The Trouble with the UPND/PF Pact

Lusaka residents that attended the Launch of the UPND/PF Pact on Saturday, 5th June 2010 celebrated the event calling it a triumph of hard-work, dedication and patriotism.

Their leaders, Michael Sata and Hakainde Hichilema used this opportunity to mock previous fears and assertions that the Pact would break insisting that this event demonstrated their resolution and that of Zambians to remove the MMD from power at next year’s Election.

The two leaders urged their supporters to stand steadfast as they march to State House.

However, barely a month later, the Pact was on its death bed, plagued by suspicions, mistrust and divisions. But ardent followers of the Pact are hopeful that the alliance will overcome its problems and are instead blaming The Post for blowing a simple issue out of proportions.

Some UPND officials are also blaming The Post and its strong editorials for reporting out of context, “simple misunderstandings” that have arisen over the Kaoma and Chadiza ward-by-election. The officials accuse the paper of sowing seeds of divisions and mistrusts!

This was strange because the Pact has been kept intact by The Post and its image and acceptability has been bolstered by the good coverage given to the Pact leaders.

THE UPND/PF PACT

When Patriotic Front (PF) leader Michael Sata and United Party for National Development (UPND) leader, Hakainde Hichilema announced the formation of an electoral pact on 4th June 2009, to challenge the MMD, they were hailed by their supporters as patriots that had cast aside their selfish and parochial interests to foster unity in the Opposition to help defeat the MMD. The MMD will have been in power for 20 years by 2011.

Officials from both parties even began to posture as the next government giving ultimatums to President Rupiah Banda on policies and government programs. It was clear to them that it was a foregone conclusion that the Pact will take over power come 2011. The Pact leaders also began to threaten that they will reverse certain policies such as the sale of ZAMTEL and the process of the new Constitution.

But the formation of the Pact was clouded in secrecy. A Memorandum of understanding (MOU) signed provides bare information. However a secret agreement existed, that provided that although a presidential candidate would not be announced till 2011, PF leader Michael Sata would stand while Hakainde Hichilema was designated as Vice-President. Further the secret agreement stated that Sata would only rule for one presidential term while Hichilema would take over the reins in 2016.

Hence began the troubles of the Pact.

While members and supporters were informed that there was no junior partner in the alliance and that an inter-party working group would chose a presidential candidate, this only amounted to posturing and self deception.

Following the Elections of 2006 and 2008, Sata emerged as the second strongest candidate next to Levy Mwanawasa and later Rupiah Banda. The PF became the largest opposition party. It therefore did not surprise many that Hichilema had settled for the second position as that appeared to be the political reality of the day.

In 2008, Rupiah Banda obtained 718,359 (40.09%) as compared to Michael Sata who got 683,150 (38.13%), while Hakainde Hichilema obtained 353,018 (19.7%) and Godfrey Miyanda got 13,683(0.76). The voter turn-out was only 1,791,806 out of almost 4million registered voters.

But following the Solwezi and Mufumbwe parliamentary by –elections, the UPND grew wings.

They began to predict that since Mwanawasa was a Bantu-Botatwe and was no longer on the scene, they could recapture the stronghold the party lost to the MMD after the 2006 Elections and previously held after the 2001 Elections. Hichilema now publicly speculated that the UPND had regained its strength in Southern, Western, North-Western, Central provinces. UPND also now claimed that the party had made new in-roads in Lusaka and Copperbelt Rural.

And the recent Mufumbwe by –elections appeared to confirm the UPND assertions.

It’s yet to be seen how correct this self edifying analysis is.

With their electoral victory in Solwezi and Mufumbwe, the UPND camp began to push that Hichilema should be the Pact presidential candidate as the PF and Sata had lost significance ground in their stronghold in Luapula, Northern and Copperbelt provinces following former president Frederick Chiluba’s public support rendered to President Rupiah Banda and the MMD.

They insisted that Sata had lost all the13 MPs but one in Luapula led by Dr. Peter Machungwa.

When Hichilema came back from the USA on 23rd May 2010, he called for a press conference prior to his arrival. Upon his arrival Hichilema declared that he was the most suitable presidential candidate for the Pact because of his young age claiming that this was the world trend Zambia should follow. He claimed that what had happened recently in the USA, Russia, Tanzania and the United Kingdom where young candidates in Barack Obama, Dmitry Medvedev, Jakaya Kikwete and David Cameron beat older candidates gave him hope to lead the Pact.

Hichilema’s decision to hold the press conference at the Lusaka International Airport was calculated to make him appear presidential and his statement that he was the more suitable candidate for the Pact was a comfort statement to assure his sponsors that he had a realistic chance as a Pact presidential candidate. Further he was attempting to discredit the now known secret agreement that consigns him to a junior partner of the alliance until 2016.

This brought immediate concerns from the PF and Sata.

There was an attempt to justify, ignore or underplay Hichilema’s profound statement. But Sata could not be fooled.

Hichilema now accelerated the launch of the Pact claiming that to debunk reports about the break of the alliance, there should be a public show of unity. The working group decided to commemorate the anniversary of the Pact by holding a joint public rally.

The launch went ahead but the deep problems of the Pact could not be masked or wished away with this deceptive method.

TROUBLE WITH THE PACT

The Pact was founded on sandy and shifting grounds.

The policies and manifestos are poles apart and cannot be harmonized. What seems to bring them together is their lust for political power riding only on a crest of popular calls from some Zambians that have demanded that a formidable alliance be formed to beat the MMD.

The two parties are different in many ways. The PF is a pragmatic and populist party with its policies driven by its erratic and eccentric leader Michael Sata. The PF has never held a party convention and all its officials are appointed by Mr. Sata. Even those that became elected such as Councilors and MPs were literally nominated by Sata.

He runs the party in an autocratic manner and the party’s activities are heavily centered on him. Sata has curved a strong cult image and it is difficult for observers to make any distinction between the PF and its leader.

The UPND on the other hand, is a liberal Socialist party with a functioning secretariat and an elaborate democratic structure. Although, the UPND has suffered poor showing after the death of its founding president Anderson Kambela Mazoka, it’s more institutional than the PF.

Following the death of Mazoka, Hichilema campaigned hard to beat Vice-President and Mazoka’s longstanding friend, Sakwiba Sikota.

Hichilema attempted to shore up his image and exploited an electoral alliance that Mazoka had set up with UNIP and the FDD. After a bitter quarrel with FDD leader, Edith Nawakwi who genuinely felt that following the death of Mazoka, she should be allowed to stand as the Alliance candidate, Hichilema won the contest by promising FDD and UNIP officials using his financial muscle. He pledged financial support to the FDD and UNIP parliamentary and councilor candidates.

Nawakwi later claimed that Hichilema was a danger to national politics as his psyche is violent. She said she was shocked that Hichilema threatened to beat her up and actually physically charged against her during the heated meeting!

Hichilema proceeded to head this alliance. However the alliance had such a poor showing with FDD and UNIP winning only three seats in Eastern Province while the UPND lost its tremendous ground in North- western, Central and Western provinces losing its MPs from 47 to 22 MPs after the 2006 Elections.

The party also lost prominent members such as Patrick Chisanga,Sakwiba Sikota, Given Lubinda, Bob Sichinga and Inonge Wina.

The small outfit in the PF now became the largest opposition party with 42 MPs.

So this recent electoral alliance was a mirage in the desert from the beginning providing a solution that was not.

The Pact was further weakened by an MOU that failed to provide, deal or define party’s territorial boundaries, choice of candidates, discordant policies and left all fundamental issues to be decided by joint working groups and committees.

This Pact was only driven by perceived political will or goodwill of the two party leaders Sata and Hakainde and was strengthened or weakened by their own public statements.

BREACH OF FIDELITY BY THE UPND

The UPND can be accused of infidelity in this marriage from the day the pact was born. Hakainde has always wanted an easy way into State House. In the past elections of 2006 and 2008, he was constantly making overtures willing to sell his party to President Mwanawasa and later to President Rupiah Banda.

The proposals have always been the same. That Hichilema be made Vice-President while a few of his top officials be given ministerial positions.

In the 2008 elections, he took this similar proposal to Acting President then, Rupiah Banda, who snubbed the opportunistic overtures.

This is the same proposal that founded the UPND/PF Pact.

So the conduct of UPND officials recently which has undermined the Pact so much that the damage maybe irreparable, is rooted in Hichilema’s own past opportunism. While in this marriage with the PF, the UPND officials began to look for a suitor!

Members of the UPND Secretariat recently drew up a study document for the UPND Management Committee that proposed that President Rupiah Banda and the MMD amend the Republican Constitution to create an Office of the Prime Minister for Hakainde Hichilema. Further, the proposal stated that there should be guarantees for sharing cabinet positions.

When the officials presented these proposals to State House, it rejected the requests stating that the proposals from the UPND were premature and consisted of issues that fitted a post-electoral scenario and the spoils the officials wanted shared could only be done after the 2011 electoral battle.

The other discussions have been held by Mbabala MP, Emmanuel Hachipuka and Pemba MP David Matongo with Andrew Banda. Andrew Banda is a former UPND official and founder member and has tried to bring UPND officials to the MMD. He is said to have encouraged the discussions from the MPs promising to persuade his father, President Rupiah Banda and other senior NEC MMD members on a suitable electoral alliance between the UPND and the MMD.

After learning of UPND’s infidelity Sata has decided to break the Pact after the Chifubu parliamentary by-election. He is confident that since President Rupiah Banda beat him by 35,000 votes in 2008, he can muster these votes from Western province where PF Chairperson Inonge Wina is vigorously campaigning for the party.

Sata also contends that he can capture significant votes from the new and young voters being captured by the continuous voter registration exercise. He dismisses allegations that he has lost significant grounds in Northern, Luapula and Copperbelt provinces.

He alleges that the Chiluba factor will in fact benefit him as shown by the varying support he received in 2006 (with Chiluba 28%) and in 2008 where his showing grew to 38% (without Chiluba) in 2008.

He refuses to recognize that his improved showing in 2008 was because he was the oldest candidate on the ballot after standing in 2001, 2006 and 2008 and this factor of familiarity with voters helped him while President Banda was on the presidential ballot for the first time.

THE POST

The UPND officials are accusing Post Managing Director, Fred Mmembe of playing puppeteer with the Pact. They claim that The Post has always preferred Sata and has treated its leader Hichilema as the junior partner of the alliance.

They accuse the paper of portraying Hichilema in the worst of light (pictures showing him expressing fury with the Police or posturing like a call boy) while Sata is always shown in good light and in presidential postures (standing before mass crowds, or affectionately greeting children or with white donors and journalists).

The officials also accuse The Post of fomenting the tribal tag against them fuelling the lasting suspicions that that UPND is a Tonga party. They think that Mmembe has decided to break the alliance so that he has enough time to help build the PF to a winning entity before the next elections.

They further allege that Fred Mmembe with many court cases hanging over him and the K23billion The Post allegedly owe Zambia Revenue Authority (ZRA) in unpaid taxes, he could have capitulated and struck a secret deal with the President Rupiah Banda.

They allege that that ever since The Post broke stories of troubles in the Pact camp, the paper has been giving good coverage to President Rupiah Banda portraying him in good light. Previously, President Banda was shown in unfavourable postures but the recent coverage is good and makes him appear presidential.

The Post has since cleared the debt owed to ZRA. The matter however is in court over dispute over penalties and interests that the paper was charged with.

THE MMD

The MMD appears to be the largest political party with a countrywide footprint. Yet it is in trouble. It’s been in government for the last twenty years and as any analyst would tell you, fatigue against it in the country has set in and is at its highest.

The MMD has reached a well known point, where its failures and negatives appear more pronounced than the good it has brought to the country.

Although President Rupiah Banda is new to the party and has only been Republican President for two years, he is however judged harshly not by his record, but by the twenty year record of the MMD.

His handlers have not found that thin line that would show him as new to government requiring another term. They have also not made him exploit or reap the benefits that the MMD has brought to the country in its twenty year.

Although Banda’s government is doing very well with his government reaping the economic rewards of the policies of his predecessors, his enemies have swayed him from these good developments.

The leap growth in the mining sector has not been exploited well. There is also tremendous growth in the financial sector. Further new Hospitals and Health Centers are being built across the country in every district. So are the new primary and high schools coming up in every district. There is also rapid pavings and constructions of important link roads across the country.

These economic developments are so significant and only comparable to the 1960s when infrastructure went up, but have been made to appear as ordinary work of any government!

All these important developments are buried in the petty politics that has engulfed his administration.

The developments in the MMD are not encouraging either.

Following the jailing of its National Secretary, Dr. Katele Kalumba over corruption allegations, the MMD informed the country that Katele would take leave.

Katele never consolidated the party as his undeclared presidential ambitions stood in the way. Any activities undertaken to strengthen the party was deemed as actions meant to prop up his candidature. While his inaction also meant that he was failing in his duties as National Secretary. It was a catch 22.

Recently, government evacuated him to India for specialist treatment for his cardiac condition.

His functions have now been taken over by his deputy, Chembe Nyangu.

The voice of the party, Dora Siliya has done an exceptional good work occasionally responding to unwarranted attacks from the Opposition against President Rupiah Banda and the MMD.

The party is currently conducting grass-root elections at branch and ward levels. Later constituency, district and provincial elections will be carried out.

The party is working in open disharmony. Former president Dr. Frederick Chiluba withdrew his support from the PF and threw his weight behind President Rupiah Banda and the MMD. As founder president of the party who led it for 11 years, he has quite some following. He has persuaded many former PF officials to rejoin the MMD. Chiluba’s return to the MMD has threatened PFs stronghold in Northern, Luapula and Copperbelt.

But these new members returning to their beloved party are being treated with suspicions and distance by some current officials. Luapula is the best example with all but one MPs now working with President Rupiah Banda but face hostility from some MMD candidates and officials that eyed those seats.

President Rupiah Banda also has his own personal supporters that have joined the party but remain on the sidelines too. He has brought his kin and Kieth from UNIP

This provides paralysis that can only be cured by the party holding elections at all levels.

The party needs a new energy that will spur it to a win in 2011.

It will be political folly for the MMD to entirely bank on the collapse of the UPND/PF Pact as is the case now. The MMD should prepare for elections with the Pact as its opponent but in the event that it collapses, it will be an added electoral bonus.

Further the party should expedite its party elections so that it can finally hold its national convention. This will help bring renewal to the party and help consolidate it. It will also help root out rogue elements such as former Minister of Defense, George Mpombo who have been quick to bring the party into constant disrepute with their utterances against President Rupiah Banda and the MMD.

CONCLUSION

The 2011 Presidential elections will still be dominated by the MMD, PF and UPND. It is likely to be a three-man race with the parts leaders in Rupiah Banda, Michael Sata and Hakainde Hichilema taking centre stage.

Although there are genuine efforts and attempts to patch up the differences in the Pact, it’s unlikely that the seams will hold due to the ambitions of its leaders and other factors.

For Sata, this is his likely last attempt at the throne owing to his age, health and other factors. His party has also peaked in 2008 and now is in its diminishing stage.

Hichilema has been exposed as the opportunist of them all, always looking for the easy way out. Mazoka built the UPND from scratch and within three years, he had built up a formidable infrastructure that almost defeated the MMD in 2001. However, Hichilema has used this infrastructure to bargain for political power thereby exposing his lust for power.

He is the youngest of the three candidates but has never exploited those qualities as a young population keep on voting for Rupiah Banda or Michael Sata.

The MMD also need to fight off the country-wide political fatigue that has set in against it. It requires an urgent renewal or electrified energy. President Rupiah Banda needs to reap the benefits of subsequent MMD government while retaining his freshness to the throne.

The other new presidential hopefuls such as Elias Chipimo of national Restoration Party (NAREP) and Charles Milupi of the Alliance for Democracy and Development (ADD) require only footnote mention for their insignificant political impact on the country.

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