Sunday, June 16, 2024

The Opposition’s Single 2021 Presidential Candidate Project


By Isaac Mwanza


The Electoral Commission has maintained voter registration exercise, targeting 9 million eligible voters from the 9,900 polling stations would take place throughout the country and conducted within 30-days. With ECZ targeting a turnout of around 80 percent in 2021, some opposition leaders are fronting a proposal to field one candidate in 2021 to compete against the Patriotic Front (PF) candidate, who undoubtedly will be the incumbent President Lungu. The question is, among the opposition leaders, who can the opposition unanimously accept to lead them into the 2021 battle against President Lungu, and what is the probability of this One-Alliance Presidential Project succeeding?

A Scan of Opposition Parties in Zambia and Their Leaders?

By 2016, Zambia’s main opposition parties who contested the presidential election included the United Party for National Development (UPND), Forum for Democracy and Development (FDD), People’s Alliance for Change (PAC), Rainbow Party, United Progressive Peoples Party (UPP), United National Independence Party (UNIP), Green Party, and the Democratic Assembly (DA). Apart from Mr. Hakainde Hichilema who had 1,760,347 votes, the remaining candidates had a sum total of 74,486 votes which the UPND leader desperately needs in order to close up the 100,530 gap in votes against President Lungu’s 1.8+ million votes.

In 2021, it is more likely the presidential ballot may include three more parties, namely, the Chishimba Kambwili-led National Democratic Congress (NDC), Dr. Fred M’membe’s Socialist Party (SP), the Social-Democratic Patriot for Economic Progress (PeP) led by Mr. Sean Tembo, the Charles Chanda-led United Prosperous and Peaceful Zambia (UPPZ). The Economic and Equity Party President Chilufya Tayali has also said people will be surprised because he will be on the ballot in 2021. Therefore, from 9 presidential candidates in 2016, the Presidential Ballot in 2021 is more likely to have, at least, 14 candidates, if the opposition do not agree on a single candidate.

Currently, the UPND-led alliance, includes James Lukuku of the Republican Progress Party (RPP, a breakaway party from Cosmo Mumba’s National Revolution Party (NRP)) which is essentially a party in name only, and Charles Milupi’s Alliance for Democracy and Development (ADD), a party with a small pocket of supporters from Western Zambia. ADD has participated in local government elections in the politically-troubled Western and North Western Provinces where the ruling PF is slowly gaining ground. NDC, itself basically a breakaway party from the ruling PF, is still in nursery and may not be as popular as UPND on the Copperbelt where it has been trying to establish its base.

From the numbers in the 2016 Presidential Election, it appears the FDD and PAC are the only two parties that made it above the 10,000 mark while Rainbow, UPP and UNIP parties are the parties that made it past the 5,000 mark but below 10,000 votes. The arrival of NDC, Socialist Party and the PeP may have a chilling effect on the numbers for most of these opposition parties, but the strength of these parties is not yet known.

The NDC has however participated in two parliamentary by-elections, first in the Roan constituency in Luanshya, where its candidate won the seat with 8,665 votes against the PF who had 5,533 votes. It can be said that the NDC won the Roan seat only because the UPND did not field a candidate. Instead, the UPND threw its weight behind the NDC and actively campaigned for the NDC candidate. This author would suggest that had the UPND put forward its own candidate in the Roan parliamentary by-election, PF would have retained the seat.

This theory is readily borne out when one looks at the subsequent Luapula Ward local government by-election in Kitwe, where UPND came in second, behind PF while NDC came in third, and in the Chilubi constituency parliamentary by-election where, again, the UPND came in second, well ahead of the NDC which only managed a distant third place with 1,308 votes against 4,858 for UPND and 16,653 votes for PF. The NDC was only able to beat the PAC with a slight margin of 292 votes between them.

One would have thought that the NDC leader, Mr. Chishimba Kambwili’s repeated invocations of the late Mr. Michael Sata’s name in Luapula where he was hugely popular, would have swung the by-election in favour of the NDC as intended by Mr. Kambwili. This did not happen; instead, President Edgar Lungu’s one day campaign swing in the constituency, consolidated the PF’s stranglehold and the PF candidate received more votes in the by-election, than at the 2016 general election, a very unusual result which would appear to confirm President Edgar Lungu’s popularity as the new leader of PF after the late Michael Sata.

These remarkable by-election results have continued to surprise pundits in local government by-elections in most parts of the country, where the PF appears to have solidified its popular appeal.

Who Would Be The Best Single Opposition Candidate To Oust The PF?

If history is anything to go by, one would assume that the FDD and UNIP would have learnt their lesson after the failed 2006 United Democratic Alliance (UDA) which fielded Mr. Hakainde Hichilema as its sole candidate in that election, against the ruling MMD’s Levy Mwanawasa as well as Mr. Michael Sata of the opposition PF and Mr. Akashambatwa Mbikusita Lewanika of Agenda for Zambia (AZ) and Mr. Nevers Mumba of the National Christian Coalition (NCC).

On close examination, the UDA alliance appeared to field nothing more than Mr. Hichilema’s political ambitions, as none of the leaders of the alliance partners had much in the way of political stock, while Mr. Hichilema was the virtually unknown but newly-minted leader of the UPND, following the demise of the UPND’s popular founding leader, the late Mr. Anderson Mazoka who had died the previous year, 2005.

Mr. Hichilema had risen out of nowhere to the leadership of the UPND on the back of an acrimonious succession dispute which had seen the other founding members and two Vice Presidents of the UPND, resigning in disgust at the highly tribal or ethnic-centred campaign mounted by Mr. Hichilema’s supporters, who had insisted that the leadership of the UPND could only go to someone of the same tribe as the founding president, the late Mr. Mazoka. Of course, those supporters had the numbers to push their candidate, Mr. Hichilema, to the top.

In terms of the UDA alliance, the UPND was, at the time, the second-largest party in the National Assembly of Zambia and the largest single opposition party in the country, with 42 seats in the House. In 2006, the PF had only 3 MPs in the House but refused to join the UDA alliance confident that it could Marshall the support needed for its candidate, the Michael Sata, to win the Presidency.

Mr. Hichilema was a novice, but with the largest opposition block in parliament and having come very close to winning the presidency in 2001, the UDA reluctantly conceded the presidential candidacy to the UPND leader who had no political credentials, as compared with the FDD’s Edith Nawakwi and UNIP’s Tilyenji Kaunda, son of Zambia’s founding President Kenneth David Kaunda.

In 2021, it is very unlikely that these two parties, FDD and UNIP would, once again, agree to go into a coalition to once again feature the same candidate in the name of Mr. Hakainde Hichilema. As a matter of fact, shortly after the 2006 elections, the UDA partners expressed their dismay at Mr. Hichilema’s attitude and blamed him for the substantial losses which all the UDA alliance parties suffered in the 2006 election.

The UPND lost 23 seats, from 42 down to 19, UNIP from 14 down to 6 and FDD lost 8 of its 11 seats, down to only 3. In the presidential by-election which followed the death of President Levy Mwanawasa in 2008, all the former UDA partners except UPND and UNIP, decided to support the MMD candidate Mr. Rupiah Banda. Ms. Nawakwi, leader of the FDD, vowed never to support Mr. Hichilema again, calling him ungrateful. Rupiah Banda won the 2008 presidential by-election but Mr. Hichilema came in a distant third (with some 503,000 votes) behind Mr. Rupiah Banda (1.1m votes) and Mr. Michael Sata (870,000 votes).

With regard to the current opposition landscape, the PAC has been building its image by participating in elections over time. It is noteworthy that the PAC left the loose “dialogue and reconciliation alliance” due to disagreement with the UPND leader over the way he was handling the process. Mr. Andyford Banda’s and PAC’s support base is largely the many youths who have some form of education and interested in the political dispensation of their country.

The Rainbow Party, a Socialist unit, and the UPP, both seem to understand that the 50% +1 presidential winning threshold offers them an opportunity to negotiate the run-off elections in the event that there is no outright winner in the 2021 first round election.

On the other hand, it is easier to arm-twist the NDC into getting into a single-candidate electoral alliance in which Mr. Hichilema would be that presidential candidate because of the personal circumstances its leader Chishimba Kambwili has found himself in in terms of the several court cases against him. However, Mr. Kambwili and some of the strategists within his party do understand that if NDC participated at presidential level in 2021 and came third, that would give the NDC the leverage to negotiate better with UPND than if its numbers are not known.

As it stands now, NDC is in a very weak position to negotiate with the UPND, firstly, because it doesn’t have real numbers to show apart from a seat in Roan and, secondly, because of the personal situation its leader finds himself in. Mr. Kambwili has no option but to sing the same song with Mr. Hichilema on the question of an electoral alliance single candidate, including taking up an offer for a running mate, even though Kambwili and HH don’t share same philosophical ideals.

Dr. Fred M’membe of the Socialist Party and Mr. Sean Tembo of the Patriots for Economic Progress (PeP), should also be followed closely without being dismissive of the effect they may have on the 2021 elections. The Socialist Party and PeP can easily be noticed on the political scene ahead of 2021. Despite any prosecution Dr. M’membe may face, history has shown he is one person who cannot easily be arm-twisted. Over time, Dr. M’membe has been tested under both MMD and PF, and has demonstrated that he has learnt to fight his own battles – losing some and winning others.

Mr. Sean Tembo of PeP has also been working quietly, out of sight mostly, to build his party membership. By 17th May, 2020, the PeP reportedly reached 500,000 registered members and appears to have a strong base in urban and peri-urban areas of Lusaka Province. What is yet to be seen is, whether these numbers will translate into a half million votes for PeP in the 2021 elections, or if the numbers are just on paper.

A Choice between Capitalist Mr. Hichilema and Socialist Leaders

The most important question which Dr. Fred M’membe raised during one Assignment Programme on Muvi TV is: in choosing a single candidate for the 2021 opposition candidate, which ideology will be followed in case one wins the 2021 election on the opposition ticket? Dr. M’membe was crystal clear that his Socialist Party does not believe in giving the mines to Anglo-American if the PF are ousted from power, which the capitalists would find easy to do. But for other parties without any discernible ideologies, these are easier to co-opt into the One-Opposition Project whose leader will, without doubt, be Hakainde Hichilema, the capitalist.

Capitalism, as we all know it, does not believe in fairness but exploitation for profits. Capitalism would do anything to profit from any situation. Now we are witnessing what may be termed as “political capitalism” on the rise in Zambia. The whole idea is how to profit with votes from any bad situation on the ground.

When the youth appear to be calling for a stake in gold mines, capitalist politicians simply jump onto the band wagon promising to fulfil the wishes of the youths, not because they believe the call to be valid, but purely for the sake of obtaining the youth vote, because they know that most of these youths have no capacity to run the mines. Still, the politicians give false hope to these youths, claiming that they have solutions to the issue of our mines.

Our capitalists in Zambia will always see an opportunity to join poor citizens who complain about the living standards or the gap between the rich and the poor, appearing to have a solution. But it is only true that these capitalists will run to fellow capitalists in the rich countries to discuss debt, which no doubt will be used by rich country capitalists to take advantage of Zambia’s mineral wealth for their own benefit. Those external capitalists won’t come to Zambia to pay off the debt, but to use it as a lever to force Zambia to hand over its mineral wealth to them.

Dr. Fred M’membe and his Socialist Party, or Mr. Wynter Kabimba and his Rainbow Party will not easily fall for such arm-twisting tactics by capitalists to sing the common song of single candidate whose ideology they don’t believe in. The opposite would be true of the UPND leader, Mr. Hichilema; it is unlikely that he would accept someone like M’membe or Kabimba to lead the single candidate alliance and later pursue the agenda of socialism. Their capitalist financiers would most certainly abandon them.

In short, the call for a single opposition candidate of convenience lacks any strong foundation at all. But the interesting aspect is that once the single candidate, who most likely is seen as Mr. Hakainde Hichilema, loses 2021 to Edgar Lungu, these political parties will not easily recover for 2026.


The single 2021 opposition candidate, meant to once again feature Hakainde Hichilema, is birthed on the idea of pushing the PF out of power in 2021. The opposition parties have a right to form these alliances. However, when the socialists, capitalists, communist or social-capitalists form an Alliance, expect confusion when such a grouping is given power. Those who learnt from the failure of the UDA and loss of direction by the parties which were involved in that Alliance will approach this idea with caution. Sata never believed that he would rule Zambia because of an Alliance although he was the biggest beneficiary when the UPND-PF Pact crumbled at the late hour. Sata’s 10 years in opposition to becoming President of the Republic of Zambia was done on the basis of understanding the political terrain coupled with boldness, courage, tact and assembling local teams and not international image builders who understand nothing of our local politics as they happen in villages.


  1. “……which the UPND leader desperately needs in order to close up the 100,530 gap in votes against President Lungu…….”

    Only 100,000 votes even after fielding the whole GRZ , ZP , ZAF , ZNS, and army ……having also just spent billions on projects …..
    Using massive PF cader violence and intimidation and many would say rigging …….

    only 100,000 votes ?????

    Lungu and PF should be ashamed

  2. “Some opposition leaders are fronting a proposal to field one candidate in 2021 to compete against the Patriotic Front (PF) candidate, who undoubtedly will be the incumbent President Lungu.”LT

    Any opposition Entertaining a thought of President lungu to be on the Ballot for 2021 presidential election. They do not show qualities worthy of being Commander and chief.

    All of us we need to boycott the 2021 Presidential election if President lungu is PF candidate.

    Presidency of President lungu time out.

  3. A very good analysis of issues by the author of this article. This gap for pf-upnd in number of votes is likely to increase given the pf’s growing of its tentacles in the Upnd strongholds of western, northwestern and of late some parts of rural copperbelt province of lambaland. The writer rightly points out how the youths of this country are likely to be more frustrated in their hope to have a greater chunk of stake in the minerals of the country. However, if in the unlikely event that Upnd wins the 2021 elections, the party will be paying back to its capitalist western sponsors in form of minerals leaving the expectant youths in some sort of limbo.

  4. Hahahaha this has made my morning . We have been here before. Remember that failed coalition we almost had with upnd? I will tell you why it failed. It is merely because even when it is clear that hh is unsellable to the electorate, the man is so arrogant and pompous that he believes in he should stand as president. Being the only child without a father figure means he suffers from the need to feel accepted and wanted. In addition to a highly inflated sense of superiority over other. The f.o.ol will never lead. In fact tasila will be president before him cause at least she has experience in a public office

  5. The bias in this article is just amazing. It seems the writer hates HH and/or UPND.
    Writer has a thing against capitalism but forgets to remember that Zambia is a capitalist country with socialist elements like free education, paid maternity leave, single-payer health system(although this has changed a slightly) etc. PF is just like UPND and MMD is pro capitalist.

  6. Which Mwanza is this, Antonio or Isaac? This thing was supposed to be writing about the dead MPs, not HH. This is why we are saying that God is taking wrong ones.

  7. BLA BLA BLA —- YAP YAP YAP……..Wasting Ink or is it bundles and time…. PF will fall badly in UPND strongholds…Dont be deceived by local governments elections. PF is likely to return their traditional strong holds (Due to the BEMBA and NYANJA fear of the TONGA…Sic) but UPND will play catch up. The game changer which favors BALLY are the YOUTHS in Lusaka and Copperbelt. In the current harsh economic environment , any RIGHT thinking YOUTH in Lusaka and Copperbelt CAN NEVER VOTE FOR PF. 2021 IS FOR BALLY to lose. Problem is that BALLY is not a shrewd politician. He still believes in a “FAIR GAME” which PF WILL NOT GIVE HIM. He is like NEVERS who cheats people that he had a conversation with GOD ( Sumaili disagrees…kikiki)…….. KAMBWILI can assist BALLY A BIT (Sic)…

  8. KZ learn some manners if really u ar a Presidential aide u can not be insulting elders like that and one who is a potential President u r still a civil servant mind u

  9. All those who where in UDA were bruised and have not recovered to date. Except UPND. An example of political opportunism. Because of the threshold requirements, the opposition will be banking on the ultimate rerun to be decisive. It however is very dicey because every stage is a competition and there must still be an opposition relevant for 2026.

  10. When you critically review the Zambia elections political development nothing much will change with the coalition In-fact PF with now it’s growth momentum will now consolidate its lead over the coalition of parties because the quality of those in coalition and their preferable do not appeal to Zambia general voting population like PF and Edgar With PF going into 2021 as branded political party having done the infrastructure projects restructured the debts and re positioned the economy addressed the policy and constitutional issues re-imaged itself as a law abiding party reasoned ,the other preferable will be defeated with huge margin than it was in 2015/2016 elections Now READING crically this good article shows you something In the…

  11. In the winners There has been very little change in previous votes shared among st the top 5 looking at parliamentary seats for our top 5 political parties The performance has been strongly been driven by the PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES 147 OUT OF 150 Clearly there whether coalition or individual like in 2015/2016 similar to now 2021 will be a 2 tailed race and like in 2015/2016 ultimately the incumbent Presidential candidate of Edgar Lungu will win 2021 with a wider margin than it was in 2015/2016 2021 will be observed as a rerun of 2015/2016 between the President and the other preferable weak candidate national The 2 historically have amassed close to 95% of national votes ifs 15 political parties did contest on 4 will significant…

  12. those conts but the newest will take from the runner up the same where pf will taking to add to its growth margins What will count will be the campaign message and how the others will show the alternative not the same old economists because pf will restructuring and reposition the parities and euros and will have the infrastructure in the urban and rural to amplify their campaigns The key political issues will still be constitutional , policy ,public order and law,the economy and infrastructure development These will dominate but with pf addressing these now it makes those margins higer With successful restructuring of euros and economic performance there will little in those compaigns to undo the strong sontapo

  13. @Bernadette Well you may have a point if you say Political Leadership Quality….But he is still better then one ECL……..In all FAIRNESS unless you are KZ GIRLFRIEND (The Big Brown one who was celebrating in 2016)… You should learn to have mercy for future generations unlike KZ who can not see beyond HIS TUMMY…Ati living for TODAY…I mean lets be serious….If you hate HH so much at least try Bwalya Ngandu or Tayali (Just maybe!!)…

  14. Thanks Author, but it would help you if you started by analyzing your party the PF which is currently in dire straits with potentially no candidate for the 2021 elections

  15. NDC is way ahead of UPND. Watch the space. Kambwili learnt from Sata mannerism. He also knows HH is not an attractive national project. I will be voting for Democratic Party (DP) which the author deliberately ignored

  16. Informative. 2021 require careful planning though and hope parties are engaging strategists and thinkers.

  17. If political parties ain’t investing time in planning, they will be shocked. Winning 2021 requires to listen to more voices outside internal voices in parties. Thanks Issac

  18. Despite some biases from the author, I agree largely with most of his sentiments. HH is not a candidate who can win an election on his own. He has never won any before. All the PF will do is get the best campaign to attract an ordinary voter and HH will be history

  19. True, most of these parties trying to make alliance with UPND are nothing but one man parties and his his children. What does LUKUKU, the mad guy bring to UPND except him feasting on resources HH should have been helping our youths with? Sean Tembo runs some business and so is Andy Banda. They don’t survive on handouts from HH like Lukuku and Milupi does

  20. This Mwanza is working to frustrate the alliance. Unfortunately, supporters of others parties seem not to appreciate they are nothing without UPND. NOTHING

  21. I do not see a balanced analysis in this article rather an aspersion at why it would not augur well if “the oppositions single 2021 presidential candidate project” settled for one Hakainde Hichilema. The thoughts surrounding “the capitalist” are textbook and not behavioral. Yes a capitalist makes money and how she or he makes this money is tied to the office occupied. It can be for private or public good! Zambia has not had a president identifying with capitalism but it has been presidents that can be identified with the mix of political parties currently in existence and their ideologies! Take Bill Gates as an example, he is a capitalist operating a private office (private company business) yet while he is amassing wealth he invests most of it for public good. This is divergent of…

  22. contd…. what the textbook describes a capitalist for the definition is not behaviorally personified! It does not mean having a capitalist leaning president the person would not be negotiating for better deals benefiting her or his nation! How in the short term would one invite investments that would create much sought after jobs for the growing Zambian population? Local capacity to invest in anything of huge magnitude in Zambia is non-existent and the government coffers to enable it are empty so where do local investors get that empowerment? A self proclaimed socialist, communist or capitalist may behave differently in managing resources for public good! Ask a kid who spends much of his time tending goats an arithmetic question (using goats) he will give an answer according to their…

  23. Dr. M’membe is the person chosen by God to usher in fair sharing of national budget for all Zambians. Vote SP

  24. looks like a file photo they should have mentioned some there not there Yes the new entrants may surprise they have alternative from upnd but again fail short to provide alternative policies to pf The 30 there in again is issues of impaired leaders like upnd weighing out those chances The red branding is also not an appealing colour for Zambians Yes the booing and altercations in parliament have further in the eyes of people made pf more likeable in character The best was to disown such behave and reprimand and show character Though garick lately appears aticulate in parliament if he has to be different he must reduce hard politics and be soft the other 2 are out together with hhh they cannot recover or do damage control its in the mind…

  25. its in the mind of voters So President Lungu and PF wins 2021 as explained above There is simply no other likeable or preferable quality alternative from now



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