The January 2015 presidential by-election is 9 days away. Most of the 11 presidential candidates have been crossing the country selling their visions and those without visions trying to promote another person’s vision.The main contenders have emerged to be Nevers Mumba of MMD, Edith Nawakwi of FDD, Hakainde Hichilema (HH) of UPND and Edgar Lungu of PF. However, the front runners are HH and Edgar Lungu, and this discussion focuses on these two.
In HH, we have an economist and successful businessman while in Lungu we have a lawyer and serving cabinet minister. HH has now been in public eye since 2006 when he participated in his first election as a presidential candidate. HH also participated in the 2008 and 2011 presidential elections, coming out third in all the elections. On the other hand Lungu came into public eye in 2011 following his appointment as Home Affairs Minister by late president Sata (MHSRIP). So it is fair to say that in terms of public eye Lungu is an unknown quantity. It is also fair to say that the HH we have seen in this by-election is very different from the one who took part in previous elections.
Hakainde Hichilema’s vision
In previous elections, HH was always on the defensive on issues of tribalism, regionalism and his involvement in privatisation. In this election Zambians have clearly not shown interest in tribal and regional gossip. They simply want the best programs for the country and best man for the job.
In his election HH is on the offensive; on attack. HH has been setting the political topics, and winning the argument. HH has set the political topic on:
- Recognising Chief Chitimukulu and treating our traditional leaders with decency and all the respect they deserve
- Reinstating fired nurses
- Lifting Wage freeze
- Delivering a new constitution before 2016 general elections
- Reversing the retirement age from 65 to 55 years
- Paying farmers early and government taking a leading role in agriculture development
- Reducing price of fuel and electricity
- Free education
- Setting a conducive economic and legal (tax) environment that will allow our businesses to thrive and employee our people while improving tax contribution to treasury
Any political agenda you can talk about has been set by HH.
On the other hand we saw Lungu emerge from a bruising PF presidential race where he ended up being selected as opposed to being elected. Lungu publicly declared that he had no vision of his own but follow that of the late president Sata.
HH has always claimed to be a skilled negotiator, and in this election we have seen this skill result in formation of alliances with opposition MPs and leaders. This alliance gave HH renewed confidence to go on attack with confidence in delivery of his vision. We have seen HH address huge rallies in all parts of the country propounding the same message over and over forcing a sitting government to be on the defensive. Usually government dictates the political discussion points but not in this election.
Lungu declared that he had no vision of his but to follow that of the late president. But what is this vision;
- More money in your pocket with 90 days
- More jobs for the youth within 90 days
- Firing nurses or civil servants that demand better wages
- Delayed payments of farmers for their maize sells to government
- New constitution within 90 days
- Fighting corruption, starting with Rupiah Banda and his son
- Infrastructure development with an unplanned debt management
- Culture of violence by cadres
- General donchi kubeba
The moment Lungu hit the campaign trail, he realised that the vision of late Sata wasn’t going to help him and he quickly abandoned most of the major policies. Lungu started saying exactly what HH was saying and in the process Lungu has earned himself the nickname “Mr Me Too”
Edgar Lungu’s new vision
Lungu has departed from the vision of president Sata by:
- Reinstating all fired nurses
- Promising to recognise the Chief Chitimukulu
- Promising to lift the wage freeze
- Promising to reverse retirement age from 65 to 55 years
- Promising to drop corruption charges against Rupiah Banda
These are major reversals of Sata’s vision, policies or programs
Questions although remain as to why these promises cannot be implemented now. Suffice to say Lungu is the second most powerful man in this government and should be able to use his influence to implement these promises. But as Wynter Kabimba pointed out, Lungu is being held hostage by people around him and is in no position to make decisions of his own. For instance, recognising Chitimukulu will annoy his principal supporter Nkandu Luo who has a private agenda on Chitimukulu.
It was political naivety for Lungu to say that he was going to follow a vision of a dead man. In 2006 we never heard HH say I will follow the vision of late Mazoka (MHSRIP). In any given situation a leader must have a vision, no matter how poor the vision. For instance, Lungu might have said that we have been in government for over three years now and obviously some things have worked for the government while others haven’t. For all those programs that haven’t worked this is what I intended to do, so on and so forth. Lungu appeared to have been looking for a sympathy vote but it hasn’t gone to plan.
In 2008 we saw Rupiah Banda promise to uphold the vision of late president Mwanawasa (MHSRIP) but when he won he quickly abandoned Mwanawasa’s vision. Zambians’ memory is still fresh and are not really in a position to entertain promises of following someone’s vision. Simply put, you cannot be a defender or promoter of another leader’s vision.
There is no doubt that Lungu’s presidential campaign hasn’t gone to plan or to his wish. To say the least, the campaign has been chaotic from organisation, financial and message. The financial aspect appears to have been sorted due to Rupiah Banda’s financial assistance. But RB’s presence has brought another challenge. Genuine PF members are quietly murmuring and questioning the direction that Lungu wants to take the PF. While in public it has again put Lungu on the defensive, this time not from HH but concerned civil society and other political leaders.
On the other hand HH’s campaigns have been well organised and articulated. All campaign teams in all the provinces have the same message; national unity, free education, better economic and business environment, recognise Chitimukulu & respect traditional leaders, remove wage freeze, reversing retirement age from 65 to 55 years and enact new constitution before 2016 elections.
A lot of political commentators have questioned those large crowds at HH’s rallies in Luapula, Northern and Muchinga provinces whether they will translate into votes. With the support of Honourables Katele Kalumba, Felix Mutati, Mutale Nalumango, Mucheleka and GBM, HH will do well. All what HH needs is 3 votes from every 10 votes cast. It is a target achievable and within sight
Given a choice, and I think most of political pundits agree, I would rather be in HH’s position
By Mwela Banda