The electoral alliance between the Patriotic Front (PF) and the United Party for National Development (UPND) announced on 4th June 2009 is now over 6 months. Against all odds this marriage of convenience founded on sandy foundations seems to be holding and is toasting its 6months of existence.
The PF and its leader Michael Sata are known to be driven by popular politics but are weak in ideology and policy. Sata’s media presence is characterised by his numerous responses to the day to day agenda set mostly by The Post. He usually makes running commentaries as issues evolve on its pages which constitute his bulk of politics.
At rallies, he refers to the PF’s only known policies of ‘’ lower taxes and more money in your pockets’’. His many speeches are formed by his criticisms of government and what it is he thinks its leaders are doing wrong.
Sata and his party are different from the UPND. The UPND under the late Anderson Kambela Mazoka presented itself as a party that would dwell on policy changes and promoting a development focused agenda. Mazoka attempted to abandon the culture of insults that had invaded political debates after the dawn of multi-partism. The UPND was founded as a social democratic party.
Under Mazoka, the UPND became a platform for discussion of policies and national issues. The UPND even used to present a parallel national budget! This enforced the perception that Mazoka ran a shadow government with a skilled and competent team forming the core of his management committee!
But when Hakainde Hichilema took over, the UPND turned into a sad state of affairs with the party losing key members such as Sakwiba Sikota, Bob Sichinga, Patrick Chisanga, Given Lubinda and others.
The UPND also suffered a fatal blow when Sakwiba Sikota formed a breakaway from the party- the United Liberal Party (ULP).
At this stage, the UPND lost key members especially those that hailed from Western Province such as Francis Simenda, Inonge Wina, Gladys Habulembe, Venus Kalimina, Kalumyana Simasiku, and Makumba Makumba.
The party also lost its vibrancy when youthful and militant members were frustrated out of the party. The party lost Frank Tayali, Kelvin Ndila, Ngande Mwanajiti, Amos Nakalonga, Douglas Shingandu and Edwin Simusamba.
Hakainde’s attempt to stamp his authority as new leader on the party, using authoritarian methods was disastrous. He continued to lose senior members such as Tiyens Kahenya and Patrick Chisanga. He recently expelled a member many feel he cannot afford to lose in Major Robby Chizyuka describing him as a ‘plant from the MMD!’
Chisanga and Kahenya were special members of the UPND as they were the link between UPND and Liberal Democrat Party of UK and Liberal International
The UPND has since lost its financial and policy support from the party which views the leadership of Hichilema as steering the UPND away from the principles that allowed the mutual relationship to exist.
The UPND has also lost its international affiliation with Liberal International, an association of liberal democratic parties.
The Executive Committee of the Liberal International recently recommended for the disaffiliation of the UPND from the Liberal International through its 2009 Congress held in Cairo, Egypt.
In his letter to the UPND, Emil Kirjas from Liberal International secretariat in UK, informed the UPND that after numerous reminders to the party for it to pay affiliation fees (USD900 per year) for more than two years, ‘’ the Secretariat had no choice but to disaffiliate the UPND which was a great loss to the Liberal International (LI) and its disaffiliation from the world-wide Liberal family was very regrettable.’’
How could a party ran by a self professed millionaire fail to pay subscription fees which are as low as USD900.00?! And this was missed for more than two years!
Clearly HH has diminished the standing and influence of the UPND in the country.
After the 2006 General Elections, the UPND under Hichilema lost Lusaka, North-Western and Western Province to the MMD and the PF, consigning its influence to Southern Province.
After the 2006 Elections, the UPND had its parliamentary presence reduced to 22 MPs from 47 MPs. The PF increased its presence from 2 MPs to 43 MPs.
The UPND was a shell and a shadow of its former self by 2008. Hichilema made attempts to rejuvenate the party and embarked upon a membership renewal and recruitment.
However against all advice, HH proceeded to participate in the 2008 Presidential By – Elections. Many had advised that the PF was a stronger party and Sata stood a better chance of winning the elections. Hichilema was encouraged to form an electoral pact with the PF. He snubbed it.
After two crushing defeats, in 2006 and 2008, HH has come to the inevitable conclusion that he and the UPND cannot win the national election alone – a call many citizens had made since 2001.
Sata, who appears content to exist even without the electoral alliance, has welcomed the UPND to his fold, treating it as his mere appendage that gives him the necessary and natural advantage he needs to deliver a convincing electoral victory against the MMD.
THE PACT- WILL IT SURVIVE?
The Pact presents the single most threat to the MMD’s 18 year old hold on power.
The prayer by the MMD is that the pact will collapse under the weight of Sata’s and Hichilema’s presidential ambitions. This is wishful thinking and should not be the basis for an MMD strategy. What if the pact does not collapse?
Of course the pact has numerous weaknesses and its foundation is weak. It’s not driven by ideology. It has not been sustained by any policy direction. It is held together by a thin thread that binds the two parties together by their hope that they will surely wrestle power from the MMD!
In the process, something must give away.
And it’s Hakainde’s image that has been sacrificed. HH as Hichilema is popularly known has shed his smooth and soft image for a thuggish and militant image.
The tabloid continues to picture HH in unflattering circumstances while Sata is portrayed as a popular statesman (addressing large crowds, greeting children, or conducting a ‘tour’ with a horde of foreign journalists in tow).
The tabloid has covered political developments in the PF with interest such events are trumpeted with a verve that attempts to shows that the PF as a single party continues to grow.
When HH visited Western Province and held a mammoth rally, this success was not recorded in The tabloid.
HH announced that the UPND party had returned to the fold former member Francis Simenda. HH further announced that the party had adopted simenda as Vice-President (joining Richard Kapita, and the current vacant position usually held by a woman/Northerner). The move was designed to satisfy demands (on the MMD) by key persons in western province that it needed its leaders to participate at higher levels such as Vice-President.
The appointment of Simenda as party Vice-President was met with silence from The tabloid even when it counted more for UPND.
Yet the PF’s announcement that it had adopted former Nalolo Member of Parliament, Inonge Wina as its National Chairman was graced with a loud and bold lead story in the tabloid.
Clearly, the significance of Wina who comes from Western Province where PF is weak joining it brings political confusion. The Pact is based on the understanding that the individual parties would strengthen their strongholds and rely upon each other where the other is weak. The UPND has been courting and pursuing Inonge Wina for a while and her refusal to rejoin the party she helped found speaks volume of strange activities happening in the background.
The PF is supposed to consolidate its hold in Northern, Luapula and Copperbelt provinces. The UPND is supposed build its strength in Southern, Western and North-Western provinces.
Sata celebrated Wina’s gender and her political strength stating that:
‘’Wina had been a good mobiliser in the UPND where she served between 2001 and 2006.Our members have informed us that Wina was instrumental in campaigning for me in Western Province’’. The Post (8th November 2009).
Some media houses continue to promote Sata as leader of the Pact while HH is presented as a mere potential successor. HH was supposed to compliment Sata by providing a credible team that might help form government if the Pact was to win the election.
However HH in the current state of the UPND, is no different in leadership capacity from Sata who is surrounded by the likes of Willie Nsanda, GB Mwamba, Given Lubinda and Guy Scot. The UPND has lost key persons to the extent that it cannot bring to the table a dignified team that can help form government. The PF is worse!
Some media is attempting to transform Sata by portraying him as a strong but principled leader.
Yet the Pact rides only on the growing feelings against the MMD’s 18 year rule. The despondency against the MMD, especially in Cities does not give room for people to interrogate the policies of the Opposition parties, the capacity of its leaders, and what new things they are likely to bring to the fore if they managed to grab power from the MMD!
HH is facing an internal revolt as many senior members are at a loss of how to treat Michael Sata. They wonder if the electorate will accept their new turn around!
Others are so fearful of the Pact floating Sata as a presidential candidate that they predict that the UPND would lose the voters in Southern Province to the MMD.
Further the position of Southern Province Chiefs on the Pact is a dangerous factor to its survival. The Chiefs have promised to support the Pact only if HH is allowed to be the Pact’s presidential candidate!
However in the event that Sata is made as the Presidential Candidate, the Chiefs have threatened to shift their support to the MMD as memories of the North – South Alliance are still fresh where Harry Mwaanga Nkumbula (a Southerner)was persuaded to support the Presidency of Kenneth Kaunda (a Northerner) in 1964 and in 1973. They Chiefs insist that the Pact presents an opportunity for Bembas to return the favour and allow them to provide Zambia with a Tonga Presidency!
THE ALTERNATIVE TO THE PF/UPND PACT – CHARLES MILUPI AND ELIAS CHIPIMO JNR
Elias Chipimo Jnr is following the steps of his father.
He has embarked on an ambitious political career. He is has mobilised serious financial resources that will allow his party and his political career to take off with a jumpstart.
He has written a book chronicling the life and current (sad) state of Zambia through his eyes. He hopes to launch the book that will help promote his political career.
A renowned Lusaka corporate lawyer, Elias runs a law firm, Corpus Globe with his partner Bradford Machila.
To prepare for his political career, Elias has resigned from the numerous boards he sits on in preparation for this national task.
He has incorporated some of his colleagues from the legal fraternity and enlisted seasoned politicians such as Patrick Chisanga, Charles Milupi, Emily Sikazwe, Willa Mungomba and others.
Many analysts feel that Elias’ ambitions are too raw and naked and his gunning for the Presidency is ill-timed. Elias however thinks that he can promote his candidature with young people (the Barack Obama way), and persuade older voters through the influences he can master through the traditional structures starting with Chiefs from Northern Province.
Chipimo who regards himself as ‘a proper Bemba’ He is hopeful that he can rally the influences from senior Bembas easily.
Although others feel that Chipimo should allow senior politicians such as Charles Milupi, Member of Parliament for Luena Constituency, to take the leadership of the party, Chipimo does not want to gamble with the leadership and vision of his party!
He hopes to rally the support of those voters who are disgruntled with the MMD on one side, and others terrified with a Sata Presidency! Chipimo hopes to walk the middle ground.
However, only when Chipimo publicly steps into the chaos and madhouse called ‘‘Zambian Politics’’ will his strength, his resolve and the chances that his party have, be determined.
Recently, Chipimo suffered a setback with Charles Milupi forming his own party, the Alliance for Democracy and Development (ADD). Milupi wants to enlist dissatisfied members of the MMD and UPND in Western Province. He also wants to use the ADD as a launch pad for Lozi demands and as a negotiating tool for his political advancement.
PRESIDENT RUPIAH BANDA AND THE MMD
Although President Rupiah Banda is only one-year in office, he is judged harshly by the record of the MMD over the last 18 years.
The failure to hold a party convention might spell disaster for him as his supporters and potential team fashioned around his interests will continue to remain on the sidelines and be outside Cabinet and the NEC.
The call to postpone the Convention is centred on fears that Banda’s enemies might ‘’overwhelm’’ and ‘’confound’’ him at the Convention and in turn ‘’weaken the party’’. The proponents of the suspension of the Convention fear that party members such as Ngandu Magande(Chair for Finance and Economics), Maureen Mwanawasa (former First Lady) and George Mpombo (Chair for Energy) will cause divisions and undermine the standing of President Rupiah Banda so much that he would go into the 2011 Elections as a weakened candidate!
They argue that the suspension of the Convention should be accepted since MMD’s competitors in the name of the PF and the UPND have not held competitive elections anyway!
But many feel that these calls by a few are selfish and unjustifiably pessimistic. The Convention was going to help Rupiah Banda create his own team. The party would also benefit from the renewal and new vibrancy that a Convention breathes into a party. In fact proponents of the cancellation or postponement of the Convention appear to fear the security of their own position than that of Rupiah Banda’s!
The current leadership was put together during the reign of President Mwanawasa and the loyalties and programs were therefore Mwanawasa’s.
Mwanawasa froze the position of the Vice-President resulting in the party not to have a Vice President. Further, because of the all disciplinary actions and defections that have occurred during the last two elections in 2006 and 2008, the party leadership consists of members that are mostly in acting or appointed positions. Clearly the certainty of the party leadership ought to be stronger than that!
Many attribute the lacklustre performance and divisions of the party to this factor. Owing to the apparent divisions promoted by Maureen Mwanawasa, Ngandu Magande and George Mpombo and others, a similar spirit as arisen where Banda appear isolated and without party support.
There are few people that speak in defence of Banda. The attacks by his enemies in the party and in the Opposition have sharpened but the responses are limited to only, Minister of Information Ronnie Shikapwasha, Home Affairs Minister, Lameck Mangani and Minister of Works and Supply Mike Mlongoti. With the recent demise of Local Government Minister, Benny Tetamashimba, political attacks against Banda seem to meet a muted response.
It is for this reason that an early Convention would have provided the party with a renewed mandate and many persons that Banda has brought to the MMD would have had an opportunity to serve him loyally and with a determined vigour.
Although all provincial leaderships have endorsed the postponement of Convention and have recommended that President Rupiah Banda be the sole candidate for the 2011 Elections, the NEC is yet to make a decision on these matters.
Clearly the battle lines are drawn for the 2011 Elections.
The battle will be between the MMD’s candidate, President Rupiah Banda and the rest. If the Pact keeps its act together, it might threaten the hold on power by the MMD and President Rupiah Banda.
It is also important to note that the chances of the Opposition taking power from the MMD is likely to be spoilt by others keen to join the fray such as Charles Milupi, Elias Chipimo, Ngandu Magande, Maureen Mwanawasa and others.
President Rupiah Banda’s case is also spoilt by the constant and dedicated line of attacks he gets from The Post that has managed to shift public perceptions against him.
While the economy is good and the statistics do support such a position, Banda continues to suffer negative perceptions and his politics are not coming well and needs immediate revamping!
Some cooperating partners have swallowed the lie pushed by some media houses that Banda’s government is corrupt. However, most corruption cases that dent Banda’s government occurred during the reign of his predecessor, President Levy Mwanawasa.
The case below is a good example:
In her presentation to the Swedish Parliament, Gunilla Carlsson, Minister responsible for development assistance, stated that her primary duty was to Swedish taxpayers and the poor people of developing countries.
She gave examples about Zambia where corruption scandals were frequently reported in the press. She lamented that development assistance was failing to make a meaningful contribution to poverty alleviation efforts.
She also decried the failure by donors to put mechanisms that would detect fraud and corruption instead of relying upon whistle blowers! She also gave Parliament a detailed account of the corruption scandal at Zambia’s Ministry of Health:
‘’At the beginning of this summer, a corruption scandal was uncovered in the Zambian Ministry of Health. An investigation carried out by the Audit office revealed that ZMK32billion (approximately SEK50Million) was embezzled between 2008-2009! The embezzlement occurred in the ‘Basket Fund’’ contributed by Holland, Canada and Sweden. The other embezzlement occurred in the Global fund and Zambia’s own support from the state budget.’’
She lamented that aid in Zambia and other developing countries was operating in an environment where corruption is a constant feature. She asked parliamentarians whether it should be accepted that some Aid will be lost to corruption!
Carrlsson also wondered whether the West should believe Zambian Economist and writer Dambisa Moyo’s arguments that Aid was poisonous to the development of countries such as Zambia and whether Aid does form part of the problem and not the solution to Africa’s poverty.
The above example shows that Banda’s government has to up its game and fight off the negative perceptions.
Banda’s government has weathered the recession that affected our economy from the global crisis very well. His government has opened the copper mines that were closed during the worst period of the recession. His government has also spent huge sums of money in infrastructure development.
For example, government has spent over K800billion rehabilitating road infrastructure across the country. Banda’s government is clearly working! Yet he has been imprisoned by petty politics perpetuated by his enemies. He has to break free from this mould and set his own agenda.
Editor Note: This is not the work of the Watchdog. We only provided a platform. If you want to rebut the article above, send your response to: [email protected]