KELVIN KACHINGWE, Lusaka
THE most interesting part of the wrangles in the opposition Forum for Democracy and Development (FDD) is not that they have pitted party president Edith Nawakwi against her vice-president Chifumu Banda, but that the squabbles are over the third term.
It is very ironic.
Ironic in the sense that the FDD, like Brigadier General Godfrey Miyandaâ€™s Heritage Party (HP), was formed by those who were bitterly opposed to the amendment of the Movement for Multi-Party Democracy (MMD) constitution and subsequently that of the republic to pave way for late President Frederick Chilubaâ€™s third term.
The current FDD president was one of the senior party and Cabinet ministers who were opposed to Dr Chilubaâ€™s third term bid.
It was a bitter fight.
The fight ended with their expulsion from the MMD following the party convention in 2001 at the historic Mulungushi Rock of Authority, a venue that was discovered by former United National Independence Party (UNIP) secretary general Grey Zulu, and has gone on to host many important meetings that have shaped the political and economic landscape of the country.
Following the five-day convention, nine Cabinet ministers and 11 other senior party officials opposed to the third term bid were expelled from the MMD.
Then MMD publicity and information secretary Vernon Mwaanga said the party decided to expel them as a result of their public utterances and conduct which brought the name of the party into public ridicule and disrepute.
The expelled included the countryâ€™s then Vice-President Christon Tembo, who had led the anti-third term opposition within the MMD, General Miyanda, who was Minister of Education and MMD vice-president, Minister of Labour and Social Security Ms Nawakwi, Minister of Legal Affairs Vincent Malambo, Minister of Commerce, Trade and Industry David Mpamba and Minister of Community Development and Social Welfare Dawson Lupunga.
Others were Minister of Agriculture, Food and Fisheries Suresh Desai, Minister of Environment and Natural Resources Samuel Miyanda and Minister of Mines and Minerals Development Syamukayumbu Syamujaye.
Deputy Minister of Health Ernest Mwansa, Deputy Minister of Lands Ackim Nkole and Deputy Minister of Finance Newton Ngâ€™uni were also expelled.
The MMD justified the expulsions.
Dr Mwaanga said the members should at all times be mindful of maintaining party discipline and unity. They saw the utterances by the anti-third term ministers to have grossly undermined the integrity and reputation and good name of the MMD.
Dr Chiluba also had his input.
He argued that as the ruling party, MMD was expected to display and exercise the highest level of discipline, and if it failed to do so, it should have no grounds to enforce discipline in the party, government and the nation as a whole.
â€œThe last few days [of the national convention] have clearly identified those who have the love of the family. Those who love the party came to the convention and campaigned for or against within the family,â€ Dr Chiluba said.
â€œThey did not join opposition parties in the condemnation or address press conferences to denounce the party. Instead, they talked within the family and came here to Mulungushi to cast their votes where it mattered within the family.
â€œThe MMD is a democratic party which accommodates divergent views. Nobody would be punished for expressing an opposing view. But decorum, procedure and process must be recognised.
â€œThose colleagues who denounced the party publicly sometimes at fora shared with the opposition parties, had conducted themselves in a manner that has brought the party into ridicule and disrespect. This is an offence against the party.â€
But although Dr Chiluba had said members who loved the party should have gone to the convention to campaign for or against the third term within the family, it was a difficult scenario.
About 300 party members did not attend the convention citing intimidation and violence by the pro-third term youths. In fact, one Cabinet minister was left with a broken arm.
The expelled members had to fight their battle in court.
In other words, they were prepared to do anything possible to prevent a third term for Dr Chiluba.
â€œWe, the leaders who oppose the amendment of the constitution, will employ every legal means to stop the President from going for another term of office,â€ then Minister of Labour Ms Nawakwi told a news conference.
In the meantime, Dr Chiluba justified the decision to change the MMD party constitution.
â€œWe came to deal with the party constitution and we are happy that it is much tidier and better now. We do not want to limit someone who the party feels is productive. We want that person to serve for more than two or three terms as long as he continues to be productive,â€ Dr Chiluba said.
â€œThere is no single constitution on earth which has no provision for change. So it is not irregular to change the constitution constitutionally because the provisions are there.â€
But the third term, even for the MMD party president, was opposed by even those who were not members of the family, to use Dr Chilubaâ€™s own term.
Several students from Evelyn Hone College, University of Zambia and Chainama Hills College of Health Sciences ran amok denouncing Dr Chiluba for amending the party constitution. The students even blocked Church Road in Lusaka after learning that Dr Chiluba would use it when returning to Lusaka from the convention in Kabwe.
In the meantime, then MMD party members Ackson Sejani and Mike Mulongoti had handed the National Assembly Speaker Amusaa Mwanamwambwa an impeachment motion against Dr Chiluba for gross misconduct. The motion was signed by more than a third of the 158 legislators.
Anyhow, out of the third term debate, the FDD was created with General Tembo as president and Ms Nawakwi as vice-president. Ms Nawakwi went on to win the Munali parliamentary seat.
But the 2001 general elections were a closely contested affair with the likes of the MMD (Levy Mwanawasa); United Party for National Development (Anderson Mazoka); FDD (Christon Tembo); HP (Godfrey Miyanda); and the Republican Party (Ben Mwila); all believing they had a chance of victory.
There were other parties and candidates including National Citizens Coalition (Nevers Mumba); UNIP (Tilyenji Kaunda); Agenda for Zambia (Inonge Mbikusita-Lewanika); Social Democratic Party (Gwendoline Konie); and National Leadership for Development (Yobert Shamapande).
But the FDD did not do particularly well as expected, both at presidential and parliamentary levels. Gen Tembo, Gen Miyanda and Mr Mazoka all petitioned the election results but were unsuccessful.
Later, Gen Tembo gave up his position as FDD president after serving one term and was replaced by Ms Nawakwi at a convention. Ms Nawakwi has since had a go at the republican presidency but without much success while also serving her two-terms as FDD president.
It is the reason why it is interesting that the FDD, born out of the anti-third term campaigners, would want to give Ms Nawakwi, who in reference to Dr Chiluba said: â€œWe will employ every legal means to stop the President from going for another term of officeâ€, a third term.
Perhaps Dr Chiluba was right after all: â€œThere is no single constitution on earth which has no provision for change.â€
KELVIN KACHINGWE, Lusaka