Rainbow or mirage?

VERY few people, even the most optimistic well-wishers, expected the Rainbow Party to last but the way it is crashing down like a house of cards, is a bit astonishing.

One of the party’s founder members and die-hard supporters, Father Richard Luonde, on Thursday threw in the towel after being suspended early this week, saying Zambia’s only socialist political party has no future.

Fr  Luonde’s resignation follows that of Dr Cosmas Musumali, the party’s intellectual  lumini and Rainbow deputy secretary general and trusted comrade of party leader Wynter Kabimba, whose  departure last week from the organization baffled  and caught political pundits completely unawares.

The resignation of the two central committee members of the party came in the wake of several provincial officials around the country who quit, citing alleged mismanagement and lack of consultative leadership at the top of the party.

Fr Luonde, the Rainbow national chaplain and outspoken churchman, was suspended by Mr Kabimba on Wednesday for allegedly breaching the party constitution by involving himself in activities intended to destabilize the party.

Mr Kabimba, a candidate whose strikingly poor performance in the just ended presidential election left many of his supporters wondering why he even bothered to embarrass himself by standing, did not explain what activities Fr Luonde had involved himself in that compromised the party.

But Fr Luonde, a man of God politically renowned for shooting from the hip in Cowboy style, did not hesitate to wade into his former close ally and confidant, accusing Mr Kabimba of heading a supremacist organization whose right hand did not know what the left was doing.

He said he was extremely disappointed that Mr Kabimba and the party’s national mobilization chairperson Robert Chikwelete were allegedly punishing members without charging them. The losing parliamentary aspirant for Nchanga Constituency on the Rainbow ticket accused the party stewards of autocratic leadership which had resulted in what he called ‘‘mass exodus’’ of members from the organization.

The Rainbow Party was launched in a blaze of publicity in December 2014 with two objectives: to turn Zambia into a modern-day socialist State and grow into a mass movement that would surprise the big guns in the 2016 general election.

To prove that they truly wanted to turn Zambia red, scores of party faithfuls who attended the launch painted the town red in tops and caps that heralded the second coming of the tough-talking former Patriotic Front strongman on the Zambian political stage.

Unfortunately, the Rainbow Party was a stillborn. From the beginning it never attracted the attention of Zambians who saw Mr Kabimba’s intentions and political ambitions as a failed bid to replicate the political machoism and success of his mentor, Michael Chilufya Sata, who had fired him from the PF just a few months earlier.

The party failed to lure quality defections from the two major parties and the few PF officials who left the ruling party to follow Mr Kabimba were soon disenchanted with the leadership of the Rainbow Party and trooped back to their former party.

One of the Rainbow Party’s greatest undoing has been the widely held view of Mr Kabimba’s high-handedness, aloof style of leadership and dictatorial tendencies which Fr Luonde alleges led to party officials feeling detached from the head of the organization and left wandering in political wilderness.

This state of affairs explains the total rejection that the Rainbow Party suffered at the recent polls. The party was literally obliterated and dispatched to an early grave. Socialism had been roundly rejected as a political alternative in Zambia.

As Mr Kabimba counts the cost of his rout in the 2016 election, we can hope that he is strategizing on how to return, like many of his former members, to the Patriotic Front. They say there are no permanent enemies in politics. Everything, like the rainbow, is just a mirage.