By Kapya Kaoma
O Come! O Come August 12, the long-awaited Zambia’s savior will at last take the throne, and Zambia will finally be free! And why not? Aside from #HH, #TimeforChange, and #Bally, trending on social media, “we want change, ” and, “forward, ” are not only chanted daily but “The Incoming President, ” is the official title for HH. Come August 12, his Excellency, Hakainde Hichilema is the Seventh President of Zambia.
As for PF cadres and politicians, they are spending sleepless nights wondering if they will wake up on August 13 headed to Prison. This would be a self-imposed imprisonment. The PF. Administration is corrupt to the core, the truth even President Lungu himself is ashamed of. It’s cipante pante economic policies have only benefited a “few of us;” the majority only smells bread, fried chicken and admires Shopping Malls, SUVs, Hotels and Restaurants from a distance. New Malls open, but most of us only watch “the owners” spend our monies. Reminiscent of Lazarus in the Bible, we sit by the gates of wealth, and long “to eat what fall from the rich people’s tables.” Like dogs, we roam the streets begging for our rightful share from the national cake–alas, only well connected cadres to get a slice!
Who thought our ancestors would be so generous? The COVID-19 pandemic ravaged the global economy just before casting our vote. With no reserves, and unable to access foreign aid, the economy is at its weakest. With prices doubling everyday, HH has a case to make; the Lungu administration has failed us. Of course, HH won’t magically transform the economy or provide free education. Yes. He is the richest man in Zambia, but running a country is different from running a personal company. Ask Donald Trump. But why should anyone vote for Lungu amidst doubling prices?
The perception of UPND as a Tonga Party and PF as a Bemba Party is the unsaid factor. Many UPND cadres would never vote for PF even if Jesus was its Presidential candidate. Likewise many PF cadres would never vote for UPND even if John the Baptist was its presidential candidate. The reason, the tribe! Economic stress can easily be overshadowed by tribal loyalty. Like race and gender, tribal bias is a subconscious reality that exists in most of us and can be a key driver of decision making. So PF has locked in some tribal votes and so has UPND.
Moreover, smaller parties may tip the election. Unlike previous elections, this election circle has seen great ground game by smaller parties. Their door to door campaign strategies would claim some votes that may make it impossible for UPND to get 50+1. Besides, the caliber of small party candidates is much higher than before. If UPND ignores smaller parties in this election, it would be making a major mistake. It may have gained ground in some areas, but the goal is 50 + 1. Assuming that smaller parties get 10% percent of the total vote, UPND must pray that and PF gets less than 40% to win the election. Should there be a rerun, it would be based on prior working relationships. Currently, the UPND alliance is very weak and made up of PF vomits; the same thing that happened when GBM joined UPND. UPND strategists may have internal data which suggests it would get 50+1 on August 12, 2021, but that is a dangerous strategy when you are running against the incumbent. Besides, other articulate candidates have just begun introducing themselves to Zambians. Since public rallies are outlawed due to COVID-19, these candidates are creating a cognitive dissonance in the electorate as to who to vote for. In the end, some people will vote for them over Lungu and HH.
HH must realize that politics is about common interests; today’s enemies can be tomorrow’s friends. Poor economic conditions usually work to the advantage of the opposition, but UPND is not the only opposition party in this election. Neither is PF the only opponent UPND has to fight–HH is being attacked by other players too.
I know that UPND cadres are worried about the PF rigging the elections. But the easiest way to cheat is to steal votes from smaller parties, who won’t have the interests to contest the results. So to think that UPND would automatically get to Plot 1 because of the poor economy is a big mistake.
Anyway, 2026 is not too far after all.