Zambia’s “Ten Year Rule”

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UPND leader Hakainde Hichilema in Chilanga Compaigning with UPND candidate Ms Musonda
UPND leader Hakainde Hichilema in Chilanga Compaigning with UPND candidate Ms Musonda

By Michael Chishala

More than a year ago, I wrote an article in which I expressed strong concerns that the main opposition United Party for National Development (UPND) was making itself irrelevant by being fixated on their dead election petition and their “right to be heard” court case. Many others since then have began ringing the alarm bells and urging the UPND to make themselves an effective opposition party.

I can now confidently say that the UPND is the most ineffective main opposition political party I have ever seen in Zambia. Words like “toothless”, “hapless”, and “impotent” are among the words I can use to describe the UPND in its current state. In the last 3 years, they had two clear chances to win an election outright, or at the very least, put themselves in pole position to win the next General Election in 2021.

I expected UPND to be on fire and be constantly attacking the ruling party the Patriotic Front (PF) who have made many unforced errors and sadly seem to have forgotten the men and women that voted for them. Like the PF to the then ruling Movement for Multiparty Democracy (MMD), I expected UPND to be all over the PF and induce better governance for Zambia as they point out the mistakes of PF. There is nothing worse for a country than an opposition that fails to keep the ruling party on its toes. It leads to a comfort zone from which only decay and decline can proceed.

The recent electoral loss by the UPND of the Chilanga Parliamentary seat and several Ward by-elections before that have proven beyond a shadow of doubt that UPND is a party in decline that has failed to wake up and smell the coffee. They have failed to realise that Zambians simply don’t give a damn about their court petitions and are more interested in development and an effective opposition party that is constantly selling itself as a viable alternative to the sitting government.

The results of the Chilanga by-election were not a surprise to me. I had already began hearing whispers before the election from ordinary people in what was a clear UPND stronghold that they were fed up with UPND and wanted development.

They have been neglected for so long and are no longer inspired by the UPND and its president Mr Hakainde Hichilema. These are things being discussed in villages, farms and minibuses. There is simply no reasonable excuse for a 20 year old opposition party to be ceding ground in its strongholds to the ruling party after coming so close to winning the 2016 elections, a mere 2 years ago.

The UPND pressed the self-destruct button by selecting one of the worst possible candidates to contest in Chilanga, probably feeling overconfident of winning as they did in the last two Presidential elections. They took two shotguns, took very careful aim and shot themselves in both feet!

So poor is their recent decision making that even the Zambian Watchdog which traditionally has been their mouthpiece parted ways with them for this Chilanga by-election. I cannot see proper advisers, strategists or an effective media team in the UPND. It is almost as if they have given up and are demoralised as decay and decline are beginning to take their toll.

All this bodes very badly for Zambia because it leads to complacency in the ruling party which is usually followed by excesses and abuse of power. We are slowly heading towards a situation whereby the opposition are so impotent that people decide to keep the ruling party in power, not because they are doing well, but because there is no credible opposition.

At the rate they are going, the UPND might as well disband and kiss the 2021 elections goodbye. The people of Zambia can only give them so many chances before they move on and pick a different party. Newly formed parties like the National Democratic Congress (NDC) under Mr Chishimba Kambwili are having a greater impact already.

And yet history is on the side of UPND in terms of potentially wrestling power from the PF. History shows that Zambians become tired of the ruling party after ten years. Facing certain electoral defeat in the upcoming 1974 elections to an opposition coalition that would include the late Simon Mwansa Kapwepwe and Harry Mwaanga Nkumbula, first president Kenneth Kaunda forced through a one party state in 1973 after a kangaroo Constitutional Review Commission whose outcome was pre-determined. He imprisoned Mr Kapwepwe for one year during the commission to prevent him effectively campaigning against the moves to introduce a one party state. Over a hundred leaders of Mr Kapwepwe’s party were also arrested in 1972.

The next 18 years under one party rule saw a decline in the Zambian economy and standards of living with a massive debt that was 240% of GDP by 1991. There was no one to oppose the ruling United National Independence Party (UNIP) that became drunk with power and imagined themselves indestructible as they chanted slogans that whoever touches UNIP would be burned by fire.

Fast forward to 31st October 1991 and the elections of that day kicked out UNIP and handed the MMD a 75% resounding landslide victory. The MMD started well and I believe to this day that the first Cabinet under second President Frederick JT Chiluba that comprised the likes of Levy P. Mwanawasa, Dipak Patel, Simon Zukas, Emmanuel Kasonde, Eric Silwamba, etc., was the best that Zambia has ever had in its history. There was a real sense of hope in 1991 that Zambia would be turned around and made very prosperous.

Sadly, Zambia’s path to real prosperity under MMD was curtailed by greed and corruption, notwithstanding the many good things MMD did for this country to reverse the huge economic, social and political decline under UNIP. Despite starting well, the MMD fell prey to the same arrogance of power that UNIP had for 18 years.

After ten years of MMD rule in 2001, the people of Zambia were ready to kick them out. The UPND at that time was merely 3 years old but making such a powerful impact under their late president Anderson K. Mazoka. The 2001 elections saw the MMD lose 71% support from Zambians as Mr Mwanawasa was elected by only 29% of the vote, the worst results of any President in Zambia’s history with Mr Mazoka garnering 27%.

If any of the next six candidates on the results list – Christon Tembo (13%), Tilyenji Kaunda (10%), Godfrey Miyanda (8%), Benjamin Y. Mwila (5%), Michael C. Sata (3%) or Nevers S. Mumba (2%) – had joined forces with Mr Mazoka, or if the opposition had backed one candidate, we would be talking a different story today.

A combination of Chiluba’s electoral dribbling, fragmented opposition and confusion among the electorate on who to back out of eleven candidates gave the MMD a lifeline that enabled them rule for another ten years. Mr Mwanawasa turned out to be an unlikely hero to many Zambians by actively fighting corruption and bringing back integrity to the office of President. He also benefited from the foundation Mr Chiluba laid of a liberalised economy, HIPC preparations and reversing the disastrous UNIP policies.

This gave Mr Mwanawasa a second term in 2006 as he comfortably won the elections. The fourth MMD term was finished by Mr Rupiah Bwezani Banda after the untimely death of Mr Mwanawasa in 2008. By this time, Mr Michael Chilufya Sata and the PF were in the ascendancy. Mr Sata was an extremely effective opposition leader and proved to be very politically astute by coming within 4 percentage points of winning the 2008 presidential by-election.

I never imagined Mr Sata ever ruling Zambia and he did the seemingly impossible by unseating the ruling MMD under Mr Banda in 2011, despite Zambia having the best economic statistics since the final dark UNIP days in the late 1980s. The “Ten Year Rule” for Zambia had been firmly established.

If the UPND were a more effective opposition party, they would have a very good chance of winning in 2021 because of the “Ten Year Rule”. Signs that ordinary Zambians are becoming fed up with the ruling party are everywhere, but I just don’t see the UPND taking advantage of the “Ten Year Rule”. I just don’t see the UPND winning in 2021 at the moment.

Unless…

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35 COMMENTS

  1. “I had already began hearing whispers before the election from ordinary people in what was a clear UPND stronghold that they were fed up with UPND and wanted development.” When was Chilanga parliamentary constituency ever a UPND stronghold Ba Chishala? You can still make your point without falsehoods, that weaken your overall argument.

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    • You can say what you want but UPND is still a formidable party with representatives in parliament!
      Given a level playing field these guys can go further but the rigged system helps PFools.

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    • Wishful thinking! Who would vote for thieves that have stolen our money leaving the treasury dry and empty! What you were calling development projects have been cancelled because Lungu has stolen all the money! Mind you, IMF will NOT give Zambia that loan even after the measures announced by Mwanakatwe because they know Lungu will steal all the money will be stolen through scandals like the Fire engines.
      And for you, real suffering is coming very soon and people will be looking for the UPND instead – UPND won’t need to campaign. Very soon, Govt will fail to pay workers and that’s when you will wake up!

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    • Refer to “HH warns ECZ Chairperson over Chilanga” LusakaTimes of June 4, 2018

      The comments under the cited thread herein were the most insightful and generously given at zero cost. But HH’s arrogance overlooked all. All proved beyond doubt that HH has highhandedly killed UPND. These is wisdom in public discourse even them these threads often with comments from experts who choose to post anonymous. Not everyone is an empty troll. You have Professors, retirees, ex- shushushus and professionals of all hues commenting anonymously to protect their family and professional interest. The best for any sophisticated party is to read between the line and filter out smartly. Over dependence childish Larry Mweetwa has been disastrous for UPND.

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    • Blaming PF’s failures on UPND is like a husband who has been caught by his wife red-handed in bed with another woman but the husband gets up & put the blame on the wife.

      For over 10 years, HH has been warning you about the PF plunderers & poor economic policies, you refused to listen.

      If today you’ve opened your eyes & discovered that you’ve been robbed, blaming HH is very unfair. just like you falsely blame him for privatization of mines or falsely accuse him of sata.nism & you proclaim Lungu as the holy humble christian when we all know he’s a drunkard, a thief who has been cheating on his wife with small girls young enough to be his grand-daughters.

      Just continue dancing to Dununa Reverse on your empty bellies.

      It’s PF in the dock, NOT HH. Leave HH out of your blame…

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  2. Chishala is nothing but a Bemba ultra tribalist. What you are saying doesn’t make sense. If you read Nic Cheesman and Brian Klaas’ recent book they clearely stated that Zambia is currently ‘holding rigged’ elections in which the opposition is given no meaningful space to campaign because of violence and other obvious malpractices.
    This has been noted. You can now see that what UPND has been saying over the economic mismanagement is what will happen in the next 5 years. Everyone in Zambia including tribalists like you will pay a severe price. Already, my friends or contacts at the IMF are saying the measures announced by the Zambian Govt are too little too late! Price hikes and inflation are expected to reach 100% by October and that’s when you tribalists will know which party to vote…

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    • @Ndanje Khakis:
      I don’t what kind of drugs you are taking because you need to increase th dose. It’s not me praying for that to happen but what your PF Finance said on Thursday this week!
      The fact is you PF dunderheads have realised how serious the economic situation is and will be even worse in 2 weeks time. For a minister to cancel those proj3cts and means you should know that you will be going hungry very soon. They have been stealing when you were dancing Dununa reverse.
      This time IMF will not give you any loans and you will see how hungry ???? you will be. Lungu has stolen all the money in the Treasury. Where to PF – no more money to bribe idyots like you Mbanje!

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    • Chilyata: Excuse Chishala from tribalism accusation because there’s no evidence of it in his posting. To me he sounds like someone thoroughly fed up with PF. Chishala has forgotten how free PF and Sata were to campaign and even to appear again and again on ZNBC to be interviewed and spread his message to voters. ECL doesn’t allow HH to appear on ZNBC. When he appeared this year it was only after a letter had been written to ZNBC to demand them to perform their role as a supposed public broadcaster. Chishala ignores all that.

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    • @Chanchima they certainly arent a public broadcaster. They are a State Broadcaster. They get instructions from government, have their bosses appointed by govt, and even get funding from the ministry of broadcasting

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  3. When HH speaks out he is labeled a bitter tribalist by PF and don’t tell me that you do not know that. Being Tonga, he is seen as a second-class citizen. This stems from the treatment of local languages in early education that Kaunda and his UNIP govt started in the late 1960s when some languages were raised above others in order to save money. The result was that this gave others the right to have imperial attitudes towards their fellow citizens. And now it has poisoned our politics, as it does in Quebec, Canada.

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    • Don’t worry my brother. These tribalists will soon be eating their tribes. Those measures announced by Mwanakatwe on Thursday will mean 100% increases in inflation and prices. The Zambian Govt will not be able to pay salaries to the workers. Companies will not be able to import Pizza from South Africa and most malls will not make profits and will be forced to close. Meanwhile, Lungu and his minions are prepared and have looted our treasury. People will have to pays heavy taxes even on ground water.
      There will be no need for UPND to campaign again because people will know which party to vote for. The Zambian situation will be worse than what we saw under Chiluba. Just wait for 2 moths.

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    • No, I am not a victim and will never be because I feed myself and never dependent on Lungu and your PF!
      All that I am saying is that “we told so” but you never listened and kept dancing to Dununa reverse. The serious economic problem has now come and you heard it from your Finance Minister not from UPND! May be you don’t believe your minister like you don’t believe UPND.
      Whether you like UPND or NOT, it’s guaranteed that you will suffer for at least 5years! You were collecting Eurobonds like Impwa do you think they were for free? This time there will be no debt forgiveness because you picked those Eurobonds from the open market!

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    • Ndanje Khakis: I am not playing victim; rather you are refusing to accept a sensible explanation here. Sata’s differences with LPM even spread to the latter’s tribe because Sata on many occasions told Zambians to reject LPM on account of coming from a “small tribe” which is not supposed to produce a president. Sata was saying this because this was the effect of what UNIP did in the late 1960s.Simple truth is tribes do not rule but some people through their political parties rule. Even within MMD, upon LPM’s death RB’s supporters began saying that no person from a small tribe should be allowed to rule again; a party he left stronger than he found it!

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  4. Fact not fiction. ….bitterness will make one lose focus. You can hate or like it, it’s a fact.

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  5. I would like to do an autopsy on every UPND to check the “medulla oblangata!” Sorry, I will not find anything there! The pathology is in the blood! Accursed.

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    • Me I will do an autopsy on your pusie to ch3ck which infection has invaded your front malola right up to the main chamber which is causing severe itching and keeping you hyper!

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  6. Some educated illiterates! Compare the political climate under which mmd and pf sold themselves to the electorate to that the upnd under pf govt. Sure chishala had kk or banda clamped down on all freedoms for the opposition made it possible for the opposition to win elections? Actually what the upnd goes through under lungu makes the upnd unique. Lesser mortals would have thrown in the towel. But then its not surprising seeing as to where the author may hail from: can only amplify the victim’s weaknesses and say nothing about the the terrorist keen!

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    • Mukuma: Chishala has ignored totally how PF treats the UPND if they try to organise rallies. This is sad coming from someone so enlightened. The PF wants tribe to be an issue because they know that if people unite across tribe and face only the issues currently troubling all Zambians they will lose power. So get ready to see tribe come up again and again.

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    • Yeah, and you conveniently forget that UPND did not start contending elections during PF era alone. In fact, PF is a young party compared to UPND. So if the reason for UPND’s failures at the polls is because of PF tactics, why didn’t you succeed running against MMD?

      How many times had HH run for President before Sata or Lungu were even serious contenders? And wasn’t UPND running election battles with the MMD way before you started the same routine with the PF? When was the MAPATIZIA FORMULA coined and by who?

      You see, sometimes accepting responsibility for your own failures can be rewarding and a beginning of a successful phase in life. Just wish you folks in UPND can do the same instead of always trying to blame others for your electoral failures. You will do yourselves a very…

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      big favor by doing some self introspection than being rigidly arrogant all the time. A strategy that has only spelled doom for once such a promising party.

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  7. During the 2016 election campaigns GBM held a rally near my home, he came by chopper. Then he declared thus: Ine ka Edgar kuti nakafininka kafenta! Then I began to wonder how he had become such a successful businessman if that’s what he had to contribute to the national debate. To date that’s still the UPND and NDC campaign messages. They even joined hands in Chilanga, Less atwafwe, amen

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    • But can’t you see what your president Lungu has brought to Zambia? GBM has always worked for himself and employed others. Lungu has never been an employer – which explains why he has borrowed so much and ruined the country!
      People and even IMF warned him but he never listened. Here is a very stupid President who had even started signing off secrete sovereign loans until lenders told him that that practice is unheard of in the Finance world. Looking at the Zambian malaise, Lungu still wants to stand as president in 2021….what a mad president Zambians have! We need to pray hard so that Lungu can leave whichever way God wills.

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  8. UPND go for a convention and elect new leadership.
    Cut your losses and move on.
    HH and GBM team are a “sunk cost”.
    UPND has other good, strong and rich minds.
    JUST DO IT.

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  9. #10 The Zambian, leave those upnd losers alone, they are actually afraid of winning and governing. Look, even a frog is better than h.h in the eyes of many Zambians, and upnd cadres and leaders alike have begun to believe this fact.

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  10. @Chilyata and chanchima:WISHING ZAMBIANS DARK DAYS IS EVIL AND EVEN IF YOUR EVIL WISHES BECOME TRUE,STILL IT WONT WIN UPND ELECTIONS IN 2021!!!!Govnt shall never fail to pay civil servants salaries from October this year!!!Just tell your HH to market UPND well like Mr.Sata did before 2011.in case you dont know,it is HH who make you lose elections.This man is not a politician and many voters do not love him!!HH does not make sense to many Zambians in 6.5 provinces!!!NOW IT IS EVEN WORSE BECAUSE NONE TONGA VOTERS HAVE KNOWN HOW TRIBAL HH IS AFTER LOOKING AT RESULTS FROM SOUTHERN!!!UPND & HH MADE A BIG MISTAKE IN 2006 BY STARTING TRIBAL POLITICS!!our economy has been bad since 2012.before 2016 elections things were worse,but UPND still lost!!
    PF will 100% retain power in 2021 if UPND adopts…

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    • @Njimbu:
      We are not wishing Zambians any dark days at all. The dark days are real and here to stay – Mwanakatwe told you not me! It’s that old girl…. I mean your so called PF Finance Minister who said so on Thursday. Don’t bring me or UPND into issues of your own making. At least you will be eating your tribe while the rest of us suffer.
      For your own information, the PF Govt has already failed to pay Doctors and ZNBC staff salaries and things will and can only get worse from Sept.
      HH doesn’t need to be a politician to be a president – Americans have Trump a businessman like HH….did you get those thoughts from the rats you have been eating.
      PF right now can only talk about Tribe cos there is no Development even after those debts. Your PF has left a huge debt burden that will…

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  11. Yambayamba and Njimbu: Don’t UPND get beaten when they try to organise rallies? Simple question seeking an answer from informed persons like both of you. Chishala has tried to argue issues and I have not seen the ugly head of tribe in his argument but he sadly ignored what PF govt does when UPND try to organize rallies. A stranger was caught in ECZ server rooms during tallying 2016 elections in full view of UN observers at Mulungushi Hall and pictures taken. To Janet Rogan, Esau Chulu, Priscilla Isaac and PF that was no cause for alarm. I understand why Martha Mushipe lost it. It live on TV and by now ZNBC have destroyed that tape.

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  12. @Chachina, I am sure you are aware of the saying that “a bad Carpenter always blames his tools.” Hope you understand what this means.

    Look, election violence in Zambia can not, and I repeat, can not be blamed on one side or the other alone. Unless you want to engage in SELECTIVE AMNESIA, campaign violence in Zambia is practiced by nearly all Political Parties except maybe smaller ones that have no numbers yet.

    Unless you are telling me that the violence committed by UPND, especially in Southern Province, against other political parties does not count because UPND is an opposition party….if this is your logic then I am not going to waste my time trying to reason with you.

    By the way, where have you been when the likes of GBM and HH himself have, on more than one occasion,…

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      encouraged violence and reteriations? For instance, just recently we heard UPND/GBM calling for “panga for panga” in Chilanga. So what do you think this is if not electoral violence, or at the minimum, electoral intimidation of voters from other Parties? So, it is really ‘rich’ of you to somehow try to claim a HIGHER MORAL GROUND on this issue when evidence and facts tells a different story.

      Might I also remind you that PF faced the same sort of violence from the MMD (I am sure you recall the days of Tekere Banda, your current advisor to HH) but still PF won. WHY? WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE?

      In short, what I am trying to say to you is that YOU HAVE AN UNAPPEALING AND INEFFECTIVE CANDIDATE in HH. Try someone else and UPND might just make it. Coming up with the same…

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      old and tired excuses is not going to help you/UPND win elections. This is the same free advice the author is giving you….take it or leave it, it is up to you!

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