PF's Chilanga Rally
PF’s Chilanga Rally

By Sishuwa Sishuwa

Last Tuesday, the ruling Patriotic Front (PF) scooped the Chilanga parliamentary by-election, defeating three other opposition parties: the United Party for National Development (UPND), National Restoration Party (NAREP) and United Prosperous and Peaceful Zambia (UPPZ). Previously held by the UPND’s Keith Mukata, the Chilanga seat fell vacant after the Lusaka High Court convicted Mukata for the murder of Namakambwa Kalila Kwenda, a security guard who was shot dead in unclear circumstances at Mukata’s law firm last year. PF candidate Maria Langa polled 7,226 votes and was followed by the UPND’s Charmaine Mehl Musonda who obtained 6,410 ballots. UPPZ’s Francis Kope was third with 204 votes while NAREP’s Charlie Mazabuka earned his position at the bottom with 92 votes. The low voter turnout that characterised the Chilanga poll is typical of by-elections – of the constituency’s 49,614 registered voters, only 14,121 (representing 28.46 per cent) turned up to cast their vote – but the violence that reportedly marred the campaign may also have dissuaded many to stay away.

The ruling party has since seized upon this favourable outcome as evidence of the PF’s electoral ascendance and the UPND’s gradual decline. PF Media Director Sunday Chanda argued that the result of the Chilanga poll indicates that the main opposition “is losing ground everyday and with every election. UPND bases and members are fatigued with the leadership of Hakainde Hichilema [in contrast to] President Edgar Lungu [who] is gaining popularity with every single election”. For its part, the UPND attributed its defeat to the ‘warfare-like violence’ that took place on polling day, which, according to party Secretary General Stephen Katuka, prevented many of its supporters from voting. Other commentators have argued that the UPND gifted the seat to the PF because of the opposition party’s adoption of a morally compromised candidate. Musonda, who was in the company of Mukata at the time when the shooting of Kalila Kwenda occurred, was arrested alongside the then Chilanga lawmaker, with whom she had an affair, but was ultimately acquitted by the High Court. Traditional UPND supporters, critics argue, may have either stayed away from voting or switched to the PF in protest against the adoption of a candidate who was fresh from a murder charge and had an affair with a married man.
Neither of these perspectives tells us the full story. While the PF’s effective campaign strategy in Chilanga should be commended, any attempts to draw broader conclusions from the result would be misleading not least because the area is a multiethnic peri-urban constituency whose voting patterns can neither be transferred nor generalised to the rest of Lusaka or indeed the country. It is equally an exercise in self-deception to consider the outcome of the Chilanga poll as evidence of UPND members’ dissatisfaction with Hichilema’s leadership of the party. Similarly, attempts by the UPND to explain its defeat in Chilanga as a result of violence amount to self-deceit and overlook the possibility that many of those disfranchised may have been PF supporters since, according to media reports, UPND cadres also engaged in violent conduct and even brandished guns.

Finally, those suggesting that the UPND may have lost the seat because of the choice of its candidate, a supposedly morally repulsive one, are undermining the effectiveness of the PF campaign strategy, ignoring the fact that Musonda was the grassroots’ preferred candidate during the primary poll and are arguably projecting their own notions of moral integrity onto Chilanga voters. The truth is that moral considerations have never weighed heavily on the electoral scale of concerns of many Zambian voters and there is no evidence that the electorate in Chilanga is an exception to this general norm. Our recent political history is awash with examples of individuals with dilapidated moral infrastructure who ascended to elective public office at various levels. In fact, if morality was an important factor in our electoral politics, Rupiah Banda, Michael Sata and Lungu would never have come anywhere near State House. It is also worth noting that the top four of the nine candidates that Musonda, a Bemba, defeated with wide margins in the primary, were all Tongas. Had the UPND central leadership imposed any of them on Chilanga, critics may have seized on this move as further evidence of the party’s commitment to Tonga ethnic particularism. Such a move could have also alienated the grassroots. What this picture demonstrates is the need to seek other explanations for the Chilanga result beyond the existing narratives.
In my view, broadly speaking, the outcome of the Chilanga parliamentary by-election should be understood as a consequence of two factors.

First, Chilanga, historically speaking, is a swing constituency that was not a stronghold for any of the competing parties and where voters have demonstrated particular affinity to individuals rather than political parties. Although many, including some in the UPND, have hitherto presented Chilanga as a stronghold for the main opposition party, history tells us otherwise, at least at parliamentary level, showing that for a long time the constituency was a traditional power base for the former ruling party, the Movement for Multiparty Democracy (MMD). In the 2001 general elections, Chilanga was won by the UPND’s Cosmas Moono, who was defeated by the MMD’s Ng’andu Magande five years later. Following Magande’s expulsion from the then ruling party, the UPND won the seat in the subsequent by-election in October 2010 after Moono, who was fronted as a PF-UPND pact candidate, closely defeated the MMD contender, Keith Mukata. At the 2011 general elections, the MMD recaptured the seat through Mukata who trounced the UPND’s Moono.

In the run-up to the 2016 general elections, Mukata, then serving as Deputy Minister of Justice in Lungu’s PF administration, defected to the UPND, on whose ticket he later retained the seat until his conviction. This abbreviated electoral history of Chilanga constituency demonstrates two features: that Chilanga was largely an MMD stronghold between 2006 and 2016 and that the party’s electoral appeal in the area was closely tied to the popularity of Mukata. Contrary to the UPND’s repeated claims that Chilanga was its stronghold, the opposition party probably won the seat in 2016 on the strength of Mukata’s individual attributes and political clout. Of particular importance is that the PF candidates, in all the previous parliamentary elections held in Chilanga since 2006, consistently came a close third or second even when the party was still in opposition. A victory for the PF this time was therefore as likely as a win for the UPND, especially since both parties adopted candidates who could not be differentiated on gender and were popular with grassroots supporters. Langa, a low-profile figure whom Chilanga residents affectionately call ‘Amama’, is a well-established community entrepreneur who has greatly promoted the cause of women in the area. What made the decisive difference is not the character or individual qualities of either candidate but a factor that I discuss next.

Second, the PF’s victory in Chilanga was secured by the advantages of incumbency. Nearly all Cabinet ministers and several PF MPs from Lusaka and elsewhere camped in Chilanga to campaign for Langa. Vast amounts of state resources were poured into the area and deployed for partisan use. Some voters were reportedly bribed with cash and other luxurious goods to vote for the PF candidate – a strategy that has proved effective in securing the support of impoverished electors, especially those deprived of the enlightening knowledge of ‘Don’t Kubeba’. (A similar strategy of extensive vote buying was successfully deployed by the PF in the Lubansenshi parliamentary by-election in September 2015.) In addition, a number of previously unattended roads were suddenly either tarred or paved. One elderly Chilanga resident who voted for NAREP’s candidate told me that he hoped ‘there would be another by-election in the constituency soon so that the remaining roads can also be tarred’. To crown it all, President Lungu, campaigning in the area a few days before polling day, warned Chilanga residents that they will not receive development or tangible benefits from the State if they voted for the opposition, especially the UPND. (In a country with a functioning judiciary, such careless utterances by the President provide sufficient basis for invalidating the results of the Chilanga poll if petitioned. The problem is that even if the High Court disposes of the case within 90 days, as per the law, the Constitutional Court may take up to 2021 to conclude a possible appeal arising from the ruling of the lower court, as ably demonstrated by its snail-paced movement in the now ancient appeal cases of Munali and Lusaka Central constituencies.) Outspent and unable to match the PF’s bottomless financial muscle, the opposition tumbled.

I congratulate the PF for winning Chilanga and wish the newly elected MP all the best as she now turns her attention to fulfilling the promises that she made to voters such as the launch of a Disney World theme park or resort. I also commend the UPND for sticking to or respecting the choice of the grassroots, a move that represents a victory for internal party democracy and the voice of the rank and file.

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26 COMMENTS

  1. Voter bribery ,threats to with hold development ,party cadres unleashing violence and rigging.I don’t know which one but these are the tools we use in Zambian elections.

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    • Is there a PF blogger or supporter who can ATTEMPT to respond to a perspective that differs markedly from theirs with reason and a persuasive argument, not insults or name calling? Just look at the insults and labels below! No attempt whatsoever to dispute any point of Sishuwa’s sober analysis with reason. Yangu Tata Lesa, are we Zambians this daft?

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    • The article by Sishuwa Sishuwa or chishupu chishupu, for sure you are not sure. Look how long the article is with clear biasness. Ndiwe chishupu chishupu for real.

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    • Bo Sishuwa, who is to say that UPND is clean and innocent of any brown envelope shenanigans. If they can do the violence just like their opponents, they are also very capable of bribery, they have experts at bribery at the very top, GBM, Kambwili even HH himself. Your analysis is highlights your bias for HH and his cult.

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  2. Sishuwa whatever you name is you have not said anything about your leader HH.The man has expired you need new blood to lead your party.Stop being indirectly critical of Chagwa or PF come up with issues of real concern,Jobs or talk about how UPND will improve the economy.Go to the people and explain your policies that will turn around the economy.stop targeting Chagwa because you will be sorry in 2021.Change the tone of your articles which you write to boost support for your small GOD HH.

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    • Typical PF thinking. For you, anyone who dares to disrupt your point of view can only be a UPND supporter. I doubt you even read Shishuwa’s article, you probably relied on entrenched prejudices to make your comment. What a sad life!

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  3. Sishuwa, there was no need for you to write such a lengthy article, just get to the point and say you still believe in Hichilema. Your friend Munshya has now given up. The elections weren’t only in Chilanga, what have you to say about other wards? We have always told you that most Zambian voters decide who to vote for long before even campaigns begin. Although these guys butcher each other during campaigns, there isn’t much that comes out of it. UPND lost the moment they adopted that woman.

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  4. Hichilema isn’t an election strategist. Mucheleka was a distant 3rd while Chimumbwa as an independent was a close 2nd, had Chimumbwa been supported by a party maybe he could have done better. Hichilema is still stuck with Mucheleka. There are many incidences that I can mention. So don’t justify the unjustifiable. Do you that Kapwepwe won an election in Mufulira without campaigning because KK restricted him? In 1991 Sikota Wina campaigned for 1 day and won by a landslide in Chililabombwe

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  5. “Second, the PF’s victory in Chilanga was secured by the advantages of incumbency. Nearly all Cabinet ministers and several PF MPs from Lusaka and elsewhere camped in Chilanga to campaign for Langa.” This guy is just confirming that UPND will lose again in 2021 coz the PF will use all the GRZ and machinery at full throttle. Again this jerk Sishuwa Sishuwa “Aristotle” wannabe from outdated Oxford, your entire post is simply a pathetic justification for the irrational, the solipsism and the ignorant, in other words predisposed which is simply the copulation of ignorance with stupidity. Sishuwa Sishuwa attempt to justify the UPND confirms that the guy has some biasness towards UPND.

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    • CONT’D….
      Waste of pen and paper rather tear and wear of a keyboard from this douchiebag jerk.Spare us from your egocentrism bull sh!it and unresearched crap.We are all scholars by the way.

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  6. The author is a known bitter educated danderhead for the UPND and ordinary citizens at grassroot level don’t even know whether he exists or not

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  7. Like the upnd and hh himself, they are always fronting excuses for their political childishness. Sishuwa is trying to justify a new point that says incumbency and abuse of state resources was at play?? And it is for this reason, with supporters like Sishuwa, and all those 1.d.i.o.tic under 5s in upnd that they will continue to lose.

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  8. Sishuwa Sishuwa (not sure, not sure) is admittedly a good writer. I like his reasoning. To other bloggers, there is no need to insult Sishuwa. What he gives is his opinion and all you do is give your own if you don’t agree with him.

    I tend to agree with his position. MMD won some of the by elections just before the 2011 defeat.

    What I don’t agree with is that the absence of moral infrastructure in Charmaine had no effect or influence on the electors. I think it had a lot of bearing, not only in this election but on the moral standi of the party as a whole.

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    • “What I don’t agree with is that the absence of moral infrastructure in Charmaine had no effect or influence on the electors” You are telling us to give our opinion coz its his opinion in case we don’t agree.So what is your opinion on the part quoted where you don’t agree with Sishuwa Sishuwa..?

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  9. No matter in what angle you want to project the recent election what matters is the result.

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  10. Moral conduct plays a critical role in the politics of any country, including Zambia. It is misleading to mention former presidents of Zambia as typical examples of the immoral but elected officials. Two, the winner has a every reason to celebrate the hard won victory. There is no need for apologies here. A win is a positive indicator for the ruling party. At the same time a electoral defeats are negative indicators for opposition parties. Three, incidents of violent were reported but such incidents can not necessarily lead to a nullification of the election outcome. Remember Brexit referendum was not cancelled because of the murder of a supporter of one side of the political divide. Four, reference to ethnic profile of Chilanga is unnecessary. The voters have spoken. Well done PF! Well…

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    • Four, reference to the perceived ethnic profile of Chilanga is unnecessary. The voters have spoken. Well done PF! Well done ECL! Let there be no victor, and there be no vanquished!

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  11. I think in all fairness the artical is balanced. The man has pointed out the forces that were at play during the elections. Mr Shuwa has even stated clearly that UPND should not give violence as an excuse because their cadres were brandishing guns. Honestly how unbiased would you want someone to be? He even told UPND that Chilanga was never their strong hold and they should look for proper reasons for their loss and not what they have been saying. I think as an honesty citizen this is a very balanced article from which both the winning candidate and losing ones can extract data to run with. Any political party that can use this article positively will win the Chilanga seat in 2021. He even congratulated the Winner. Good Article, keep it up sir.

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    • Sir,
      Check how he turns biased at the end of the article when he starts unveiling his opinion. Thats why readers are saying he is biased against PF and Lungu.

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    • The not so sure man ends up by giving false opinion that only KK and Mwanawasa were the only presidents who had no moral issues and the rest of them ( Am sure more to do with Lungu ) are immoral and should not be anywhere near the presidency,what a biased opinion.

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  12. This loss hurts the UPND were it hurts most. They should have realized with the losses in the ward elections, that things had gone sour for them. People get tired of the same insults, then you give them a jezebel to vote for.

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  13. The people of Chilanga spoke. The analysis above is so flawed and forgets a few fundamentals.

    Firstly, the issues of use of huge government resources is neither here nor there and there if that was true because Zambia in 2011 witnesses not only one of the most financed election campaign but we well packaged campaign by the MMD. The people of Zambia voted PF with me great resources.

    Voter apathy was a common feature in the 2016 elections for most PF strongholds like the Copperbelt, and the Northern part of the country primarily because most voters did not find any inspiration or the need to vote while those from the Southern especially voted enmass because they were driven by the passion for change and hope in the UPND leader one of their sons. One constituency in Southern…

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