CONGRATULATIONS TO UPND AS THEY CELEBRATE 20 YEARS OF EXISTENCE: MAY THIS BE A TIME OF SOBER REFLECTION TO LEARN FROM THE PAST AS THEY LOOK TO THE FUTURE.
By Sunday Chilufya Chanda
Compliments of the season and congratulations to the leader of the United Party for National Development (UPND) as well as the National Management Committee (NMC) and general Membership as they celebrate twenty (20) years of their party’s existence in Opposition.
Although we are contenders in the political space, and our mutual discourse can at times get feisty, we are at the end of the day brothers and sisters; kith and kin jointly occupying the same geographical space of the only nation we belong to together-Zambia.
Our nationhood in diversity is what unites us and it ultimately is stronger than what divides us.
As our sisters and brothers celebrate this significant this milestone, it is important for them to take stock of the last two decades and learn from their past as they look ahead.
As the philosopher and essayist George Santayana once said:
‘Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.’
Sir Winston Churchill later paraphrased it to:
‘Those who fail to learn from history are condemned to repeat it.’
Whichever way you look at it, everyone especially UPND in this case, need to learn from the past as they look to the future.
A Brief Reflection of UPND HISTORY
The UPND was established in December 1998 and was initially led by Mr Anderson Kambela Mazoka (MHSRIP), who had left the Movement for Multi-Party Democracy (MMD) shortly beforehand.
Mr Mazoka led the party until his untimely death 2006 when the incumbent Mr Hakainde Hichilema took over in controversial circumstances fraught with tribal sentiments loaded with unfortunate regional inclinations, which are well documented.
As the hitherto unknown successor who was not in the party structures let alone nowhere near the hierarchy took over the reins, founding and established stalwarts such as Sakwiba Sikota, Patrick Chisanga and Robert Sichinga were unceremoniously hounded out of the party in what was largely viewed as an “ethnic cleansing” of the party.
That was a little over a decade ago, and the tribal faux pas has to date not been condemned by late Mazoka’s successor-implying his tacit support for it.
The quality of Political Parties affects the quality of our nation’s overall democracy
As they turn their focus to the present day, they need to be reminded that all political parties are central to our democracy and UPND is one of the many players that contribute to the nature of this democracy.
The quality of our collective democracy as a nation is therefore a function of the quality of the democratic quality and practise of its singular players.
How the UPND conducts itself internally and externally is consequently of great interest to the entire nation. This fact underpins our message to them in this article.
Zambia is a Multi-Party Democracy, with the Patriotic Front in Government and an assortment of parties in the opposition – including UPND.
After 20 years, UPND Are Still Without Manifesto; how then can they move “Zambia Forward”?
Political Parties are essentially organisations that seek political power so that their philosophy and policy become public policy.
It is therefore unbelievably strange that after 20 years the UPND still have no manifesto- they instead have a one-pager wishlist with bullet points they call a “Ten Point Plan”.
It is a “plan” that raises more questions than answers. The crucial Who, What, Why, When and How is conspicuously missing.
Nevertheless, since the said 10 point “plan” has been swallowed up by what PF is delivering, what alternative promises and policies can they offer? What new message does the UPND bring to the political equation besides singing the empty “corruption” song?
We therefore urge our brothers and sisters in UPND to find a new song because everything they sing about has either been delivered by PF or it is work in progress. They cannot reinvent the wheel!
By the same token, we also exhort the brethren to develop a coherent detailed manifesto rather than a one-pager with bullet points. Statecraft is no simple matter!
Their Need to Revisit Their Role as an Opposition Party
The current dispensation of rubbishing everything and anything the government does just for the sake of it is a far cry from the constructive criticism of the founding father of UPND. A mature Opposition political party understands that more often than not, it must rise to the challenge to play the role of a proposition party – there is a clarion call to politics of alternatives!
In the days of the late Anderson Mazoka, UPND would publish an alternative national budget and alternative policies to challenge the budget of the then government of the day.
While being critical of government at times, the UPND under Mazoka gave credit where it was due.
However, since 2006 under the current regime that succeeded Mazoka, UPND has typically been hypercritical and rather pedantic of anything and everything under every administration- from President Mwanawasa to President Rupiah Banda, President Michael Chilufya Sata and the incumbent His Excellency President Edgar Chagwa Lungu.
How is it that during the tenure of its current administration, the UPND has never said anything good or given credit where it is due regarding any of the fore-mentioned leaders’ achievements?
Can they really say that all the above-mentioned Heads of State never did or have never done anything right?
How bizarre is it that they only give credit posthumously as in the case of President Mwanawasa and the late President Michael Chilufya Sata (albeit begrudgingly)?
Does being in opposition also mean rejecting to work with Government Departments to bring development to the people and expelling Party officials that are seen or rumoured to have been seen talking to government officials?
Perhaps as the UPND celebrates 20 years of its existence in Opposition, it needs to revisit its purpose and what it means to be an opposition party.
As they do that, their leadership should also use this milestone in the Opposition to reflect on their intra-party democracy and internal dialogue.
How democratic are intra-party UPND Politics? Is there internal dialogue?
Can they really call themselves “democratic”?
Apart from the obvious fact that their current leader is de facto Life President having unsuccessfully contested 5 elections without even so much as a sniff of internal opposition – have they ever held an elective convention?
The basic question is -Do their structures even hold elections like the ruling party does? If so, how often?
How responsive and representative is their top to bottom approach that has rendered them out of touch with the grassroots?
These questions may be a bitter pill to swallow, but they are an elixir that will help them see how over the years they have evolved into an Aristocracy (a privileged class/person holding hereditary title) rather than a democracy.
Democracy and dialogue go together.
Where there is no internal democracy, there is no internal dialogue.
UPND should first get its house in order by taking a leaf from the ruling party in order to build internal democracy by conducting internal elections as well as dealing with intra-party dialogue before they can credibly talk about inter-party dialogue.
May the 20 year be a watershed for the UPND in which they will consciously choose to engage in the edifying and nation building political arena of ideas and policy, rather than the retrogressive arena of calumny and misinformation.
Hearty felicitations once again to Mr Hakainde Hichilema- the President of the UPND as well as the leadership and members as they celebrate this milestone.
God bless you.
The Author is Patriotic Front Media Director At the Patriotic Front Secretariat Lusaka.