What we heard last week from the vice-president of the United Party for National Development left us dumbfounded. We could not believe that at a time when Zambians are desperately searching for a reasonable alternative government, Mr Geoffrey Bwalya Mwamba could issue an insensitive statement on behalf of the biggest opposition party.
In case you did not follow this story, Mr GBM, as he prefers to be called, told Zambians that in the next elections, they should vote for him and his president Hakainde Hichilema because they are already rich, and hence, they would not steal public resources if they formed government.
In his actual words, Mr GBM said: “My advice to the Zambian people is that in the next election, they should vote for [a] leadership that will look after them, which is UPND. Look at what has happened now in South Africa, the anchors now decided to pick on Cyril Ramaphosa who is one of the richest Africans because they know that when he gets into power, he will not go and steal their money. This is the same thing that I am appealing to Zambians that those who are rich, those who are comfortable, their priority is not to come and make themselves rich, they are already rich, all they want is to leave a legacy.”
Without a doubt, this level of thinking capacity is the reason why some people opted to vote against the UPND or not to vote at all in the last election. People had to ask themselves how they would have to explain to the world why they put such a scatterbrain in power.
Hakainde Hichilema might be a good leader, he may even make a better President than what we currently have, but he is among the worst politicians Zambia has ever seen. Combining his political incompetence with GBM’s IQ is a disaster that UPND may never heal from.
When GBM said vote for us who are rich because we will not steal your money, we did not rush to condemn him because people make mistakes in their speech all the time. We all do and sometimes never realise until a neighbour cautions us. So we waited to see what Mr Hichilema and the rest of the UPND leadership would do to correct that statement, but there was no retraction. In other words, the UPND see nothing wrong with their vice-president’s reasoning; they have endorsed it so much so that GBM repeated himself on live TV.
If that is the official party position, we are here to tell the people of Zambia NOT to make the mistake of voting for UPND in the next election. One, because they are insulting the intelligence of citizens, two, because they are mocking the poor people of this country and three, because they are a bunch of selfish liars.
In his statement, GBM is practically saying poor people are thieves by nature because they have to steal in order to live comfortably; as such they must not be allowed to serve in government positions. Can a reasonable leader think like that? Is that a person that one can be proud to appoint as a presidential running mate?
This statement is worse than tribalism and we wonder how Mr Hichilema feels considering that he is not a poor man himself. Is this how he also looks at the poor people of Zambia? The UPND leadership needs to know that there are plenty of poor Zambians who came from poor families, whose parents were peasant farmers, but they liberated the country and left government still poor.
If you look at Dr Kenneth Kaunda, what wealth did he have before becoming Republican president and what wealth did he accrue from government? What properties are there for anyone to point at which Dr Kaunda, a poor man, stole to enrich himself and his family? So what is GBM and his UPND talking about?
If you have a koswe in government who is stealing to enrich the entire generation of his family, that cannot be a basis for saying poor people go into government to steal. That is an insensitive and segregatory statement which must be condemned.
And GBM must not think Zambians are so dull and forgetful. He is talking about the legacy that he would like to leave in government as a rich man, but he was already rich when he served the people of Kasama as an MP, what legacy has he left in Northern Province other than dishing out money during campaigns to win votes?
Others may forget, but we have a very good record keeping system and we still have a recording of what GBM said when he was Minister of Defence in this very PF government. Five years ago, GBM was accused of giving orders to Zesco to award a tender to his family company for the supply of electricity poles. He had difficulties defending himself, all he could say was that he didn’t do it but insisted that his children could not stop doing business just because he was in government.
On Tuesday evening, October 16, 2012, GBM was interviewed by a UK-hosted online radio station called CrossFire Blog Radio. The interviewers Mueti Moomba, Larry Mweetwa and a Mr Gershom wanted to know why GBM joined politics when he was already a successfully businessman. The then minister who is now UPND vice-president said this:
“What made me start thinking about going into politics was the way I was ill-treated by the previous government, namely the MMD. I was so frustrated to a point that probably being in politics may only be the best thing because whatever I did outside couldn’t work out.
In 2005 is when I said ‘probably I should go into politics’ because the business was becoming very difficult to operate. I could see that only those who were connected to politicians were the ones benefiting. So that is when I joined active politics. I wanted to expand so much in business…”
The full length of GBM’s interview is available on the Internet for those who think we cooked this up. Let Zambians who have access to Google use the search words “I entered politics for business – GBM” and see what else the UPND vice-president said.
So when GBM says in the next election citizens must vote for him and his president who are rich because they cannot steal, how foolish does he think Zambians are? How dull do we have to be to expect that GBM will spend so much money in campaigns and not want to recoup losses from his business through government contracts?
In fact, we have to state here that rich politicians who use their own money to campaign are more dangerous than those who go to beg from the corporate world.
It is true that after sponsoring a political party into power, private companies hold government to ransom; it leads to State Capture, but that only happens when leaders of such a ruling party are dunderheads.
Under a sober government, political party sponsors can be tamed and disciplined if they demand too much from state coffers through dubious contracts, but a president who sponsors himself into power has unlimited access to the Treasury and will do as he pleases.
That is why we are concerned that GBM could be making such a statement and the UPND watches. Once again, our advice to Zambians is that, unless Mr Hichilema distances himself from the careless statement from his deputy, or indeed if he picks a sober running mate for the next election, citizens must not vote for him.
Yes, we understand and agree that the PF has failed and it must go, but it is also our duty to warn citizens when we sense danger in the alternative government that people are talking about.
GBM has eaten so much from previous governments, but claiming that rich and fat people like him can’t steal is cheap. If GBM wants to leave a legacy anywhere, let him try writing a book of insults because in that area, the whole country respects him.