Hichilema’s crippled political arsenal

Hakainde Hichilema

By Kennedy Limwanya

IF he is not calling someone foolish, he is describing an elderly political opponent as one with a small brain, lacking logic, common sense or being downright dull.

Not only that. He shows absolute disregard for other political players’ intellectual capacity, describing their standpoints on many issues as nonsensical, rubbish and many such demeaning words.

In defiance of African or Zambian cultural norms, he scornfully addresses elderly people by their first names without due regard to their status as family men and women.

This man is no other than one Hakainde Hichilema, the United Party for National Development (UPND) leader who thinks he is the best thing that ever happened to Zambia.

Vulgar language, rudeness, arrogance and an air of pride and self-importance have become the hallmark of Hichilema’s politics, and his choice of words nowadays would make Patriotic Front (PF) leader Michael Sata look like a saint.

Here is one man who thinks he has all the answers to all the ills affecting Zambia and would never, for a moment, acknowledge President Rupiah Banda for all the achievements he has scored since assuming office 28 months ago.



At one point, he accuses Zambian vice-president George Kunda of overrating himself and that he cannot scare anyone.

For Mr Hichilema, leadership is about scaring other people in the manner he has been scaring UPND members opposed to his style of leadership, which is a far cry from that of his highly respected predecessor, the late Anderson Mazoka.

No wonder half of the harm that is done in the world is due to people who want to look important when other people do not consider them so.

While he accuses Mr Kunda of overrating himself, it is actually Mr Hichilema who envisions himself as Zambia’s Messiah.

One can just tell from his past campaign posters on which he describes himself as the “best man for Zambia”!

It can only be assumed that there is another Zambia somewhere.

Of late, Mr Hichilema has made President Banda the subject of his uncoordinated outbursts, criticizing his foreign trips although he very well knows that as leader of a developing nation, one cannot be expected to sit at home and hope that international economic relations would sort themselves out.

But such is Mr Hichilema’s level of thinking that one is left wondering whether the only thing the man learnt from university was to count money and insult elders in the English language.

Today, Mr Hichilema has gone into a pact with Mr Sata, but memories are still fresh and no one will ever forget how the UPND leader used to deride Mr Sata’s intellectual capacity and level of education.  

It is typical of Mr Hichilema to look down on people with mocking language and this is a well sharpened double-edged sword Zambians will use to prevent him from assuming any position higher than what he already has.

Mr Hichilema is fast proving to be an embarrassment to the educated elite who in 2006 thought he could provide a kind of politics on the Zambian scene.

Nay, the man was just a pretender. Politics and lack of humility do not go together.    

One impact of education is that it inculcates a dose of decency so as to cause people to argue for or against any subject without exciting rancour.

Some time in 2006, when asked to respond to accusations from Forum for Democracy and Development president Edith Nawakwi whose political party was a partner in the United Democratic Alliance (UDA), Mr Hichilema curtly replied that he was too decent to engage in such an exchange.

Considering the way Ms Nawakwi has unashamedly been insulting President Banda, one tends to agree with Mr Hichilema’s opinion on the question of decency.

On the other hand, serious questions are raised about Mr Hichilema’s own level of decency in that his language is no longer different from that of Kulima Tower call boys.

Mr Hichilema has grossly miscalculated his political clout which now makes him think he can even lead the PF-UPND pact despite his party being a junior partner in the alliance.


Degree, riches, tribe

For Mr Hichilema, becoming president can be achieved through only three things: university education, a fat bank account — never mind how it was fattened— and tribal background.

Mr Hichilema’s thinking has interesting allusions to a boxing bout that took place in November 2000 in Las Vegas when Samoan boxer David Tua took a crack at the World Boxing Council and World Boxing Federation titles held by Britain’s Lennox Lewis.

Going into the fight, Tua had beaten 32 of his last 38 opponents by knockout, and so the expectations among the 12,000-plus fans were high as they saw a realistic chance of the funny-haired Tua, renowned for his powerful left hook, taking the two titles away from the artistic Lewis.

At the end of 12 rounds, all the three judges had overwhelmingly scored in favour of Lewis who had so out-punched Tua that boxing correspondents were left suggesting that the Samoan should rethink his position on being a fighter and consider becoming a boxer.

In an interview soon after the lop-sided title defence, Lewis taunted Tua:

“You’ve got to bring in more than a powerful left hook and a haircut to beat Lennox Lewis. . . . You have to come in with the whole arsenal,”

Like Tua who only had a powerful left hook and a funny haircut to his credit, Mr Hichilema assumed the UPND presidency in 2001 on the basis of having a university degree, wealth and being Tonga-speaking.

In fact, it is ironical that Mr Hichilema can today accuse President Banda of being a “grandmaster” of tribal politics.

When Mr Hichilema made this accusation last week, many observers must have wondered whether to laugh or cry and said something like “look at who is talking!”

Who does not know how Mr Hichilema assumed the UPND presidency?

The little respect that people had for Mr Hichilema evaporated he moment he used his tribe to wrest the party presidency from Mr Mazoka’s loyal lieutenant and UPND vice-president Sakwiba Sikota in 2006.

Who does not know that it was Mr Hichilema’s tribalism that forced Mr Sikota, Mr Patrick Chisanga, Mr Henry Mtonga, Mr Given Lubinda and other fine brains out of the UPND?

If you live in a glass house, the wise say, do not throw stones.

Mr Hichilema has no moral right to accuse others of tribal politics.

If he had any human feelings, Mr Hichilema should have let Mr Sikota take over as UPND president and use his millions of Kwacha to finance the party’s campaign.

Tribalism and greed form a very toxic concoction, which is why the UPND has continued losing ground since Mr Hichilema stepped into Mr Mazoka’s over-sized shoes.

A Tonga in State House

Credit must go to The Post newspaper which has been consistent in exposing Mr Hichilema and the UPND’s tribal politics which came to the fore following Mr Mazoka’s death in 2006.

In its June 7, 2006 edition, The Post led with a story under the headline A Tonga Must Raplace Mazoka – Rex Natala.

The story quoted Natala, who was the Mr Mazoka’s cousin, as saying although there was a proper mechanism of selecting a successor, it was prudent that the late UPND president was replaced by a Tonga or anyone from the Bantu Botatwe ethnic grouping.

“. . . It’s not just a wish by a particular group of people, it’s a constitutional matter. The UPND has a quota system where the Tongas wanted a Tonga to lead them to State. “Therefore, a Tonga should replace my brother and there is no tribalism in that,” read part of the story quoting Mr Natala.

This is an interesting statement to Mr Sata and his PF leadership. A leopard does not change its spots, does it?

Five days later, The Post led with another story headlined Tongas Pick Hichilema as Mazoka’s Successor.  ouse

The Post had already seen through this and had in the June 7, 2006 editorial comment headlined The Cancer of Tribalism criticized the spectre of tribalism that emerged in the UPND in the quest to find Mr Mazoka’s successor.

Part of the editorial comment read:

“Nothing should stop a deserving Tonga from being president of UPND or indeed the leader of our country. And nothing should allow an undeserving Tonga to be made president simply because he is Tonga.

“Andy did not become president of UPND purely on account of his tribe. He possessed something much more than being a Tonga; otherwise very few people outside Southern Province would have voted for him in the 2001 elections.

“If the succession of Mazoka is not handled properly, it can prove very divisive not only for UPND but for the whole nation.

“. . . And it will not help UPND or any other political party to hang on to wrong things, harmful political practices or arrangements that only end up dividing our people and manipulating them into supporting unscrupulous politicians who offer no real guidance to the nation.”     

How prophetic!

Having succeeded in hounding the then acting president Sikota out of the UPND in 2006, Mr Hichilema now thinks he can use similar tactics to become presidential candidate of the PF-UPND pact and, eventually, Zambian president in 2011.

Unthinkable things ambition can do!

In Diseases of the Soul, Thomas Adam writes: “The ambitious climbs up high and perilous stairs, and never cares how to come down; the desire of rising hath swallowed up his fear of a fall.”

Mr Hichilema had better know that politics requires much more than money, tribe and university education; one needs the whole arsenal.

But does Mr Hichilema possess the whole arsenal?



From the statements he has been making since realizing that he lacks so much in his political armoury, Mr Hichilema now comes out as a pompous millionaire who can go about insulting anyone who does not agree with his thinking.

He is so preoccupied with becoming Zambian president that he oftentimes makes statements that tend to indirectly injure his pact partner Mr Sata.

The more Mr Hichilema opens his mouth, the more Zambians realize that while education gives knowledge, it does not provide wisdom.

In February, Mr Hichilema accused President Banda of having an aversion for advice, buttressing his argument with “you can’t teach an old horse new tricks.”

Another flagrant exhibition of lack of wisdom on Mr Hichilema’s part!

If Mr Hichilema cared to learn from history, he would find some good advice from former United States president Theodore Roosevelt who, in a speech in 1917, reasoned that “nine-tenths of wisdom is being wise in time”.

Timeliness is one essential factor in politics, but Mr Hichilema has been ignoring this to his own disastrous detriment.

When he says “you can’t teach an old horse new tricks”, Mr Hichilema unwittingly brings Mr Sata into the picture and effectively tells the PF-UPND pact members that the PF leader is incorrigible and cannot be trusted to lead the pact.


Pact leader

As the PF-UPND pact readies for elections at the national governing council later this month, Mr Hichilema is already sending a message that he, and not the “old horse”, is the better man for the pact presidency.

Talk of overrating oneself! You do not win a fight with only a hook and a haircut, Mr Hichilema.

You need the whole arsenal; humility, which he lamentably lacks; experience, which he is slowly gaining through insults; temperament, which he needs to regulate; and genuine love for the underprivileged, which he pretends he has, yet history can prove him otherwise.

Recently, Mr Hichilema even donated some bags of mealie-meal to flood victims camped at the Independence Stadium in Lusaka in an apparent show of benignity, yet people have not forgotten his role in the privatization of Zambian companies which left many Zambians without employment.

Even as the potential electorate partake of what has been donated to them by the UPND leader, they are mindful of Adam Smith’s observation in The Wealth of Nations that “it is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest.”

Any serious and genuine political aspirant should never downplay people’s ability to remember the past by merely showing proof of his wealth as Mr Hichilema has many times done and think it is enough to take him to State House.


Whole arsenal

One needs the whole political arsenal.

It is not enough to rely on riches, tribe and a degree. Besides, all presidential candidates may now be required to possess a degree if the National Constitutional Conference adopts the clause that makes it law for republican presidential aspirants to possess at least a first university degree.

Unless he comes back to his senses and realizes that he is still a novice who cannot make a name through insulting the sitting president and his own members of Parliament (MPs) — Mr Hichilema describes Namwala MP Robbie Chizyuka as a man with a small brain–, Mr Hichilema’s political future is as obliterated.

Greed being what it is, Mr Hichilema has not even humbled himself as a junior partner of the PF-UPND pact and his followers have been accusing some sections of the media of favouring the PF instead of giving equal coverage to both Mr Hichilema and Mr Sata’s activities.

Well, even the pact’s media friends know that there is no much substance in Mr Hichilema, which is why they only cover him when he opens his mouth to utter yet another insult.

The greedy MrHichilema must even be excitedly hoping that the degree clause becomes a reality before the 2011 elections so that he, and not Mr Sata, qualifies to be the PF-UPND candidate.

As Lennox Lewis lectures, a hook and a haircut are not enough to win a fight.   

Likewise, Mr Hichilema’s political arsenal of insults, wealth, a degree and tribe is seriously crippled.

The Author Kennedy Limwanya, works at State House as deputy presidential spokesperson.

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