By Chimwemwe Mwanza
Bamushanina bwali (praise singers) tulefulilakofye which is why the pool of critical minds capable of providing decent checks and balances to the incumbent government is shrinking – at an alarming rate for that matter. Could this be the reason why amidst this paucity in political discourse, the gist of a critical electronic posting (was it on twitter or X) by a hip shooting academic almost got drowned in infantile noises.
‘Lungu might help HH to peacefully concede defeat,’ – is one of the recent postings by Dr Sishuwa Sishuwa that has caused some consternation across the political aisle. Justifying his argument in the write up, he chronicled roles played by former Heads of State, from KK to Rupiah Banda – in resolving electoral disputes. Delving deeper, the apt summation of this write up infers that Lungu is unlikely to stand in the next elections but could however play the role of an arbiter in the event that President Hakainde Hichilema (HH) loses but refuses to concede.
Ghastly as it seems for the UPND faithful to fathom such a reality, this tweet implicitly entertains the prospect of HH losing the next Polls. You see, politics is habitually allergic to crystal balls. In any case ours is a constitutional democracy, we shouldn’t stifle free thinking. Hence this question, would HH concede if he lost? Let’s ignore the answer for now, I’m already fashioning expletives raining down on me for having a brain, the size of a bean pole. Ni mbanje ya bwanji yamene abema uyu mufana, Hakainde ku luza sure – loosely translated as, what type of weed is this lad inhaling to contemplate such a possibility?
Pitfalls of overconfidence
Borrowing a famous idiomatic expression coined by former British Premier Harold Wilson, a week is indeed a long time in politics – besides the Polls are almost 2 and half years away. That said, it’s thus implausible to give an outright prediction of who will win the next elections. Need we remind those that have forgotten the disappointment that characterised the over-confident cheer leaders of this chant, ‘Alebwelelapo pamupando’. Sarcastic as it reads, the President has crafted a better response for nay sayers seeking to defy political gravity. Natwikalapo, alebwelelapo pamupando wisa?
Naivety is rife in our body politic which is why disbelief tears and loud wailing shrouded the aftermath of the August 2021 Polls. It took statesmen, Bai Koroma, Jakaya Kikwete and Rupiah Banda to convince a crestfallen Edgar Lungu to concede. This is the nature of a beast called politics. Further afield in the land of the free which also boasts one of the world’s oldest democracies, the mop haired one still refuses to concede to Joseph Biden who trumped him at the polls – three years after he grudgingly left the White House for the quieter confines of Mara Largo in Florida.
Aside from the view that the UPND is the front runner – at least granted the fragmented opposition, it is only rational for other people to hold a different opinion. Lest we meander off this discussion, the gist is not to ascertain the UPND’s electoral prospects but determine whether HH has the magnanimity or temperament to accept defeat in the event that Zambians reject him in 2026. Back to the question, would he concede and quietly vacate the Presidency?
Travesty of Justice
Let’s take a step back. It took him five failed attempts to wrest the Presidency eventually succeeding on his sixth shot, a rare mark of resilience – Albert Einstein certainly has living equals. On his 5th attempt in 2016, he lost by a whisker – prompting him to seek redress from courts for what he claimed were electoral malpractices by the former governing party.
Did the court find merit in his claim? The Constitutional Court regrettably dismissed his petition on a technicality – this without hearing his argument. This judgement was a travesty of Justice, a blatant disregard of the law. In her own words, quote verbatim, Justice Hilda Chibomba admitted as much. ‘It is a painful decision for the court to take to dismiss the case without hearing the evidence, but there is nothing the court could have done considering the time limit provided to conclude the petition,’ reads a part of her judgement.
It’s HH’s response though to this judgement that provides us a glimpse of his ability to stretch his fight for his rights. ‘I never thought one day we will have a situation where an election petition will be dismissed without hearing evidence from the parties. Our position is that we came to this court to seek justice, but it has been denied to us by this court. And as such, we have not conceded in the just-ended Presidential election where the Patriotic Front was declared winner,’ he remarked. This was vintage HH in opposition then, steadfast, principled but defiant to the bitter end.
Would he concede?
Could a successful conclusion of his petition have swayed his mind – assuming the Judgement went against his party? Only he knows the answer. However, few would disagree that he never recognised the Lungu Presidency. In his eyes, the PF were an illegitimate government that had robbed him the most prized possession in Zambian politics. While he has brought decorum to the Presidency the HH who is stubbornly ensconced at Community House – to the chagrin of many is a vastly transformed politician to the one that was criss-crossing the country begging for votes ahead of the 2021 Polls.
History has a way of repeating itself. How ironic that once in power, his party has been able to easily bend laws purely for self-serving interests. Case in point – the UPND twisted the interpretation of a ruling by the same Constitutional Court – which by the way in 2016, declined to hear their petition to steal the Kwacha and Kabushi Parliamentary seats from the opposition. Then out went the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) Lillian Siyunyi. Never mind her transgressions, she too like the President has rights yet she was never accorded the opportunity to defend herself against a slew of charges laid before her – instead she was dealt a cold hand and left to hang in the court of public opinion.
HH has now tested power and he is using it to maximum effect. Is he using his position to entrench democratic tenets? You see, any politician that has scanty regard for the judiciary or rule of law is a danger to democracy. As the saying goes, a democracy where lies have replaced truth, where truth is illusive and where truth is secondary in the conduct of government business with no means of accessing or ability to question, dies in the end.
Would he concede?
About the Author: Mwanza enjoys reading Political History and Philosophy. Conversations with famous politicians takes you down memory lane, beautiful read for a translantic flight. * Amos – Nanga volume 2. For feedback, email [email protected]