Since the word “defection” was originally used in the year 1596, the world has seen a myriad of changes of political, religious and military loyalties. The motivation for defection is always diverse. In many cases, political defections make headlines in local and international media because of their nature as they change parliamentary landscape and political scenery.
In Zambia, politicians have found it easy to defect from one political party to another to achieve their personal goals as opposed to disagreement on policy or ideological issues. With loud ovation, their new parties receive them and use the occasion to jeer at the losing party.
Since 1991 when Zambia embraced the democratic dispensation, the country has witnessed an overabundance of defections by politicians. The defection rate is widely believed to be more than any other time in the political history of Zambia.
When the Patriotic Front (PF) government was ushered into office last year, they promised a fresh start to Zambia’s democratic governance. Zambians were highly expectant to see how the PF would inject new ideas in entrenching the democratic ideals that the country has adopted for over 22 years now.
However, with President Michael Sata’s decision to encourage members of the opposition MMD to defect to the ruling party, it would not be wrong to imply that the PF is now deploying jackboot strategies to create more by-elections at the expense of innocent Zambians who are the worst losers. The last estimates from the Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ) indicated that about K3 billion is spent on each by-election. This is tax payer’s money which can be utilized to provide social services such as building some classroom blocks, clinics, buying medicines for hospitals or rehabilitating some roads.
The implication of the incessant defections is that many political parties, which should have been a vehicle for development, will not grow. In most cases, some political party members are already predisposed to defection. Nevertheless, some parties can be better off if certain people left as there would be no division between those they want to keep and others they would be happy to lose.
It is a shame that first president Dr Kenneth Kaunda has also been hoodwinked to be involved in partisan business of PF defections in attempt to ransack the MMD members and leave the former ruling party on its knees.
Somebody would wonder in what capacity Dr Kaunda received MMD members, Jazzman Chikwakwa and his colleagues who defected to the PF at his official residence in State Lodge area. It was purely wrong for Dr Kaunda to host political party mercenaries at a house that was constructed with tax payers money. The former president should have realised that he is a statesmen who is supposed to play the non-partisan role. How is Dr Kaunda going to mediate in case there are political conflicts that might lead to civil war when he has already taken a partisan position?
Dr Kaunda welcomed MMD defectors to the PF and urged every Zambian regardless of their political affiliation to join the PF. His behavior begs answers to questions such as; what kind of democracy is Dr Kaunda preaching? Or what type of statesman is the former president playing?
Further, it is strange to consider how Sata who is the self titled King Cobra has strong affinity to rogue elements of society. For the past few weeks, Sata has warmly embraced people with suspicious moral credentials under his party and government with a broad smile on his face.
MMD chairman for elections Gabriel Namulambe who has defected to the PF is of questionable character and he is still facing theft charges before the courts of law. The active indictment in the court alleges that Namulambe on November 21, 2010 in Kitwe, being employed in the public service as deputy minister in the Ministry of Mines, stole 20 bicycles altogether valued at K11 million, the property of the government which came into his possession by virtue of his employment.
He is alleged to have diverted the bicycles and used them as campaign materials in Lufwanyama constituency. Some of the witnesses have since testified in this matter and trial is on-going. A witness, Aaron Soko, 39 who resides in Kalulushi said he delivered the 18 bicycles to Namulambe’s shop in Mpongwe and issued a delivery note to the shop manager which has been produced as part of his evidence.
It would be interesting to see how this case will end and how his criminal record will impede on his ambition to re-contest the Mpongwe parliamentary by-election under the PF ticket, if at all he will be adopted.
Apart from Namulambe, Sata has appointed former Health Permanent Secretary, Dr. Simon Miti who was deeply linked to the K10 billion financial scandal as permanent secretary under Cabinet Office. Dr Miti was for a long time considered a suspect in the scandal until he was turned into a state witness to testify against former ministry of health human resources officer Henry Kapoko in connection to the awarding of a contract to Kahekam Limited to supply 50,000 mother-baby kits.
When Sata became president, he appointed Dr Simon Miti as Zambia’s Ambassador-Designate to Switzerland but this appointment was swiftly revoked. The revocation of Dr Miti’s appointment came after Secretary to the Cabinet, Dr Joshua Kanganja insisted that he has not lifted the suspension of Dr Miti who was suspended along with 32 other ministry of heath officials pending investigations into the K27 billion scam. The scandal involved several others including Kapoko who is still facing criminal charges in the courts of law.
Barely after this incident, Dr Kanganja was removed from his position and replaced by Evans Chibiliti who also resisted bending some government procedures to suit Sata’s personal interest. Chibiliti’s tenure was short lived due to Sata’s tendency to disregard government internal procedures and he was replaced by Dr Rowland Msiska who has now cleared Dr Miti and paved way for his appointment in the public service again.
Dr Miti is famous for his public altercation with the Auditor General Anna Chifungula who complained of difficulties to access ministry of health in order to audit their books of account. Chifungula pointed to the fact that Dr Miti was too arrogant and resisting the audit and this led to Dr Miti’s transfer from minister of health to the ministry of science and technology.
Despite the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) claiming now that Dr Miti does not have any active case before the courts of law, they still have pending files under the name of Dr Miti that they have been investigating. Sata recently castigated the ACC for investigating public officers without his consent. He directed the ACC to always seek his permission whenever they sought to investigate a senior government office.
Dr Miti might not have an active case before the courts of law but his credibility is shredded and he still has a trail of a heavy stench of corruption and abuse of public resources that cannot even be wiped by any amount of mitigating factors. Such are the people that Sata is embracing.
While Sata has been claiming his allergy to corruption, Transparency International Zambia (TIZ) noted recently his words contradicted his action. Perhaps that is why he even decided to appoint Kapoko’s uncle Robert Kalimi into the diplomatic service as First Secretary at the Zambian High Commission in Kenya.
It is understood that Kapoko was among the major sponsors of the PF in last year’s election that eventually saw PF capture the realms of power in Zambia’s politics. However, even before the corruption cases of Kapoko could be concluded, Sata decided to pick on Kapoko’s uncle for a diplomatic position.
Many social and political commentators have concluded that the Sata’s action was meant to undermine the efforts of the judiciary by implying that Kapoko will be acquitted of his charges. So far, the courts have acquitted Kapoko on two cases and he is only remaining with one active case. One of the acquittals was made after Sata appointed Kapoko’s uncle in public service.
Such are the people that Sata and the PF are now dinning with instead of scolding them or dissociating themselves for the sake of giving some credence to the fight against corruption.