It seems some people forget easily. Listening to MMD, UPND leaders and their sympathisers, one would think they have just arrived in the country from some other planet and have never followed Zambian politics before.
And Charles Milupi, the president of opposition Alliance for Democracy and Development, is right in reminding them of where they are coming from, of what they did yesterday. Truly, as Milupi correctly observed, "MMD is dancing to its own tune".
Today, MMD is saying that it will not participate in by-elections because of the weak institutional framework in the management of elections in favour of the Patriotic Front. What has the Patriotic Front done to weaken the institutional framework of the management of elections in its favour? The institutional framework of the management of elections still remains the way the MMD left it. There are no new laws that have been passed to change the way elections are managed. And the personnel that was managing elections when the MMD was in power has been retained by the Patriotic Front government. So where does the problem lie? Is the MMD telling us that the election institutional framework they left was open to abuse? Are they also telling us that the individuals they had put to manage elections in this country lacked integrity? If this is not so, what is it that the Patriotic Front government has done to weaken the institutional framework of the management of elections they had left in place?
If the MMD had found the institutional framework for management of election weak, why didn't they take measures to strengthen it? Was it because it was in their favour and they saw no reason to change that?
The same applies to the public order Act. The MMD has throughout its history defended the public order Act. We were the first people to challenge the public order Act at our own cost before the High Court of Zambia. Our case was heard by the current acting Chief Justice, Lombe Chibesakunda, when she was a High Court judge. In that matter, we were represented by John Sangwa. A judgment is there for all to see what justice Chibesakunda had said in that case. And for questioning and denouncing the MMD's conduct and arguments in defence of that public order Act, the editor of this newspaper was sent to jail for a month without trial whatsoever. It took the courage of judge Kabazo Chanda, now retired, to release the editor of this newspaper from an illegal MMD incarceration.
The MMD has been a shameless defender and abuser of the public order Act. And one does not need a strong memory, if a weak memory is all one has, to remember that in 2011, the MMD government of Rupiah Banda killed and maimed innocent people in Mongu whose only crime was to try and exercise their right of freedom of assembly and express their views.
The MMD government of Rupiah denied the Barotseland Agreement activists their right to assemble and share views on matters that they felt concerned about. They tried several times to get police permits to hold meetings but they were denied the opportunity to do so. In the end, they decided to do their own thing and the MMD government of Rupiah unleashed brutal and ruthless police officers on them. This was the way the MMD managed the public order Act.
The Patriotic Front in opposition was denied permits to hold meetings several times. For reasons best known to the Patriotic Front and its leadership, the party obeyed the police orders and did not go ahead to hold meetings that were not sanctioned by the police. And because of this approach, all looked peaceful and acceptable over the Public Order Act and its administration by the MMD government of Rupiah. So, as Milupi put it, "Why is MMD today complaining about the public order Act when they had all the opportunity... 20 years to correct it? MMD took bills to Parliament such as the abuse of authority, they took the windfall tax but left out the public order Act and a weak institutional framework in the Electoral Commission of Zambia when they would have strengthened it."
The things the MMD is complaining about are the things they themselves enacted and used when they were in power. Probably, they were so blind that they never thought one day they would lose power and be in the opposition. The Patriotic Front government has not passed any new laws in the areas the MMD is complaining about. All that is there are the laws and practices the MMD left. And as Milupi says, "Now they are dancing to the tune. They are in opposition now. When they had an opportunity to change things, they did not. All the things the MMD are complaining about the current government, they had an opportunity to pass a constitution to improve things."
And as for UPND, it is not a question of short memory. It is simply a question of outright dishonest. They know very well how the MMD misgoverned the country. They know very well how the MMD abused the public order Act. They also know very well the corruption of the MMD government of Rupiah. We say this because they used to point out all these shortcomings in Rupiah's MMD government. They used to denounce Rupiah and his government over these things, including over corruption. So it is not a question of having a weak memory, the UPND and its leadership have made a conscious decision to embrace and defend that which was wrong, that which was corrupt under Rupiah and his government.
The UPND leadership's defence of Rupiah and his corruption is neither a product of oversight nor is it unconscious. It is deliberate and conscious. They have simply allowed themselves to be blinded by personal ambition. They are doing so in the belief that there will be something to harvest from the seeds they are planting in support of Rupiah and his corruption. They are doing this in the belief that it will strengthen them politically and that it will weaken the Patriotic Front government.
UPND's approach is not only unprincipled, it is also wrong from a political strategy point of view. Supporting corruption will not win them the votes they think they will get from Rupiah's supporters. It doesn't work that way. UPND and its leadership is deeply wrong both in its analysis and in its conclusions over this matter and they will pay a very high political price. They have clearly demonstrated that principles, values and standards don't matter to them when it comes to power. Anything that they think can win them votes they will embrace. They have no problems with corruption as long as it's corruption of a political ally, someone they want something from, someone who is willing to support them. This is what they have proved to be.