Conflicts as Opportunities

The deepening conflict within the opposition Movement for Multi Party Democracy (MMD) is most disheartening.

An impression has been created and indeed some ill wishers are supporting the notion that the party is in a state of mortal extinction, as a result of the seemingly interminable exchanges that have been magnified in the media.

We are disappointed that solid members of the party including Dr. Brian Chituwo and more recently Catherine Namugala have fallen prey to the negative media that is intent on destroying the party and pushing it into oblivion.

Conflicts are an opportunity for growth, they are a reflection of divergent perception which may not be grounded in fact.

The reality is that conflicts are a very normal part of healthy relationship. Managed effectively conflicts can build and strengthen institutions. In many cases conflicts helps an organization get to the root causes of dysfunction and therefore provide a mechanism for renewal and growth.

Rather than deal with the angry emotions and posturing that characterizes most conflicts we expect that Dr. Chituwo and his other colleagues will band into a laager of common interest to chart a way forward that will help develop this country’s democratic credentials which  are   threatened by the growing Machiavellianism that has gripped national politics.

The current conflicts in the MMD can be traced back to the election defeat last year and subsequent shift in the leadership of the Party. The untimely hounding of former President Rupiah Banda from leadership forced the party into triple jeopardy. The party had to recover from the loss, find a new leader and adjust to playing second fiddle in a country where they previously set the agenda.

The shift has placed the party in uncharted territory. It follows therefore that painful adjustment charaterised by dislocation, friction and at worst a convulsion will be experienced. It would be totally naïve to expect the process of catharsis to be painless.

It is not easy for former Ministers and senior Government officials to descend from the pedestal of power to the opposition bench where they must play a passive role in national politics.

There is therefore a temptation to view any conflict as an end game similar to the one suffered by the original ruling Party UNIP which has failed to resurrect from the 1991 electoral coma.

The difference between the UNIP defeat and that suffered by the MMD is that the latter still commands a sizeable presence in the National Assembly where decisions, policy and laws are mooted and implemented.  UNIP was totally decimated at the polls because the people of Zambia were totally fed up with the policies and direction that the country took under the socialist and commandist leadership.

The defeat in 2011 was very different, it reflected a fair split that left the Patriotic Front a minority Government without the convincing 50 plus one or indeed absolute majority in the House.

Therefore the opposition has a fair chance of influencing Government policy by providing the necessary checks and balances.

Therefore the temptation by serving opposition  members of Parliament to cross over to the ruling party in the hope of attaining Ministerial positions is a disservice to the people of Zambia who voted for a hung parliament for the purpose of ensuring that Zambia did not descend into a one party state.

That is why we are very concerned that very senior members of the MMD are failing to handle the current conflict in a mature, positive and constructive manner.

What is passing for disorder is the manifestation of pangs of “birth” which are neither decent nor controlled. These are “cataclysmic”, painful and momentous.

Any organization that seeks to change and grow must face up to its demons and make peace.  Therefore MMD like the other opposition parties must re-orient, re-think and strategize for the challenges and realities that face the opposition in the face of a Machiavellian leadership.