The resignation of Zambia’s Defence Minister Geoffrey Mwamba from his position should not astonish anyone and should not be taken as a ‘choice of family over politics’ as he has portrayed it. It shows a feat of courage, but it is more to do with retribution for President Sata’s ingratitude to disrespect him for Justice Minister Wynter Kabimba and Post Newspaper Owner Fred M’membe
|President Michael Sata and Former Defence Minister Geoffrey Mwamba|
By Nyalubinge Ngwende
According to Geoffrey Bwalya Mwamba, his resignation as Zambia’s defence minister was a choice of family over political allegiance after a telephone altercation with President Michael Sata. This is after the defence minister visited his grandfather Paramount Chief-elect Chitimukulu, Henry Sosala, whom Sata does not want to ascend to the throne.
However, it appears completely a calculated retribution against Sata by GBM, as the big man is fondly known among political colleagues and those in the streets who revere him for his business acumen.
His resignation should not astonish us, and should not even be seen as a complete action of ‘blood is thicker than water’ stance.
There is more to it than meets the eye emanating from deteriorating relationship between the former defence minister GBM and his counter party at the Ministry of Justice Wynter Kabimba, who seems to be President Sata’s henchman.
GBM was the last person expected to ditch a top job in the Patriotic Front government barely two years in office. The opulent politician bankrolled President Sata’s 2011 election campaign including chartering a plane and rescuing the PF leader from being arrested for money laundering when he told authorities that the money with a questionable source found in Sata’s Finance Bank account was in fact a gift from him.
For some time the public has seen GBM as a close confidant to Sata. He has been linked to a number of contracts that have overlooked tender procedures, including a tender to transport controversial hundreds thousands of litres of government fuel to Malawi to help that country mourn its President Bingu Wamutharika who died of a cardiac problem. Apparently Wamutharika had hounded Sata out of Malawi, declaring him a persona-non-grata, when he went to meet his Taiwanese financiers from that country. The fuel donation for your enemy ‘s funeral could only be a cruel joke from President Sata, maybe mockingly saying ‘rest in peace to Bingu and welcome Joyce Banda’. Whatever, it still provided an opportunity to repay GBM. When people raised concern over the granting of GBM a contract to transport fuel without any tender procedures, State House insiders said Sata’s retort was: “let GBM recover his money”.
That is the kind of relationship Sata enjoyed with GBM.
But there has been a fallout. In the last few months leading to his resignation that came two days before Christmas, GBM organised a premature, but controversial campaign, endorsing Sata as the sole PF presidential candidate for 2016.
While he might have thought this was a show of loyalty to President Sata, it created serious tensions within the ruling PF that left GBM and Justice Minister Wynter Kabimba embroiled in a cold war, leading the ‘difference in opinion’ or is it motive between them degenerate into violent street fighting among their supporters.
In the middle of the heat, President Sata told GBM and his team that was endorsing him to stop. Sata’s retort ridiculed GBM.
“Maybe you do not understand English and the meaning of the word endorsing. You can only endorse someone after he has been proposed and seconded” Sata said at a meeting that was supposed to settle the tiff between the endorsers and the anti-endorsement.
In short, the side Sata took rubbished GBM as not being sensible and gave Wynter Kabimba a pat on the back as reasonable. The bitterness between the two leaders continued, with the group of endorsers behind GBM calling for the expulsion of Wynter from the party. Wynter reacted accusing GBM and his followers as tribalists and corrupt elements that had ganged to hound him out the ruling party. Vice President Guy Scott, siding with Wynter, also joined in the implosion.
All this comes on the heels of another bitter quarrel early this year between GBM and Wynter when they accused each other of dishonesty over government tenders. GBM accused Wynter of making dirty money out of fuel deals. In counter accusation, Wynter said GBM had been arm-twisting ZESCO to award his company a tender to transport ZESCO poles from neighbouring Zimbabwe. It took President Sata to intervene and stop the national anti graft institution ACC from proceeding with investigations into the allegations.
The Post Newspaper’s Fred M’membe stood on the side of Wynter and apparently enjoys some good relationship with President Sata. Contrary the newspaper was merciless towards GBM in all the travails they are having with Wynter.
Unfortunately, in his usual naive style or lack of seriousness, President Sata ignored the depth of differences that had pitted GBM and Wynter against each other.
Last week, faced with a question from Luwingu MP Maximas Ngonga about what he was doing to settle the violent divisions in the party, President Sata asked Wynter and GBM to go and campaign alongside each other during the pending by-elections to show that there were no differences in the ruling party.
Sata chose to joke about the violence that left one member of the GBM camp dead and another badly injured that ‘it is a sign that the party is alive’.
In all this GBM feels disrespected or sees ingratitude by President Sata. It is like “I financed your campaign, hired a plane to fly you around to make you President, but ridicule in the face of my enemy is what you reward me for my sacrifice!” This is obviously GBM’s arrogance.
And it is this arrogance that made him walk out from Sata’s cabinet on that night. The good man Sata that GBM had helped so much in his last ditch to become Zambian President was flirting with Wynter Kabimba, an obvious enemy.
|Henry Sosala Chief Chitimukulu-elect|
GBM’s visit to his grandfather, Henry Sosala, was not even about the family values he holds, but a deliberate move of revenge. GBM showed so much loyalty to Sata that he wouldn’t have chosen to go against the wishes of the principal. That is why he endorsed Sata and, had Sata reciprocated by patting him on the back instead of Wynter, GBM was going to increase his measure of loyalty to the President—even choosing to steer clear of the troubles the head of state was having with Sosala.
But because Sata chose to respect Wynter, who is his archrival, GBM had to look for the symmetry, and that was standing with an enemy that gives Sata sleepless nights. Who else could have been a perfect choice for GBM’s ploy other than Henry Sosala?
Knowing how exactly it feels for a person you consider an ally to betray you for an enemy, which Sata is doing to GBM by protecting Wynter, GBM did not have to guess the kind of effect his action of arrogance to visit Sosala would produce in Sata. Evident to the altercation between the two on the mobile phone after his visit to Henry Sosala, GBM had hit Sata where it hurts most.
That is why no one who has followed the events in the ruling PF can get astonished about the actions and resignation of GBM as Defence Minister. Other than the respect for family values GBM claims, his action is a retribution for betrayal.
The Brutal Journal feels the political consequence of his resignation might not be significant, but in the long term the huge hole of the Bemba votes caused by a fall-out with President Sata by a man of the size of GBM closer to the Chitimukulu might prove fatal come 2016 elections.