By Mildred Mulenga, PANA Correspondent
The June 2009 pact by two major opposition parties in Zambia to provide a strong challenge to the ruling party of President Rupiah Banda was a big surprise to the nation, which is girding its loins for a major political battle in the 2011 presidential and parliamentary polls.
As the country prepares for the polls, the Patriotic Front (PF) led by Michael Sata and the United Party for National Development (UPND) with leader Hakainde Hachilema came out with a shock announcement of the formation of the pact by the two parties.
Many never saw this coming, since both leaders are known to possess ambitions to go into State House, and this was clearly evident by remarks made by President Banda on the formation of the pact.
âœThere lays the secrecy and definition of the word democracy, only one person can go to State House. There are no facilities at State House for two heads of state,” Banda said.
The ruling Movement for Multi-party Democracy (MMD) is putting its bet on the hopes that the pact will crack before the 2011 elections, as the battle for the nomination of a presidential candidate between Sata and Hi chilema hots up.
MMD, which will clock 20 years in power in 2011, maintains that the pact between PF and UPND is an exercise of futility.
Commenting on the pact soon after it was formed , MMD Central provincial secretary Roy Mulenga said it would be very difficult for any political party to unseat the ruling MMD, especially now that it is very strong.
“We have the confidence that President Rupiah Banda will perform to greater heights and many people will be surprised and from what we have gathered the focus to remove MMD is the core business of any political part y which is not an agenda,” Mulenga said.
“As a party, we are ready to face any challenge with regards to any coalition or merger and it does not cause any threat. We are not sitting idle because we are touching the grassroots,” he said.
President Banda, while admitting that many MMD members are worried because of the PF-UPND pact, said the MMD had a bigger pact to make with the Zambian people.
“I want my political workers, organisers of this political party, to go from door to door and convince those who are not with us why they should join us. We want to unite our country and only a strong ruling class can do so. I don’t want to hear from my political party that ‘this group of people is against us, that group of people is against us, this one is against us,” Banda said in November.
“They must have a reason for being against you and it’s your duty to go and convince them that they are wrong to be against you,” the President added.
Former UPND chairperson for Agriculture and Cooperatives Simon Kunda, who is now the Kitwe District MMD information and publicity secretary, said the future of the pact was uncertain because “it has been formed out of desperation for power by the two tribal and power hungry political party leaders.”
“The pact is a marriage of convenience and it is a matter of time before it came to its disastrous divorce,” Kunda said early this month, charging that the two leaders of the pact had no plans for national development, but that their in terest was to get into government to satisfy their personal interests and settle political scores.
On assertions that the pact may not hold by the time the 2011 elections are held, PF spokesperson Given Lubinda expressed optimism that it would work and achieve its purpose.
“Make no mistake, the first pact was formed in 1963, the other in 1972 and they all delivered. For those doubting the pact will not work, it is going to work because it is people driven,” he said, adding that every little progress that the MMD government seemed to make was because of pressure from the opposition.
In November, the UPND/PF grabbed a seat from the MMD after the pact scooped the highly-contested parliamentary by-election in Solwezi in North-Western Province, when the seat fell vacant following the death of the Member of Parliam ent Ben Tetamashimba, who was also the Local Government and Housing Minister.
The PF/UPND pact had beaten the ruling MMD in its strong hold, giving another up per hand to the pact which also scooped the Kasama central parliamentary seat the previous month.
Political analysts say the latest by-election in Solwezi Central was being used to determine the strength of the UPND/PF pact in its readiness for the presidential and parliamentary elections in 2011.
They argue that the pact is posed to reap substantial gains in parliament, if it can just hold without presidential aspirations of the respective party leadersh ips getting in the way.
In 1991, during the first multiparty democratic elections, the country saw the alliance of trade unions, the Law Association of Zambia, the church and many other organisations to form the MMD, which emerged victorious.
While it is clear that the PF/UPND pact has made an impact on the political scene and has made serious in-roads into MMD strongholds, it remains to be seen whet her this momentum can be sustained up to the 2011 elections.
Courtesy of Pan African News Agency