Strategy for winning an expected election

President Banda pointing at a monkey

President Banda pointing at a monkey

Most dictionaries describe strategy as a game plan or plan of action. In our daily lives, we develop plans of action for all sorts of things-going on a trip, planning for our children’s futures, getting a better job, etc. In political arenas, developing a game plan to win an election or pass legislation takes strategy to another level: combining planning with ongoing analysis and evaluation. The word ‘strategy’ is most commonly associated with armies and generals. The root word strata is the Greek term for both ‘army’ and ‘plane’ (or battlefield).

To better understand the relationships between all the factors at their command, generals, who were called strategos in ancient Greece , weigh their enemy’s strengths and weaknesses, their troops’ capacities and limitations, and the terrain on which they are fighting. Sometimes, generals decide to ‘lose a battle in order to win the war.’ This is a pure example of applying strategy to decision-making, bringing together all the factors-campaigns, tactics, resources, opportunities, organization, long-term goals–and looking at them all at once.

The main goal for the Opposition Parties has always been to win the Presidential Elections and form Government, something they have continually failed to do since 1991. They would like to do this even it means risking instability as none of them would have a working majority in Parliament. The question, one would ask is, what is their strategy for winning this difficult upcoming expected election 2011, something they are yet to manage in previous years? This can only be achieved through a strategic plan and implementation of strategic actions.

In essence, strategic action consists of two basic elements: conceiving of a vision of the future; and devising a series of steps aimed at getting there. Without a vision of the future, political action is aimless, or at best reactive and defensive (as we see today with the ugly head of tribalism and insults rearing itself). But a vision of the future is of little use if it is not accompanied by a clearly elaborated understanding of what it would take to make it a reality.

Unfortunately, in recent decades, progressive politicians in Zambia have largely failed to think and act in this way. Instead, the greater part of their political activity has been devoted to limiting the worst effects of the things they oppose, rather than to working pro-actively to construct an alternative reality. More often than not, they find themselves caught in a short-term defensive holding action, and they devote little attention to the long-term implications of their actions.

In the process, the Opposition in Zambia have become practitioners of what has been called “sophisticated despair,” the deeply cynical belief that “a hierarchical society [can], perhaps, be marginally ‘humanized’ but [can] not be fundamentally democratized.” This despair is not only devastating to the capacity for long-term strategic reflection and action. It also serves to reinforce a political culture of resignation that defines what can be done in the narrowest possible terms and becomes limited arguing about personalities rather than the real issues that affect the people.

Indeed, the most widespread views in vogue in Zambia today can be characterized as follows: (a) the country is poor, it’s only going to get worse, you’re powerless to do anything about it, so don’t bother; or (b) it is possible to have some effect, but set your sights on slowing down the pace at which things deteriorate, because they certainly aren’t going to get better, and trying to do more will only end in defeat and make us even worse off.

Both of these views are, of course, self-fulfilling prophecies. But they are derived from the long experience of repeated disappointments and the emergence of seemingly ever greater threats. There is no time when this would appear to be more true than the present, given the rise of the MMD administration since 1991, which is today regarded by the Opposition as one of the most reactionary and destructive in Zambian history, even though all the main opposition parties are babies of the MMD and grand children of UNIP. Now with RB in power the circle has come full cycle with former UNIP comrades now re-united within MMD.

Developing an effective political strategy for dealing with this threat is therefore also a clear and urgent necessity. In devising such a strategy, however, the Opposition needs to be especially clear about the fundamental challenge that confronts them. The key question is not simply how they can defeat Rupiah Bwezani Banda in 2011; it is, rather, how can they do so without succumbing to the sort of defensive, short-term politics that put them in this predicament to begin with and that risks creating even greater threats down the road?

How, in other words, can they ensure that defeating RB is not just a temporary fix and that Zambia will not be facing an even worse choice a few years from 2011. Can the Opposition instead design a strategy that takes care of the strong RB/MMD/UNIP/Levy Legacy new political axis while simultaneously laying the foundations for a better future for all the people of Zambia ? Observing the current alliance campaigns and outline manifestos does not inspire confidence that we will see a new Government.

All we hear everyday is how each President will bring heaven on earth and how they are the Man for Zambia or the Man of Action and that their tribe has never ruled Zambia . What nonsense in a nation of 73 tribes!! If each tribe was to subscribe to this rubbish then we would have to change Presidents every year for 73 years!! The question many Zambians are asking themselves is; are we really going to be better off with a new Government made up of the UPND/PF shaky pact? Can the promises being made truly be fulfilled in five years with a hostile Parliament because it will not be possible for opposition to gain a significant majority in Parliament? Can we risk all the hard work and sacrifice of the Zambian people for the sake of someone fulfilling their personal ambition of becoming Zambia ’s fifth President?

It is my considered view based on my interactions with a number of these Opposition politicians that we will actually most likely be worse off as a people. Why? This is because all these Opposition politicians are only interested in personal aggrandizement and are driven not by love for Mother Zambia but envy for the incumbent. Further, Zambia needs a new generation of political leadership to take this country forward. A serious look at the current leaders shows that apart from one or two of them the rest are all from the 60’s generation and surely do you expect these people to take Zambia into the 21st Century?

As things stand today, it can be stated boldly that the MMD will win the 2011 elections even without the Mwanawasa family tree and the support of those are holding onto his legacy. All knowledgeable objective Zambians know that the race in 2011 will be hard fought but only MMD remains a true national party and one which provides unity for Zambia . The Opposition is still a divided force with stubborn personalities who take pleasure even in times of difficuly and would love to see Zambians suffer for their own selfish ends.

The people of Zambia must never forget the acrimonious and unfair insults President Mwanawasa suffered during the campaign of 2001 and 2006 from the same people claiming today to be the best friends and confidants of Levy. Are these the people we can trust to run the State of Zambia with justice, fairness and unity of purpose? We await to hear a more serious debate on why the nation should change course away from MMD and if the MMD has been so bad in Governance let the Opposition be very specific and point this out so we can judge for ourselves. It is the height of hypocrisy for one to claim the legacy of President Mwanawasa while being at the same time a fierce opponent of Levy and the Party he represents. For once let us put Zambia first and not our personal egos and ambitions. God Bless Zambia .

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