By ANTONIO MWANZA
THE so-called Opposition Alliance of UPND and others has crumbled as NAREP becomes the latest casualty to leave the alliance.
First it was Sean Tembo and his PEP who left the alliance, then Andyford Banda and his PAC quickly followed suit. Both cited lack of leadership, lack of honesty and a lack of a clear, agreed common agenda, bitterness and in-fighting within the alliance as some of the reasons why they decided to abandon the Opposition Alliance.
Since independence, Zambia has had numerous political alliances and all of them have ended up in one way: failure.
In 2006, UPND, FDD and UNIP formed a political alliance called United Democratic Alliance, (UDA) with the view of fielding one single candidate to defeat the MMD in the general elections.
A bitter fight over who should lead the alliance quickly ensued and by the time UDA was settling for Mr Hakainde Sammy Hichilema as its leader, the alliance was dead in reality and only alive on paper. The UDA lost lamentably, coming a distant third in the elections.
Again, in 2011, the alliance between UPND and PF crumbled in a spectacular fashion; the two parties could not agree on who should lead the alliance.
The leadership question was only but the tip of the iceberg. There were deep fundamental irreconcilable differences between the two parties.
Political alliances in Zambia have failed and continue to fail for a number of reasons which among others include the following:
- Greed and selfishness: many of these opposition politicians join or pursue political alliances out of selfish reasons to use their fellows to achieve their narrow and personal goal of going to State House; they want to ride on others to get the numbers to win elections.
- Lack of honest and genuine reasons: most political alliances are based on nothing genuine or politically and economically fundamental other than the desperate attempt to come together with a sole purpose of removing a ruling party from power.
There are no fundamental political or economic policy commonality or shift driving the agenda. The alliance members never even have common social, political or economic policies that they intend to pursue other than their insatiable appetite for power.
How can you have a meaningful and genuine alliance when your party manifestos and ideologies don’t agree? Scripture tells us that unless they agree, two cannot move together.
- Dishonesty and suspicion: most of these politicians in alliances are never honest with each other; they rarely say the truth about why they are in the alliance, they often pretend like they are there for the common good and interest
of the country when in actual sense they are in the alliance to advance their narrow and often selfish agendas at the expense of their colleagues.
Secondly, these folks often hold deep-rooted suspicions amongst themselves.
This suspicion is rooted in the bitterness and animosity that resulted from the failure of previous alliances where they felt used or betrayed by their alliance members.
- Failure to agree on who should lead the alliance and how to share power: The question of who should lead an alliance and how power must be shared in the event that the alliance
forms government has often been the major cause of the breakup of political alliances in Zambia. This issue has often led to bitter infighting and acrimonious rivalry amongst alliance partners, destroying the very unity the alliance needs in order to survive.
- Lack of unity of purpose: there is no unity of purpose among these alliance members other than a goal to remove the other guys from power.
A political alliance must be built on something bigger and fundamental other than the motive to remove a seating government from power. Forming an alliance purely for the purpose of removing a seating government is a recipe for disaster and can never sustain an alliance.
For any political alliance to work, people must agree on the fundamental policy matters they want to pursue, they must harmonise their differing manifestos and ideologies.
Just like UNZA lecturer, Professor Bizeck Phiri had warned that unless the general membership of all the political parties in the Oppositions Alliance, together with the top leadership, were committed to key objectives, it would crumble.
Equally, political scientist Dr Alex Ng’oma had urged the Opposition Alliance to start offering credible checks and balances to the PF government and show Zambian voters what they would do differently from the current administration other than the usual malice, lies and propaganda.
Commenting on the Opposition Alliance, Prof Phiri wondered how the general organisation of the alliance was; what the objectives were and how individual political parties would be organised and function concurrently.
He also questioned how many of the 10 political parties in the alliance had representation on the ground and key government institutions such as Parliament and Councils which are critical platforms for mass mobilisation and real policy discourse.
“To start with; is that alliance just between leaders themselves or does the alliance trickle-down to the membership of those 10 political parties? Are their party members in agreement with what their leaders are doing? Because that’s where the strength of an alliance comes in,” Professor Phiri, a political historian, wondered.
“In the past, alliances failed because leaders themselves did not agree on who to field as a presidential candidate for the alliance, among the 10, are they in agreement? Because to say we have formed an alliance is another thing, but each one of you quietly think: ‘I hope it is me they will choose to be a presidential candidate’; that has been a weakness of past alliances,” Prof Phiri observed.
And Dr. Ng’oma had urged the Opposition Alliance to start offering credible checks and balances to the PF government and show Zambian voters what they would do differently from the current administration which they have clearly failed.
“What we need to hear, for example, from the current alliance, is what is it that you are going to do differently from what PF is doing. What is it that the alliance is going to do better than what PF is doing? These are the things we need to know and that should be the purpose of the alliance,” Dr. Ng’oma had advised.
He noted that opposition alliances in Zambia have failed to fulfil their purpose of offering credible checks and balances on the Executive because
they had historically been formed for the sole purpose of removing an incumbent party from office.
“In Zambia, what happens is that alliances are formed only to fight the government of the day, only to see how best to remove the party in government without offering any credible alternative whatsoever.
There will be in-fighting among all the people involved; each one of them wanting to be president and that’s how the whole thing will crumble,” Dr. Ng’oma had cautioned.
Just like the two learned political experts had explained, the so-called Opposition Alliance has continued to disintegrate. At the rate things are going, by election time there will be no alliance whatsoever to talk about.