By Hlastwayo Cele-It is not difficult to see why opposition Political Parties in Zambia remain just that ‘opposition Parties’. The ruling Party will have been in office for 20 years by the year 2011 since dislodging from power in 1991 Kaunda’s United National Independence Party (UNIP). Besides offering no plausible alternative to Government, policy wise, the opposition remains reeled in internal wrangles and squabbles.
With the next Presidential and General elections billed for 2011, less than two years from now, one would imagine that the main Opposition Party Patriotic Front (PF) led by Michael Sata will be busy consolidating the grip on its strongholds. Instead, they seem doing the very opposite. Luapula, which has been one of PF’s main strongholds, has in all intents and purposes been lost to the ruling party, the Movement for Multi Party Democracy (MMD).
Members dubbed ‘rebel mps’ for defying the Party’s President Michael Sata directive not to attend the on-going National Constitutional Commission (NCC), the constitutional making process and for which they were expelled, contesting the expulsion and then winning a court injunction against it, has caused a major rift in the Party.
This wrangle has particularly dealt a major blow to PF, essentially crippling its chances of victory in the up coming 2011 elections. The other opposition party United Party for National Development (UPND) remains a stronghold only among the Tonga speaking people of Southern Province. They too have shown signs of internal factionalism. Recently one of their pillar members was expelled for voicing dissenting views, which views are shared by others in the party.
Attempts to form alliance among the Opposition have not done enough to dispel the negative notions. The two opposition Parties, PF and UPND, have entered into a political PACT leading onto the 2011 elections.
In Lusaka and Copperbelt urban, the opposition has fared quite well and has kept an upper hand, enjoying the backing of the urban canvassing private media, the POST, popular for its critical stance against government.
Today, an average Zambian if asked what he/she anticipates in a PF/UPND led government; the answer is ever open-ended “dependent on who will eventually lead the alliance”. This hanging issue surrounding who leads the ‘PACT’ above anything else reveals the susceptibility of the alliance to failure and eventually the incapacity of the opposition to spearhead a formidable campaign.
The alliance has two candidates, Sata and HH, to choose from, to lead them in the 2011 Presidential elections. Both candidates are clearly hopeful to lead the PACT with, Sata, enjoying the greater prospect to emerge the sole candidate.
HH, the younger of the two, representing UPND has however, not counted himself out, relying on what some have termed ‘dicey grounds’ for his aspirations. Some of his Party members have openly criticized him for ‘falling to the whims’ of the politically seasoned Sata. However, HH has been quoted saying “I am my own man under no duress,” counting on deductible but presently concealed derivatives and eventualities which, he hopes, will sway the tide to his side.
Some have openly said that HH’s strategies are partly reliant on the assumption that Sata, who was last time evacuated to South Africa for medication, will eventually be unable to keep up or ‘fall out’. Whilst others have said that HH hopes to reap from the NCC recommendations restricting Presidential candidates to degree holders, which if implemented may basically exclude Sata from the upcoming Presidential elections.
Another dent on the PF/UPND alliance is the absence of defined fundamentals binding them together and as such the impression created that the ‘PACT’ is simply a marriage of convenience solely formed under the pretext to ‘kick out’ the MMD formed government. This alliance has been compared to that between the ‘Vulture and Hyena’.
In the last bye election held in Kasama (Bemba land), it is said, “The Tongas escorted the Bembas and so the Bembas will escort the Tongas in Southern Province (Tongaland)” implying that the PACT does not have tangible evidence of its claims. It is easy to see how fragile the alliance is from such statements.
Such is the frailty of the PF/UPND alliance plagued on one hand with fundamental incompatibilities and on the other, an un-saleable agenda.
The ruling Party has its share of problems, not spared from internal squabbles, but nothing compared to the kind found among the opposition, remaining more or less the same level they were at the last Presidential elections, enjoying a countrywide support.
Given decisive measures by the Party’s (MMD) hierarchy to curb the manageable dents and if they devise a clear cut campaign strategy, behind the backdrop of opposition party fragmentation, it is not difficult to see that the MMD could easily make huge inroads and thus consolidate their lead, remaining in government beyond 2011.
Editor’s note: the opinions in this article belong to the author