2011 polls: who is fooling who?

By Trevor Simumba
In April 2010 an article I authored titled “The Beginning of the End for UPND/PF pact” was published by the Watchdog online. At the time it raised many unsavoury comments and insults from a number of supporters of the Pact. In that article it was stated:

‘If the purpose of the pact is unity why do we hear only divisive talk, blatant lies and threats to the ruling party? And why the difference in approach, HH says ‘merged’ while MCS says ‘no merger’? What formulas will they use to first decide who can stand for these elections and how the electoral college (i.e. the delegates who will vote) will be selected? How do we know who is who in each party and which party they represent? Any cadre worth his salt will sell himself to the highest bidder and also to whomever he sees as having the best chance nationally and on the basis of the past three election results MCS would be the front runner. So one wonders why the mystery when it is known facts that bar any natural disaster Sata will be the PF or Pact candidate. In this scenario, will the Southern Province vote hold particularly with the current clear disagreement within UPND between the plateau and valley constituencies of the province? Many
analysts forget to note that there are distinct political and social differences within the Southern Province and many voters there are inherently conservative in their voting patterns and have very long memories and so they will not forget easily what Sata represents as a leader.’

It would be very interesting to hear from the same people who were so categorical about the survival of this Pact to explain to those of us that have been sceptical from the time of the pacts still-birth, to tell us what exactly is going on in the Pact. We are now in 2011 and Parliament has started debating the Constitution Bill and as is expected elections are likely to take place in September this year. None of the opposition seem to be ready for this election hence their desperate attempts to sow discord in the country and to doubt in the electorate. The biggest weakness in Zambia’s opposition is that they do not have ‘political strategists or thinkers’ with the same level of experience and knowledge as Vernon Johnson Mwaanga. Love him or hate him VJ is the best political strategist Zambia has produced and it will take a long time to replace him. VJ was trained by the best and he has served the nation of Zambia at high levels and has served in
the administrations’ of four Presidents, a record that cannot be matched by any living Zambian. Because of his brilliance and loyalty to the MMD he is always accused of rigging but no one has ever proven it.

Unfortunately for both the UPND and PF they lack such political thinkers that can lay out a strategy to beat the MMD. It is important to realize that, fundamentally the Pact can not credibly sell change in a pact with a PF whose leader is the anti-thesis of change! What change would it be to have Mr. Sata as pact Presidential candidate when he was the Chief Executive of the MMD and was also a senior leader in UNIP. Throughout his political career Mr. Sata has proven to be undemocratic. Who does not remember his third term antics and his hounding out from MMD of 22 credible and senior leaders of the party which included two Vice Presidents namely, the late Christon Tembo and General Miyanda. Even the great leader Andy Mazoka faced the wrath of the King Cobra. One wonders what got into the mind of UPND to consider conceding the Pact Presidency to Sata?

Real change will only come from a complete turnaround in campaign strategies and tactics. UPND have come up with a sensible and credible slogan of them being the ‘Real Change that Zambia Needs’. However, they need to do more to show that they also have truly changed by embracing more new faces into their party and re-structure their top leadership to move it away from its regional bias. All political parties should remember that ‘politics is a game of numbers’ that is, the one with the most votes wins, simple and no amount of crying can change that. MMD have an in-built majority arising from their 1991 big win which created a core base of support across the country. Although this core vote has been split over the years as political party offshoots of MMD have been created, they still retain a core vote of approximately 1 million votes. So for anyone to beat the MMD they need to get at least 1.2 million votes at Presidential level. In order to do
this they have to encourage people to register as voters and also at the same time encourage them to actually vote. Getting good, solid statistics from the last few election campaign results in the race can help them plan and determine a lot of information that will help them to win at the polls. With this information, the opposition would be able to determine which districts are favourable to candidates from their party regardless of the individual candidate’s strength. From the table below you can see that the MMD presidential candidate received 1.178 million votes out of 2.78 million votes cast. In 1991, FTJ got only 972,000 votes out of 1.2 million votes and in 1996 he received 913,000 votes. LPM in 2001 only got just over 500,000 votes but that was at a time of great divisions within MMD due to the third term debacle. He more than doubled his votes in 2006 getting 1.177 million votes as hown below. This is the core base vote of MMD. In 2008
President Banda performed relatively well getting 713,000 votes out of 1.7. Again he won mainly due to the base MMD vote.
Presidential election
Presidential election
Candidates Party/Coalition Votes %
Levy Mwanawasa Movement for Multi-Party Democracy 1,177,846 43.0
Michael Sata Patriotic Front 804,748 29.4
Hakainde Hichilema United Democratic Alliance 693,772 25.3
Godfrey Miyanda Heritage Party 42,891 1.6
Winwright Ngondo APC 20,921 0.8
Invalid/blank votes 48,936 –
Total 2,789,114 100

This is the sort of valuable information that VJ and his team use to plan ahead and develop strategies. So while UPND and PF have wasted time insulting and vilifying each other the MMD has been busy laying the foundation for 2011 and encouraging all its sympathisers and cadres to register as voters so that come 2011 they will have an inherent built in majority of core voters. This is the way democratic politics are played world over. If you look at the USA for example each party has what they call a base vote and elections are won on making sure your base voters come out and vote but you can only win by attracting what they call ‘swing voters’ and in Zambia these swing voters are the rural dwellers who are very conservative and tend to vote on ethnic lines and on basic issues like seeds, fertiliser and the availability of markets for their produce.

This valuable election campaign information will let you see which districts are unfavourable to candidates in your party, where the swing voters are located, and which have an issue that might motivate voters at the polls on election day. You can build on the base of voters who identify with you in your election campaign because of party affiliation, but you cannot presume on them. You will have to campaign to these people, but elections are won and lost by reaching the swing voters, the people who are up for grabs. A successful candidate must take his election campaign to the swing voters and in the case of Zambia to the rural areas. But what have we seen from the opposition to this end, nothing but insults and disrespect of traditional leaders. More importantly, RB has been touring all the rural areas and commissioning road projects, hospital projects and school projects. More importantly, due to the Governments Food Security Programme, farmers around
the country have been empowered and produced a bumper harvest that has put real money into their pockets. It would be an act of extreme folly for these rural farmers not to vote for the MMD Government that has consistently maintained the FSP programme even when donors refused to fund it.

Although we are vilified when we quote statistics, statistics are important if you one wants to mount a proper political campaign strategy based on facts on the ground and not based on the number of people attracted to your rallies. The question that should be asked is how many of those people attending rallies are actually registered voters? Who are the base voters of your party? Once you have determined what your base vote will be, you can see how many swing voters you will need to win. The statistics will tell you where they are. You have to go through the campaign statistics, district by district, and think to yourself, “I can get so many votes in this district, but not so many in this one, and I will lose by a lot of votes in the other one” and so forth. When you have done your district-by-district analysis, you will have a much better idea of how you can get that magic number of votes. With this information, you come up with an average number of
people who are likely to vote in your race. Divide that by two, and you have your target number of votes to win your political campaign.

It seems simple but it takes a lot of intellect, hard work and time which unfortunately none of the opposition parties currently have. Based on the number analysis given above, all RB needs to win the election this year is to get back the base vote of about a million votes back on his side and add another 500,000 new voters and swing voters onto his side and he will win. So come October 2011 I believe Zambia will inaugurate Rupiah ‘Bwezani’ Banda for his second and final term of office and hopefully consign the likes of Sata and his cohorts to the dustbin of Zambian political history. It would have been good to see a new dawn of leadership in people like HH, Charles Milupi and Elias Chipimo but alas it will not happen this year. Maybe in 2016 but by then another generation waiting and watching in the wings will arise and take Zambia to even greater heights.

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