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ZAMBIA’S PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION FIGHT GOES ON

By MUBANGA LUCHEMBE

This year Zambia will hold its general elections on August 12. And the Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ) Chief Electoral Officer Patrick Nshindano disclosed that 19 political parties had paid the K95,000 requirement for presidential nominations. He however explained that it did not mean that all 19 contestants would stand in the 2021 general election as there were other requirements that the presidential candidates needed to have.

Meanwhile, the recently formed “The Zambia We Want” Alliance formed an electoral pact with the UPND Alliance ahead of these polls. The “Zambia We Want” Alliance comprises the MDC led by Felix Mutati, Zambia Shall Prosper Movement led by Kelvin Fube, ZED party led by Ernest Mwansa and Movement for Change and Equality led by Kaluba Simuyemba. Interestingly though, the race is turning out to be a battle of electoral pacts consisting of Zambia’s two main political parties. And observers are wondering if there is a magic formula for holding successful polls in the country, based on electoral pacts. 

Speaking at a media briefing in Lusaka, UPND president Hakainde Hichilema called on Zambians to reunite in removing the PF from government. He condemned tribalism, which he said was dividing the country. Yet, it is common knowledge that for a time he had been looking for a running mate who would bring in more votes from the Bemba-dominated Copperbelt, Luapula, Muchinga and Northern provinces to boost his chances.

To this end, he had made forays into these four vote-rich and populous provinces seeking a suitable deputy, despite having an incumbent Bemba-speaking UPND vice president already on board. Clearly though, it appeared after rummaging through the bazaar of Zambia’s one-man political parties, among other smaller parties; he eventually settled for the MDC leader to the total betrayal of his loyal deputy Mutale Nalumango – much to the chagrin of her UPND grassroots supporters.

Mr Hichilema claimed that on the backdrop of unity, Zambia would achieve and recover what it had lost in the past. He also dispelled people masquerading as his relatives, accusing the PF of parading them before cameras to discredit him. While the MDC president also called for sacrifice if PF government was to be removed from power. Meanwhile ZED party leader Enerst Mwansa complained that Zambia had been destroyed by people with selfish motives.

Whereas, the ex-PF senior member Kelvin Bwalya Fube popularly known as KBF, he condemned the undemocratic vices which he claimed had potential to divide the country. He also claimed that the alliance members had resolved to unite the nation. Calling on Zambians to get united in voting out the PF from power further assuring the nation that the alliance would restore the rule of law in the country.

Although this alliance has been dubbed by critics and opponents as the “coalition of the failed-attempt protagonists”, owing to the UPND leader Hakainde Hichilema’s pending serial sixth failed-attempt at Zambia’s presidency in August and MDC leader Felix Mutati’s failure to secure the country’s much-needed fiscal fitness and the IMF bailout package during the whole period he served as Minister of Finance in the current PF government, it is yet the team to watch. Besides, the duo had worked together in another failed-attempt at Zambia’s presidency in the 2015 presidential by-election. But will anything tangible change this time around? Probably not!

As for KBF, he sprang a surprise when he suddenly emerged from the cobwebs of loyalty and challenged his boss President Edgar Lungu for the PF’s presidential candidacy. His move upset the PF’s formbook in which it had long been assumed that the incumbent’s presidential ticket was a formality, thanks to the grassroots’ opinion that gave him an unassailable support. At first KBF’s challenge to President Lungu was seen as feeble and inconsequential, given the latter’s political standing and the country’s cherished projects he had introduced and implemented in infrastructure and socio-economic development. So the question asked by many people was: “Just what inspired KBF to oppose President Lungu?”

Known and unknown to many, KBF had used his position as a senior official in the ruling PF to self-endear his image to the Facebook millennial followers on social media. The PF’s top brass discovered this very late, and despite attempts at damage control, they could not derail KBF’s self-centered cyber-train. Rather, earlier this month, KBF cited high-handedness and the lack of internal democracy in the ruling PF as the reason why he was leaving the party for the rival UPND. His departure is perhaps the least vital ingredient yet to boost Hichilema’s chances of winning the much-coveted Zambian presidency.

As compared to other “Zambia We Want” Alliance defectors to the UPND, Ernest Mwansa and Kaluba Simuyemba’s moves are without the support of influential Bemba-speaking regional kingpins. These two people, with Hichilema at the helm, do not represent the country’s crucial Bemba-speaking electoral vote baskets. Zambians are watching the unfolding scenario with a lot of interest.

In many observers’ opinion Hichilema’s sixth quest for Zambia’s presidency is again as good as dead. Besides in its heyday, under the leadership of the late Anderson Mazoka, the UPND did not need alliance partners, it was not just a political party but also a mass movement. It was a gigantic political machine arousing deep emotions and with a revolutionary streak. Twenty years later and all that gravitas held by what was then arguably one of Zambia’s most exciting political establishments, has gone down the drain. 

In addition to this, the charm offensive of the government is succeeding with a good number of voting Zambians – especially in Southern, North-Western and Western provinces. These regions have always been seen as bastions of the opposition UPND. But some analysts now say the tide is turning, citing several reasons. Nowadays, it is common sight to see chiefs in these provinces joining meetings of the President before or after political rallies. The inference being that they share the political aspirations of the governing party as Zambia’s presidential election fight goes on.  

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