THREE years ago, on July 3, 2017, we raised questions around the absence of FDD president Edith Nawakwi from the political scene. Much of what we said in that editorial opinion can be repeated today, and it would even make much more sense now after what we predicted about her timely return to the scene has come to pass.
When we say that president Edith Nawakwi of the Forum for Democracy and Development (FDD) is turning into a political opportunist, we say it with all the respect she deserves considering the achievements she has made in her political career. We are alive to the fact that president Nawakwi is among the most experienced politicians we have, having served the Republic of Zambia as first female Minister of Finance; not to mention the roles she played as Minister of Energy, Agriculture, and Labour in the MMD government.
Nawakwi’s bio cannot be summarized without mentioning the courageous, spirited fight she gave against Frederick Chiluba’s third term bid – a debate which actually gave birth to FDD in 2001. In fact, without taking away anything from late Lieutenant General Christon Tembo, this country may never get to know the great depth to which president Nawakwi went, risking her life in covert operations to defend Zambia’s Constitution from being abused by Chiluba’s administration.
But now, the fact that we are beginning to list her achievements when she is still alive and leading a political party; when she is still seeking to be President of Zambia, tells us that something is amiss. Indeed, something is definitely wrong with Ms Edith Nawakwi’s politics. If we didn’t know what she is capable of achieving, we probably wouldn’t be holding this strong opinion against her. But we do, and the fact that Ms Nawakwi will soon come back on the political scene to seek our votes, gives us the right to tell her what she needs to know when it really matters.
To start with, maybe those in FDD can help us understand; where is Edith Zewelani Nawakwi? Why is the president of the Forum for Democracy and Development hiding when Zambia desperately craves her voice? If an election was called in Zambia tomorrow, we know that Ms Nawakwi would resurface, but we wonder what her campaign message would be. Would she be able to say with a straight face that those who wield political power in Zambia have assumed unprecedented totalitarianism, when she watched in silence as things degenerated? We wonder how Ms Nawakwi’s silence is helping to protect the interests of the poor people of Namushakende whom she passionately speaks about during campaigns.
We are not calling on Ms Nawakwi to stand up and condemn the Patriotic Front or disagree with President Edgar Lungu. It is within her right to accept the political state of affairs in Zambia if she has given up on the fight for democracy. It doesn’t surprise us that despite being in the opposition, Ms Nawakwi spends more time criticising her fellow opposition leaders, as if she is a member of the PF. It is not a secret that Ms Nawakwi doesn’t buy the politics of Mr Hakainde Hichilema; she made it clear during the 2016 campaign that the UPND would be worse than the PF in power. That explains why Ms Nawakwi never stood up to condemn the incarceration of the UPND leader. While all opposition leaders demanded Mr Hichilema’s release from prison, Ms Nawakwi was nowhere to be seen. It didn’t bother her because she is not a member of the UPND.
But we need to remind the FDD leader of a famous quote by Adolf Hitler’s foe Martin Niemöller, who said: “First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out – because I was not a Socialist. Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out – because I was not a Trade Unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out – because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me – and there was no one left to speak for me.”
Madam Nawakwi doesn’t speak when the police are going for the UPND because she is not UPND. She has not been speaking when the PF is going for the Bishops because she is not a priest. She did not speak when PF thugs went to hound out Linda Kasonde from the LAZ secretariat because she is not a lawyer. Political power changes over time; one day, the police will go for Madam Nawakwi, we wonder who will speak for her.
Madam Nawakwi had been sitting comfortably wherever she was, leaving the entire FDD in the hands of Antonio Mwanza until the man gave up and joined the party that he spoke passionately against. This strategy of showing up during campaigns, making noise and money in the process from financiers, is sadly exposing Ms Nawakwi as a political opportunist who cares quite less about rule of law and good governance.
That’s the politics of Ms Nawakwi; it is difficult for anyone to explain what she stands for.