[By Gunston Chola Snr]
The CADRES are known to be the “gate man” of any political party and their waning influence can only mean further political dispensation.
And President Hakainde Hichilema has taken an extremely serious step to demystify the mythical influence of cadres on party politics in Zambia that impacts the future. The president did not hesitate to condemn the despicable conduct of party cadres, regardless of the party to which they belong. He also ordered the police to act decisively to stem this unruly behavior.
Recently during a market tour in Kabwata, the president questioned the presence of so many policemen and women to protect an individual when they failed to protect the people. His anger followed the beating of a government officer in Kasama and other pockets of hooliganism allegedly committed by UPND cadres. Three burly young men could be seen on video insulting the establishment.
The cadres have existed as youth wings for various political parties from the days of the independence struggle until today. The United National Independence Party (UNIP) had a vibrant youth wing; the Movement for Multiparty Democracy (MMD) has created one, as well as the Patriotic Front (PF).
The intentions were noble. As pioneer wings of youth, the UNIP used them to commit clandestine acts of sabotage due to their agility, stubbornness and fearlessness. Authorities could not easily identify them. It was a feared group.
At Independence, young people had as much hope for the future as their elders. They had everything and outlets were offered to some. However, as Dr. Kenneth Kaunda’s socialist campaign hit a brick wall in the 1970s and 1980s with scarcity of basic commodities and deteriorating services, and almost nothing to share, the youth wing developed from new ideas about feeding the people. Vigilantes came to the scene to enforce the fire UNIP motto and to protect Dr. Kaunda from criticism.
UNIP mulilo uwaikatako apya (UNIP is fire and anyone who touches it burns) and it pays to belong to UNIP were the watchwords. You couldn’t board a bus or sell in the market if they couldn’t produce a UNIP card. They were on the front lines checking the lines wherever any semblance of basic necessities appeared (the name given to things like cooking oil, flour flour and sugar), which were perpetually in short supply.
Life has become hell for the citizens. The cruelty suffered and inflicted only served to break and limit the influence of the UNIP and to deliver the population into the hands of the MMD and Dr. Fredrick Chiluba, so that when the agitation for a return to multiparty started, the wick had already been fed. The excesses of the MMD were nothing compared to the vigils of the UNIP and later the PF; Admittedly, there were die-hards within the MMD, but they did not terrorize the population at the level of the PF because of the seriousness of the party leadership.
In Guest for Survival, the UPND created a rival group to counter the marauding youths of the ruling party. PF introduced the concept of commanders and weapons of war. In order to ensure the victory and popularity of the party, the PF transported these cadres wherever there was a by-election. They have reached a level of terror and notoriety and a sense of dependency. They started dictating to the authorities and the government was powerless to refuse their demands. Police officers who tried to end their excesses were retired in the national interest.
They had an ally in President Lungu who went further to praise them. They received state protection. They received police uniforms and weapons. Literally, they were a law unto themselves. And their UPND colleagues were forced to retaliate. It was a terrifying time to become president, but the nation must have a leader.
And Zambians have made a choice. On August 12, 2021, they spoke in a shrill voice, and against all odds and to the chagrin of the PF and then of President Edgar Lungu who promised to claim the presidency. On August 24, Mr. Lungu handed over the instruments of power to his nemesis Hakainde Hichilema at Heroes Stadium.
Very few people paid attention to the new president, but they applauded when he spoke out strongly against cadreism and promised to end it. Many thought he was just thinking out loud. But HH could not have spent 20 years in opposition without reflecting on the evils that executiveism had developed.
Under President Lungu PF, the cadres were out of control. They had become loose cannons and more powerful than the president himself. They controlled the state apparatus. The police, even the Inspector General himself, apparently received instructions from them. They beat government agents in their offices with no reaction from the powers that be. Many ministers were too scared to react when an executive farted or coughed. They became real estate dealers and could share and allocate the land they wanted. It was like reliving the memories of the famous UNIP sing song presidents.
They ruled the markets and the bus stops. They fined bus drivers and errant operators who bowed to their dictates. They directed the routes, what buses need to be loaded, and a fee. They were taking samples and the councils would dare to intervene.
And because it had become a new norm, according to President Lungu, for the ubomba mwibala to eat shamba, Zambia became the supplier of the few party members without cards. Contracts went to executives who received millions for not working.
As President Hichilema beheads almighty cadres (I won’t call them youths as some are decent), what is the way forward for politicians who can only win elections by instilling fear in the electorate ?
Kabwata’s by-election has become a fine example in the new dispensation. People normally go about their daily activities, unaware of the canvassing around them. The people of Kabwata receive the messages and remember them without fear of a panga or a machete hitting them. They have the opportunity to choose a representative worthy of the name.
President Hichilema has, by removing cadreism, put Zambia on a non-party political path. The prevalence of cadreism made it impossible for the public to listen to a different point of view, no matter how reasonable it provided an argument. People were still forced to belong to a party in order to receive preferential treatment.
It should be noted that by taking this strong stance against cadreism, President Hichilema has opened up the UPND to a broader spectrum. Bus drivers who were forced to dip into their daily receipts to oil an executive’s palms will not forget his kind gesture and return to servitude. The trader whose earnings went to enrich a PF executive is now able to count his earnings and plan for tomorrow, and will always remember who provided the extra purse. The traveler who has been insulted and prevented from donating to this rude and degenerate individual knows who has restored his comfort. The official who was controlled by an outsider on behalf of the party is obviously pleased with the president’s position.
It is therefore not possible that people who have tasted freedom can in such a short time vote, much less elect to power a president or a party that could bring them back to slavery and insults again. Clearly the President has liberated Zambia and as New Hope MMD President Dr Nevers Mumba said at a rally in Kabwata, it is too early to forget the atrocities of the PF. Their sentence is a long term of imprisonment.
President Hichilema has set the bar for those planning to rule Zambia that the freedoms they promise to bring to the people will determine their chances. Gone are the politics of fear, but the politics of promises and prosperity.
The author is an elder of the International Church of Apostolic Restoration Pentecost, former MP for Chitambo, former government minister for Mwanawasa, former diplomat and former deputy editor of Time of Zambia. Send your comments to: +260 966 783383.