By Kapya Kaoma.
To UPND cadres, questioning if HH will win this election is tantamount to doubting if Jesus is the Son of God. Such reasoning cannot only be considered undemocratic and unpatriotic, but also be deadly and dangerous. We may campaign for change, but we should be morally responsible to respect the dual outcome of democratic elections; it can go either way. Thus we shouldn’t only expect or promote one outcome: a win for HH. It is akin to promoting post election violence.
As a democracy, we entrust Zambians to answer this question on August 12 through a ballot, not rallies, Opinion and Feature articles, or Polls. Understandably, UPND cadres are convinced, HH has already WON. Who can doubt it? The PF is rotten to the core, knows no law, and is morally inept. And has Bally not said it? “Change is written everywhere.” The cadre syndrome–the failure to reason beyond one’s party biases is behind this rationale.
In his Monday, August 9, 2021, Lusaka Times Featured Article, for example, Dr. Sishuwa Sishuwa presented various issues at play in this election. His analysis was solely centered on President Lungu’s undemocratic habitude–including his recent shameful threat to arrest HH should he win the election. Missing, however, were HH’s own missteps in the past 5 years. From failure to sustain good alliances to intra-party conflicts, the UPND has lacked a sustained message to unseat the Lungu regime.
In 1991, Zambians wanted change, but all politicians settled for Chiluba, as opposed to over a dozen candidates–that was before a 50+1 threshold. While his piece has a number of “conspiracy theories, ” I want to highlight one in which he claims Lungu wanted one candidate to drop out so as to postpone the Presidential elections. It seems this hoax is behind Nevers Mumba’s recent statement that he is still in the race. This is a dangerous route; if the word goes out that elections are postponed, many people may stay away from the Polls.
The big number of candidates makes it harder for HH and Lungu to get 50+1. In case of the rerun, these candidates would be king makers. Naturally they would support HH, but the UPND has repeatedly failed to form alliances with other candidates; this is a weakness that cannot be blamed on the PF but solely on HH. Sishuwa’s observations on M’membe doing better than other candidates, though important, is another example of HH’s lack of strategic thinking. Why adopt Mrs. Mutinta Mazoka M’membe as a UPND Parliamentary Candidate, knowing too well that the husband would be running against him? What makes him think M’membe does not know the inside info about the UPND strategy? Mutinta is a liability to HH, but since she is a Mazoka, HH is held captive. Assuming M’membe wins, would Mutinta refuse to be the First Lady? Strategic planning is just as important as voting, but the UPND has Lungu to blame for lack of it.
Sishuwa did not mention the fact that not everybody shouting ” alebwelelapo,” or “Faka Pressure” and attending rallies will cast a vote; a number won’t. Crowds won’t translate into actual votes. It is hard to know how many people polled are actually going to vote. Zambia is anti-voter friendly; so many people won’t vote. It is a shame that Patson Daka was flying the Zambian Flag at Wembley on Saturday with pride, yet he is among the many Zambians who won’t cast their votes. So are many of those who are posting on social media or relocated, they can shout, but can’t vote. This will be a factor.
Moreover, the Bally team underestimated Lungu’s strategic capabilities. So far, Bally has not beaten Lungu by double digits in any single Poll–the number generally needed for a challenger to unseat the Incumbent. As Incumbent, Lungu has unlimited resources at his disposal. Sishuwa’s observation on the “preferential” treatment of Lungu over HH though varied, ignores the fact that Lungu’s campaign cannot be separated from his work as the President of the Republic of Zambia. Lungu is flying across the country to highlight his achievements as both President and presidential candidate. In competitive politics, nothing is apolitical. From visiting a market to entering a public toilet to holding a crying baby to attending a Church service, a politician is making a political statement. And Lungu has done this so well in his re-election efforts.
The PF strategists disarmed the HH team of one of its biggest arsenal – – the bad economy. From GBM to Nawakwi to Kambwili, the economy song was the same–the economic downturn has been slow due to various factors. The COVID-19 Pandemic led to the global economic crunch. Prices are up, but Lungu is working on it. Aside from linking HH to the 1990s privatization scam, they borrowed M’membe’s attacks to define HH as a selfish man who cares only for his own personal interests. “He did it then, imagine what he would do when he is president”–it is a compelling populist message. They point to infrastructure–airports, good roads, bridges, power generators, hospitals, and health care centers among many projects as evidence that Lungu is working hard for Zambia. These visible infrastructure cannot be easily dismissed–ordinary people don’t see “Mr. International Debt,” despite how many times team HH, and scholars highlight it. Inkongole of over $13 billion is a national crisis, but it is invisible to the masses–it is a policy argument that makes sense to the elite, which is a very small part of the electorate. Worse still, the effects of this debt will be felt in the future.
In addition, the Lungu team strategically timed the completion of many projects so as to unveil them as campaign capital. When HH says Lungu did nothing, the PF points to Simon Mwansa Kapwepwe Airport, ongoing work at Kenneth Kaunda International Airport, and other infrastructure to showcase its work. This narrative is convincingly appealing. We can hardly dispute the fact that the PF has given Zambia its deserved respect when it comes to infrastructure–we were a shame of Southern Africa. HH and some of us know that corruption and mismanagement are involved, but the majority doesn’t.
Similarly, team HH repeatedly argued that the depreciation of the Kwacha was indicative that Lungu was killing the economy. Now that the Kwacha is appreciating, team HH wants to dismiss it as fake. Yet economists know that international factors control the value of the local currency–putting Bally in a fix. The same could be said about the debt swap for civil servants. That Unions applauded the gesture, and put HH a+in a fix–they couldn’t dismiss it without appearing to be anti-civil service.
Sishuwa’s claim that Lungu wanted to separate Presidential elections from Parliamentary elections defies logic. Generally, more people vote in general elections than in special or by-elections because of the pool of people contesting. In fact, this is one area the HH team has been weak–it has put so much emphasis on winning the presidency. Parliamentary and Local government elections are critical to which party wins the Presidency. Against all odds, HH could win the Presidency, but not the Parliament and the local government. This would mean that he won’t govern. That aside, people generally vote down the ballot–rarely do people vote for a different presidential candidate, and a different MP, and a different Mayor or Councilor. This is the reason we have very few independent MPs. The failure to fully fund UPND MPs and local government elections across the nation could prove very costly to HH. This is the area where the power of the Incumbent overshadows the UPND. Lungu is campaigning for his MPs, Mayors and Councilors even in areas he knows they won’t win–their votes are his votes.
Chinese military strategist Sun Tzu once said, “To know your Enemy, you must become your Enemy.” By rejoining the PF, Kambwili, Professor Geoffrey Lungwangwa, Banda, and GBM among many others have brought with them insider information about the UPND which has contributed to the destabilization and disruption of HH’s campaign.
GBM and Kambwili are cited for tribalism, but the truth remains–our political system is tribalistic. The UPND has locked in the Tonga and Lozi vote, and the PF has locked in the Bemba and Eastern vote. We may pretend, but when we enter the polling station, most Bembas and their senseless cousins will vote for Lungu because he is not Tonga and vice versa. HH is hoping that the majority of Zambians have moved to see him aside from his tribe, I pray that the Tongas would do the same to Lungu. Yes the UPND has made some inroads in PF strongholds but so has the PF in the UPND strongholds. Moreover M’membe and Kalaba are the new players who are complicating the political landscape. It seems the closest HH would come to Plot 1 is to force a rerun, but would he have enough allies to cross the finish line?
Given HH’s lack of long-term strategy, the power of the Incumbent and the congruence of other factors, it is hard to see how HH would win this election as Sishuwa suggests. I may be wrong. After all, the electorate is always unpredictable. Who thought Donald Trump would beat Hillary Clinton and become 45th President of the United States? All Polls and experts favored Clinton, but on election day, the electorate voted for Trump. In politics, everything is possible.
For this reason, I find Sishuwa and UPND expectations deadly and dangerous–we should not only expect one outcome: a win for HH. Disturbingly, this is another Trumpian invitation to violence. All votes must be counted and whoever get 50+1 wins. To claim that the only “free and fair election” is the one that will see HH in Plot 1 is a recipe for violence–words and conspiracy theories can be deadly. Our analyses, and polls are based on observations, but the real truth will be known on August 12 after the last vote is cast and all votes are counted.
Good luck to Lungu and HH; only one will win. We have one Zambia to Protect.
May God bless our Great Nation, Zambia.