By Kapya Kaoma
Since taking Anderson Mazoka’s mantle as the UPND President, HH’s palm has pointed forward, but every election cycle is reversed to rest on his cheek and wipe his tears, wondering what just happened. The man boasts of being the best business executive, but if his running of UPND is something to go by, fate and not strategic thinking make one a billionaire. Just ask Donald Trump!
The UPND has been in opposition for two decades, but since 2006, the Party has lacked a sustainable strategy of taking power from the two most corrupt and incompetent regimes. Surely Mazoka is in tears wondering how his Party that came so close to winning the December 27, 2001 election (won by Levy Mwanawasa’s MMD) lost to PF–the Party that came from nowhere. Mazoka could understand the 2006 defeat, but the 2008, 2011, 2015, and 2016 defeats were simply illogical. Yet in 2021, UPND is begging Zambians to give HH another chance!
The UPND messaging has been chaotic; “HH knows the business world”, “the economy”, “workers,” corruption”, “chimbwi has no plan”, “free education”, “Bally will fix it” and now “HH will rescue Zambia” are among the many messaging problems that characterize UPND. The Party has failed to sell HH to Zambians with a sustainable message. Sata had one; HH has none but everything.
The UPND lacks political strategy; repeating the same plan over and over again but expecting a different outcome. The alliance with PF and MMD vomits like GBM and Nevers Mumba didn’t deliver either, so why do the same thing over again? Under his leadership, the Party has had many years to build sustainable alliances but failed; confirming accusations that UPND is a one-man Kantemba. The number of high-profile UPND members leaving him is not helping either.
Each election cycle, we are swamped with large crowds of UPND cadres in HH-styled red attires. Social media has magnified these gatherings in cities; but is this new? In addition to its traditional strongholds, the UPND has been competitive on the Copperbelt, Lusaka, and Central Province. This year the Party believes it has gained extra support in urban areas, overshadowing the PF. The popular city slogan, “We want Change, ” however, is generic and not UPND’s–every opposition party has a claim to it. Zambians sympathetic to the opposition cause are apt to join the chant on the streets. To UPND supporters, such chants translate in HH votes; they don’t.
But so is the power of mob psychology; people are likely to shout “Forward” when surrounded by UPND cadres, and “Pamaka” or “Alebwekelapo” when surrounded by PF cadres. It is a survival strategy in the nation where two well-known violent political parties are engaged in bloody campaigns. Since opposing voices are victimized, when PF is in Matero, Zambians will shout Lungu. When UPND is in Matero, the same people will shout HH. In addition to poverty, the ugly UPND, PF, and other political attires can be found in the same household; why buy if I can get it for free? The real gauge of popularity will only be known on election day when people cast their votes in secret.
In their wisdom, UPND strategists are counting heavily on the urban vote–it is a wrong strategy. This election will be won in rural Zambia–the reason Lungu and PF have abandoned the cities for rural areas. Economic stress impacts urban dwellers the most. Besides, the city vote is shared by many parties–almost all presidential candidates are counting on getting a share.
Belatedly, UPND strategists are sorely focused on dislodging PF from power. PF is a major player, but not the only player. It is like competing in the World Cup. Of course, you can focus your strategy on beating Brazil or France. But you must first qualify by knocking off smaller teams. Even then, you must study all teams. Soccer is unpredictable–even big teams can be knocked out in the first round. Like soccer, the electorate is unpredictable.
HH shouldn’t assume all Zambians are set to only vote for Lungu or him–rather he must campaign against Mumba, M’membe, Mwamba, Kalaba, and many others. He must also respond to their attacks on him as a tribalist, loner, and greedy as Socialist Party President and UPND founder Mazoka’s in Law Fred M’membe recently told Zambians. According to M’membe, HH is a greedy politician who should not be entrusted with power. As we move toward elections, HH should expect such attacks to increase since these parties want to win too. HH has never run in an election of this nature before, thus he needs to return to the drawing table.
Nonetheless, there is something to be said about smaller party cadres willingness to go door to door and even match the streets. They are awkwardly aware that they have the mountain to move, yet they are determined to fight to win. In the sociological theory of religion, I would compare them to members of religious sects. They are highly united to their cause and are most likely to show up on election day. In this regard, Socialist Party, Democratic Party, and other small party Presidential candidates are likely to be competitive in this election to an extent that they may shatter UPND’s dreams to enter Plot 1.
Alas. When my people dance akalela and shout “Forward,” they mean “Backwards.” Come August 12, is UPND ku Wire?