Quibbling from their win, PF leaders have begun infighting, while UPND has been wasting time and monetary resources on the defunct Cons-Court system. Problem is, both the incumbent part-PF and supposedly major opposition party-UPND are in-outfighting about the wrong things, based on the wrong assumptions.
1.UPND unending legal Wrangles v. Visionless PF
The structural and moral leadership weakness of both PF and UPND burst open after the August 11, 2016 elections. UPND pundits are still blaming HH’s loss on election rigging, arguing that PF machinery stole victory from HH. On the other hand, PF pundits claim that HH lost because he didn’t focus enough on winning votes in PF strongholds. I will leave that to both UPND and PF pundits to debate the merit of the winner/loser. However, what I do know is that both UPND and PF have completely abandoned addressing the concerns of ordinary Zambians. UPND wasted the entire 2016 adjudicating presidential election results, while PF wasted 2016 pirouetting dununa reverse without a clear and strategic plan on solving economic and social issues like ending load shedding, youth unemployment and maintaining price stability of commodities.
To me the whole UPND outfighting Con-Court and PF leadership infighting is misguided and strategic blunders on both parties. At this stage whether Lungu lost or HH won, its time these two leaders moved on to providing meaningful leadership in their respective parties and Zambia as a whole. UPND can’t afford to be wasting time and monetary resources re-ligating the presidential elections, and PF should cease talking about 2021 Lungu’s presidential eligibility when issues of 2017 haven’t even been tackled.
If this intra-PF party fight continues, and UPND continues its assault on ECZ/Cons-Court, there’s no way to know for sure, if there will be formidable UPND and PF by 2021. The evidence indicates otherwise going by the fact that MMD is now defunct by its own infighting.
Pursuing legal action is not mutually exclusive from casting a vision for the country and solving Zambia’s economic and social issues. UPND can easily care about pursuing legal justice at the same time as addressing economic inequalities experiencing many Zambians. PF can focus on solving current economic and social problems at the same time as looking to the 2021 elections. It’s not either/or for both UPND and PF.
It’s a new year (2017) and Zambians are eager to see their economic and social burdens lessen. To say that Zambians are willing to give up on resolving economic and social issues in exchange for UPND’s ongoing legal challenges and PF infighting entertainment is nonexistent. Zambians want a break from economic and social hardships, and that can’t wait till 2021.
2. Lungu Lost v. HH Won
You hear things like, “this time Lungu lost to successful business man HH. The results were not even close. Anyone knows HH won”. UPND need to let this go. Dwelling on past elections is just trapping UPND in a denial mode.
There is merit in suggesting that the elections might have been rigged going by the way things were handled by ECZ/Cons-Court. But to suggest that HH lost mostly because of rigging is a mistake. The fact that PF managed to win more MPs despite PF’s dismal 2015/6 economic and social accomplishments suggest that Lungu did get majority votes from PF loyalists. Sata’s loyalists still have a strong allegiance to the PF party. No matter what the UPND message was against Lungu and pre-election rigging, voters did show up and voted for majority of MPs who had a PF after their name.
On the other hand, to say Lungu won because of PF’s economic and social successful accomplishments is to pretend otherwise. Lungu won because compared to HH, Lungu came off as a man who respectfully speaks to the people and respects government institutions (ECZ/Con-Court) whoever imperfect these government institutions might be. They saw what everyone else saw, a man who speaks to them. They like his uncombative personality. They like his simple promises. They like what he says about other politicians, women, other African leaders. Most of all, they like that he is personable, the kind of guy you would drink with. HH de-campaigned himself when he didn’t show up to support national issues like the signing of the constitutional amendment, national day of prayers and the swearing of president elect Lungu.
Going forward UPND should cease solely blaming the loss on ECZ/Cons-Court and focusing on internal systematic leadership problems. It matters most to focus on whether HH’s loss was truly due to UPND’s agenda or problems with HH himself. For what’s it worth, UPND should debate certain campaign decisions and miscalculations like GBM’s VP which didn’t deliver Bemba votes not even a single UPND MP in NP, LP and MC provinces. A UPND postmortem is long overdue for how the party will rebrand its leadership and message for 2021. UPND will never rebrand and expand its electoral map, until it deals with its overrated confidence against Lungu, which is largely used to mask its internal leadership problems. I somehow believe that if HH stood as PF he would win, and if Lungu stood as UPND he would lose. The difference between UPND and PF is a brand issue and not a leadership issue.
PF shouldn’t focus on Lungu’s 2021, when there is a montage of economic and social issues needing immediate attention. What KBF and CK are doing to hold Lungu accountable for some of the cabinet appointments he made might just be the very thing that might continue to feed Sata’s loyalists the appetite for change. How Lungu and PF chose to deal with positive criticism from KBF and CK will determine how PF attempts to rebrand itself by 2021. The internal debates festering in PF is good for democracy and should also be taking place in UPND.
At this stage whether Lungu lost or HH won, its time these two leaders provided meaningful leadership in their respective parties and Zambia as a whole.
3.Focusing on 2021 Presidential Politics
The PF have two separate problems:
- Presidential politics, they’re fine for now Lungu won and is the president.
- Lungu standing in 2021, they’re not fine because of the montage of economic and social issues needing immediate attention.
To suggest that PF can leap to 2021 presidential elections by not showing up in 2017 and subsequent years is utter political foolishness. PF can’t write off today’s economic and social issues in favor of campaigning for Lungu for 2021. PF needs to deliver otherwise 2021 will be very unforgiving.
As for UPND to suggest that HH is still the default presidential candidate for even 2021, without a convention to do a postmortem on August 11, 2016 election, will be less forgiving of UPND and its strategy. It may be true that HH lost the 2016 elections because of ECZ/Cons-Court, but critics like myself believe that more voices of reason ought to emerge in UPND as is happening in PF, in order to avoid being exposed to last minute surprises. Like I said before there is a need for UPND to discuss openly the series of campaign miscalculations (allowing Sampa, Scott, Mumba) and the impact they had on why HH is not president-elect today. It’s ok to blame external forces, it is equally overdue for UPND to address its internal leadership problems, and lack of political instinct, human intelligence and solid ground game.
By way of conclusion, I would like to say that UPND should live up to its widespread expectation of being a formidable opposition party and not a party of unending litigations. PF should do a good job solving the current struggles of ordinary Zambians, and not morph into a political elite group. UPND and PF have to deliver every day and everywhere. It’s is deeply troubling to see Sata’s PF talking about 2021 elections, when the whole Sata presidency was focused on delivering immediate results to working-class people and solving working-class issues voters cared about. Zambia can’t afford UPND and PF’s political leadership gimmicks (focusing on 2021) over real heartfelt leadership to deal with current national problems.
By Cecil Nsambila Mbolela
Mr.Cecil Nsambila Mbolel , 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.