The fact that the opposition UPND has won a local by-election in Lupososhi Constituency; deep inside the Patriotic Front’s Northern Province stronghold, has unsettled the top leadership in the ruling party. They can’t believe that they could be defeated in the ‘birthplace’ of Michael Sata’s mighty Patriotic Front.
In anguish, PF secretary general Davies Mwila held an urgent press conference last Friday where he gave Northern Province Minister Lazarus Chungu a 24-hour ultimatum to resign as the party’s provincial chairman. He blamed him for the defeat recorded in his constituency.
“We lost it because of the complacency of our structures in this area. Lupososhi Constituency in general is very significant to the Patriotic Front because it is the first ever constituency to elect a PF member of parliament in 2001. Added to this, it is a constituency that has the current Provincial Minister and interim Provincial PF Chairperson as its Member of Parliament. How does a sitting Provincial Minister and interim Provincial chairman lose in his own house? This is unacceptable and something must be done,” said Mwila.
“As chief executive officer of the party, I have taken the issue to talk to the Provincial Chairman who is also member of parliament and Provincial Minister to make a decision whether he should keep the position of Provincial Minister or not. Failure to decide within 24 hours, a decision will be made by the secretariat. If he doesn’t [resign] by Monday, a decision will be made by the secretariat [to remove him].”
We couldn’t help but laugh at Mr Mwila’s anger and his threats to the provincial minister. What we found funny about this defeat was two-fold. Firstly, we wondered why Mr Mwila was angry with the Provincial minister and not the people who voted. And we also remembered that Mr Mwila was beaten by an independent MP in Chipili Constituency when he was a Cabinet minister.
Elections are a reflection of the people’s approval for their leadership. It is a process through which those who govern are brought to justice for all the things they did (good and bad) in their style of governance. A by-election is simply an early opportunity for the electorate to do an assessment and make these decisions.
The Patriotic Front says it has been taking development to the rural areas. They claim to have built unprecedented infrastructure in Northern Province which includes roads, schools and hospitals. They say they have taken water closer to the people and given the much needed support to the farmers.
If this is true and the people of Lupososhi no longer have to walk long distances to get medical help, why did they vote against the ruling party? This is the question that Mr Mwila must be asking the voters, because it is the voters who ‘betrayed’ PF and not the Provincial Minister.
We wonder what Mr Mwila wanted Honourable Chungu to do in order to win the election. There is nothing that anyone can do about the people’s displeasure at the time of voting. Any interventions to circumvent defeat on poll day results in electoral malpractice. Honourable Chungu has one vote only, that’s all he can offer the ruling party on the polling date, and that’s all he did.
Instead of forcing the minister out of office, the Patriotic Front must instead reflect and seek to understand why they recorded this humiliating election defeat in their strongest of strongholds. If this can happen in Lupososhi, what more in other parts of the country?
Mr Mwila and his fellow bosses in PF must ask themselves why their so called development has not helped them. Maybe they are the only ones who are seeing this ‘development’ while the starving population feels neglected. If that is the case, there is nothing that a sitting minister can do to win elections without committing a crime.
We also found Mr Mwila’s anger towards the incumbent Lupososhi member of parliament and provincial minister really funny, because it reminded us of how the PF chief executive lost his parliamentary seat himself. Maybe Mr Mwila has forgotten, but we still remember that in 2016, he illegally stayed in office as Home Affairs Minister after the dissolution of parliament; he campaigned using government resources and was beaten pants down by an independent candidate called Jewis Chabi, who had no political party funding.
In July last year, when we asked him how he lost an election to an independent candidate despite all the resources at his disposal, Mr Mwila angrily responded: “Yes! Yes! I lost the elections…but if you lose an election, that does not mean that you don’t think or that you have committed a crime. It does not mean when you lose an election then you are a rotten politician, no! How many people have lost elections? Is it a crime to lose an election?”
Well, how has it become a crime now that PF has lost an election in Lupososhi? Why should one man pay for the party’s dwindling popularity in its stronghold? Why do you want to discipline Honourable Chungu over this defeat when President Edgar Lungu actually promoted you as party SG despite your loss? Did anyone ask you to resign from the party after losing in Chipili?
Face reality Mr Mwila, this defeat is a reflection of your own capacity to run the party. If you say “we lost Lupososhi because of complacency of our structures in that area”, what does that say about you? Who is in charge of structures in a party? Is it not you? How can you call for the resignation of an INTERIM chairman? Our understanding of “interim” is that someone is simply acting; how do you resign from a position you don’t hold? Why don’t you just appoint a substantive chairman to take charge?
On What grounds will the PF secretariat force a Provincial Minister out of office? Is Mr Mwila now telling us that he is more powerful in this government than President Lungu who appointed this minister? This is a serious thinking deficiency. As President Lungu says, success has many parents but failure is an orphan. Here, Mr Mwila is refusing to take responsibility for his weaknesses.
When PF lost the Roan Constituency seat to newly formed NDC, Mr Mwila blamed it on the disorganization of the party structures in the province. When PF lost in Lusinde ward which is located in President Lungu’s village in Petauke, he quickly rushed to dissolve the party structures in the district. And now he has gone for the Lupososhi MP. Look in the mirror Mr Mwila, it’s you who must resign!