Last Wednesday, the National Democratic Congress (NDC) member of parliament Joseph Chishala opted to stay in Parliament and vote for the Constitution Amendment Bill number 10 of 2019. This is contrary to what he had promised his party supporters in Roan constituency and his opposition alliance partners. Well, several other opposition members rebelled and stayed in the House, but this NDC lawmaker was the greatest shock of them all. Honourable Chishala stood out because his president boasts of being a disciplinarian who has total control of his political party.
This development has brought about speculation that the NDC leader could have actually allowed or instructed his member of parliament to vote for Bill 10, along with the Patriotic Front. This speculation is justified in our view. We are not saying this is a fact, but we are also refusing to dismiss it as false. We feel it is worth a review.
Let’s look at the responses that president Kambwili has given on this issue.
When MPs, who opposed Bill 10, walked out of the House and Honourable Chishala stayed, journalists called Mr Kambwili to understand what was going on. All he said was that he was going to have a meeting that evening with his MP and he didn’t want to jeopardize it by making media statements.
Then at the Lusaka Magistrates’ Court, when journalists asked him about his MP, a few days later, the former Chief Government Spokesperson said he had opted to remain quiet on Honourable Chishala’s conduct because it was an offence to force an MP to vote otherwise on a Bill in Parliament.
“I have never changed my position about Bill 10, I have never changed my position and I will never change my position. I instructed Chishala to go to a caucus, which was a day before, and by the way, he was in my house, we were with the veep [Josephs Akafumba] up to 13:00 hours and our instructions are very clear – to go against Bill 10, so those allegations are just rubbish. My vice-president can bear witness. We were with Chishala up to one o’clock, he moved from our house to go to Parliament and we gave him clear instructions so we are not worried about those allegations because our stance on Bill 10 remains the same, that’s our party position, NDC position. You know that in Parliament, you cannot force an MP, it’s against the principles of Parliament and it’s an offense, so don’t think our keeping quiet is the fact that [we’ve changed our position], we know that it is an offence to force an MP to vote otherwise, but that does not mean we are not doing anything, we will handle that matter internally,” said Mr Kambwili.
Ummm ummm! Awe! No! Twakana sana! Tefyo ifyo! These are not the type of responses that you get from a typical Kambwili who is firmly on the ground about an issue. The Kambwili we know would not hesitate to pronounce disciplinary measures for an erring party member, especially one who has such as decisive responsibility like Honourable Chishala. All this, ‘l don’t want to say anything because I can jeopardize the planned meeting with him’ or ‘no, I’m quiet because it’s an offence to force him shinga na nani uko’, is not communicating to us.
One of the problems that Mr Kambwili has is that he is not good at pretending. This also makes him a very bad liar. He is one of those people who are used to speaking with so much passion when they believe in what they are talking about. And for such people, it is very difficult to pretend or to convince followers that they are being honest when in fact they are withholding information.
For example, if someone accused the NDC president that he got a bribe from the procurement of a presidential plane when he was in government, and he knows that he had nothing to do with it, his words will be unmistakable. He can take the whole week talking and demonstrating how not involved he was. He is not the kind of person who takes kindly to false accusations or to being betrayed. We have not forgotten how he lamented when President Lungu betrayed him. How can it be that his MP, freshly-elected, can betray him and his party with no clear consequences?
Well, people are free to believe what they want to believe. Our point is simply that the reaction that we have seen from Mr Kambwili in the case of Honourable Chishala and his defiance on Bill 10 is very peculiar. It is very unique and quite uncharacteristic of the political heavy weight. Rather than convincing the party supporters and the general population that he is in total control of the situation, he has chosen to present a picture that his member of parliament has power to do as he pleases in the House. This is strange. This is not how politics are run in Zambia. How can an MP say he did what the people in his constituency wanted him to do? What is he saying about NDC? Is he telling us that the party is now at loggerheads with the people of Roan? There is no political party in this country that can tolerate an MP who outrightly defies the party position. That’s treason!
In fact, we are surprised that it doesn’t seem to bother or worry Mr Kambwili that his only MP held a press conference on this issue with nobody from NDC but with senior PF officials, the same officials who are responsible for lobbying for votes on Bill 10. Mr Kambwili has not addressed this act which is laced with treachery and indiscipline. The most he has said is that the issue is going to be dealt with internally. This was not the language we heard when Mwenya Musenge crossed paths with him. In that case, there was nothing to address internally, the disciplinary measures, together with the mudslinging, were all spelt out in the press.
Anyway, once again, we are not here to confirm that the NDC boss is up to no good on Bill 10, but we are raising pertinent questions that beg to be answered; and that’s our job. We insist that unless something extremely fundamental has happened to Mr Kambwili and his style of debate on national matters, there’s something fishy going on here. We smell a rat. Something is amiss!
Is this the same Kambwili who says: nshili mwaume wakunyelako amasushi? We don’t know, teacher!