The decision by Cde Antonio M. Mwanza to join the ruling Patriotic Front (PF) from the third positioned opposition political party, FDD, at the point when the ruling party is less attractive, riddled with allegations of corruption, maladministration, disrespect of the rule of law, constitutionalism and shrinking the democratic space and when some founder members are leaving it, is sign of courage to confront political challenges in one’s political life.
It may not be an easy and a popular decision for him but may be a necessary step for now for him. In any case, politicians believe in the principle of “no permanent enemies but interests”. If he finds hostility in PF, he may come back to FDD or UPND or join another party existing or form his own and then form alliances with existing parties. That is the beauty of multiparty democracy.
However, Antonio’s decision may be unpopular in eyes of those who wanted him join them and many other citizens who felt he was a good ally in raising critical issues of governance including myself.
But I have known Antonio as a young student at UNZA when he was UNZASU president who demonstrated rare courage in the face of intimidation from the authorities and was a very good newsource of mine, just like young Cde Cornelius Mweetwa, when I was a reporter at the Post Newspaper and later on befriended Rashid Quengela who is also in one of the committee in PF now while I was Director at FODEP.
These three young men were and still are courageous in their activeness in politics. Both Cornelius and Antonio supported the opposition UPND in 2006 before and even after the breakaway that rocked the party after the party convention of the same year.
The Convention saw the resignation or walk aways of a number of big and senior party figures from the party. At that time, it was unfashionable to support the UPND lest you were accused of being tribal because of it was smeared with a lot of allegations of tribalism.
There was a fierce and vicious political war that was waged against it both by the media and other political opponents within and outside the party. But Antonio and his colleagues such as Stanford Kabwata, Cornelius Mweetwa et al as young fresh UNZA graduates, viciously supported the party to the end even when they had no party positions.
After the 2006 elections, most of these young Turks withdrew from their active involvement in political activities save for Cornelius who was elected at the convention as UPND national deputy party spokesperson and later on elected MP for Choma Central while Antonio warmed himself with NGOs before joining FDD.
When Antonio joined FDD after 2011 elections, again, the FDD was in the political wilderness as it had lost its political and electoral steam and juicy. Antonio managed to pump in life to the party to the extent that the party gained some level of national recognition and popularity in the country, though little was made in terms of increasing its electoral fortunes which as it stands today, remains characterised by a single MP since 2011.
Therefore, I find Antonio’s move to join PF at a point when it is less attractive and has been unfashionable by many to do so, other than being his political and democratic right and freedom, as a sign of courage and a demonstration of the inherent character of his characteristics.
However, the difference perhaps this time around in the new party will be that, the party seems to be a little bit cleverer and craft to young critical politicians like Antonio than these other parties he had joined previously.
There has been an observable political trend in the ruling party where most of these critical young defectors are deposited in the party’s media committee to defend what they condemned when on the other side such as corruption, maladministration and collective irresponsibility.
For instance, some of the active and promising young politicians like Brian Hapunda (ex-UPND), Frank Bwalya (ex-NGO/ABZ), Jevan Kamanga (ex-Narep), Thabo Kawana (ex-MMD), Sunday Chanda (ex-MMD) and now Antonio Mwanza (ex-UPND/FDD) to mention by a few who were and have been fiercest critics of the ruling Party are now deposited in this Committee and have and/or will have to defend the sprawling allegations of corruption, bribery, maladministration inherent in the PF which they alleged to be rampant not too long ago when on the other side.
After they have done their duties and cleansed the party of such allegations, they may be rendered politically irrelevant and impotent like what has happened to my young man Brian Hapunda and now the visible mute Frank Bwalya who, not too long ago, was outspoken in PF as a Deputy Media Committee Chairperson.
Therefore, my advice to my good Cde and friend Antonio Mwanza is to set his eyes and read the political campus always and make decisions that should not take away his relevance in the noble calling of defending the common good of the poor Zambians and creation of a sound statecraft.
Many will condemn Antonio but I think it will be good to give him space to demonstrate his worth in a ruling party which he has never been since the creation of the world.
He must also not allow himself to be used to smear dirty political campaigns against his former political parties because there is saying that “be good to people you have left behind so that your future where you go is made good too.”
I wish you, Antonio Mwanza in the PF and be ready now as deputy media director to defend these allegations of corruption, maladministration et al to make a grade otherwise, you stay may be shorter and unceremonious than the celebrations and welcome media briefing in the Party.