By Jeff Mbewe
So much opinion has been thrown into the way, all attempting to explain what just happened, why it happened and what did not happen and why it didn’t happen, with regards to the Lusaka Mayoral by-elections.
Both the ruling Patriotic Front (PF) and United Party for National Development (UPND) members have their own explanations based on what they feel is true about the election.
What is interesting to note is that both parties, are expressing opinions subjective to what suits them, as such, fundamental factors are left out from their analysis.
On one hand, the UPND members are saying , the massive voter apathy amounting to over 80% of the registered voters using the 2016 voter register for Lusaka District, is an indication that the people are ‘protesting’ against the poor governance of the PF.
On this premise, the UPND are celebrating – they say the ruling party is losing support.
While voter apathy may be partly attributed to the fading of confidence in the governing party by voters, the other big truth is that the unbridled by-elections that Lusaka and the country experience, thanks to a flawed constitution, in a short period of time has potentially caused the voter apathy in the just ended elections.
It seems, in Zambian politics, there is little time and money for anything else but more time and money for elections.
Among all other stakeholders in any elections, the voter is the only one who is prone to fatigue unlike everyone else such as, those conducting elections and independent monitors who are obviously walking out with hefty allowances.
For political parties and their members, any election is a chance for them to gain in order to maintain or improve a status quo. A voter is the only one who participates in elections and then has to wait for the ‘benefit’, to see if his or her vote was worth it.
Perhaps, an ‘Activist’ Laura Miti has some truth to bag over what just happened, and this truth destroys a notion the UPND are putting up that, voter apathy is a no confidence signal voters are giving PF.
“…Well my view is that, if the UPND in its collective is happy, they need all their heads examined. As I see it, it is our biggest opposition party that should actually be the most worried after yesterday. The thing is, it would be expected that when voters turn away from the PF, they should be moving in significant numbers to the natural alternative, UPND.
After all, by the way they tell it, they would be in office right now, if the PF had not stolen two consecutive elections from them. This move to the UPND though, by what we saw in Lusaka yesterday, is not happening. The question is, why? Why did voters who refused to vote for PF, not turn for the UPND?”
On another hand, the PF are saying they are stronger because out of all the 14 by-elections held countrywide, they have bagged 13 including from provinces considered stubborn strongholds for the UPND.
This opinion is restricted to Lusaka, specifically the Mayoral elections because this presents a yardstick used by both PF and UPND as well as others, are using to litter some false explanations over what just happened and why it happened.
The truth is that PF is not gaining anything anywhere. The governing party’s continued ‘success’ not just in Lusaka but in other areas reflects the problems that the main opposition party, UPND is facing.
Since the 2016 elections, UPND has given away much of its power as they continue to direct their energy into the wrong places. As the maxim has it, if one spends more time directing energy into the wrong directions, they will reap, but only that they will reap wrong things.
In Law, it is often said, a poison tree will yield poison fruits. Perhaps, I can add, energy ploughed into a poisonous endeavor will yield you poison results.
Since the disputes of the 2016 elections, the UPND have never recovered. They are so angry that ‘the election was stolen’ from them, that the courts in Zambia did not accord them their rights to be heard in the petition and so on and so forth.
It is NOT wrong for the UPND to feel wronged whenever they see an anomaly in how things were and are done – it is a fundamental right enshrined in the constitution.
However true is that the UPND has somewhat significantly lost focus of the bigger picture, to continue verbalizing the plight of Zambians and give possible alternatives. In their quest for ‘justice’ over the loss of the 2016 elections and its alleged discrepancies, the UPND have denied the people a meaningful opposition.
This fact was even highlighted by BBC’s interviewer Stephen Sucker when he featured Hakainde Hichilema on Hard Talk. Sucker told HH that it seemed that the UPND’s cry was more centered on what affects them as a party and not the glaring horrific social and economic statistics in Zambia.
The truth remains, UPND is self-centered – this self-centeredness has perhaps multiplied itself and has somehow contaminated even its members. Although, the main opposition party has often spoken on matters of national interest, the aura of their talk is ingrained with the post 2016 elections and all that comes with it.
The people have realized it, and have judged UPND accordingly, such that if they don’t vote for PF for any reason, they would prefer stay at home and go about their business.
In this respect, the PF will gather all the possible votes in an election and appear strong even in the strongholds of UPND yet their only luck is that the alternative to them is a weak body of vain and self-centered persons.
Perhaps, it is time I turn to People’s Alliance for Change (PAC) candidate Mundia Mukubesa – Petersen. They hype towards Petersen, and his sum votes as well as his third position, must tell both UPND and PF something.
PF is a governing party, with all resources and machinery at hand. They have the violent cadres to unleash against opponents, they have mobility, money to throw around and dish out to any voter.
More importantly these have a brand name of their party, their president, their candidate Miles Sampa and all other political bulldozers. It is only normal that they outshine and win in ‘their stronghold’ Lusaka.
The UPND’s biggest asset is their current status – main opposition party, with solid structures countrywide. They have Hakainde, a magnet of resources, a famed candidate Chileshe Kangwa, and violent cadres to unleash against opponents as well as all sorts of bigger personalities.
Mundia Mukubesa’s biggest and only asset is his musical name Petersen. Obscure party, no structures anywhere, and no violent cadres to unleash on opponents, no resources, obscure party President, and generally everything less.
Petersen’s votes in these elections is not a result of the fame of his party or president – it is an individual accumulation.
If Petersen had half access to what both PF and UPND have combined, what more was he going to achieve?
The voters have no confidence in UPND as the main opposition. The solution does not necessarily lie with changing leadership at a convention but changing talking points – be more people focused.
And yes, the people are slowly but surely losing confidence in PF but the ultimate effects of this will not easily be seen in the presence of a weak and fragmented opposition given that, there is money in PF that is available to use in masking the fact that PF is no longer a people’s Bae.
As for PAC, the leader Andyfold Mayela Banda should build on what has been laid down by Petersen in haste. Get younger but intelligent people- look at Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) in South Africa.
Most of its leaders are young, fresh but intelligent. It took only five years for those young people to become a force to reckon with. It is not always about attracting political prostitutes, the old guards.
The solutions to a wind of change lies with young energy today. Many people didn’t know PAC and Andyfold but today, they know. Don’t be another Elias Chipimo who had the momentum in inception but lost it along the way. As for Saboi Imboela, National Democratic Congress (NDC) has an evil shadow of PF and may soon be another Rainbow Party example.