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Alba Iulia
Saturday, April 17, 2021

Opposition Alliance… The Great Political Project that Could Have, Might Have and Should Have, But Never Was.

Columns Opposition Alliance... The Great Political Project that Could Have, Might Have and...

By Sean Tembo – PeP President

1. Most people that l meet these days always chastise me with the same sentences… “the trouble with you opposition is that you can’t work together”! And … “for as long as you are divided, you will always give the incumbent an advantage to bounce back”. Initially l would make an effort to explain to such people about the efforts we had made towards opposition unity and how those efforts failed, but these days l just save my breath. So all l do is smile and agree that indeed, opposition unity is important and how it is a pity that previous efforts at opposition unity did not materialize. But what really happened with the Opposition Alliance project? Why did it fail? Was it a necessary project?

2. One Wednesday afternoon in 2018, about 11 political leaders representing their respective parties assembled at Pamodzi Hotel and signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to work together. I was one of them, and was to later serve as the Opposition Alliance’s Chairman for Media as well as Chairman for Finance. In front of flashing cameras, we all committed to fielding single candidates in each electable position in the 2021 general elections, using an electoral pact that was to be yet agreed upon.

To me personally, l looked at this MoU as a stepping stone and the true substance of the entire Opposition Alliance was to be spelt out in the soon to be agreed Electoral Pact. The Electoral Pact is what would spell out which political party would field a candidate in which constituency and ward? It would also outline which political party would sponsor a presidential candidate and running mate.

However, such an Electoral Pact never materialized and with the passage of time, several members of the alliance left including myself. However, the pinnacle of this Alliance Project was reached yesterday when the name of the alliance was officially changed from Opposition Alliance to UPND Alliance. The funny thing about yesterday’s developments is that throughout my tenure as Spokesperson of the Alliance, l spent inordinate amounts of time and effort trying correct the perception that naysayers were advancing that the Opposition Alliance was in fact a UPND Alliance and that we were all there just to escort UPND. I vehemently argued otherwise, but yesterday l felt quite silly that the naysayers were proven right, not implicitly but explicitly, when the Alliance changed its name from Opposition Alliance to UPND Alliance.

3. But the pertinent question perhaps is; was the Opposition Alliance necessary to dislodge the ruling PF? Well, it depends on ones point of view. Others have argued, rightly so for that matter, that given the results of the 2016 general elections where about 98% of the votes were shared between the ruling PF and the main opposition UPND, there really was no value in UPND uniting with other small political parties and that such an alliance would just birth confusion. Unnecessary confusion. And that UPND was better off going it alone. I must say that there is undeniable truth in this point of view. On the face of it, UPND does not need to be in an Alliance with anyone, based on the assumption that the future will be a linear continuation of the past.

4. In fact, from my observation during my stay in the Opposition Alliance, l got the feeling that the UPND never wanted the Alliance to work in the first place. There are several times when meetings of the Alliance were called at short notice at HH’s house and you all sacrifice and abandon what you were doing to go and attend the meeting, only to find that HH is not there. You are told to wait for a few minutes, but you wait for several hours and to no avail. Then 5 hours later, you note from social media that he is actually addressing his people at some event in Kafue or somewhere else. This happened on a number occasions.

To me personally, such lack of respect for the time of others is what drove me to pull out my party; the Patriots for Economic Progress (PeP) from the Alliance project. But the hypothesis that UPND was never interested in making the Opposition Alliance to work, and that they infact deliberately engaged in actions which had the direct impact of undermining the Alliance project, might suffer from one major flaw; UPND are the ones who reached out to everyone else and asked us to work together with them. In other words, they were the architects of the Alliance project, so then how could they decide to undermine their own project?

5. Well, two possible explanations come to mind. It is possible that when HH embarked on the Alliance project he did not first get the blessings and mandate of his senior party members who subsequently applied pressure on him. And for fear of dividing his party, he decided to backpedal on the Alliance project but then was not brave enough to directly inform his Alliance partners that he had a change of heart, but instead resorted to just undermining the Alliance project so that it just dies a natural death. This is actually very plausible because l personally saw the animosity with which senior UPND members related to Opposition Alliance partners. Am sure in their minds, they felt that these new comers have come to reap where they did not sow, just at the time of harvest. And who would really blame them? They had a valid point. They had toiled with their chipani for decades and it’s only human for them to feel threatened.

6. The other possible explanation as to why the UPND decided to start undermining the Opposition Alliance project which they themselves initiated is that they merely wanted to tick the box that they had made an effort towards opposition unity. A number of key stakeholders including the church, civil society and the diplomatic corps had always pressed upon the UPND to unite with other political players so that they can speak with one voice. Possibly in order to comply with the expectations of these key stakeholders, the UPND decided to initiate the Opposition Alliance project, but when they saw that the other political players were genuinely committed to it, they then decided to covertly undermine their own project while putting up a public appearance that they were committed to it.

They expected everyone in the Opposition Alliance to fall off and for the project to die a natural death, and for sure, some of us left soon enough. However when the UPND noted that one Chishimba Kambwili appeared to be unwavering in his commitment to the Opposition Alliance, and time was running out towards 12th August and that everyone expected them to unveil the long awaited Electoral Pact, they decided to pull their most audacious move yet; rename the Opposition Alliance to UPND Alliance and stop all pretense that the alliance cared about embracing other political parties.

7. Allow me to end with the question that l had began with, albeit in a paraphrased way; is opposition unity necessary? Or to put it another way; would UPND’s prospects be better on 12th August if they had the 11 alliance partners on their side than if they don’t? Would the Opposition Alliance in its initial composition have given the UPND a greater chance of winning the August 12th general elections? If so, how? Well, my view is that the Opposition Alliance would be of no value to UPND if we assumed that the 12th August general elections will be a repeat of the 2016 general elections; a two horse race between UPND and PF. But is that a reasonable assumption? I think not.

On the contrary, l see this year’s general elections as being similar to the 2001 general elections where everyone got a piece of the cake. What this means is that the new political players will eat into both the PF and UPND voters base and that the chances of any party getting 50%+1 votes in the first round are extremely slim. Very very slim. What this means is that the real election battle will be fought in the second round. Now, given that the UPND have clearly dry-gulched almost every other opposition political party in this failed Opposition Alliance, and now renamed UPND Alliance project, HH will find it very difficult to approach and work with any of the political leaders that he has so far betrayed, at the time when he will need opposition unity the most in order for him to stand a better chance of going through in the presidential election rerun. When that time of the rerun comes, l personally would rather go into an alliance with the PF, because Mr Lungu’s level of political selfishness is yet unknown to me, whereas that of Mr Hichilema is well documented, based on my personal experiences in the failed Opposition Alliance and now renamed UPND Alliance project. Indeed, it surely was an ambitious political project that could have, might have and should have but never was.


  1. Tembo is a good analyst and an intellectual guru who can make a difference if given the chance to combine with leaders who can genuinely believe in his political prowess.

  2. HH should have given the vice presidency to Mr. Tembo. They would have made a lethal team. Unfortunately, two bulls cannot live under one roof. But Either HH or Sean Tembo will make a helluva great president.

  3. Every one knows the big boys in this alliance was /is UPND and NDC, but as political scientist I this UPND has realized that time is limited and the alliance can’t continue negotiating over and over about who will be president and running mate, especially that NDC is marred with court cases and it seems that has made him to hibernate, surely with an election in 6 months decisions need to be made. I listened very carefully to saboi on hot fm this morning, its pity her resolve is if NDC an’t have it we all won’t have it, if this was the mentality UPND had in 2011, they too would have easily teamed up with MMD so that their former alliance partners would not have it, but been a mature party they let the popular and bigger opposition party carry on for the good of the people. but her…

  4. A tembo tiziba wanu ni wanu.Ni chagwa chabe.
    HH just go it alone with your team. A free& fair elections you can get more votes. Mutale & you are the best if only Zambians could see.
    But i know the elections will be stolen and it already started with issuance of NRCs and voters cards in a lopsided & disenfranchising scheme.
    It’s okay man just go REST & eat mabisi when you retire after August. you are 1 of the best & have given it your all.Not worth it taking over this pile of mess.

  5. HH has demonstrated steadfastness, focus, descpline, hard work &;can not be bought. Many of these other politicians are just snitches, corrupt, self saving, without any morals and go to h….l.
    If HH doesn’t win it’s all good, the mess, headache, stress made by PF is too much let them continue but I see a failed state , a tribal hatred to grow and even war eventually

  6. You f00ls never learn. I told you that no one can work with that tribal hyena. He is greedy.we triedit before 2011 and are glad it didn’t work

  7. @ Sichula. I agree with you about Tembo’s analyses. But as for leadership, it’s complicated. Many people may be brilliant, but their self interests and sell survival insticts tend to let them down. Tembo sounds and looks like a person who has those character flaws in abundance.

  8. CK is a wolf in a sheepskin so he cannot be trusted. We wouldn’t be surprised to see CK going back home to his PF vomit. Let’s hope ECL will be kind enough to appoint CK his Running Mate. All that talk by CK saying ECL doesn’t qualify for a Third Term was just a ruse and deceit. GBM and CK back in PF will make the PF Circus hilarious.

  9. I knew where he was going, why opt to be in an alliance with Mr Lungu, when there are a lot of other parties that are in Zambia. Always trying to sound sound and the treachery finally comes out

  10. Sean Tembo, vividly bitter with the UPND alliance, just swallow your pride and join the in coming government, commerce ministry is yours because Situmbeko will be given finance

  11. Sean Tembo, all sane people already knew that you are a PF surrogate. After the beating from PF thugs, you still have time hallucinating over alliance efforts. Just join PF and ask for cash to dish out to poor people in the hope of winning their vote in August. How many members of your party will vote with you in support of PF??

  12. Then, dipping the piece of bread, he gave it to Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot. As soon as Judas took the bread, Satan entered into him. “So Jesus told him, “What you are about to do, do quickly.” (John 13:26-28) Judas left immediately. He is next seen entering the garden later that night where Jesus is praying.


  13. The following are not going anywhere in the 2021 elections, some things are not rocket science. Edith Nawakwi, Felix Mutati, Harry Kalaba, Nevers Mumba, Andy Ford Banda, Sean Tembo, Chishimba Kambwili, Narep man, The new lady on the block, you can spend your money, we will eat it for absolutely nothing. This is not even worth trying your luck. I repeat no rocket science, or detailed analysis to arrive at this

  14. UPND alliance, 78% of the registered voters are voting in your favour. Who would vote for the current negative GDP growth, 22% inflation, 22 kwacha exchange rate, the highest unemployment levels ever and everything was in decline even before covid. Just get organised and get together, paid spoilers like the lady will always be there

  15. I would love to see not just an alliance of opposition political parties but union to reduce the number of serious parties to maximum of four. Unfortunately the UPND is right to even go it alone. UPND does not need the other tuntemba parties, they need UPND if they have any chance at all of ever getting their voices heard in Zambian politics. Chishimba Kambwili’s NDC has not won anything substantial since its inception. NDC has not recruited any new people but simply bitten off the PF disgruntled elements. NDC is a fraction of PF so, NDC needs UPND. The same applies to Kalaba’s party. These parties are the same as the ones that broke off from MMD. For history to repeat, Kambwili must win 90% of the PF followers and then inspire some more undecided Zambians. This is very unlikely. No…

  16. I have always told friends in NDC that Akafumba and Attanga went to NDC purely to deliver the party to UPND. This is exactly what those hyenas in Akafumba and Attanga have done today. They have expelled party president Kambwili so they can deliver NDC to HH and UPND. They were never genuine members of NDC but were mere UPND wolves in NDC sheep skin. This has been proved to all and sundry. But if Akafumba, Attanga and HH think they are clever than CK, then let us wait and see if their actions will make them more popular in the eyes of the many discerning Zambians.

  17. NDC cannot have a say anymore in who leads the alliance because their president will most likely be in prison very soon thanks to tayali and the PF. The others are one man parties which cannot make a difference so its better Upnd calls the shots or they just go it alone.

  18. i don’t trust these *****s either.They are wolves in a sheep skin.we just need a revolution with fresh minds with new ideas.

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