By Elias Munshya
Everything being equal, the UPND can still win in 2021 without the Bemba vote, as long as it maintains its current hold on the Zambezi provinces (Northwestern, Western, and Southern) while the PF support disintegrates to NDC in the Bemba speaking corridors of Luapula, Northern, Muchinga and in Lusaka and Copperbelt.
NDC is more likely to take votes from the PF, more than it will take votes from the UPND. The UPND remains a very strong party in Zambia due to its sway over the Zambezi Provinces.
Unless a political party emerges that challenges the UPND’s hegemony over the Zambezi Provinces, Hakainde Hichilema remains a favorite to win in 2021.
What should be HH’s strategy?
- Encourage the growth of the NDC. In fact, he needs to help the NDC usurp PF structures in Lusaka and the Copperbelt. It appears like HH has not quite gotten the urban areas.
- Focus UPND energy on the Zambezi provinces and ensure that they maintain the turnout from those provinces.
- In a 3-way race for the presidency, the UPND is more likely to hit the proverbial 50+1 solely relying on the strong turnout from the Zambezi, as PF and NDC split the votes in Lusaka-CB and the Bemba-speaking corridor.
- Regarding HH and the Bembas, he is damned if he keeps courting them, and damned if he stops. With the impending departure of GBM, HH’s relationship with the Bembas will become even more precarious. What can a man do? He has tried his best to court the Bemba areas, but to no breakthrough. Solution? Take his efforts elsewhere knowing that the Bembas might turn to him after they notice his momentum in the Zambezi.
We need to add something here.
GBM’s reaction to the UPND is a double-edged sword. If GBM alleges that the UPND is a tribal party, he is likely to anger the Zambezi provinces even more and as a result, the UPND is likely to emerge even stronger in these areas as they will be in the defensive. Is GBM likely to make the Bemba vote difficult for the UPND? I really do not think that what GBM says about UPND will break the low support that HH enjoys in Bemba areas. HH’s support in Bemba areas cannot get any lower. There is no point in GBM destroying HH among Bembas as there is really nothing to destroy there. Even with GBM in toll, HH never had a significant penetration of Bemba areas.
UPND in the Zambezi provinces can quite easily just heap it all on the Bemba GBM. They could just drive the narrative that the Bemba veep became ungovernable. UPND will not lose any support for that.
The author is a Zambian lawyer based in Canada