By MUBANGA LUCHEMBE
He has been described as a “loose cannon with a lot of valid graft-accusing points, the wrong messenger for the right anti-graft message, an apparent anti-graft activist who hears graft-alleging rumours and if this or that takes his fancy, he runs with it.”
So how come this man, called Chishimba Kambwili, is able to create such excitement in Zambia to the extent that most, if not all, the opposition political parties in the UPND Alliance, including his own NDC of which he still maintains to be its legitimate president, have teamed up against him?
Whoever said two heads are better than one probably did not have the UPND-led opposition alliance in mind. Formed in 2018 as a way to the country’s regime change in 2021, the opposition political unity that it was supposed to foster began creaking under disagreements between the two men at the top of two main partnering allies, the UPND and NDC.
The rift was exposed following Kambwili’s departure from the just renamed opposition alliance, which saw the NDC split into two factions.
For a brief moment, it looked as though the Judiciary would have to ride to the rescue. A pantomime-like power struggle within the NDC ensued with court interdicts and counter-interdicts being sought in the High Court by either side to prevent the other from heading the party.
Matters took a turn for the worse when Kambwili unreservedly apologised to President Edgar Lungu and businessman Valden Findlay for accusing them of being drug dealers, saying that he was misinformed on the matter.
In his reaction, President Lungu responded that he had noted Kambwili’s apology and accepted it in the true Christian spirit. Adding that what mattered was someone’s actions and deeds after one’s apology for the wrongs they had done – much to the chagrin of the UPND bigwigs and other opposition political leaders who had been championing Kambwili’s hitherto false allegations of PF government’s corruption as a way for regime change.
How did Kambwili’s political affairs’ tangle, come to this and where will it all end?
It is common knowledge that for a time UPND president Hakainde Hichlema had been looking for a running mate who would bring in more votes from the Bemba-speaking provinces.
To this end, he had made forays into these four vote-rich and populous regions, namely Copperbelt, Luapula, Northern and Muchinga provinces seeking a suitable deputy.
Kambwili was miffed when he realised that he was no longer in Hichilema’s running mate plan, and decided to go against his opposition alliance partner’s intentions. But his challenge and departure distressed his own party the NDC.
Besides, NDC faction leader Joseph Akafumba who at one-time doubled as Kambwili’s legal representative in courts claimed that the provincial elections and national convention held by the expelled party leader were illegal.
In explaining this, Akafumba further advised that Kambwili was at the brink of rejoining the ruling party because he could no longer handle the pressure from the courts, but vowed that the NDC would remain a member of the UPND Alliance.
Akafumba added that Kambwili was in a difficult position where in one case he was convicted, he has two other cases where he has been put on his defence. He also has a third case that was coming up for case to answer. And that his purported provincial elections and national convention were fakes and an orchestrated plan for him to return to the PF.
It is just a matter of time before UPND suffers the same fate as the NDC, according to analysts, and before its exponents decamp to the ruling party.
Zambian politics are famed for politicians who abandon their parties and reinvent themselves. Indeed, a glimpse into Zambian history reveals that its political parties are not built on ideology and they hardly survive, although the politicians mutate and reinvent themselves.
Long before the UPND leader lost the 2016 vote for Zambia’s presidency, Kambwili had embarked on a nationwide campaign against him and publicly declared that Hichilema was again going to lose the presidential race. Hichilema lost for the fifth time, and Kambwili thrived.
He had since been seen as a kingmaker, and the PF victory then had further emboldened him. He made public pronouncements that few would dare whisper.
He has made bold statements on intractable problems such as the high cost-of-living question, and the huge inequality divided along racial lines.
His ability to articulate the frustrations of the marginalised unemployed youth on the Copperbelt and national platforms had won him many admirers and many enemies in equal measure.
Chief among the latter are the largely Chinese-owned business entities and Asian-origin minorities who feel threatened by his “Zambian first agenda,” as he puts it.
It would not be farfetched to suggest that since his apology to the Head of State, Kambwili has spent time on irrelevant issues such as who retains the presidency and who fills other top positions in the NDC.
His other petty subjects about this year’s general elections as being a two-horse race between PF and UPND and threats to spill UPND’s secrets do not address youth unemployment and undo the country’s adverse publicity generated by his erstwhile false graft-allegations including his crude, graft-accusing character assassinations that have damaged both the internal and external image of the PF, the government and Zambia as a whole, to cite a couple of the most pressing challenges facing Zambians in the 2016 post-election era.
The fact that Zambia, as evidenced by its local currency free-falling exchange rate, has lost direct foreign investment is a harbinger of worse to come due to UPND and Kambwili’s graft-accusing invectives that have already been taken seriously by global investors.
The youth need jobs, skills, tertiary education and mentoring in entrepreneurship and in many aspects of their lives to participate meaningfully in society and compete in the ruthless socio-economic environment.
What next will Kambwili be able to offer other than threats to expose Hichilema’s underbelly and weaken his chances in the upcoming elections?