Opinion: Zambia Needs No Lessons from Cuba
Published April 5, 2013 By Peter Adamu
Suddenly, there is an outbreak of visits to Cuba by senior Zambian
government officials. Some sort of cordial and warm relationship is
emerging. There is a strong bond, from the looking of things, being
created between Zambia and Cuba.
The last a check-list was done, the closest the Zambian government came
to bonding with Cuba was some obscure newspaper presence of the private
owned Post stationed in that country.
However, in a space of two three months, two top figures of the ruling
Patriotic Front are already flirting with Havana – Cuba's capital.
Sports minister Chishimba Kambwili and other government officials are in
Cuba for whatever exchange programme it is.
Wynter Kabimba – the Minister of Justice and the Patriotic Front General
Secretary – traveled to Cuba for what should understandably have been a
bilateral visit some eight weeks ago.
Take note; Kabimba is the Chief Executive of the PF while Kambwili is
National Youth chairman of the ruling party. These are not just mere
positions but postings that give the two gentlemen sufficient leverage
to command policy direction of the party.
While in Cuba, Kabimba made damming statements against the West. He
called them imperialists. He was full of praise for Cuba and countries
like Venezuela and Bolivia where leaders have stayed in power beyond two
terms through manipulation of their constitutions and its own people.
There is no doubt. No one can question the fact that Cuba has some good
record in medical school. It also offers some impressive record in
sports – especially boxing although their coaches recently deployed to
Zambia have left without nurturing a single world-class boxer.
Anyway, that is as much as Zambia can attempt to learn from this island.
And if that is what Zambia wants to learn, technocrats – not Kabimba and
Kambwili – are better placed to undertake any form of exchange programmes.
But if its Kabimba going to Cuba, it's politics and that is where we are
getting it all wrong. Kabimba made strange but real pronouncements
stating permanent support for Cuba and its policies while committing
Zambia to learning from this country. In a way, he was trying to be a
Robert Mugabe that he is not and will never be.
However, from that trip, there seems to be a policy direction that aims
to portray Cuba as Zambia's 'messiah'. This is very interesting.
Before the PF were elected, Kabimba never took time to visit Cuba or
even promote the 'angelic' image he now sees in Fidel Castro's country.
Kabimba and the PF have gathered some false courage to go and denounce
the west in Cuba. Before long, Kambwili is in Cuba. This should ring a bell.
And take a look at this; for over 50 years, Cuba has been ruled by Fidel
Castro in a communist type of governance. Until 2008 when he was
indisposed, Castro – revered as the Great Leader after indoctrinating
his people – ruled Cuba with an iron fist.
He has since passed on the baton to his brother Raul. Yet this is not a
kingdom of Mwata Yav or King Mswati. Simply put, the transition of power
from Fidel to Raul was reminiscent of a family dynasty. And this is
where Kabimba wants Zambia to draw its lessons. In so doing, he is
suggesting that in an event and for whatever reason, President Sata
cedes power today, his son Mulenga will not be a bad idea to take over
in the interim. Could this be one of the lessons from Cuba?
Look here; Fidel Castro outlasted nine US presidents before he
relinquished his position as Cuba's president and Washington's
irritant-in-chief. This is the man Kabimba wants Zambians to eulogise.
In Zambia's humble 48-year-old history, it can at least boast of having
five democratically elected presidents. This is not the case with Cuba.
Zambia is currently ranked miles better than Cuba in terms of press freedom.
The present ranking places Cuba at 171 while Zambia is 72nd. Cuba's
peers in press freedom are countries like Sudan and Eritrea. This is
where Kabimba, inspired by the demagoguery ideas of Fred M'membe, wants
Zambia to draw its inspiration.
It is an open secret that M'membe hero-worships Fidel. He is a fan of
the Cuban dictator. On face value, the Post Newspaper owner postures as
a communist. In reality, he is a capitalist who thrives and wants to
compete with teenagers by riding Hollywood styled automobiles such as
He preaches protection and respect of humanity but practices non.
M'membe, the chief PF propagandist and President Sata's unofficial chief
advisor, practices nothing of what he preaches. But because of his
fanatism of Cuba, it should now be a model to Zambia and Kabimba says, yes.
M'membe has gone on a warpath with countries like South Africa and its
President Jacob Zuma for apparently giving President Rupiah Banda an
opportunity to give his side of the story on the on-going persecution.
Zuma has been a subject of M'membe's misguided attacks while Kabimba and
Kambwili are heading to Cuba to draw inspiration from the dictatorship
of Fidel Castro. It's no wonder Zambians are experiencing a return to a
one-party state. Very soon, coupons will be introduced to buy mealie
meal like the case was in Kaunda's era. It will not be surprising if the
only option to vote is between Sata and a frog. Yes, this has happened.
And everything points to Cuba where the opposition does not exist,
freedom of expression is only a preserve of the ruling class supporters
and the transfer of power is woven in a family dynasty.
If this is the route Kabimba, Kambwili and PF are taking, one thing they
ought to know is that Zambians are watching. For now, including their
M'membe, none of them enjoys presidential immunity.
Whatever business they are doing in Cuba on behalf of Zambia, their
actions will be called to question when the right time comes. For this
and many other reasons, Zambia does not need to learn governance from
Cuba. At least, Zambia can do without Cuba but not without a key partner
like South Africa.