For the first time in 27 years some one has dared to challenge President Kenneth Kaunda for the leadership of the United National Independence Party (Unip) which has ruled Zambia since independence from Britain in 1964.
Enoch Kavindele, a 42-year-old business executive announced this week that he would try to oust Kaunda at the upcoming Unip congress to be held the last week of July.
Addressing a crowd of supporters, journalists and members of opposition parties at a Lusaka hotel, Kavindele said: ”We have observed that the desire for change in this country is so intense that President Kaunda … can no longer remain the greatest asset of our party.” Kavindele continued: “My colleagues and I believe Unip is a strong party but needs a change of leadership.”
The young businessman lamented that many Unip members had defected to opposition parties in the last few months. But he said he was confident that manywould return to the fold if Unip chose him as leader.
Already more than a dozen Unip MPs have crossed the floor and thousands of ordinary members have joined the 11 fledgling opposition parties.
Last December, Kaunda relented to mounting domestic and international pressure, and allowed opposition par ties to form for the first time since 1973.
Multiparty presidential and parliamentary elections are due before the end of October, although the exact date has still not been revealed.
Kavindele, who is the youngest member of Unip’s central committee, suggested that Kaunda could assume a new role as Unip chairman – comparable to the role which Oliver Tambo now plays in the African National Congress, or as former president Julius Nyerere does in Tanzania.
As a pioneering entrepreneur who is now executive chairman of a conglomerate of 18 companies, Kavindele has fought an uphill battle under Zambia’s socialist-style economy.
Soon after independence, the majority of Zambia’s industries were nationalised. Most of Zambia’s industry is now consolidated in giant, mismanaged parastatals. This includes the copper mines which earn 90 percent of the nation’s foreign exchange.
But the recently released Unip manifesto advocates a Western style free market economy which would involve at least the partial privatisation of most of the pastatals. Kavindele believes he would be the ideal man to spearhead this new approach.
At this early stage, it is difficult to guage Kavindele ‘ s real support within Unip. Many members, especially the “old guard” who have flanked Kaunda for the last 27 years, believe Kaunda is the only person who can keep the party and Zambia united.
But a core of young lions claim that Kaunda is a serious election liability. Unip can be reformed and rejuvenated but not with him at the helm, because many of the electorate who have suffered a rapid decline in their standard of living blame their suffering directly on one man – Kaunda
Unip’s congress, due to begin on July 23, will be the true test of Kavindele ‘s support and the democracy of the party. For the first time all posts from the president downwards are expected to be elected by secret ballot by the 5 000 delegates who will attend. Some members are concerned that although they believe Kavindele is unlikely to win it will divide the party. Many of Kaunda’s grey-haired comrades are more concerned about losing their own jobs to young technocrats. – Melinda Ham, Lusaka
This article originally appeared in the Weekly Mail