When the Electoral Commission of Zambia called for a meeting of presidential candidates on Wednesday August 3, it was interesting to note that around 12 of them turned up. This is despite the fact that some of them have long since become a statistic or a distant reference on the political scene. But because Zambia is a democracy, they are entitled to participate – their value and significance notwithstanding. But the electorate should also begin to question the relevance of political parities that only resurrect at election time. Even more interesting was the appearance of some like Humphrey Siulapwa, who has announced he will not stand, but back Rupiah Banda. But in the name of democracy, he was there.
Nawakwi, Miyanda and other disasters
If all the 12 contest the election, the worry should not be about them splitting the vote because quite clearly some of them have nothing to split. If this election was a feast of hungry hyenas, some of them would be lucky to even have a single bite at the meat; they would simply be outclassed by the more rapacious hyenas. Instead, the worry should be more about how we as a nation seem to tolerate this comedy of certain individuals who think they can only pitch up at election time and claim they can lead the nation.
In 2001, we had someone many Zambians had never heard of – Dr. Yobert Shamapande. He came to fool around; churning out a diagnosis of a country he had not lived in for many years. By the time the counting was done, he was nowhere and has never been heard of since. The difference this time, though, is that none of these candidates are returning from the Diaspora to contest the election. They have been around. But the common thing they have with Shamapande is that they stand no chance. And you do not need to be an analyst of any class to say so.
Let us now look at some of the parties that showed up at the ECZ meeting.
It is fair to say that UNIP is now extinct. What remains is for them to formally announce their dissolution. Painful as it may be for a liberation party to fall that way, Tilyenji Kaunda and all those who still call themselves leaders of UNIP must come to terms with the fact that UNIP ran its course and is better off buried. If the leaders of UNIP want to massage their ego, they can announce joining the MMD. But, apart from the few former MPs who have now crossed to MMD, what else would UNIP be taking to the ruling party – in terms of members? Truth be told, there is no hope in hell of UNIP ever returning to power at the most or at the least being a formidable force again. The earlier UNIP stopped masquerading as a political factor the better for political sanity.
Brigadier General Godfrey Miyanda is a highly respected leader. Morally, he is one among many leaders you cannot find fault with in relation to his practice of politics. The man has unmatched integrity. But it is his political strategy or the lack of it that is his greatest liability. On 27 July, he held a press briefing where he talked, among other things, the need to form a grand alliance. No matter how willing one may be to partner in the so called grand alliance, you do not show up a month before the general election and start looking for partners. It just doesn’t work. Even after the ECZ meeting of presidential candidates, General Miyanda kept hoping that “if something happens between now and the day of election” he would be willing to go into an alliance. It is true politicians like to boast they have followers; it gives them the urge to go on an extra mile in their pursuit of their most cherished goal – power. But apart from General Miyanda himself, it is difficult to point where exactly his constituency lies. The General believes participating is his right and he is right it is his right. If the idea is just to participate, well and good. But even in his heart of hearts, he knows he stands no chance of winning this election.
FORUM FOR DEMOCRACY AND DEVELOPMENT
In politics there is something called ichimwela (some false type of euphoria) which is capable of deceiving even the most astute of politicians. When the FDD was formed a few months before the 2001 general election, they somehow convinced themselves that they could win. But those with the correct reading of politics knew that the battle was between Anderson Mazoka’s UPND and the MMD represented by Levy Mwanawasa. Ten years later, the FDD is now only kept alive by the eloquence of its leader Edith Nawakwi. All other leaders have simply deserted the party. After making his money running the NCC Secretariat, Newton Nguni announced his resignation as national secretary, left FDD and has since gone into political oblivion. Nawakwi’s deputy, Chifumu Banda, is now an MMD cadre who has since called on Zambians to give Rupiah Banda a new mandate.
So, realistically speaking, the FDD is nowhere on the political scene. They too must stop masquerading. It is actually surprising that the party has not done what would appear to the most obvious thing – endorse Sata and campaign for him. I say ‘most obvious thing’ because Nawakwi has fallen out with Rupiah whom she backed in 2008, and she differed with HH in 2006 when HH was thought to be arrogant despite being a newcomer to the United Democratic Alliance (UDA). What other option is available for Nawakwi apart from joining Sata?
On 2 March 2010, the Mulungushi International Conference Centre was filled to capacity. Elias Chipimo Jr. seized the opportunity and gave a masterful of a speech to launch the National Restoration Party. But that happens every time a new political party is born. Brilliant ideas are laid out and the new party presents itself as the party of the moment, possessing the magical wand to tomorrow’s Zambia. Over one year on, NAREP is struggling to stamp its presence (not authority) on the scene. NAREP has a message, quite convincing, I must say, if you read the book written by Elias, which is the only public document so far offering what the party stands for. But the party does not just seem to be connecting with the masses. Zambian voters are simply not at the level of the USA where you can use twitter and facebook to woo them. Zambians want someone who can speak their language, some persona they can attach to. That is where Sata has it, his other faults aside. So even if it is testing the waters this year, NAREP will be lucky to come back with just 1% of the national vote.
NATIONAL MOVEMENT FOR PROGRESS
The Ngandu Magande led party has yet to define itself. Apart from its leader, there is really nothing on the ground to show for its existence. Magande may have been one of the best finance ministers the country has had but, good as that may be, winning an election is much more than that. It is good that Magande has come out of the talk of him having been anointed by Mwanawasa. That is history. He now has to cultivate his own outlook upon which Zambians must judge him. But for 2011 he is out.
ALLIANCE FOR DEMOCRACY AND DEVELOPMENT
This is a classic case of inflating one’s ego. Charles Milupi is popular in Luena. He cannot win the presidency. Period!
The rest like Cosmo Mumba, Humphrey Siulapwa, Edwin Sakala, and Fred Mutesa were just there to add to the number (kupakisa number, as we would say locally) and perhaps remind us that they too still exist politically. In effect, they are nowhere.