MMD and UPND couldn’t heed my advice – VJ Mwaanga

Retired election strategist Vernon Johnson Mwaanga commonly known as VJ has said he had advised that MMD should have worked with UPND to retain the confidence from Zambians which had been lost.
Speaking on ZNBC’s Sunday Interview monitored by Zambian Eye this evening, May 26, 2013, Mwaanga said after 20 years of being in power the people got fatigued with MMD. He explained that he warned the party before elections that there was need to rebrand.
Mwaanga who helped the MMD win four general elections said he also advised that the ruling party then to  work with the opposition UPND. He said this could have helped to sort out the fatigue issue but this was not followed.
He explained that MMD needed to do something different to have won the 2011 elections because it had stayed in power for a long time.  He however said though in retirement he was still a member of the MMD.
Asked whether he would not come back to active politics like he did in 2008, Mwaanga said after 51 years of service it was time for him to leave and let the new crop of leaders take over. He said when he said would consider if PF offered him a job did not mean would accept the offer.
“After 51 years, I feel I have played my part and there is this new generation,” said Mwaanga who has served from the age of 18. “It’s better to leave when people are still clapping. I had said would consider the offer and not that I would take the offer.”
On the survival of the MMD, Mwaanga said this entirely depends on how the new leadership would stir the party. He said the new leadership has to refocus on where they want to take the party and their approach to 2016 elections.
Asked to comment on by-elections, Mwaanga said the only way to avoid the by-elections is to make amendments to the constitution. He said It is costly and difficult to budget for by-elections because you can’t predict.
Mwaanga also admitted having been involved in getting opposition Members of Parliament to the ruling MMD party in 2002. He said at the time as Chief Whip in Parliament and Minister of Information, he was actively involved in getting opposition MPs.
“There was no money involved,” responded Mwaanga when asked how much they paid the MPs “We offered them (MPs) Ministerial positions in government.”
He said the appointment  of opposition MPs was started by President Levy Mwanawasa. He said unlike now where opposition MPs are only appointed as Deputies, President Mwanawasa appointed some opposition MPs as Ministers.
On the Constitution making process, Mwaanga said there is nothing new those in-charge have come up with. He said all the provisions talked about were in the draft constitutions by previous Constitution Review Commissions. He recommended the national referendum as the best mode to adopt the constitution.
Mwaanga however opposed the picking of Ministers from outside Parliament saying it is problematic. He said there is nothing wrong if the country wants to experiment on the provision though he warned that the exercise may be costly.
He said MPs in the House are always looking forward to a day when they will also be Ministers saying picking Ministers from outside will bring divisions.
On the mushrooming of new political parties, Mwaanga said: “I have no quarrel with people forming parties. Some parties are just on paper but there are exercising their rights. We shouldn’t deny them their rights.”
Commenting on the current hot issue of removing subsidies, Mwaanga said the exercise was introduced by UNIP and was being removed by the MMD on a gradual basis. He said the removal of subsidies should be gradual so that the poor are not so much affected. He described the current debate going on as academic.
He advised against recalling all those serving in foreign missions when there is change of government for purposes of continuity. Mwaanga who served as Diplomat and Minister of Foreign Affairs said recalling of staff at Foreign Missionst does affect the relationship with the International Community. He also explained that the exercise is costly.
Mwaanga said as Minister of Foreign Affairs in 1991 when MMD took over power from UNIP he even allowed Kenneth Kaunda’s relatives who were in Foreign Service to continue until at the end of their contracts.
He said during his 51 year service his regret was that he feels he did not do enough to eradicate poverty not only among Zambians but Africans. Mwaanga however said the fight against poverty cannot be done by a generation and urged that the process continues.
“I am happy that I was given the opportunity to serve, I visited 47 countries, met Kings, queens, presidents. Service to people was my best moment,” concluded Mwaanga when asked about his happiest moment by host Grevazio Zulu.