops to make sure that people vote-in a progressive party.


Toronto, April 30, 2011


Kaela B Mulenga

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15 responses to “‘A Rebuttal to Chitala’s Election message to Zambians’”

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  12. Kaela says:

    Mbita, I do appreciate your point. If you noticed, your article was published on the same space as mine. So the large following I have read both articles. The main point I was trying to make is that – even if I also regard PF Manifesto visionary, I still think that people who are close to and advise Sata do not have a winning strategy in place. The popularity of Sata as a person alone is not enough to assure him victory. You, Mulongoti, Mpombo and others who have jumped on the bandwagon erroneously believe that PF can win purely on a perception that people want a change. That is old fashioned. Something more than that is required. Unfortunately even Mr. Sata himselve is using the same arcaic method – of denouncing RB then hope that everything will be fine. That is not the case. It is here where I think your input is not clear. I find Panji’s approach of visiting provinces and talking to people more effective than criticizing Banda. Tell people what you need to do instead. If you are afraid, then you have nothing different to offer.

    Then, you refer to Neo’s assessment. I respect Simutanyi’s intergrity, but he is a political scientist and not a pollster. I don’t think his prediction tools are any better than yours and mine. [They are subjective and probably not based on any statistical methodology]. His is an opinion and not a scietifically tested assessment. So don’t count on it. I praised Sata’s Oxford speech because I saw in it things people have been crying for.

    As regards to The Post, Mu may be right that The Post – though a very strong opnion maker, they tarnished their reputation by consistently forsaking impartiality. [Presenting a balanced picture as they’re supposed to as a reputable paper]. The Post abuses the trust people have entrusted in them by always having a hidden agenda. [They relish differing with whoever is at Plot 1]. Since the public media is nakedly pro-government, then people have no choice but to choose Post. I wish if the Post would be addressing people instead of the politicians they want to castigate.

    I can’t explain everything here – maybe when I am home we can chat. [Hopefully I can reach you thru Mr Wila Mungomba]. Also remember that we who are not at home are hungry for news, so we do everything to find out what is happening. Cheers!

  13. Mbita Chitala says:

    Let me thank you for your analysis. I am sure your readers will appreciate your criticism if you also published my story. At any rate,time is moving so fast that some of you folks in the diaspora may not be familiar with as you are far from action and information may not be readily available. On this difficulty, we are always available to assist. Dr. Neo Simutanyi has just published results of an opinion poll which puts Mr. Sata in a winning seat. Of course the challenge will be to ensure that the PF Manifesto is implemented. And this is where all patriots that are still alive and willing to give are challenged.

  14. g.mulenga says:

    Ba Mu Zambian then psle explain to us why the MMD is having sleeples nights-if u think PF/Sata/Post are not a factor in this yr s elections?

  15. Mu Zambian says:

    Mr Mulenga, very well articulated counter-argument. I agree with you on most of the points against Chitala’s assumptions. But you omitted one important factor when discussing the need to get down to the ground to consolidate voter support. Chitala, Sata and their ilk deceive themselves in thinking that The Post alone has so much political influence in Zambia that the paper will or has swayed the political thinking of most Zambians towards Sata and PF. It’s a fallacy. I cannot even, from historical records, recall any case where a particular presidential candidate won because of the influence of The Post. In fact, the opposite seems to have happened. Forget about 1991 because a myriad other factors were at play, as Mr Mulenga aptly describes. But in 1996, Chiluba won re-election against The Post’s support for Dean Mungomba’s ZADECO (of which Chitala was secretary general, incidentally). In 2001, Mwanawasa won despite The Post’s support for Christon Tembo’s FDD. In 2006, The Post was forced by the institution’s dire financial circumstances to support a winning candidate in Mwanawasa, in return for business from GRZ. In 2008, The Post supported a losing candidate (Ng’andu Magande against Rupiah Banda’s MMD candidature). Simply put, the supposed voter influence of The Post is a huge myth.The myth has been busted several times in the past.Economic and other circumstances in 2011 again strongly indicate that The Post are on the wrong side of the political road.

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