By Paradious Sakala
OME Thursday, August 12 next month, President Dr. Edgar Changwa Lungu will be defending his position against fifteen other presidential hopefuls. Compared with five years ago, they were only nine of them. Each one of these 16 contenders believes they are best positioned for the job. Yet political analysts believe the race is tight between two candidates.
In as much as there are no underdogs in politics, analysts presume that the real contest is oscillating between President Lungu (a lawyer turned politician) of the Patriotic Front (PF) and Hakainde Hichilema (a business tycoon turned politician) of the United Party for National Development (UPND). The two political pugilists are meeting for the third time in a space of at least six years.
They both passed through same political mentors. They are students of late Anderson Mazoka, UPND founding president and late President Michael Sata, equally a founding father of the PF. Fascinatingly, HH who Sata fondly referred to as an under-five politician, quit the PF/UPND alliance to compete in the 2011 elections. The rest is history and a story for another day!
The two rivals inherited power from their late mentors. HH became leader of the UPND in 2006 after the passing of Mr. Mazoka. He controversially won party presidency at a hastily held party convention. After the convention there was an exodus of some of key leaders like Sakwiwa Sikota, Given Lubinda and many others that lost the election. HH spent less energies to reconcile a divided UPND as his focus was consolidating the United Democratic Alliance (UDA) that had among other parties FDD and UNIP in the 2006 polls. UDA lost the election.
In the same fashion, President Lungu arose to power through a controversial party convention in Kabwe to replace late Sata. Like UPND, a number of senior people officials equally departed from the PF. But President Lungu persistently cried out for their return to the party. Some never. But the majority did. And they have continued returning back to PF.
What seems to set the two leaders apart is the implementation of their ideologies; Chagwaism and Hakaindeism. President Lungu took over a heavily divided PF in late 2014, but with humility, determination, innovation, and ambition chose to confront that challenge through adopting the one Zambia one nation motto. Instantly UNIP stewards were indirectly invited into PF. Under difficulties, President Lungu went into the 2015 election as an amateur. He narrowly won the presidential ballot with a paltry 807,925 votes against Hakainde’s 780,168 votes which represented 48.84% and 47.16% respectively. Only 27,757 separated the two. Then, after victory of the January 15, 2015 elections, Chagwa won further kudos for the appointment of a first woman Vice-President in mama Inonge Wina. Scores of women pressure groups approved his move. Chagwaism has become a reality in the country. Gender is almost everywhere which the UPND has embraced too.
As all this was happening in the Chagwa camp, the Hakaindeism philosophy burnt its energies on disputing the outcome of the January 15, 2015 election results. His MPs led by then Mazabuka law maker Garry Nkombo fought hard for the new constitution to the extent of disrupting parliamentary sessions. Speaker of the national assembly allowed the constitutional enactment. Parliament debated the constitution and the opposition focused more on 50 plus one clause as opposed to looking at it from all angles. Truly the new constitution was put in place with its several lacunas.
The two leaders battled it out in the 2016 general elections under the new constitution. This time Chagwa with gained experience, having won the hearts of many with his natural humility again won the elections. Out of the registered 6,698,372 voters only 56.45% voted. Chagwa secured 1,860,877 (50.35%) while Hakainde secured 1,760,347 (47.63%) with the two being separated by more than 100,530 unlike the 27,757 of 2015.
Ideologically, the two, Chagwa and Hakainde, the later seems to be trapped in political illusions. There is a tendency of imitating the former by the later. From party songs to national ideology, Hakaindeism is basically reactional. Take the political songs for 2016: the PF had Dununa reverse, while UPND produced Dununa forward a copy and paste song. No originality. Similarly, Chagwaism has been about reconciliation, aligning himself to the promotion of unity and brining the Christian nation tag to the fore, Hakaindeism opposed this through the failed Bill 10 but only u-turning now to tow the lines of his opponent. Just like the choice of a female running mate, a PF trademark!
In this years’ elections, Hakaindeism is more about two things; to fight corruption and the Bally will fix all philosophy. But missing is the clear road map on how to fix these things. Possibly Zambia will become heaven on earth with Bally in power. The concept of having the kwacha gaining value within two to three hours sounds charming to the ears but merely an idealism difficult to be understood. The increasing of civil servant’s salaries across by K1,500 upon swearing is mouthwatering. But is it real and practical coming from a seasoned economist? Has that happened at any of his farms to his workers? Will the national budget accommodate such? In which country has such a thing ever happened? Worse off it is not even in the UPND party manifesto! Who knows, since he has billions of dollars he might instruct his banks to pay everyone!
Furthermore, the UPND leader still believes in privatization. More especially the mines as he has openly said he would invite Anglo-American corporation back. That means more people in the streets and also the philosophy of running a lean civil service will just send many more back to M’gubudu and Kashikishi should he be elected.
As for President Lungu, not only does he enjoy the incumbency, but also he seems solid on many fronts. His party manifesto speaks nearly to all sectors of society. He has listened to the church by building the worship centre as an affirmation of his backing the Christian nation declaration. He appeals to the traditional leaders that see his inclusive leadership as unifying. He has changed the outlook of Lusaka and many places within a space of six years with developmental projects across the country. It is a fact that his presidency has had a number of hurdles; a strained relation with the IMF for years, droughts, power outages, armyworms, floods, cholera, and currently covid-19, in the last six years. To a large extent president Lungu navigated through most of them through determination and teamwork though IMF and covid-19 are still persisting.
Though there are claims of winds of change in some circles, it seems Chagwaism is still favoured. Though a reality PF teams need to up their game. Not relax until the last day. UPND may not just give in easily. Actually the so called smaller parties have the capacity to change the course of the elections. As for now let’s watch the Chagwaism versus Hakaindeism ideologies as the August 12, elections nears.