By Laura Miti
I have been listening to audios leaked out of PF Whatsapp groups. The faithful have been reacting to the party’s loss of the Roan bye election yesterday, to NDC.
It seems the consesus among the party rank and file is that the PF should woo Chishimba Kambwili back to the fold – reconciliation is the term they use.
That thinking makes sense.
The thing is Mr Kambwili has, via his proxy candidate, delivered PF’s most significant defeat since they took office in 2011. In that defeat, their biggest fear has been shown as possible – loss of support in their holy grail, the Copperbelt.
The bigger fear though has to be the fledgling alliance between NDC and PF’s nemesis, the UPND, a cooperation that worked well in the Luanshya win.
PF has very good reason to want that alliance destroyed quickly and completely and the reason is 2021. A simple analysis of our current politics will suggest that, with the obtaining permutations, there is no path to the presidency for the PF without both Lusaka and the Copperbelt in the bag. My long held view is that for HH to win the Presidency, all he has to do is hold firmly onto all the provinces that voted for him in 2016 and then add either Lusaka or Copperbelt or a significant part of each.
That’s where an alliance between NDC and UPND becomes worrying for PF. As things stand, HH is still very popular in the South, West and North- West. He also has made significant inroads elsewhere. On his own though, victory is possible but not guaranteed. Enter Kambwili and his possible sway of the Copperbelt and the picture changes entirely.
Already HH has a much grown support on the Copperbelt. Add the campaign machine called Kambwili and PF is on the backfoot.
All that said, I would suggest to the PF (as I have done before) that the big problem they sit with right now is not HH, Kambwili or the possibility of a mutually beneficial business deal between them or any other opposition actors. PF’s headache rather is Edgar Lungu.
This President has two major handicaps going towards 2021. The first is his inept presidency that has toughened life for everyday Zambians. Zambia is worse off for having elected Edgar and that truth is felt most in citizen’s pockets. Explaining away hungry stomachs, unpaid salaries and children out of school will take up much 2021 time for the PF if they are trying to convince voters to re-elect the person responsible for the pain.
Then there is the problem that EL lacks a personal constituency to offer a campaign. That means he has to continually be carried into major elections. Because EL is a front for all manner of dodgy interests who himself brings no shine to the jewel box, PF has to spend too much energy convincing citizens that the brass they see is gold. To exemplify this, let’s look at Roan. President Lungu’s ineptitude came out in the fact that he had no idea how to win Roan. He had no personal strategy. He depended entirely on what the campaign team decided.
That team ill-advisedly decided to show off and throw money at an angry town and the President went with it.
When it came to personal clout, EL was beaten hands down by Kambwili. He arrived in a town in which Kambwili is king and thought he could help the ruling party candidate by insulting that king and dancing. So he insulted and danced and insulted and danced some more. The result of that is what has PF members in deep mourning today.
It would seem to me therefore that the PF should think a little beyond – let’s win back our prodigal sons if they want 2021 to be easier. Point is Kambwili will probably not have the appetite for going back to PF just to carry EL’s dead weight again. My sense is the frontier that the PF are scared to broach is the one that is most strategic for 2021. They need to lose EL and replace him with someone who can convince Zambians he can steady this country.
EL has nothing more to give than he brought to Roan. That should be a depressing thought for PF.