Feb 23, 2011

Why internal politics matter

Mike Mulongoti recently lost his job as the Works and Supply Minister for what the president terms “attacks on senior members of the party including the president.” Mr Mulongoti had expressed his intent to contest the vacant MMD vice-president position; and in doing so positioned himself as a better candidate that the country’s current vice-president, George Kunda. This obviously did not sit well with the higher ups and he soon found himself without a job, and pretty soon he’ll be thrown out of the ruling party.

The argument can probably be made that Mulongoti was indeed disrespectful and ‘forgot his place’, so I’ll cut the party some slack here. However, given the history of the party politics within MMD we know it’s more than just that.   
Mulongoti will be hard pressed to find any sympathisers to his plight given the very fact that when this has happened to other members he has either been at the forefront cheering their dismissal or quiet (which may as well be a tacit agreement with the actions taken). No pity here, old man!
With that said, the Mulongoti situation as well as others within the MMD raise a larger question. Just how democratic are the internal politics within the party? If members cannot contest positions without first seeking approval from the big man, just what is the point?
The MMD faithful will argue that the internal politicking should not be seen in the larger context, of how capable they are in ruling the country but I humbly disagree. I believe it has everything to do with it! If a political party, and not just the MMD, is not transparent in its dealings and people are hand picked for any and all positions that doesn’t bode well for national politics. I understand the need to have discipline among members but it’s quite different from muzzling anyone who has a different point of view. How can diverse, intelligent dialogue thrive when everyone has to tow the party line no matter how ridiculous?
In the end, the people of Zambia lose in situations such as this, in my opinion. We draw no amount of confidence knowing that those in leadership positions are unable to speak out when real and/or perceived injustices are seen for fear of losing their previous coveted jobs and perks. I would much rather ALL political parties have robust national conventions where ALL positions are contested by those who feel they are equipped to do the job. It shouldn’t be about who can bow the lowest to the godfather or who has the best smear campaign.
Come on, we can do better. Let us not regress to the days of dangerous cult personalities, where certain politicians are virtually untouchable.


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