Titus Dlamini Zulu
When Mr Hakainde Hichilema, otherwise known as HH, took over the leadership of the United Party for National Development (UPND) following the death of its founder, Anderson Mazoka, the expectations among party members were high that he was going to lead the party to greater heights.
His educational background as a university graduate with a masters degree and reported financial muscle were the key factors in his favour.
In his early public statements, HH promised the people of Zambia that he would do away with the culture of insults in politics.
The public appreciated HH’s emergence on the Zambian political scene as a welcome start in politics. True to his word, HH loudly talked policy while other opposition leaders such as Michael Sata of the Patriotic Front (PF) continued to trade insults.
Mr Hichilema even rediculed Mr Sata as an old-fashioned policitian who belonged to the past. But the manner in which HH bulldozed his way to assume the leadership of the UPND raised some worries among some senior party officials.
The officials warned their fellow party members about the political immaturity of Mr Hichilema and his intolerance to other views.
HH’s claim to the top position of UPND was tribal. Mr Syacheye Madyenkuku, the shameless recent defector to the PF-UPND Pact, together with Mapatizya Member of Parliament (MP) Ackson Sejani, are the ones who championed HH’s tribal campaign against Sakwiba Sikota, who was forced to resign to form his own party.
The reality of the warning by senior UPND officials has since come to pass.
HH assumed the leadership of Zambia’s then second largest party without any obvious political credentials. While his predecessor, the late Mazoka, once held a position as a branch chairman in Bauleni compound, HH has never held any political position in his life.
Not surprisngly, the performance of UPND under Mr Hichilema has been a political disaster. From the political heights that the party reached under the mature leadership of Mr Mazoka, UPND has since crash-landed into a tribal cabal of mostly Tonga-speaking people in the Southern Province. Recent election rusults are illustrative here.
The election results, when measured in terms of consistency in performance, gain or loss, and convergence, show that the performance of the UPND presidential candidate (HH) and, by proxy, UNPD, has declined considerably since the 2001 elections.
As shown in the graph below, UPND was a formidable electoral machine under the leadership of the late Mazoka. In the 2001 elections, the performance of UPND, especially among presidential candidates, was almost at par with that of the MMD.
The late President, Levy Mwanawasa, beat the UPND candidate with a very narrow margin.
However, as Graph 1 shows, the political fortunes of UPND have considerably declined since HH took over the leadership of the party. This is further reflected in the graphs below which reveal a tragic decline in UPND’s share of the national vote.
Graph 2 shows that UPND had won 45 per cent of the national vote in the 2001 elections. At the time, Sata and his PF – with a mere 6 per cent of the national vote – were a non-factor in Zambian politics
Under the leadership of HH, UPND’s share of the national vote under the United Democratic Alliance (UDA) declined to 26 per cent in the 2006 elections. As in the case of UPND, HH’s leadership of UDA was a political disaster. His political immaturity, greed and dictatorial tendencies forced seasoned politicians like Edith Nawakwi of the Forum for Democracy and Development (FDD) to quit the alliance.
Against all advice, HH, now with an inflated ego, went ahead to contest the 2008 presidential by-election, following the death of President Mwanawasa. His participation in the election further reduced UPND’s share of the national vote to 20 per cent.
In contrast, the PF under Michael Sata has continued to grow and has overshadowed UPND as Zambia’s second largest political party. Overall, the Movement for Multi-party Democracy (MMD) has remained the strongest party in the country. Unlike both the PF and UPND, the MMD is the only truly national party with support across Zambia.
PF is largely northern-based, while UPND is now mostly still surviving in Southern Province.
HH has no vision and viable strategy for the revival of his once great party. What is even more worrying is the ideological bankrupcy of HH.
From a promising start when he assumed the leadership of UPND, HH has metamorphosised from a sleek, suave and intelligent young politician with a good grasp of business management into a dangerous, insulting political thug.
This has earned him the unenviable name of ‘Prince Cobra’ – so gained because his superior in the PF-UPND Pact, ‘King Cobra’, is infamous for his unpalatable language, insults and uncouth behaviour.
As ‘Prince Cobra’, HH has also become a snake full of insults!
The result is that the PF-UPND Pact has become an evil double-headed serpent that is devoid of an alternative programme to what the ruling MMD is offering the Zambian people.
This double-headed serpent focuses more on insults than on developing a programme for growth and poverty reduction in Zambia. Under HH, UPND has become an empty shell of itself.
It is now all too obvious to the Zambian people that, while HH may not go financially bankrupt any time soon, he has become bankrupt in terms of ideas and ideals. This is alienating him from decent senior members of his party.
During the hey days of UPND under the late Mazoka, the party used to publish rational alternative programmes to those of the ruling MMD. For instance, each time the minister of Finance announced his budget in Parliament, UPND would come up with a ‘shadow’ national budget to challenge that of the ruling party.
This is the essence of opposition politics. Opposition parties are supposed to operate like a government in waiting. In this, UPND under the late Mazoka distinguished itself as a serious opposition party in Zambia. But not any more.
This is a tragic loss to the nation as UPND was widely seen as a credible alternative to the MMD.
Under the current leadership of HH, all that UPND has done is to come up with a cocktail of insults, violence and expulsions.
The recent victims of this cocktail are Tiens Kahenya and Major Robbie Chizyuka! The party no longer has any rational alternative policies and shadow budgets. This should be a source of serious concern to UPND supporters everywhere.
HH is a vicious and greed young snake with an exaggerated sense of importance. He does not smile in public. His face is in perpetual annoyance.
This speaks volumes about the real character of this man. UPND insiders allege that their leader is intolerant to his colleagues’ opinions. He views any rival opinion as a threat to his fragile leadership of the party.
He only surrounds himself with politically spineless stooges who are only too ready to swallow his political vomit. Is it any surprise that, following the death of Anderson Mazoka, such UPND luminaries as Bob Sichinga, Patrick Chisanga and Sakwiba Sikota quit? This has deprived the party of credible national leaders.
To survive politically, HH, against the advice of some senior party officials, jumped into bed with the same man that he used to demonise as the very incarnation of the devil – Michael Sata.
But clearly HH is the junior partner in the PF-UPND Pact. Despite all the pretence to the contrary, Sata is the official Pact presidential candidate in 2011.
Greedy and intolerant as he is, there is no way that the Cobra can cede the leadership of the Pact to HH whose declining political fortunes he is fully aware of.
The PF and the UPND are two totally different political parties with different political backgrounds, philosophies and manifestoes, although both parties are ideologically bankrupt under their current leaders.
The PF is a party that was born in violence and thrives on thuggery. UPND was formed as a social democratic party.
Following his alliance with Michael Sata, HH has been busy transforming UPND into a party of political violence and thuggery to fit in with the image and behaviour of his uncouth Pact partner.
HH himself has become so well versed in using insults and unpalatable language that he is now rivaling Michael sata for the title of ‘King Cobra’.
This has killed the spirit of free and quality debate in the party for which UPND had become famous under the leadership of the late Mazoka.
Apart from their fixation with removing the ruling MMD and President Rupiah Banda from power, the double-headed serpent leading the PF-UPND Pact has failed to tell the people of Zambia what they will do to reduce poverty, stimulate growth, create jobs, and achieve other goals.
The PF-UPND Pact has no unified manifesto. It is difficult to imagine how parties that lack any common programme can work together to promote development.
Micheal Sata is not known for any policy initiatives. His only known policy is to insult Chinese investors in Zambia. UPND under HH is following in Sata’s foot steps.
As the 2011 elections draw near, the people of Zambia, especially those in the Southern Province, should begin to question the real motive behind the PF-UPND Pact.
The support for UPND in the province is not based on the party’s policies but primordial loyalty.
It should, however, be stressed that even in Southern Province, support for UPND can no longer be taken for granted. In the 2011 elections, there is no guarantee that the peace-loving people of Southern Province will emulate the thuggery behaviour of the UPND leader to vote for the party.
As the graph below shows, both President Banda and Sata marginally increased their support in the province in the 2008 election, while UPND suffered a slight decline.
The decline in support for UPND in Southern Province is likely to continue in the 2011 elections given the poor performance of many UPND MPs and UPND-run councils in the region.
To conclude, UPND under HH is hurting and is clearly in need of new credible leadership.
Under the leadership of HH, the party has lost its vision and national appeal to the extent that it has been reduced to a tribal outfit, mostly restricted to the Southern Province.
(The author, Dr. Titus Dlamini Zulu is a policy analyst at the Centre for Policy Initiatives, Pretoria, South Africa)