Monday, September 1, 2008

Zambia's future:Old dog new tricks vs old tricks young dog?

Against the order of  age old traditional values, a political battle is already raging to succeed the  late Mwanawasa before his body is even  laid to rest. Caught at the heart of the battle is his grieving widow who had to part with tradition and raised her voice to state her late husband's preferred successor - finance Minister Ng'andu Magande.

" (MMD) in six provinces out of all the nine have endorsed Acting President Rupiah Banda as candidate for the forth-coming presidential by-election, MMD co-founder member Mbita Chitala have told Zambia News and Information Services.

    Provincial executive committees in Luapula, Northern, North Western and Copperbelt have unanymously endorsed the candidature of Banda in the November polls, he said." (Xinhua)

If Rupiah Banda is the old dog, in this battle for succession, figutively speaking, he has certainly learnt a few new tricks otherwise how did he win the party people and keep the master's confidence at the same time?

While Mrs. Mwanawasa may not have taken to Rupiah Banda as a potential successor,  a significant number of party powers  seem to have fallen for the old dog charm, unbridled generosity. While Magande is urging financial discipline, Banda like grandpa is offering higher wages and increasing allowances for  political leaders across the board.

"The MMD in Lusaka has endorsed the candidature of Vice President Rupiah Banda as the presidential candidate in the forthcoming presidential by-election with more joining in the calls.

MMD Lusaka Province secretary, Cleophas Chimembe said in a letter to the party’s national secretary Katele Kalumba that the provincial executive committee supported the application of Mr Banda as the most preferred candidate."

“We further state with conviction that Mr Banda is the right candidate for the job and we acknowledge the respect and confidence the late beloved President Mwanawasa had in him by appointing him to the office of vice president,” he said. (Times)

Magande is a relatively new political player and  may have kept his master's voice and promise to fight corruption and waste but a party structure and public that are eager to satisfy immediate needs may not be attuned or pay attention to such noble  yet causes  that take a long time to bear benefits for all.

Magande, graduated from UNZA in 1970 with a degree in economics and mathematics, then added a masters in Agricultural economics from Makelele university. He  has tremendous international experience,  working for the World bank, ADB and ACP-EU. He has clearly used his immense economic and international  experience to assuage Zambia's economic troubles, so why does he seem to be losing the battle even with the explicit support of Mwanawasa's widow?

Is old age and experience a greater charm than relative youth, excellent academic and professional credentials?

As in the US Presidential race, where Barack Obama faces a similar challenge from an old and experienced Mc Cain, old politicians apparently are more adept than old dogs in learning quickly and employing new tricks. They have both  created just  a little excitement amongst  their political  base to detract from the real issues of the campaign. While Rupiah Banda used money and more money to induce support, Mc Cain enlisted a beautiful woman as a running mate.

It has been said politics is a game of dirty tricks, new and old, I wait to see how this battle rolls out.