2008-11-26 15:03:00
Embassy Lusaka
Cable title:  


Tags:  PGOV ZA 
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R 261503Z NOV 08
C O N F I D E N T I A L LUSAKA 001135 


E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/24/2018


Classified By: Ambassador Donald E. Booth, reason 1.4, b/d.

C O N F I D E N T I A L LUSAKA 001135


E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/24/2018


Classified By: Ambassador Donald E. Booth, reason 1.4, b/d.

1. (C) Summary: Members of President Banda's ruling Movement
for Multi-Party Democracy (MMD) party recognize that the
narrow victory with which they won the recent presidential
by-election has exposed the soft underbelly of Zambia's
dominant party since 1991. While claiming to want to rebuild
and strengthen the party over the next three years, some
prominent MMD members are clearly setting themselves up for a
presidential candidacy in 2011, but in trying to discredit
potential rivals, may find themselves dismembering the party
itself. One of these is Katele Kalumba, MP, National
Secretary of the MMD and a five-time cabinet member, who had
almost nothing good to say about President Banda (or most of
his other fellow MMDers) in a November 18 conversation with
P/E Chief. End Summary.

Bad Winners

2. (C) Despite having won Zambia's October 30 presidential
by-election, the Movement for Multi-Party Democracy (MMD),
which has dominated the Zambian political scene since the end
of one-party rule in 1991, is engaging in the types of
behavior normally characteristic of losing organizations --
finger pointing, witch hunting, airing of dirty laundry, and
suppression of dissension. This defensiveness is undoubtedly
due to the uncomfortably (and unprecedented) narrow margin of
victory in the recent election (35,000 votes). In addition,
certain members of the MMD are setting themselves up for
presidential candidacies to succeed Rupiah Banda in 2011, but
their ambition may bring the rest of the already-vulnerable
party down in the process. One of these is Katele Kalumba,
National Secretary of the MMD and currently the third highest
ranking member of the party, as there is no party president
or vice president since President Mwanawasa's death.

Banda's Cabinet of "Real Dummies"

3. (C) Kalumba was unsparing in his criticism of both
President Banda and his cabinet choices in a conversation
with P/E Chief November 18. He said MMD's relatively poor
showing was due to Banda's poor campaigning, his campaign
team's disorganization and miscalculations, as well as
division within the party itself. Kalumba said Banda's
cabinet choices were also "real dummies." Kalumba claimed
that Banda promised both Western and Northern provinces that

one of their own would get the vice presidency, but obviously
could not fulfill both promises, so he compromised and chose
Justice Minister Kunda from Central Province (he is married
to a Lozi woman from Western Province). Kalumba added that
many of the cabinet members were shuffled into ministries
about which they have no expertise, but the selection of
someone with a security background, General Shikapwasha, for
Information Minister was an "international embarrassment."
This choice, on the heels of the arrest of Father Bwalya
(reftel),a popular radio host charged with fomenting
violence when he broadcast a show critical of the government
and election, was "even more stupid than arresting the priest
in the first place." Kalumba was even critical of the widely
hailed technocrat Finance Minister Situmbeko Musokotwane, who
he claimed was a long time politico and not as technocratic
as many claimed (cabinet bios septel).

4. (C) Kalumba said that while waiting for the cabinet to be
announced, former Finance Minister Magande and Minister of
Local Government and Housing Masebo called Kalumba to
complain about the delay. Kalumba told them Banda was "weak
and indecisive," which they, in turn, reportedly passed on to
Banda. Kalumba claims he owned up to the comment when
confronted by Banda and told Banda that he would be the
President's personal gadfly, the entire three year term,
keeping him on his toes. Magande and Masebo, in our opinion
two of the most effective ministers in Mwanawasa's cabinet,
were the only two previous ministers completely dismissed
from Banda's cabinet. During a September meeting with
then-Charge and USAID Director, Magande was equally vocal
about his distaste for Banda.

Airing the Dirty Laundry

5. (C) Kalumba's distaste for Banda is widely known. He has
engaged in almost daily verbal confrontation on the front
pages of Zambia's newspapers with the new Local Government
and Housing Minister and party spokesman (and de facto Banda
mouthpiece) Benny Tetamashimba. Tetamashimba, who was quoted
during the campaign period as having told voters in Banda's
home province (Eastern) that they would be beaten if they did
not vote for Banda, called for Banda's immediate appointment
as party president after the election. Kalumba responded
publicly that the party constitution mandates the president
must be elected at a party convention. Tetamashimba then
told the press that MMD members of parliament whose
constituencies were not won by Banda (i.e. Kalumba) should be
called to explain themselves. Kalumba responded publicly
that voters were capable of making their own decisions.
After several rounds of sparring in the press, MMD National
Chairman Michael Mabenga attempted to impose some discipline
and called for party members to refrain from public

6. (C) Other members of the party are now apparently taking
sides (and ignoring Mabenga's advice). On November 25, the
newly appointed Deputy Minister for Science and Technology
told the press, "The one who brought the most divisions
before the elections and even after the election is
Tetamashimba. My advice is for Tetamashimba to shut up and
know that he is not the spokesperson of the President. We
have got qualified spokespersons... What he gives as party
positions are his own statements, which are wrong. He should
work as a team player instead of working as an individual
because he wants a job." (Banda elevated Tetamashimba from
deputy to minister at his ministry.)

A Party in Disarray, by Design

7. (C) As National Chairman, Mabenga is the acting head of
the MMD since Mwanawasa's death. According to Kalumba,
Mwanawasa, as party President, intentionally left the post of
party Vice President vacant, so as to reduce competition from
presidential pretenders. Mwanawasa, who Kalumba claims has
acquired an undeserved saintly reputation since his death,
intentionally kept the party divided to protect his own power
base, and now the MMD is paying for it. Kalumba doubted that
a party convention would be held to elect a new president and
vice president because, if Banda failed to capture the top
post, he would find himself in a "Thabo Mbeki situation,"
challenged by some version of Jacob Zuma. Given Banda's weak
showing in the elections, Banda's election as party president
is anything but a certainty.

Hope for Anti-Corruption

8. (C) In a rare moment of generosity toward Banda, Kalumba
asserted that Banda is "cleaner than Mwanawasa." Kalumba
said Banda had once been accused of malfeasance but was
easily exonerated, while Mwanawasa was much more corrupt than
most people realized. Furthermore, Kalumba said that
Mwanawasa was barely functional after his first stroke, and
his wife Maureen had virtually run the country (comment: a
common, but unsubstantiated rumor that circulated Lusaka for
some time). Kalumba hoped Banda would make permanent and
fully fund the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) that Kalumba
took credit for establishing. Ironically, Kalumba himself
has been indicted for corruption, and he lamented that the
"unsubstantiated" case had dragged out in court for more than
seven years. When Kalumba was charged with corruption, the
national media reported that police were unable to find him
until, on the advice of a witch doctor, they removed their
underwear to overcome his magical powers of invisibility.
Despite these apparent magical powers, Kalumba has had little
luck making these corruption charges disappear.

Rebuilding the MMD

9. (C) Kalumba, as National Secretary and the third in the
party hierarchy after the National Chairman and Deputy
National Chairman, said that if Banda runs again in 2011,
which was his prerogative, it would be "the end of MMD."
Kalumba hopes to rebuild the party before 2011, but his
motives are not purely selfless. He said Banda will likely
run again, as will Maureen Mwanawasa and Wilhemina Mumba (a
local lawyer),but Kalumba "will beat them all," he said with
a great deal of confidence. He said he did not run this year
because a three year term is too short to prove oneself.


10. (C) Kalumba is a near celebrity in Zambia and is
certainly more charismatic and dynamic than Banda, but he has
the small matter of a corruption indictment to clear up
before he can expect his candidacy to gain traction. His
willingness to tear down his fellow party members, including
the new government, both in the press and to P/E Chief, whom
he had just met, smacks of a somewhat dangerous level of
self-promotion and ambition. He may, in the process of
climbing up the backs of his fellow MMDers, destabilize the
party to the extent that it crumbles beneath him.
Fortunately for Kalumba, the MMD has loyal followers in the
rural areas who do not follow the tedious party politics of
Lusaka. In addition, the members of the main opposition
party, the Patriotic Front, have proven time and again they
are equally willing to cannibalize each other to suit their
individual political aspirations. Which party will remain
the most intact for the election in 2011 remains to be seen.

Bio Note

11. (C) Dr. Katele Kalumba was born 22 February 1952 and
represents the constituency of Chiengi in Northern Province
on Lake Mweru. which straddles the DRC border. He has an MSC
in Psychotherapy and a PhD in Public Health and is a Public
Health Consultant. Kalumba studied at Washington University
in St. Louis MO, and in Toronto. One of his sons was born in
St. Louis and is an Amcit, but practices law in Lusaka.
Initially Kalumba was a nominated member of parliament in
1991 but has been an elected member since 1996. He has held
five cabinet positions, including Health, Home Affairs,
Tourism, Foreign Affairs and Finance.