Friday, August 1, 2008

Rupiah Banda:unsavory consequence of Machiavellian Politics?

In his influencial book The Prince 16th century political thinker Niccolò Machiavelli describes the arts by which a Prince (a ruler) can retain control of his realm. Among other bold means of maintaining power, the prince need only carefully maintain the institutions that the people are used to, preserve the the status quo, as more appealing than change; a new prince will have a much more difficult task since he must stabilize his new found power and build a structure that will endure. The execution of this task requires the Prince to be publicly above reproach but may privately require him to do unsavory things, in order to achieve his goals.
Machiavelli also notes that it is wise for a prince not to ally with a stronger force unless compelled to do so.

This kind of political strategy has increasingly gained prominence in modern day politics. In Zambia's  recent political history, former Presidents have sought to carefully manage and retain institutions in a form that furthers rather than challenge their power. There has been untoward resistance to the reform of the institutions of government like parliament, electoral council and the judiciary.
Despite several constitutional reviews including the on-going NCC, there is still opposition to the reduction of executive authority, specifically, attempts to mitigate the power to appoint key members of the judiciary, the electoral council, government boards even government owned companies.
Perhaps more Machiavellian has been nature of appointments to the office of Vice President, in the recent past, we have had Nevers Mumba (2003/4), Lupando Mwape(2004/6) and present Rupiah Banda. All of whom had to be nominated to parliament and held no viable party position in the MMD. Essentially, they are outsiders brought in so close, to the principal power- the President, so that he has always remained more powerful, more appealing, less transient. In making such appointments, he may have employed the more important virtue of Machiavelli - having the wisdom to discern what ventures will come with the most reward and then pursuing it courageously.

In the US presidential race John McCain was asked what he thought the most important job of the Vice President is - " it is to inquire daily on the President's health" he said and " In my case , this is going to be very important". McCain is expected to appoint a more able running mate.

Sadly, it is the cruel hand of ill health that has brought Zambia, to the current political and constitutional limbo. In our case, Ruphiah Banda is hardly prepared nor appropriately positioned within the MMD, to continue the transcendent role of governing and managing the state.