By Michael Chishala
I note that my article published in Lusaka Times on Sunday 7th May 2017 has unexpectedly ignited a huge firestorm with some malicious and/or misguided comments. Let me set the record straight.
1. I originally wrote the article on 5th April 2017, six days before Mr Hakainde Hichilema was arrested. I posted it on my blog and on my Facebook page.
2. I have been denounced by some as being a thieving Bemba tribalist. It seems some UPND supporters do not see the inherent contradiction in their party having a Bemba Vice-President (whom they are more than happy to use to get the Bemba vote) but then shower insults on Bembas. Good luck getting the Bemba vote in the next election.
3. This country is sadly deeply divided and polarized along tribal and regional lines (North East Vs South West) and it seems to be only getting worse. Both sides are saying very nasty things against each other. Those who shout about tribalism the loudest are themselves the biggest tribalists.
4. My article was discussing UPND and not PF. Comments suggesting I am turning a blind eye to the wrongs of PF are false. The expectation that I must also condemn PF to prove my objectivity is misplaced.
5. I was very clear that UPND have a point that our last elections were found wanting (eg state media reporting on the ruling party for two-thirds of the time, opposition rallies being blocked by police, helicopter being stoned in Shiwang’andu, opposition people in a bus being beaten in Mtendere, problems with GEN12 forms, etc.). My view that UPND needs to move on is in no way a wholesale endorsement of how the elections were conducted, but a statement of reality that those results will never be overturned, no matter what the UPND do or say.
6. I find it curious that the UPND to this day have never posted (or leaked) onto the Internet any piece of damning evidence of election rigging. What do they have to lose if they did it? This is not to say that there isn’t any evidence, but I am deeply skeptical about its strength to produce a successful electoral petition.
7. If there was so much “overwhelming” evidence of election rigging as UPND claims, why did HH file an electoral petition with dozens of grounds and so many preliminary issues? Wouldn’t a laser sharp focus on the best two or three grounds suffice to nullify an election result? Attempting to cover all your bases with too many things in a petition demonstrates either a lack of confidence in the strength of your case or high levels of ineptitude (or both). Insisting on filing so many preliminary issues in court when time is limited to 14 days is pure absurdity. A dying patient in hospital with 3 days to live will not waste time on irrelevant things but will request to see all close friends and relatives for the last time to say goodbye.
8. My suggestion that UPND stops talking about the “stolen” elections does not mean they are conceding the results. It just means they have bigger fish to fry. For many Zambians, the whole election issue is now boring and irritating. In a 5 year war, you have to know when you cannot win a particular battle.
9. HH and his supporters believe that they should have been given more days to argue the case beyond the 14 days. They have no problem with the constitution being violated by adding more days beyond the 14 days as long as it suits them. Yet the same people were insisting that Mr Edgar Lungu should follow the constitution by handing over power to the Speaker. Sorry, but you can’t have it both ways.
10. I am not insisting that UPND must recognize Edgar Lungu as President. It is a non-issue for me and I don’t care either way. Many Americans do not recognize Donald Trump as President, nor do many South Africans recognize Jacob Zuma. They even carry placards in public written “Not My President”. So what? A president is not validated or invalidated by who does or does not recognize him.
11. Why did the Mayoral/Council Chair, Parliamentary and Local Government election results closely mirror the Presidential? According to UPND, PF must have a really powerful machinery to have pulled off such a massive rigging scheme involving 106 Mayors/Council Chairmen, 156 MPs and more that 1,600 Councilors.
12. If UPND believe that the electoral system is rigged against them, they should try to get reforms by talking to ECZ and pushing for better electoral legislation in Parliament. Insulting ECZ officials and Constitutional Court judges will never help their cause. After the 2001 elections, the opposition advocated for electoral reforms that were passed such as transparent ballot boxes, counting votes at polling stations, a fresh voter roll in 2005, etc. For 2021, UPND can insist that there are enough GEN12 Forms which can be inspected in advance the same way ballot papers are inspected. If UPND believe the 2021 elections will be rigged, they can intelligently counter the rigging. Failure to do this means they have no business taking part in elections.
13. If UPND really had a proper robust PVT system in 2016, why haven’t they published on their website the “true” results of the 2016 election in a spreadsheet? The lack of enough copies of GEN12 forms is just an excuse because their election monitors could have transmitted the results from the main GEN12 form in polling stations either by taking a photo, by sms or WhatsApp.
14. For the record, I do not agree with the incarceration of HH and I know many PF supporters feel the same way. I do not agree with how the police conducted themselves when they arrested him. For now, let the law take its course. HH should immediately sue the police for whatever wrongs they did at his house when arresting him (it is curious that his wife tried to report a theft of money by policemen more than a week after the fact). HH should not say it is a waste of time to sue the police because after all, he is already wasting time and millions of Kwacha on a dead court case over the right to be heard.
15. If PF want to make HH irrelevant, ignoring him is a better strategy because he will remain fixated on his court case and have little impact. Locking him up has awakened him to become more aggressive when he comes out which may work against the PF. However, if HH comes out sounding too bitter, it may work against him.
16. The UPND need to focus their energies on suing the Police over the Public Order Act. That will produce real tangible results to help them with rallies and other public gatherings.
17. For those questioning my Manchester University Engineering Degree, I graduated in June 1997. Some of my lecturers were Mr John Smart (Solid Mechanics), Dr Mark A. Cotton (Fluid Mechanics), Dr Azam Tafreshi (Numerical Stress Analysis), Prof. Peter Stanley (Solid Mechanics), etc. A few of them are still at Manchester. Okay, you can now email the University about me since it bothers you so much.
Michael Chishala is a Zambian blogger, entrepreneur and ICT Specialist in web and database technologies. He is a University of Manchester graduate in Engineering. Email: michael [at] zambia [dot] co [dot] zm