By Trevor Simumba
It is very interesting to note that the United Party for National Development (UPND) and the Patriotic Front (PF) will subject the position of presidential candidate of the pact to a vote ahead of the 2011 elections. UPND president Hakainde Hichilema said members of the UPND and PF pact will vote in favour of a candidate of their choice to represent them in the presidential and general elections. Mr Hichilema said this in Lusaka when he featured on Radio Phoenix’s Let the people talk programme that speculations that the pact has chosen a presidential candidate are not true. This statement was immediately after Mr. Sata had stated in another interview that he was still in the running to stand for the 2011 elections but that the Pact would make the final choice. He did not mention any elections being held for the selection process. He went further and emphasised that the Pact was not a merger but an arrangement of working together.
In the words of HH he said that “pact members of the UPND and PF will vote to elect an individual who will represent the pact”. He said the existence of the UPND-PF pact is for the purpose of unity and providing good leadership. Mr Hichilema said the pact is still consolidating its foundation and will ensure that it does not fall into a trap, as was the case in the 2006 elections. “Right now, we are making our people understand why we merged with the PF,” he said. He said all pact members will support whichever candidate the majority choose. It is very clear from these two statements that the Pact for all its denials is now at the stage that any wrong move from either party will destroy it. The biggest weakness with this Pact is that it is not based on any principle except removal of RB and the MMD party from the Presidency. There is no real strategy beyond just winning the 2011 election.
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 a known fact 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 is clear that the main pact glue and goal for the Opposition Parties is to only win the 2011 Elections and form Government no matter the cost to the country. They have no common vision and are only in the Pact for the sake of expedience. Without a vision of the future, political action is aimless, or at best reactive and defensive. But a vision of the future is of little use if it is not accompanied by a clearly elaborated understanding of what it would take to make it a reality. This is the situation we find ourselves in. Zambians are crying out for change but we have an opposition whose sole purpose is just to get into State House without offering any credible alternative to the current status quo. Why is it that PF did not participate in the NCC even though they are the second largest party by numbers in the country? How can a party like UPND which has held a proper convention to elect leaders’ partner with a party that has NEVER held any convention nor even held any elections to determine leadership in the Party? Everything is decided by President Sata within PF and many PF senior members are frustrated but do not have the courage to speak out. Those that have spoken out have been hounded out of the party accompanied by violence.
There is need for Zambians to ask hard questions of these people who purport to speak on our behalf and want us to give them our vote and allow them to manage our public purse. Do any of these political parties actually publish their financial accounts and if they do who audits them? One wonders how individuals who cannot manage party funds in a transparent manner can be trusted to manage the Zambian Treasury. What has happened to the loyal opposition with MP’s who are sworn to protect the Constitution and State of Zambia taking part in un-Constitutional acts? Unfortunately, in recent decades, Zambia has seen the calibre of politicians decline severely and politicians in Zambia have largely failed to think and act in a democratic way. Instead, the greater part of their political activity has been devoted to limiting the worst effects of the things they oppose, rather than to working pro-actively to construct an alternative reality for Zambians. More often than not, they find themselves caught in a short-term defensive holding action, and they devote little attention to the long-term implications of their actions.
In the process, the Opposition in Zambia have become practitioners of what has been called “sophisticated despair,” the deeply cynical belief that “a hierarchical society [can], perhaps, be marginally ‘humanized’ but [can] not be fundamentally democratized.” This despair is not only devastating to the capacity for long-term strategic reflection and action. It also serves to reinforce a political culture of resignation that defines what can be done in the narrowest possible terms. The Opposition needs to be especially clear about the fundamental challenge that confronts them. The key question is not simply how they can defeat Rupiah Banda in 2011; it is, rather, how can they do so without succumbing to the sort of defensive, short-term politics that put them in this predicament to begin with and that risks creating even greater threats down the road?
In the 2008 Presidential bye-election UPND was relegated to just Southern Province and two constituencies’ in North-western Province (Mwinilunga East and Zambezi West), while the PF only won in Northern Province, Luapula, Copperbelt urban and Lusaka urban. The MMD was the only party whose candidate received votes across the country from Northern all the way through Eastern, Southern and Western provinces. The 2008 Results Summary Map is a very interesting way to look at the electoral map of the country and what are striking are the facts that blue the colour for MMD cuts across the country. The basis of the current accusations against RB of tribalism is not based on facts but purely sentiment. It’s important for people to read between the lines and analyse issues rather than keep silent, than allow those who talk the loudest talk all the time.
Based on the facts how will the Pact bridge this gap because both the UPND and PF have been infiltrated in their strongholds in the south and the north. As for Lusaka, William Banda a protégé of Sata is doing tremendous grassroots campaigns that are damaging the PF’s hold. Note that many Lusaka based MP’s within the Pact are beginning to choose their words carefully as they know that they may not ride on the PF name come 2011. So the big question is how, will they ensure that defeating Rupiah Banda is not just a temporary fix and that Zambia will not be facing an even worse choice a decade from now.
Can the Opposition instead design a strategy that takes care of the Rupiah Banda/MMD threat while simultaneously laying the foundations for a better future for all the people of Zambia? Observing the current Pact campaigns with no written harmonised manifesto does not inspire confidence that we will see a new Government. All we hear every day is how each President will accept the leadership of the other. The question many Zambians are asking themselves is; are we really going to be better off with a new Government made up of the UPND/PF? Who amongst them will make a better Minister of Finance than Mr. Musokotwane or Minister of Trade instead of Mutati to name just a few of the most credible Ministers in the current Cabinet? More significantly, the MMD is the only party with a number of members and sympathisers who if they can unite will be able to campaign across the whole country.
It is my considered view based on my interactions with a number of these Opposition politicians that we will actually most likely be worse off as a people. Why? This is because all these Opposition politicians are only interested in personal aggrandizement and are driven not by love for Mother Zambia but hatred for the incumbent. Further, Zambia needs a new generation of political leadership to take this country forward. A serious look at the current leaders shows that apart from one or two of them the rest are all from the 60’s generation including the incumbent and surely do you expect these people to take Zambia into the 21st Century? This why most right thinking Zambians would rather stick to MMD as they have done since 1991. The best approach is for RB to use his last term to infuse a new generation of Zambians into the MMD and into his Government and bring an end to the stone throwing Cha Cha revolutionaries.
As things stand today, it can be stated boldly that the MMD will win the 2011 elections with or without President Rupiah Banda if he decides not to stand. The 2011 race will be hard fought but only MMD remains a national party and one which provides unity for Zambia. The Opposition is still a divided force with stubborn personalities who take pleasure even in times of sickness. One anticipates a progressive alliance to be formed between the MMD and a number of other fringe parties against the Pact.
The people of Zambia must never forget the acrimonious and unfair insults the late President Mwanawasa suffered during the campaign of 2001 and 2006 from the same people who today claim they are custodians of the Mwanawasa legacy? These are also the ones who were instigating thugs to hack people in Chawama and were in the forefront of destroying MMD and were calling their colleagues ‘calculator boys’ and now today they are best of friends? Let’s also not forget that we were told that only a Tonga could be UPND President. Are these the people we can trust to run the State of Zambia with justice, unity and purpose? I shudder to think that we can forget so easily. It is important for the nation of Zambia to elect leaders with a national character that reflects and espouses national unity and accepts the tribal diversity of Zambia. Any political party aspiring to provide national leadership must be seen to be democratic and open to all Zambians and not just those from the same region or those holding the same view. Let’s accept diversity and criticism in equal measure and not just demand accountability from the Government and leave the Opposition say and do whatever they like in the name of Democracy.