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The Corridors of Power

HISTORY moves fast like a whirlwind or kakundukundu in my mother tongue, Lozi. Unless you trap it, a nation will lose. Upcoming generations will never know their heroes and heroines who walked the planet.
Stanley, Sinyangwe’s eye-catching painting displayed at Henry Tayali Gallery in Lusaka caught my attention. The painting traces the political history of Zambia. It is a depiction of leaders who have ruled Zambia since the First Republic.
The painting has captured the leaders in very simplistic drawings but well executed. The summarised Zambia’s political heritage where the presidents have been documented, from Kenneth Kaunda to Frederick Chiluba, Levy Patrick Mwanawasa, Rupiah Banda, Michael Sata and the incumbent Edgar Lungu.
Sinyangwe has also depicted all the vice-presidents who worked under the presidents mentioned. He has also included the First Ladies, from Betty Kaunda to the incumbent, Esther Lungu.
This collection of the portraits is a cultural asset that should be in the wall space of government institutions. It would even be appropriate to adorn the Cabinet Office and the political section of Lusaka National Museum to allow the public to have access to enjoy the discussions and reactions out of each portrait in terms of character and legacy.
“It is one work that is very symbolic of how we should respect our own history and brings out a collective memory of this great country called Zambia,” says Zenzele Chulu, of the Visual Arts Council of Zambia (VAC).
Mr Zulu says the collection titled ‘Corridors of Power’ is something that belongs to every Zambian. Whatever your political affiliation, those political portraits force you to appreciate the role of democracy where Zambians have republican presidents while in other countries, it would be one face but changing facial features.
Sinyangwe writes: “Studies by important economic figures is testament to a widespread thirst for knowledge and explanation of late events of colonial and post-colonial history. The relevance of history to the contemporary social and political discourse is, however, certainly not new.”
In years after independence in 1964, historical studies played an important role in the self-conscious construction of a Zambian identity, shaped around a nation of injustice, exploitation and struggle, the achievement of national independence under the ruling United National Independence Party (UNIP) and its leader, President Kenneth Kaunda.
Dr Kaunda’s own writings utilised a particular interpretation of pre-colonial governance. In humanism, the logical conclusion of such an argument was the declaration of One-Party State in 1972 presented by UNIP as the ultimate expression of popular will.
“During Zambia’s era of “One-Party Participatory Democracy, the KK Foundation produced some important historical works that nevertheless served to reinforce UNIP’s own interpretation of colonial history,” he notes.
He further writes that in Africa, where socio-economic conditions do not favour stable democracy, it has been said that political organisation carries a heavy responsibility for making democratisation a success. In 1990, Zambia re-established the legality of political pluralism, thereby closing the Second Republic, which was a one-party state.
A further round involving political parties took place in 1996. A third general contest was held in late 2001. Since 1991, the Movement for Multi-party Democracy (MMD) formed government, and its leader, Frederick Chiluba, was President in a constitutional system combining presidential and parliamentary characteristics.
Following the 1991 elections, former President Kaunda of UNIP was granted official opposition status, despite failing to win the qualifying number of parliamentary seats.
Sinyangwe says the completion of the government after 2001 was uncertain. Zambia’s political leaders might be called on to display new skills of political management if the country is to make further progress on political terms. At the time of the painting, Zambia had held three further general multi-party elections in 1996, 2001, 2006 and a presidential election (after the death of President Mwanawasa) in 2008.
Since 1991, the MMD had won all presidential elections and the majority of seats in the National Assembly.
President Mwanawasa’s unexpected death in 2008 brought about a by-election with Vice- President Rupiah Banda being elected, with 40.09 percent of the votes, to complete the presidential term. The 2011 general elections were highly competitive. Opposition political parties had gradually increased their representation in the National Assembly and in city and district councils with the most prominent among these being the Patriotic Front and its 2011 presidential candidate, Michael Sata. Mr Sata contested the presidential elections in 2001, 2006 and 2008. With a close margin of votes, Mr Sata finally won the presidential election in 2011.
Following President Sata’s death in 2014, Zambia held a presidential election in 2015 in which the PF’s new representative Edgar Lungu, the incumbent President, was elected into office.
Following another presidential election held in 2016, Mr Lungu was elected to a full presidential term, which he is now serving.
On the republican vice-presidency, Sinyangwe notes that this is the second highest position in the executive branch of the Republic of Zambia. The vice-president was previously appointed by the President before the amendment of the Constitution.
Under the current Constitution, when a sitting President dies or resigns or is removed from office, the vice-president automatically assumes the presidency unlike when the Constitution demanded the holding of presidential elections within 90 days. This is because every presidential candidate is required to pick a running mate who automatically becomes vice-president of the country if one wins.
The two (presidential candidate and running mate) share the vote, meaning voting for a president is an automatic vote for the vice- president.
“So it is important to quote that the vice-president plays an important role,” writes Sinyangwe.
The list of vice-presidents from 1964 to date as reflected in the paintings is as follows: –
Reuben Kamanga, UNIP (1964-1967); Simon Mwansa Kapwepwe, UNIP (1967-1970); Mainza Chona, UNIP (1970-1973); Levy Patrick Mwanawasa, MMD (1992-1994); Brigadier General Godfrey Miyanda, MMD (1994-1997) and Lieutenant General Christon Tembo, MMD (1997-2001).
The rest are Enock Kavindele, MMD (2001-2003); Nevers Mumba, MMD (2003-2004); Lupando Mwape, MMD (2004-2006); Rupiah Banda, MMD (2006-2008); George Kunda, MMD (2008-2011); Dr. Guy Scott, PF (2011-2014) and the incumbent Inonge Wina of the PF who has been in office since 2015.