By Kapya Kaoma.
“Woe to that land that’s governed by a child.” Citing William Shakespeare when speaking about Zambian politics is delirious, but how else could one describe HH’s African Arguments interview? Pressed about his many losses, Hichilema’s answer was simply childish: “We don’t count how many times we run. This election is not us against them, but the people of Zambia against the PF.” A smart politician wouldn’t close an interview with this line, but for team HH, this line killed it.
“We” and “us,” simply means HH, while “run” refers to losing elections. In other words, “It doesn’t matter how many times HH has lost elections, Zambians want change.”
Since HH and UPND cadres love soccer, let’s assume the Zambian National soccer coach said, “I don’t count how many times the team has lost, Zambians want change at FAZ; or a CEO said, “I don’t care how many times we have lost money, shareholders want to change the Board,” would such a person keep the job?
Whoever manages HH needs political science 101; the man comes out erratic, unreasonable and childlike during interviews. Of course, he may not be media friendly, but his people would have known this weakness. They could have avoided putting him in situations where he exposes himself as simply illogical, insane and definitely ill prepared for the highest office in the land. Optics matter and his team has failed to sell his presidential character to the public.
Losing an election means rejection of one’s political agenda. The five defeats means that the electorate rejected him five times. It is on Hichilema to polish his message each time he runs again–thus his 6 times as the UPND flag bearer has now become a messaging liability. He has nothing new to tell Zambians which he has not said in the last 5 runs. Partially this problem has contributed to the chaotic messaging and porous alliances–recycling PF and MMD vomits who add nothing of value to his party aside from garbage of immorality and violence. Each election circle, HH and the UPND operate like sex workers–looking for clients for short term needs as opposed to long-term political ends. In the end, they expose themselves to more and more attacks as once inner-circlers dump them for highest bidders.
Zambians want change, but in a democracy, change comes by winning elections. HH and UPND defeats are emblematic of people’s rejection of HH’s ideas of change–you may repackage a 15 years old suit, but that won’t make it brand new; you may apply makeup on a 59 year old woman, but that won’t make her a teenage model. Bally is self-fixed–he has nothing new to offer aside from responding to the attacks and accusations from those who desert his alliance. Sadly, HH and the UPND cannot easily dismiss Kambwili or GBM attacks since they have the legitimate first-hand experience of working with the party. In as much as they are able to make up many things, the fact that they worked with HH gives them rhetoric power to define HH in the way HH cannot define Lungu.
That said, it is egoistic and condescending for HH to dismiss previous defeats. Good political strategists would have anticipated this question, and helped him to begin by owning his losses first, and then make an emotional appeal for his love for Zambia as the reason for his endless attempts at the highest office. This would have been the best way to end the interview. Unfortunately, this is another sign of how weak and ill prepared the HH team has been throughout this campaign; something that may shatter their dreams for Plot 1 once again.
On the economic front, the African Arguments interview also exposed the poor quality of HH’s political strategists and speech writers. HH came out disorganized and at the most, confused. For example, team HH forgot that their candidate ran against Sata, and insulted him at will. Moreover Lungu is just a continuation of the Sata administration. He called Sata’s policies wrong for Zambia; the “Chibwi has no plan” moniker, may refresh his memory. But his marriage to Sata’s Vice President Guy Scott led to his veneration of Sata’s PF. Under the Sata administration, HH noted, the economy was booming and growing at 6% until Lungu inherited it; now “it’s probably less than 1% if not negative this year.” When did Sata become an idol in UPND political culture? You can’t praise Sata’s economic policies when you are on record opposing the same unless you are willing to withdraw your earlier criticism, which HH has not yet done.
Those who claim that HH does not know what he is talking about when it comes to repairing the economy may have a point. The global COVID-19 Pandemic has affected economies across the world, thus the slow growth of the Zambian economy is expected. As for the destruction of Zambia’s economy, President Sata’s cipante pante economic policies that continued under the Lungu regime are chiefly to blame for the ongoing economic mess. Moreover Lungu is just a continuation of the Sata administration.
On the democratic front, it is said “those who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.” HH has been in politics since 2006, but he keeps making kindergarten blunders. He was so quick to attack Lungu for “pushing for a third term, ” which he termed “unacceptable.” Is being UPND president for 15 years acceptable? Again, his team blew it. He should have spoken about his dreams for Zambia, rather than exposing himself to his weakest line of attack–losing 5 elections and overstaying as UPND president. Indeed two presidents died in office, but it doesn’t change the fact that he has been UPND president for 15 years and lost 5 elections. Should he lose again, he would become the most defeated presidential candidate in Southern Africa. It is not unfair to term him a perpetual loser as M’membe did–it is the truth. He may not count how many times he lost, but history will.
Bally is right. We need change. The economy is a mess. Corruption is a norm. PF cadres are the law; only their cries are heard. Their blood is thicker than our blood, for only PF cadres die from political violence. We don’t die at all, for at their mercy, we exist to die. The recent video of the UPND young man being abducted from his home in broad daylight in Luanshya for simply shouting, “Forward, ” as PF cadres drove by, speaks for itself. That the police drove-by unconcerned speaks to the rotten nature of the law enforcement system under the PF regime–we don’t have law enforcement, but the law abandonment!
Is Bally the change? Even then would he govern as an adult and not a child? African false prophets abound. TB Joshua is dead. Bushiri is a cheat. Seer 1 is dead crazy. Countless in Zambia I ignore. But come August 12, will millions of the UPND cadres reverse their palms and wipe out tears from their faces, as PF cadres dance in our streets?