By Trevor Simumba
The stakes are very high for this year’s tripartite elections due most likely this September or even earlier if the prophecy of Mr. Sata is to be believed.
Both RB and Sata are in this race for the last time. Sata and his Patriotic Front (PF) have yet another opportunity to wrestle power from the Movement for Multi-party Democracy (MMD).
With failed attempts in 2001, 2006 and 2008, the PF and Sata are now counting on new friends, new partnerships, disgruntled MMD members and outspoken members from the family of a former President.
HH on the other hand is mounting an effective door to door ‘’Real Change’’ campaign exploiting his potential, his age, his economic knowledge and financial ability to campaign across the country. If HH is not handled carefully he is likely to spoil it for both MMD and PF. He is the dark-horse of the race, the ‘prodigal son.’
With RB it boggles the mind that even with all the good stories about the economic growth in Zambia and the way he has managed the early crisis in his administration including the recent death of the Second President Chiluba, his campaign does not seem to have taken off. Notwithstanding the almost saturation media coverage from the state media, RB seems to be losing track daily. Under RB the MMD has organised a successful democratic national convention and have just concluded a very transparent and open adoption process for their parliamentary candidates. This has given them a boost but after the announcement one would have expected a much more detailed media flooding of stories about the candidates.
However, even with all these firsts this election is still too close to call. This is a shame and an indication of poor management within the RB campaign team. It reminds one of the shambolic primary election campaign of Hillary Clinton that led to her losing the Democratic Party nomination to a fresh young black Senator that everyone paid no attention to until it was too late.
The MMD and in particular President Banda need to reflect on this. Why is it that in the midst of the best economic growth Zambia has ever had, the public perception of the Banda administration is still quite negative?
Granted that the relationship between the economic growth and the development of a nation, is still a subject of excessive debate among economists and the international development agencies, with Zambian situation it has gone beyond economic theory. In the case of Zambia it has even become a political football with a number of opposition politicians refusing to accept the fact that Zambia’s economy has experienced strong growth in recent years, with real GDP growth in 2005-08 about 6% per year. This performance has been lauded by many independent international observers and Zambia has been dubbed by the Economist magazine as ‘one of the lion economies’ putting Zambia alongside the Asian tigers.
In fact according to the forecasts of the IMF, published in the January issue of the Economist (January 8th 2011), Zambia is amongst the top ten fastest growing economies in the world in the period 2011 to 2015. According to this table Zambia ranks no. 9 with an average growth rate predicted to be 6.9% over the next five years to 2015.
China takes the top spot but there are six other African countries on the list, namely, Ethiopia, Mozambique, Tanzania, Congo, Ghana and Nigeria. More importantly, Zambia has now been re-classified as a lower middle income country. Every Zambian should be proud of this achievement as it is a testimony of Zambia’s resolve to reform its economy and provide an enabling environment for growth. But in terms of this election, it seems people are ignoring these real facts and are only concerned with seeing some change in Government.
The opposition has taken advantage of this to campaign on a platform of change. However, a more careful analysis of this agenda reveals that the main pre-occupation of the opposition is simply to replace the MMD with the same people but wearing a PF or UPND hat. We have seen in the last few weeks a number of defections back and forth between all the parties with many of these people moving for personal reasons and not on principle.
As a result of this polarity in our politics devoid of any values or principles, Zambia today is in serious danger of allowing a dictatorial leader become President of Zambia, if we continue to fold our arms. Polarized pluralism was visible immediately preceding the Nazi era in Germany. The country had a strong support for communism, but a slightly but significantly stronger support for the Nazi party. Communism lay on the far left, while the Nazi party lay on the far right, associated with fascism.
In Zambia today we have a similar polarized situation but the polarisation is not based on any ideology, it is simply about POWER and which individual exercises that power. So in Zambia today the country is polarized along ethnic, regional and die-hard partisan lines with daily harsh criticisms of each other in the media.
In such a polarized environment it is very difficult for new political voices to be heard but even more significantly it discourages a lot of well-intentioned and capable Zambians from stepping into the political arena. This becomes a vicious cycle as the mediocrity of the political system continues and only the loudest seem to get heard even though they offer no solutions to the political and social economic problems that face the people daily.
If the MMD want to save our democracy from being desecrated they need to listen more to the people, including those they perceive as enemies otherwise the 50-50 situation may just go 60-40 against MMD and that will be the end of the road for the movement and usher in a period of instability. RB’s real human touch must be allowed to flourish in this campaign otherwise he will continue to lose touch with reality on the ground. While the RB campaign machine has all the money it lacks the key ‘human touch’. This characteristic is what makes Sata such a formidable foe in politics. You cannot buy this off the shelf, you either have it or you don’t and quite clearly RB has it but his campaign handlers continue to stifle the Presidents flair.
The MMD as the ruling party must show a good example and take the lead to stop campaigning based on maligning the other competitors but instead let them explain to the people why they deserve another term in office. Talk to the people not lecturing them on the various projects done, which in any case are funded by the taxes people pay and maybe you can reverse the current trend of public opinion against MMD.
HH is showing a high level of maturity in his current campaigns and if he continues on that path he may just spring a big surprise on the two old foes. 50-50 may go to 40-30-30 in favour of the ‘real change’ campaign. Now that will truly usher in a new generation into Zambian politics. This election is not as clear cut as many think, there is a lot to come over the next few weeks, especially when the other parties make their choices for Parliamentary candidates, will they choose new faces or will see the same old faces that we have been seeing eating the national cake in UNIP and MMD? We wait and see and remember your vote counts so use it wisely!