Watermelon Campaign: Can History Repeat Itself?

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A soccer fan shows the Patrotic Front 'donchi kubeba'  symbol in support of the Zambia National Soccer team in Lusaka.
A soccer fan shows the Patrotic Front ‘donchi kubeba’ symbol in support of the Zambia National Soccer team in Lusaka.

By Mutinta Himunyanga

The run-up to Zambia’s 11th of August 2016 elections has been characterised by violence and intimidation of political opponents. In addition, the ruling Patriotic Front (PF) has been facing allegations of abusing state institutions, such as the police, military and Zambia Revenue Authority (ZRA) to bully perceived political opponents. In response to the Machiavellian political tactics by the ruling party, the opposition United Party for National Development (UPND) launched the “Watermelon Campaign”.

The ruling Patriotic Front (PF) is describing the UPND “Operation Watermelon” as evil and a recipe for bloodshed. The “Watermelon Campaign” draws similar parallels to the PF’s “Donchi Kubeba” campaign during the 2011 elections campaign.

The reaction of the ruling PF to watermelon campaign show a political incumbency in panic under huge distress. The PF knows the effectiveness of non-violent underground campaigns having been beneficiaries of such a campaign strategy in the 2011 elections. The big question is whether the panic reaction of the PF is driven by the fear of the power of such a strategy or real concerns for violence?

In the 2011 general elections the Movement for Multi-party Democracy (MMD) were busy splashing out a lot of money and campaign materials to bribe voters. In addition, President Rupiah Banda and the MMD allegedly resorted to political violence and intimidation of voters. In response, the PF launched an underground and non-violent campaign strategy “Donchi Kubeba” (Don’t talk, your vote is your secret) to deal with then ruling MMD. The strategy successfully worked well as the PF triumphed in the 2011 elections.

The MMD rallies and meetings were highly subscribed, creating a lull that, it was still popular and yet what people were doing was shouting MMD slogans, pocket their money, materials and in turn voted for the PF.

To get more insights into the “Watermelon Campaign”, I spoke to a PF and UPND cadre based at the highly politicised Intercity Bus Terminal and Lusaka City Market respectively.

John Mwape (not real name) a strong PF supporter and a bus conductor at Intercity Bus Terminal said, “Markets and bus stations have been heavily politicized areas and a number of incidents have happened where people’s shops are rioted or burnt down because they are suspected of supporting the opposition”.

For Mwape, the politicisation of markets and bus terminus is not anything new and was not started by the PF. He argued that it part and parcel of Zambian politics. Mwape noted that the local city council has failed to take charge of the markets and bus stations and this has been the trend dating as far back to the time of the ruling MMD.

Mwape defended President Lungu, statement calling Operation Watermelon as evil saying the plan is evil because by wearing PF campaign materials the opposition can commit violence in the name of the PF. He argued that by wearing PF regalia the opposition is unnecessarily provoking and mocking the ruling party. For Mwape this could potential cause bloodshed if one is caught.

Susan Mwanza (not real name) a fruit and vegetable trader in Lusaka’s City Market defended Operation Watermelon. She said the PF is going to get a test of its own medicine come Thursday’s elections.

Mwanza said, this year the UPND is the one playing the Donchi Kubeba on PF, we are all appearing green outside but inside our hearts we know who exactly we are voting for.

Mwanza added that Operation Watermelon is a mind game and this is disturbing PF so much as it is torturing their minds on whom exactly is on their side.

Mwanza disclosed that in a market like City market where levies, shop rentals and all affairs of the market which includes security and cleaning are controlled by the ruling party, it is very dangerous for her to openly come out in the open on her political preferences.

“I could lose my shop and everything that I have invested here, if I openly came out as opposing the PF and therefore, the Operation Watermelon is a plan that works out well for people that are in places like markets” said Mwanza.

Mwanza said, violence is so much in Lusaka and Copperbelt provinces because these where the strongholds of PF but things have changed this year as the two provinces have split with both PF and UPND enjoying a fifty-fifty chance of winning.

And UPND has maintained that Operation Watermelon is a safety strategy aimed at protecting its members from been attacked by PF.

And Late President Michael Sata in 2011 supported the Donchi Kubeba theory and encouraged PF supporters to attend rallies and functions organised by MMD and other political parties among them the UPND and FDD and collect any gifts, money or materials

Mulenga Sata (son to late President Sata) now in the opposition UPND, claims that the police has failed them and is biased towards PF. Sata notes that his party has resolved that they only way to protect themselves is to appear green outside and remain red inside.

The only reason that President Lungu is calling this strategy evil is because he is fully aware of the impact that such a strategy has in terms of the election outcomes, Sata has charged.

For Sata, Operation Watermelon is Donchi Kubeba part two. He claims that, right now the PF is not sure how much support it has on the ground because the numbers of people wearing and shouting their slogans does not mean anything. It is the votes that will count at the end of the day, says Sata.

However, what remains to be seen is whether the UPND’s “Watermelon Campaign” will enjoy the same success as “Donchi Kubeba”? Zambians will decide with their vote tomorrow on the 11th of August 2016. It is only tomorrow’s elections, which will tell whether history has managed to repeat itself.

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43 COMMENTS

    • Kikikikikikikiki,yaba. Under five politics. The author is suffering from analysis paralysis. When was the watermelon nonsense introduced? How was UPND’s popularity before it was launched? If one is UPND and they don’t want to be attacked for putting on party regalia, why not just put on ordinary clothes instead of aiding political opponents in advertising there candidate by putting on their regalia? Viva ECL

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    • PF is history, finished & dusted into the rubbish bin.
      Watermelon mechanism has been flagged by many people around the globe to be the best campaign against violent & visionless PF thugs of dictator Lungu.
      Today is history in the making, moving forward with HH & UPND. Visionless Edgar Hoover Lungu is being reversed back to chawama.
      Viva HH, Viva Forward & Victory for UPND.
      The Skeleton Key
      ~206~

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    • COMMENCE “OPERATION WATERMELON!!!!!!!!!!”

      #CHAGWAMUSFALL!!! #PamaFIKUYABEBELE!!!!!!

      VOTE ZAMBIA FORWARD!!! VOTE FOR A NEW DAWN FOR ZAMBIA!!!!
      VOTE WISELY TODAY!!!!!!!! VOTE FOR CHANGE!!!!

      ABANTU BAYA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      I thank you!!

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  1. “If Africa can’t send men to the moon, it should at least organise free and fair elections” –
    Fmr. President Goodluck Jonathan

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  2. COMMENCE “OPERATION WATERMELON!!!!!!!!!!”

    #CHAGWAMUSFALL!!! #PamaFIKUYABEBELE!!!!!!

    VOTE ZAMBIA FORWARD!!! VOTE FOR A NEW DAWN FOR ZAMBIA!!!!
    VOTE WISELY TODAY!!!!!!!! VOTE FOR CHANGE!!!!

    ABANTU BAYA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    I thank you!!

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  3. THERE IS NO WATER MELLON HERE A PARTY THAT IS POPULAR IS ADONED BY PEOPLE AND IT SHOULD NOT TAKE WATER MELLON FAKE APPEARSEMENT BY HH AND UPND WHO HAVE SENSED LOSS TO COMFORT THEMSELVES IN WATER MELLON YABA

    ON THE CONTRARY MANY IN RED UPND ARE ACTUALLY PF TRUE SUPPORTERS AND HH WILL BE SHOCKED TO RECORD A PANTRY 30%

    I HAVE VOTED FOR EDGAR LUNGU AND IN LUSAKA IS ALL EDGAR LUNGU THE POLLING STATIONS ARE PEACEFUL AND CALM AND ALL SHOULD COME OUT AND VOTE

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  4. I alone have made sure at least 12 of my close family clan are voting HH openly the while some who work for GRZ confess to the watermelon operation.

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    • People have to survive the lunacy and violence of PF. There’s nothing to be ashamed of avoiding being killed by PF. We will show our true colours in the voting booth and kick out these murderers and looters.

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  5. TODAY IS D-DAY A.K.A DECISION DAY: I WILL CALL THE STORY ABOVE AS AN OPINION.
    ==============================
    First of all, let’s call Mwanza above Hachipuka Siasia; this puts everything into context.
    Second of all, Do chu kubeba a.k.a Don’t kubeba (DK) can’t be likened to the devious and mischievous Operation Watermelon(OW). Here is why:
    Whereas DK suggested a peaceful and realistic means aimed at getting around corrupt politicians, OW represented the disguised mapatizya formula bent at causing excruciating pain to citizens and a framing technique to discredit the PF.

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    • OW was an extremely irresponsible act that should not have been tolerated. The immature, irresponsible, UPNDown self-proclaimed wish for the infamous Armageddon speaks volumes for you. It was like, get their regalia, cause atrocious acts and everyone will believe its the PF. I am surprised the OW can even be given attention by the writer. The UPNDown can’t even win a court case on account of this.

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    • Whereas the DK phenomenon can be repeated and copied over and over again, the infamous OW like the mapatizya formula cannot, on account of 1) it’s violent nature 2) a party can choose not to adopt primitive symbolic material in the name of regalia.
      OW did not even qualify to be called a campaign strategy; it was a total shum.

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    • The list can go on and on but to sum it up; the UPNDestruction tried to put up the Hollywood-like act and shows through the infamous OW to commit felony; staging and filming their “thuggerous” and Armageddon-like behaviour of themselves and using social media/letters to try and hoodwink the international community to discrediting our hard earned peaceful and democratic political dispensation. I congratulate the ECZ for remaining resolute amidst these devious UPND thugs.

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  6. History can never repeat itself look at where Guy Scot, Miles, GBM, Bob, Masebo…etc are today..we know them by their fruits

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  7. GOOD MORNING ZAMBIA,
    I AM PROUD THAT I VOTED WISELY TODAY. PLEASE TONE DOWN THIS OVERCONFIDENCE I SEE EXPRESSED HERE ON NET.MAJORITY OF VOTERS ARE OUT THERE AND BUSY VOTING. STOP THIS HATE SPEECH ON LEADERS, IT IS A SIN. ONE ZAMBIA,ONE NATION.

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  8. Ridiculous strategy. UPND outdone and trying to appease themselves by clainming anyone in green is actuallt UPBD in red. So how does UPND know that every green is their member and every red is also their member? The only thing that makes sense is the reading that water melon is a way of hiding UPND violence and crying baby. Any other interpretation belongs to underfive politics, now as far as I know the minimum voting age in Zambia is 18 years. Underfives remain sleeping at home until 13 years from now.

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  9. Wrong interpretation donchi kubeba strategy. UPND outdone and trying to appease themselves by clainming anyone in green is actuallt UPBD in red. So how does UPND know that every green is their member and every red is also their member? The only thing that makes sense is the reading that water melon is a way of hiding UPND violence and crying baby. Any other interpretation belongs to underfive politics, now as far as I know the minimum voting age in Zambia is 18 years. Underfives remain sleeping at home until 13 years from now.

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  10. Lets for results Terrible.You will mourn terriblely Go and vote me i have voted already not only Kubwabwata.

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  11. Do not confuse Water Melon and Donchi Kubeba – Water Melon was anarchy at its worst!!! Desperation by those who wanted to win at any cost! What an embarrassment to country! I am FDD and I am totally appalled by the behaviour of the UPND in this election, for their sakes, I hope they win.

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  12. The big problem of you tongas and UPND you think that you are very special than any tribe in zambia which is not true . You think you can win an election through your tribal mentality ,the truth is even this year your man will loose just wait .
    Iam just from voting in mazabuka and today i have come to know that tongas you are very tribal tribe i have never seen or head of in this word i have no better word to describe you but i leave that in the hands of GOD .
    To my fellow peace loving zambians in lusaka,corperbelt,northen ,muchinga,luapula ,eastern and central please lets follow suit and cast our vote in numbers and teach these tribalist a lesson again
    pipo here are not even voting for the referendum saying thats what HH said . If any one is thinking that its a lie wait and see…

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    • Every time we vote, we take a risk on somebody. We’ll continue taking risks until Zambia is a perfect nation.

      Elections have nothing to do with god and everything to do with us.

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    • If you are not on the side of God you are on the side of the devil. that is why we are saying to devil worshipers like HH and UPND. God will show you that He is the Mighty God. The Alfa and Omega!!!

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    • Don’t do evil in the name of teaching someone a lesson, you will end up teaching yourself a lesson. A dangerous driver will crash the vehicle with you upon it.

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  13. Just the name of the Author tells any sensible person that this failed scheme from Cowthern Province cant match Donchi Kubeba. Ejigar !!!!!

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  14. Thank you Mutinta for the article and the findings presented. We have voted and the process is in place. Either party (PF or UPND) has every right to question the final results announced based on their concerns, but once the Returning Officer, working with the electoral commission and Concourt (if need be), has announced the final results, Zambia would have won, it’s people would have spoken. By God’s grace, we shall have a new team to lead our once united and peace-loving country. Thank you UPND for such fun and camaraderie during the campaigns.

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  15. The author is mud who can vote for hh,if watched znbc news yesterday you can conclude that hh is not the president zambia wants,no matter what Edgar is winning this years election.

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  16. I am really at lose at what this guy is trying to say. PF never bullied anyone, why lie? You cannot compare the impact of Donchi Kubeba to the Water melon staff. Donchi Kubeba caught interest of the entire nation unlike Water melon which is only known by those attending UPND campaigns. Ask any ordinary Zambian about the Water melon campaign and they surely show ignorance.

    UPND has just failed to effectively talk to the Zambian people beyond tribalism, insults, lies, and violence.

    Today Zambians are making a choice. So just wait to see if your Water Melon has had any effect. It is actually a very laughable, comical idea devoid of any public interest. Even the Dununa reverse by PF has not been outdone by any of the UPND songs slogan, nor your Water Melon. UPND slogans, have been a…

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  17. don’t think killing somebody’s sister is a loughing matter “pf kuya bebele bukabwalala bwacilamo

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  18. New zediansI know not all tongas are like you tribal. There are few individuals who even vote for PF. Some people we call bembas are not even bembas for instance GBM is either Zimbabwean or south African which is much close to Tonga. Look at the names of his children SIBONGILE.

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  19. If for arguments sake, the results in Lusaka and CB comes out as 50 – 50 for ECL and HH and the rest of the provinces remain as they were in 2015, who do you think will carry the day? Nika assumption fye bane, ka Zed kaliba jazz.

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  20. Aba tonga mubeko serious! Look at this sister of yours. You are HH’s biggest liability ngatamwaishiba! People just look at you without telling you imwe mwatwalilila ubupuba!

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