Now that the elections are over and the dust from Dununa reverse has somewhat settled, Lungu and his PF followers are basking in August Christmas, while HH and his followers are still in disarray still piecing together how the Grinch (ECZ), a grouchy, watermelon looking like creature supposedly stole Christmas from HH. Let’s hope and pray that come December 25, Santa Claus will return everything HH has been claiming to have lost and will be the guest of honor at the Lungu’s Christmas dinner.
Political pundits say that in 2015 is when should have won the elections to a new comer Lungu, who campaigned only for 21 days. This August 11, HH’s loss is really tough, and it is understandable that HH is upset after such a shocking loss.
Politics like in sports, winning depends on executing the best strategy that gives a candidate or a team the best chance to vanquish the opponent. In my hey days as a boy in Mufulira, it was always frustrating losing soccer to a team you are convinced is an inferior competitor to you. Now as a grown man, I know better that the outcome of sports is not dictated by who has stellar statistics on paper. If that were the case no one would beat Brazil in soccer and it would be useless to have world cup competition. That’s why they say, ‘you have to actually play the game to decide the winner’ irrespective of the statistics on paper.
To win sports or politics, you not only need to show up, you need to execute your strategy when it matters. On August 11, UPND as the challenger did not deliver the proverbial Chiluba knockout punch. Thus, HH coming off as a whining (loser) politician, is not exactly the kind of temperament a nation looks for in an ideal candidate aspiring for the office of POZA (president of Zambia).
I will leave the ‘rigging’ allegations to the Cons-Court to decide. However, in my view there are 3 (three) collosal blunders HH made that diminished his chances of celebrating Christmas in August. Let us look at these 3 (three) executive blunders/decisions by HH:
Two Vice Presidents: Dr. Canisius Banda and GBM
There has never been in the history of politics anywhere under the sun where a political party had two sitting vice presidents. Anywhere in the world except for HH, the choice for vice president is a landmark in presidential campaigns and should serve as a strategy in deciding the outcome of the elections. For presidential candidate HH with no political experience, the choice of making GBM as VP along with VP Dr. Banda in hindsight was the first executive blunder HH made. Not even in the Catholic church will you find 2 popes at the same time lest you cause a schism.
Unless you are running a corporate board room, the choice of 2 VPs was not only mysterious but left most of us confused. What followed leading to the choosing of the running mate, simply fueled unnecessary political innuendos and speculation which raised more questions about HH than his 2 VPs. Who was consulted about this decision? What criteria drove HH to make such a decision?
The choice of 2 VPs is regarded by many pundits as the greatest mystery in Zambian political history. Not by me, as I am so accustomed to political mysteries that nothing surprises me anymore. If how you make executive political decisions is a symbol of how you will govern, how can you run a complicated entity like a government if can’t even get the basic VP party structure right?
GBM as Running Mate
GBM brought a lot of grassroots strategies that were missing in UPND. I for one understand the logic of making GBM leader of operations. UPND needed a man like GBM to expand the party and attract new members. Anywhere in politics, the choice of running mate should meet three criteria; popularity with party base, favorability with political pundits and voters alike. Running mate should appeal to all voters (including opposition voters), and should have less or zero baggage.
GBM’s political antics as a former PF are well known. In the game of spades, GBM is what we call a wild card, meaning his influence is unpredictable and can go either way causing you to win or lose. It’s either you love GBM or you hate him. The net effect of the GBM factor was zero. He energized UPND voters, but also his constant barrage of recorded audios of insults (Ka-chakolowa, bafika**) against President Lungu simply energized the PF base. As we can see there is no single elected UPND MP in Northern or Luapula as a result of the GBM factor.
It begs the same questions; who was consulted? How transparent within UPND inner circle was this vetting process? Was Dr. Canisius Banda even considered as a potential choice? How does HH feel/thinks of GBM’s audios disrespecting the sitting president? All these are important questions that ultimately raises more questions about political judgment, political intuition and style of executive decision making by HH.
The Gang of 4: Sampa, Mumba, Scott and M. Sata
The UPND message of ‘change and forward’ is something that resonated with voters who were disillusioned with PF. The choice couldn’t be clearer between same PF excuses (load-shedding) and HH’s 10-point plan problem solving. HH as a successful business man running for POZA to change the country and not to profit from it. Why would anyone have a problem with that? I too was sold out on the theme of change. I don’t care, let’s just try something new.
When the Gang of 4 joined HH’s campaign they brought many minuses than pluses. They were PF defectors looking for political jobs from HH. The campaign theme remained that of ‘change and forward’ but in reality the Gang of 4 took over UPND and instead of selling the message of ‘change and forward’ they were pursuing politics of personal vendetta against Lungu. The Gang of 4 had no prior relationship with HH. Again, HH as the leader of UPND, one wonders how carefully he took the decision to let the Gang of 4 be the standard bearer of his campaign message. In my view the Gang of 4 had no business in UPND. They left PF because of bitterness and it is their bitterness that erased and contaminated UPND’s theme of ‘change and forward’. How can a party sell the message of ‘change and forward’ by dunana-ling reverse with recycled politicians? The net effect was zero; its either they energized UPND or PF bases.
I do personally believe that rigging allegations should be fully investigated and a report should be issued for pundits to review and critic. But in politics as in sports, having a plan to deal with crooked referees or elections officials is also part of the winning strategy. These 3 aforementioned stunning political decisions, raised more questions about HH’s political instincts and ability to make executive decisions, than answer questions about HH’s acceptability and likability as POZA. Ultimately voters felt comfortable with Lungu retaining the title of POZA, while creating a narrative of politics of bitterness and personal vendetta has no place in Zambia. Lungu’s winning strategy was right, too, which makes him and his PF followers smart – not the Grinch that stole August Christmas from HH.
Mr. Nsambila Mbolela, is a native of Mufulira-Copper-Belt, currently based in the USA, a founding member of Zambia Institute of Transparency and Accountability (ZITA). ZITA is a Zambian Think Tank non-profit organization based in Canada-Zambia, whose mission is to promote public debate and awareness on issues of good governance, democracy and free and fair market economy in Zambia and Africa as whole. The author is a regular political and economic contributor to this organization. http://www.zitazambia.com/