Thursday, 6 October 2011
Hung By His Own Petard
Eggs and Bacon for breakfast every day.
When we look at the strides that we have made in our political freedoms in the last decade, it is easy to forget and equally hard to believe, how bad things were in 1980, when my father, Edward Jack Shamwana, along with, Goodwin Yoram Mumba, Valentine Shula Musakanya, Deogratius Syimba and others were arrested and charged with planning a Coup d'etat against the Kaunda lead Government of the day.
After all at Independence, Zambia had inherited a strong economy, with foreign exchange reserves in excess of US$500 million. During this honeymoon period we had a multiparty political system and President Kaunda was making all manner of promises to the Zambian people, one of which was to provide every Zambian with an 'Egg and Bacon Breakfast', everyday! Another promise that he made was that he would never make Zambia a One Party State. Ten short years later the economy was in tatters, the country was billions of Dollars in debt, workers strikes were commonplace and far from having eggs and bacon every morning for breakfast the majority of Zambians were lucky if they enjoyed meat once a month. To top it all off, Zambia was no longer a democracy, but was now a One-Party State, a dictatorship. At Independence our Coat of Arms proudly declared 'One Zambia, One Nation', but before long kids were running around the school playgrounds laughingly chanting 'One Zambia, One Nation.....No Eggs, No Bacon!!' Everyone was asking themselves in disbelief, 'How had we fallen so far so quickly?'
I suppose the short answer is that 'Power is Sweet' and once tasted, it is not easily or willingly relinquished. One begins to believe that they alone have the answers to all a countries problems, despite evidence to the contrary.
Some that have criticised Edward Jack Shamwana and the other coup plotters, have said, why did they not just go and talk to President Kaunda and express their concerns. After all he was continually preaching love and forgiveness, and he would surely welcome criticism and embrace change with open arms. Some of those espousing this view later found to their cost that as soon as ones personal views or interests came into conflict with the party line, then there would only be one winner.. the Party.
Lets look at the facts;
The last Governor of Northern Rhodesia, Sir Evelyn Hone declared a limited State of Emergency to quel some religious disturbances in the north of Zambia, known as the 'Lumpa Uprising'. For one reason after the other, Kaunda extended the state of emergency to cover the whole country, when he became President . In 1967 after acrimonious party elections, numerous people not entirely sympathetic to the President were elected to the Central Committee, and fearing he was losing control of the party, Kaunda 'Verbally' resigned as President. The reason given was that the party had been divided along tribal lines and that he would not lead a party based on those principles. In actual fact this was just a ploy to call the dissenters bluff and rest back power of the party. Keep in mind, UNIP was preparing to contest the first elections since independence and could ill afford any party discord. Kaunda's verbal, and not written resignation, was a calculated move and only done after getting legal advice from the Attorney General (AG) James Skinner. The AG had advised Kaunda, that a verbal resignation was a 'nullity', in other words, something which may be treated as nothing, as if it did not exist or never happened. This had the desired effect and Kaunda was gratefully reinstated as President. With an indefinite State of Emergency in place, which nobody could review, Kaunda was able to imprison political opponents at will. This was an invaluable tool in re-establishing his control over UNIP and tightening his grip on the country.
Having averted this power struggle in UNIP, Kaunda then saw his Government lose many seats to the opposition parties in the General elections of 1968. Kaunda announced the Nationalisation of many businesses (Mulungushi Economic Reforms) in an attempt to get the economy under control. However this failed to have the desired effect, and Kaunda needed something bigger to do the trick. KK came up with the Matero declaration, which saw the nationalisation of the mines. The low world copper prices and the failure of the parastatals to operate efficiently conspired against Kaunda's government and the poor economic situation deepened. The growing dissatisfaction with this state of affairs saw the rise of opposition parties. There was the ANC led by Nkumbula, then there was UP led by Mundia, and in 1970, Simon Kapwepwe having resigned as Vice President, formed the UPP. Simon Kapwepwe was severely beaten up, and after some UPP members retaliated, KK moved quickly to ban the UPP and imprisoned its leaders. This only served to drive members of the banned parties to support the ANC. UNIP was in disarray, and there was no doubt that UNIP was destined to lose the 1973 elections.
Holding on to Power.
Kaunda could see the writing on the wall and for some time had been making far reaching political changes to ensure he kept a hold on power. Previously any major changes to the constitution had to be referred to a national referendum, but in 1969 Kaunda ended all referenda. It was the abolition of the referendum law which enabled President Kaunda to declare on the 13th December 1972 that Zambia had become a One-Party State. Even when the Chona Commission ( appointed to determine the type of One-Party state), recommended that the Presidency should be limited to two five year terms and that there should be a constitutional review every 10 years, to determine whether Zambians still wanted a One-Party State, President Kaunda rejected both suggestions out of hand. Clearly these stipulations would stand in the way of his march to dictatorship.
On one trip to Nigeria in 1978 President Kaunda was at pains to say that he was not afraid of competition or challenge. He said he did not mind if Simon Kapwepwe or Harry Nkumbula challenged him for the Party Presidency. When however Kapwepwe and Nkumbula announced their intention to contest the presidency, the UNIP constitution was literally changed overnight. Kapwepwe could not satisfy the new requirement of being a party member for five years (he had only rejoined UNIP three years before) and Nkumbula was outmaneuvered by introducing a new rule that said each candidate needed the signatures of 200 delegates from each province to back his candidacy. Chiluwe, a third candidate, was beaten up to within an inch of his life, which meant that he was in no state to submit his nomination.
When President Chiluba changed the constitution making former President Kaunda ineligible to stand as a Presidential candidate in the 2001 elections, there was quite rightly widespread condemnation both locally and Internationally. Changing the constitution willy-nilly, to suit the agendas of a few, is a very dangerous precedent that we have unfortunately become accustomed to in Zambia. However, the irony of the whole situation was not lost on those that remember the modus operendi of the Kaunda regime.
Ultimately Kaunda was 'Hung by his own petard', he was the victim of his own schemes. A lesson that all our leaders should learn.