Former president Rupiah Banda says as a loyal member of the MMD, he wishes that the party excels in its endeavor to return into power, but adds that he has no ambitions of ruling Zambia again, owing to his age.
The 82-year-old who lost power to Michael Sata’s PF exactly seven years ago, says although he was invited by the Felix Mutati-led MMD faction to grace a card renewal exercise in Eastern Province this Saturday, he is not sure if he will attend.
In this verbatim Interview, the former president who ruled for only three years following a by-election necessitated by the passing of Levy Mwanawasa who died in office in August 2008, explains his loyalty to the MMD and also to President Lungu at the same time.
JM: Good morning Your Excellency?
RB: Nilibwino aMwenda how are you?
JM: Nilibwino (I am fine). Namvwa nkhani yakuti (I have heard a story saying) you are heading to the East for a card renewal exercise na Honourable Mutati and I wanted to find out ngati ni chendi (if it’s true), and if you are trying to help the MMD get back on its feet.
RB: Yes, Muli kuni mweo? (Where are you?)
JM: Apa nili ku office, koma ningawele kwamuli (I am currently at the office, but I can come to where you are) if you prefer that we talk in person.
RB: Lelo nina alwendo (today I have visitors) who are coming to visit the whole of this morning. But we can talk, what is the point you were making?
JM: My question is; is it true you are going to Eastern Province with Honourable Mutati to help with the card renewal exercise? And if so, are you trying to help the MMD get back on it’s feet?
RB: (chuckles…) First of all, I am a member of the MMD. As you know I was president of the MMD and after I lost elections, I have remained a member upto now. It was through the MMD that I was able to support my brother [who is] the current President. So I have remained a member of the MMD. That is what is true. But whether I am going to help; if I do go, I will be going to renew my like everybody else will be doing.
JM: Okay, and when is that?
RB: Well, its tomorrow (today) but up to now, I am not even sure that I am going. I have got some other programme also. So I am not sure.
JM: Do you think your party still has a chance and capacity to mobilise its structures across the country and be able to bounce back into power?
RB: I don’t know, you will have to ask that question to the President of our party. Me I’m just a member like any other. I was president and I appreciate the honour they gave me to be their president, but I have nothing to do with the organization of the party. The moment I stepped down as president of the party, immediately I left everything in the hands of the current president of our party Mr Felix Mutati. So he is the one who can answer your question. I wonder why you are asking me that question Joseph.
JM: Well, I’m asking because you have been Head of State through the MMD before, and you understand the MMD structures even better than Honourable Mutati. I believe that you still have links with the grassroot members who could be reaching out to you for help in mobilizing the party and saying “we want you to come back”
RB: That is normal, people will always want to help. If you belong to a party, you want that party to grow and excel naturally. People will always do that but… nobody is passing those messages to me.
JM: And Honourable Mutati? Are you in constant touch with him as your president and giving him guidance?
RB: Yes of course. Occasionally I do speak with him, I do call him. Every now and then he passes by and so on. I think that it’s a question of courtesy. I mean, I was his president for some time. And even me, he is my minister now and when I need anything I go to him for help.
JM: Since your retirement to date, we haven’t seen you actively involved in politics. Is this a sign that you still have the edge to, perhaps, seek another chance – given an opportunity – to lead this country?
RB: Certainly not! I have no ambitions to be President again. Look, I am 82 years old now. I have got young kids in school in England. My best time is when I go to England to stay with the Children for a month; then I go to see my grand children playing football in Spain and things like that. I am enjoying my retirement.
But going back to your [original] question, I am not even sure if I will travel to Eastern Province yet. And whenever I am going out of town, I always inform my brother the current president. I haven’t even gotten that clearance and it’s tomorrow when they are going, so I am not sure that I am going.
JM: I wonder though how it would be perceived if you went, because just recently, your president publicly announced that the relationship with the PF was not smooth.
RB: The relationship between who and who?
JM: The relationship between MMD and PF; Honourable Mutati announced that “we have issues with our relationship with the PF, which need to be resolved”, while urging party members to start campaigning ahead of 2021.
RB: Honourable Mutati sits on the Cabinet with the President, he is his appointing authority, so if there are those problems, they should be able to talk. I’m outside, so I don’t know about that.
JM: Well, thank you very much Your Excellency for your time.
RB: Thank you Joseph for calling.
Meanwhile, MIRRIAM CHABALA reports that the Felix Mutati-led MMD is looking forward to welcoming Banda at the card renewal exercise this weekend.
Party national secretary Raphael Nakacinda said in a separate interview that a number of founder members had been invited to the launch scheduled for Chipata’s Mpezeni Park this Saturday.
“I know that people like and enjoy creating drama around MMD programmes, maybe as a result of our work relationship with the Patriotic Front. We are undertaking a normal constitutional required programme of the Movement for Multi-party Democracy. We are not like other political parties that don’t have membership cards, we do and we keep the record through the membership register. So, the [party] president is obliged, once every year, to renew his cards and when doing that, he’s launching the card renewal programme. This time around, the national executive committee of MMD decided that the launch of the card renewal be held in Eastern Province,” explained Nakacinda.
“And founder members of the party have expressed willingness and availability to attend that launch and former president, Rupiah Banda, was one of those that was invited and he was gracious enough to accept the invitation to attend. We are not shy to identify and express the fact that we are proud that even having served as Republican President, and having retired from active politics, he (Rupiah Banda) has continued to identify himself as a member of the Movement for Multi-party Democracy.”