Columnists Features

Mazoka school of opposition politics

PATSON Phiri.

PATSON PHIRI
IN THE late 1990s, Engineer Anderson Kambela Mazoka formed a political party and called it the United Party for National Development (UPND).
It was to be dismissed as a small non-entity that would not scratch the mighty Movement for Multi-Party Democracy (MMD), formed around 1991 to unseat the liberation party, UNIP.

Zambians had no idea about Mr Mazoka, who had been serving as a ward treasurer in Bauleni before he jumped mountains to call himself president of UPND. On that account, his party was tugged a small noise-maker.
Too much or too little can be said about the organic spread of the UPND under Mazoka but that will be reserved for another day. I want to discuss Mazoka from my lenses as a journalist.
Mazoka struck me as that great and rare figure in the Zambian opposition politics with an all-round quality that separates him from many.
For starters, Mazoka performed extremely well in his first attempt as President in 2001 that Lusaka was dominated by his party.
The UPND won Chawama, Kanyama, Mandevu, Kabwata, Kafue and Chilanga constituencies in Lusaka. Because of this, UPND also won the position of Mayor of Lusaka since it was only councillors who were eligible to vote for the mayor.
Colonel John Kabungo became mayor of Lusaka without much struggle because the council was dominated by councillors from UPND.
But here is why Mazoka was an example of what an opposition leader should do to win popular support.
The UPND mayor, Mr Kabungo, was always at Lusaka International Airport (now Kenneth Kaunda International Airport) to receive President Levy Mwanawasa each time he travelled out of the country or when he was arriving.
When Mazoka was asked why he allowed his mayor to attend Government functions, he said his party had dominated the council so it was important that the mayor engages Government on the best way of providing service to the people.
He would explain that opposition politics was not about fighting the government but working to advise the President and ministers on areas that require improvement.
As a result, Mazoka never shied away from meeting President Mwanawasa and sharing notes, especially at national events.
During the Kuomboka traditional ceremony of the Lozi speaking-people, Mr Mazoka sat in a tent as the Presidential delegation made way to the venue. I sat right behind Mr Mazoka and his MPs.
Everyone had to stand to give respect to the President and people were anxious to see how Mr Mazoka would react to that situation.
Without hesitation, Mr Mazoka stood up and bowed his head as the President was waving at the cheering attendees.
Security gave a signal to the President that the UPND leader was seated on his right in a tent.
Mr Mwanawasa stood to see where Mr Mazoka was seated. Hundreds of people had blocked access to Mr Mazoka so the President merely waved at him and proceeded to sit in the tent.
When the ceremony was over, Mr Mazoka stood still until President Mwanawasa and his delegation passed before he also made way to his motorcade.
In terms of proffering credible opposition, one gets a feeling that there will be none like Mazoka. The most astonishing episodes were press conferences that would usually take place at Pamodzi Hotel to read what was referred to as the alternative national budget speech.
That speech was usually read simultaneously as the Minister of Finance would be reading his budget speech to parliament.
The UPND alternative national budgets would be presented by vice-president in charge of Finance, who was at the time Mr Robert Sichinga. These would be attended by several Ambassadors accredited to Zambia.
The press conferences would be very formal with journalists well settled and all delegates found the place homely.
So stakeholders would have the job of making comparisons on which of the two budgets made more sense than the other.
In the many instances when I attended Mr Mazoka’s press conferences, his speech would always be balanced in terms of supporting the good policy decisions the government was making and criticising those that were perceived to be less beneficial to the people.
Whatever criteria God used to take Mazoka’s life, his politics will always refuse to wane. It is simply the Mazoka school of credible politics gone too before time.
The author is a Zambian journalist.

 




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