Party Politics and Populism in Zambia
Title Details

246 Pages

23.4 x 15.6 cm

1 map and 14 b/w illus.

Imprint: James Currey

Party Politics and Populism in Zambia

Michael Sata and Political Change, 1955–2014

by Sishuwa Sishuwa

  • Description
  • Contents
  • Author
  • Reviews
Analysis of the political history of Zambia through a study of Michael Sata. It shows the interaction between party politics and populism since the 1950s, the nature and competitiveness of electoral politics in single or dominant party regimes, and the importance of individual political leadership to the success of opposition parties in Africa.

Javier Milei in Argentina, Donald Trump in the United States, Giorgia Meloni in Italy, Narendra Modi in India, Julius Malema in South Africa - populist leaders are thriving in party politics across the world. Structural changes like the globalisation of the economy, rising inequality, and increased voter detachment from traditional parties have given rise to distinct social grievances on which the populist leader feeds. But how does such a leader emerge? This book uses the study of Michael Sata, former president of Zambia and one of the most intriguing political figures of modern African history, to provide insight into the origins and personality of the populist. It argues that three factors - the structural, the economic and, importantly, the personal - are needed to understand when and how populism develops.

Based on exclusive interviews with Sata, as well as with his friends, allies, opponents, and journalists, and on newspapers, archives, personal correspondence, and participant observation, Sata's election to the Zambian presidency in 2011 is explained as the culmination of a political journey spanning the late colonial period (1953-1964), the years of one-party rule (1973-1991), and the era of multiparty democracy (since 1991). The book explores the nature and style of his political strategy, the grievances that he articulated and played on, the constituencies he targeted and mobilised, the policy appeals around which he rallied support, and the language with which he expressed those appeals. At the same time, it uses the prism of Sata's political life to examine the growth of populism in Zambia and its practice in party politics since the 1950s. As well as providing new insights into the long shadow of late colonialism on the country's contemporary politics, this book illustrates the evolution of political ideas and populist strategies.
List of illustrations
Preface
List of abbreviations
Map of Zambia
Introduction
1. Becoming Bemba and 'A Man of Action'
2. Mobilising urbanites in the one-party state
3. Constructing a power base in a dominant ruling party
4. Building an alternative political force
5. Winning the prize
Conclusion
Bibliography
Index

SISHUWA SISHUWA is a Senior Lecturer in History at Stellenbosch University in South Africa.

"It is an irony of populism that despite its inherently anti-elitist message, it spotlights the very elites who wield its tools. Sishuwa expertly weaves together an account of the rise of Michael Sata, from his first job with the colonial police through many self-re-inventions to the highest office in the land, with the waxing and waning fortunes of the Zambian political economy. In so doing, he speaks to the value of political biography, done right: Clear-eyed about Sata's many shortcomings, Sishuwa nonetheless avoids the shallow caricatures so often applied to African politicians, demonstrating also Sata's acute political instincts, including his talent for articulating the concerns of ordinary Zambians. Sishuwa challenges us to consider the importance of individual leaders and how a context-embedded approach to such elites provides new ways of understanding mass politics." Antoinette Handley, Professor of Political Science, University of Toronto
"Populism is one of the most important phenomena of our time but is rarely studied in historical context. As a result, we do not actually know that much about why certain forms of populist expression resonate more in some countries and not others. This brilliant book puts this right, marrying sociological theory to political science and personal biography to explain the roots, evolution, and dynamics of populism in Zambia. This book is essential reading for anyone interested in African politics - and we can only hope that it inspires similar studies of other countries in the future." Nic Cheeseman, Professor of Democracy, University of Birmingham
"Party Politics and Populism in Zambia is a monumental achievement by one of Zambia's finest scholars and public intellectuals. In this book, Sishuwa, with painstaking detail, charts the rise of Michael Sata to the Zambian presidency. We learn about the many, and sometimes unorthodox, strategies employed by Sata in his against-all-odds rise to the highest office in the land. This book, in addition to its importance to academics, will serve as a manual for politicians across Africa who aim to leave a mark in the manner and style of Sata." Grieve Chelwa, Associate Professor of Political Economy, The Africa Institute, Sharjah, United Arab Emirates
"This is a remarkable biography of an extraordinary subject. Drawing on extensive interviews and newspaper archives, Sishuwa shows how Sata rose from the periphery to the pinnacle of political power by keeping his ear tuned to popular sentiment, repeatedly reconstructing himself as the man the people demanded at different historical moments. The book is recommended reading for all those interested in populism, palace politics, and political parties in southern Africa and beyond." Kate Baldwin, Associate Professor of Political Science and Global Affairs, Yale University
"As populist movements and parties increasingly win political office worldwide, it is vital to understand the ways that populist leaders achieve influence and gain power. This timely book, in tracing the life history of one of Africa's foremost populists, Zambia's Michael Sata, shows the value of biography in understanding personalised political movements and the way their charismatic leaders think and behave. Sishuwa's lively and insightful work helps us to understand populists in Africa and beyond." Miles Larmer, Professor of History and Director, Center for African Studies, University of Florida
"Through a deft telling of the career of Zambia's late President Michael Sata, Sishuwa centres the role of political agency and populism to provide a compelling insight into the dynamics and tensions that have shaped Zambia's socio-political and economic transformations from the late colonial period to the present. This absorbing and informative book is relevant not only for political and social historians, but also to those interested in the global currents of populist politics." Dr Patience Mususa, Senior Researcher, The Nordic Africa Institute
"This engaging political biography tells the story of Zambia's political history through the prism of Michael Sata, the politician who rose from humble origins to become the country's fifth president. Sishuwa skillfully uses Sata's life journey as a means of tracing the changes - and underscoring the continuities - in politics and populism across different periods of Zambia's history. Brimming with insights and novel accounts based on interviews and heroic archival work, the book provides a unique and valuable window into how politics operates in an African setting." Daniel N. Posner, James Coleman Professor of International Development, University of California, Los Angeles
"Through this case-study of Zambia's Michael Sata, Sishuwa brilliantly demonstrates the importance in African politics of individual political leaders and the continuities across time in political performance. This book draws on thorough historical research and engages with scholarship on populism to challenge some of the most prevalent understandings of African politics. This is a major contribution to the study of African history and politics." Jeremy Seekings, Professor of Political Studies and Sociology, University of Cape Town
"In this meticulously researched book, Sishuwa admirably traces the deep roots of populist strategies in Zambia since the late colonial era. Centered on the political biography of late president Michael Sata, we learn how one of Zambia's most important political figures developed and fashioned strategies that allowed him to remain a formidable player and ultimately win the presidency. Sishuwa effectively illuminates how individual agency interacts with broader institutional contexts and historical processes to shape highly consequential political developments, providing novel insights into the Zambian experience and presenting a model for examining similar phenomena in other contexts." Peter VonDoepp, Professor of Political Science, University of Vermont
"This compelling book uses the common factor of the political ascendancy of Michael Sata, one of Zambia's most important political leaders, to illuminate broader themes of the country's political history since the 1950s. It demonstrates, for instance, the explanatory capacity of populism - which, like democracy, emphasises the idea of "the people" over elites - as a constant theme in Zambian politics. Sishuwa's forensic investigation of Sata's rise to the presidency does not resolve all the puzzles about the man. It does however provide ample evidence of the extent to which power for power's sake is a sufficiently convincing explanation for any individual's desire to seek political office. The relationship between a political leader's formative experiences and their later actions in life is also ably demonstrated in a way that should inspire historians to produce similar studies on the country's other presidents. Any person seriously interested in understanding contemporary Zambia and the long-term roots of its politics will need to read this outstanding work." Owen Sichone, Professor of Anthropology and Inaugural Dean of the School of Humanities and Social Sciences, Copperbelt University

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Title Details

246 Pages

2.34 x 1.56 cm

1 map and 14 b/w illus.

Imprint: James Currey