Political Scientist Neo Simutanyi has observed that the selection of Geoffrey Mwamba as Hakainde Hichilema’s running mate is death blow on the PF’s campaign efforts.
Dr Simutanyi who is also Executive Director of the Centre for Policy Dialogue says the spin to discredit Mr Mwamba mainly by PF officials will work to UPND’s advantage.
He said Mr Mwamba’s political and mobilizational skills are well known to the PF and he cannot be dismissed outright hence the spin is to discredit him and hope that the electorate will be convinced not to vote for the HH/GBM ticket.
“Why should PF’s leaders be concerned who Hakainde Hichilema chooses as his running mate? Will it not be to their advantage if HH’s choice for running mate is inappropriate? It is my view, that HH’s choice of running mate, is a coup de grace on the PF’s campaign efforts,” Dr Simutanyi said.
Below is Mr Simutanyi full statement
Campaign of the Underdogs
With two months to go before the general election and the completion of filing of nomination papers by nine presidential candidates, the election campaign, has entered its most decisive phase.
Political parties are using different strategies to market their manifestos and candidates.
These have ranged from exhortations on citizens to recognize past performance, campaign promises of policy changes, hate speech and personal attacks on leading candidates to violent confrontations with rival political opponents.
These strategies have been used before in our elections and are not new. However, considering that our multiparty system will be celebrating 25 years this year, we expect more maturity in how election campaigns are conducted by our leading politicians. It should not be forgotten that Zambians are suffering from electoral fatigue, having had four elections in the last ten years, an average of one election every two and half years.
Thus the August 11 general election will be the fifth since 2006. But the quality of debate and policy discourse remains very low and surprisingly mediocre to fire the imagination of the Zambian electorate.
Two themes have dominated the political discourse in the past week. These are the selection of United Party for National Development (UPND) vice president for administration Geoffrey Bwalya Mwamba (GBM) as Hakainde Hichilema’s running mate and a negative smear campaign on the UPND’s political future.
GBM’s selection as running mate was unexpected and has thus been a subject of discussion. Many commentators and politicians from rival parties have described it as ill-advised, would lead to a split in the party and affect UPND’s electoral prospects in the forthcoming elections. Surprisingly, these concerns are coming predominantly from non-UPND members.
Why should PF’s leaders be concerned who Hakainde Hichilema chooses as his running mate? Will it not be to their advantage if HH’s choice for running mate is inappropriate? It is my view, that HH’s choice of running mate, is a coup de grace on the PF’s campaign efforts.
GBM’s political and mobilizational skills are well known to the PF and he cannot be dismissed outright.
Thus the spin is to discredit him and hope that the electorate will be convinced not to vote for the HH/GBM ticket. But will that work? This smear campaign against GBM, in my view will work to UPND’s advantage.
The more the PF campaign against GBM, the more people will be drawn to him and his party. Was that not the case with the late Michael Chilufya Sata?
Michael Sata endured ten years of negative campaigns, at one time with almost all the media houses against his candidature.
He was called all kind of names; of having been a foreigner; of using vulgar language; of being a tribalist and leading a tribal party, among many other invectives.
A long-running documentary on ZNBC and columns in newspapers catalogued his shortcomings and denounced him as unworthy to lead this country. But despite all that, he was elected Zambia’s fifth president in September 2011.
If Geoffrey Mwamba was someone we did not know, it would be possible for people to be persuaded to consider him in a different light.
However, he played a pivotal role in PF’s election victory in 2011, he twice served as Kasama Member of Parliament, was Defence Minister in Michael Sata’s government, resigned from government on a question of principle (the non-recognition of Chanda Sosala as Chitimukulu of the Bemba-speaking people of Northern Province) and was expelled from the ruling PF as he was perceived to have presidential ambitions.
Paradoxically, those politicians who only joined the PF after Sata’s death and were at the centre of campaigning against him in 2006, 2008 and 2011 are today in the fore-front of attacking GBM. Is that not political hypocrisy?
There are merits and demerits in the selection of running mates. For example, Vice President Inonge Wina’s selection could not be said to have been based on attracting the support of Western Province, as it is improbable that such support will be forthcoming, going by recent voting trends in that region.
Further, age may act as another disadvantage to Edgar Lungu’s choice of running mate. But one hopes that the decision to retain her may have been informed by a desire to woo the female vote and to ride on her exposure as republican Vice President.
Thus it will be up to the voters to give their verdict on whether or not her choice was a correct one. Similarly, while there are merits and demerits in the selection of GBM as HH’s running mate, I would think that the decision was based on balancing the ticket to ensure that the UPND extends its electoral appeal beyond its traditional areas of support.
In my opinion, political strategy will be an important factor in the forthcoming election than reliance on past electoral performance.
Thus it is imperative for the leading political parties to be more persuasive in their electoral messages and avoid personal attacks which may attract sympathy votes.
To the extent that the Electoral Commission of Zambia has validated the nomination of presidential candidates and their running mates, political parties should concentrate on the work at hand to convince the electorate why their parties and candidates are the best placed to move this country to the next level.
Let the conversation and policy discourse be on the alternative choices on offer and how different parties think they are better placed to bring the desired change that this country so badly desires.
The other issue that caught my attention is the tendency towards negative campaigns by some party leaders.
Some of these leaders, have argued that there is no difference between the PF and UPND in their policies and that they have embraced defectors from other parties such as the MMD.
For example, Rainbow Party leader and presidential candidate, Wynter Kabimba is quoted as saying: “PF and UPND do not care about the calibre of people joining them because they have an insatiable appetite for power…. The UPND has been losing election after election. They are now fighting for survival…if UPND loses this election… it will go into extinction, it will die.” Kabimba further states that, “PF is desperate to win this election and remain in power. On the other hand, the UPND are also desperate to get into power not for purposes of serving the country but their survival” (The Post, June 7, 2016). Why should a leader of a political party and presidential candidate use such bitter language?
As a student of politics I found the sentiments attributed to Wynter Kabimba most unfortunate and uninspiring.
First, it would appear to me that the Rainbow Party is going into this election as an underdog and acknowledges that the contest is between PF and UPND.
Second, a broad condemnation of UPND and PF puts Rainbow on a pedestal as a party of angels who have had no links to either MMD, UPND or PF.
Third, there is lack of seriousness for a presidential candidate to accuse other candidates of having an “insatiable appetite for power.”
If my good friend and brother, Wynter Kabimba, does not want political power, why is the Rainbow Party contesting the presidency?
It is my understanding, that all the nine political parties that filed their nomination papers to contest the presidential election, are serious and all want to win the election. If they really do not want to win power, why then spend their family resources contesting an election they know they will lose? How do they expect their supporters to believe in them, if they doubt their own victory?
As a democrat I believe in everyone’s right to form a political party and offer themselves for elections. However, I get concerned when the discourse tends to assume that we Zambians suffer from collective amnesia, not to remember where we have come from.
The PF that is today being vilified by some of the loudest political commentators in opposition, was the same PF they served, in senior capacities. Sata’s PF that won power in 2011 did not have identifiable members, but had supporters.
Most of its present membership only came on board after the party won power. Some of the people who were appointed to senior cabinet positions never at any time supported Sata publicly or addressed a PF rally.
I don’t remember there was any screening of members from MMD and UPND who defected to PF when Sata was still alive?
This is when Wynter Kabimba held the powerful position of secretary general of the PF. Surely, what is this talk about the calibre of people joining the party coming from?
Did it really matter, then or has it ever mattered what kind of people political parties attract? The point is all parties, including Rainbow, have benefitted from defections from other parties. The core membership of Rainbow today is derived from PF and can also claim to have UPND and MMD defectors in its ranks.
This is the case in all other parties, including FDD, UPND and PF. So to discredit other parties as having low calibre members is not only hypocritical, but goes against historical experience.
Lastly, I do not understand the relevance of the reference to UPND’s extinction after the election.
Why should participants in this election wish other parties disappeared from the political scene? Is it really fair to wish another opposition party to go into oblivion?
In my view, reference to UPND’s ‘extinction’ is rather ill-informed, considering the party’s history. Unlike, many other opposition parties, the UPND has been in existence since 1998, has contested five major elections and has maintained a political presence on the ground and in parliament.
Our multiparty system needs the Rainbow Party to maintain a political presence and offer checks and balances, even if it lost the forthcoming elections. Is it not encouraging that UNIP is still around, despite not having a single member of parliament?
I would want to see party leaders and presidential candidates raise issues that will excite our imagination and make us dream of a new future for our country.
Petty political jealousies will not help win an election. Zambians want a leadership that will articulate alternative policies that will lift the majority of our people from abject poverty.
We know a lot about the leading personalities that have offered themselves to lead us, what we want to hear is what distinguishes them from each other.
Centre for Policy Dialogue, Lusaka