THE MAST EDITORIAL COMMENT FOR 28/01/2017: Lungu and divisions, factionalism in PF

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Edgar Lungu says there is no need for in-fighting in the Patriotic Front because the battle is over as they have emerged victorious in the August 11 elections.

“…I am appealing that factionalism has no benefits…I want to make this very clear that there is no room for factions in PF; we are one PF, a big family,” says Edgar.

But today, the truth is that the Patriotic Front is not one, a big family; it is truly a divided political party. But why is there a problem of divisions, factionalism within the Patriotic Front? Our simple and only explanation is that this is a product of the leadership style of those who today dominate the party. The Patriotic Front is a divided party because its leadership is divided. But what is it that has divided the Patriotic Front leadership?

It is the political methods of its key leader, Edgar, that have divided the Patriotic Front. It is a party in which divide and rule tactics are defined and practiced at its highest echelons. It is a party in which factionalism is encouraged or tolerated because it’s seen to be beneficial to its key leadership.

In the Patriotic Front, low-level cadres are set on top leaders to weaken them. And when that is done, no one is disciplined. If there is anyone disciplined, it is the victims of indiscipline who are disciplined with charges from complaints by low-level party officials. How can a low level party official engage in the type of exchanges we are seeing with members of the party’s central committee?

A low-level party official is taking on a member of the central committee with the support of Edgar that is difficult to conceal. That is how the Patriotic Front operates today. And this is why the Patriotic Front is having divisions, factionalism today.

The other problem with the Patriotic Front is that it is a party run by one person. Whoever becomes the president of the party takes over its ownership and becomes a demigod who can never be wrong or be questioned, criticised.

Anyone who attempts to point out his weaknesses, wrongs or whoever dares to question, criticise him becomes an enemy within the party and all are mobilised to go for him. No one can criticise or question Edgar within the Patriotic Front today. We have on many occasions heard Edgar himself say those who are not happy with his leadership of the party must leave.

This is something that he repeated even on Sunday when he categorically made it clear: “If you don’t agree with what is happening in PF, you can move out and form your party.”

This means that to stay in the Patriotic Front, you have to worship as glorious the leadership of Edgar. To disagree with him is an offence, a crime and you must leave. Thus, the Patriotic Front today is a party of Edgar, by Edgar, for Edgar and nothing else.

If a Kambwili, a KBF tries to question his political practices, they are excluded, harassed and made to feel they must leave or risk expulsion.

How can the Patriotic Front be expected to be united if its unity can only come from one person – the party president, Edgar? As Nelson Mandela correctly observed, it is a mistake to think that a single individual can unite a political party forever or can assume the role of its messiah.

No one in the leadership and membership of the Patriotic Front can today deny that the party is divided into factions. Even Edgar is in one way or the other acknowledging this fact. What they are not stating correctly or clearly is the source of these divisions, factionalism.

Yes, today, Kambwili, KBF and others associated with them are being blamed for these divisions. But is the party more united today with Kambwili and KBF being marginalised, harassed, humiliated? The answer is a categorical no.

Then, who is to blame for these divisions? Our view is that the entire leadership of the Patriotic Front, including Edgar himself, cannot escape blame for the divisions and chaos that their party is today facing.

Edgar’s leadership cannot be credited with the ability to build a strong, united and disciplined Patriotic Front.

The other problem that is causing this disunity is dishonesty, unfairness, patronage and the worshipping of one person in the Patriotic Front.

The Patriotic Front is full of crooks, liars, concocters and manufacturers of falsehoods.

It is also full of corrupt elements who are ready to engage in any dishonest activity for personal gain. These are people who are ready to tell lies at any time and in any way to endear themselves to Edgar and vilify those they think are competitors. Such methods have never been successful anywhere in creating unity in any organisation. They have always been sources of divisions, factionalism, discontent, bitter quarrels and fights.

Power everywhere is contested. And there is nothing wrong with people contesting for power in any organisation. What may not be acceptable, what may be wrong are the methods they deploy in their competition for power.

Competing for power is not a bad thing in itself. What may be bad are the methods deployed. Equally, attempting to kill competition for power, for leadership in a political party is not a good thing. There are people who are ready to destroy, politically or otherwise, harm or kill their competitors for power.

That type of competition for power is not acceptable anywhere because the contest for power is one for service and not for the destruction of the other. The competition for power must not be confused with a battlefield where the aim is to destroy the other, kill the other.

But even in the battlefield where the aim is to destroy the other, there are rules of engagement that are universally accepted, there are war ethics that all civilised people should adhere to. But in the Patriotic Front, any method goes. There are no scruples. What type of people are these? Are these the type of people who can build a united and disciplined political party?

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