Towards 2011 presidential polls- a reflection
Last minute preparations for the 2011 Presidential and Parliamentary Elections are concluding. Candidates are now known.
It’s a repeat of the 2008 elections which saw President Rupiah Banda put up a spirited fight against Michael Sata and Hakainde Hichilema that have so often appeared to play the ‘brides maid’ role or the foolish Biblical virgins.
But this time, the stakes are higher. Both Banda and Sata are in this race for the last time. Sata and his Patriotic Front (PF) have yet another opportunity to wrestle power from the Movement for Multi-party Democracy (MMD).
With failed attempts in 2006 and 2008, the PF and Sata are now counting on new friends, new partnerships, disgruntled MMD members and the family of former president Kenneth Kaunda.
Hakainde Hichilema on the other hand is staging a ‘’ Real Change’’ campaign exploiting his potential, his age,his economic program and if no one from the MMD or the PF wishes to work with him, he is likely to spoil it for both of them. He is the dark-horse of the race, the ‘prodigal son.’
The MMD has taken many shades and stripes over the last 20 years. Former President Frederick Chiluba fashioned the party to a liberal agenda.
He was known to be close to the grassroot membership and leadership that helped him cultivate a loyal following and use these structures as outreach foothold for his campaigns.
Chiluba also had a core of intellectuals with some competent teams extracted from the University to master his economic and development programs.
The grassroot, the intellectuals, the businessmen and the workers were brought together, as a team, to form an ostensibly formidable campaign machinery.
And then came Mwanawasa, a lame duck President who entered office with a dismal 29% vote.
This was strange for the MMD that in the past enjoyed a popularity buoyancy of over 70%.
Mwanawasa chose a populist approach to shore up his support. He picked an anti-corruption agenda that endeared him to the civil society groupings and formed a partnership with The Post.
He lifted the Constitutional immunity of his predecessor, former president Frederick Chiluba charged him with corruption and arrested him. Due to the insecurity of his own actions, Mwanawasa relied heavily on his relatives and tribes mate to control the MMD.
This alienated him from the grass root structures whose loyalty to Chiluba was entrenched. He also increasingly relied on other political parties choosing his own Vice-President, Nevers Mumba from a dissolved party, the National Citizen’s Coalition. He also picked members of parliament from the Forum for Democracy and Development (FDD), Heritage Party (HP), and the United Nation Independence Party (UNIP) to form Cabinet which appeared to be a coalition government except in name only.
It’s only after the 2006 MMD convention that Mwanawasa forced real change in the MMD and fashioned the party leadership to suit himself and his agenda. However, at the Convention his key nominees Akashambatwa Mbikusita Lewanika, Vernon Mwaanga and some others were defeated by the ‘True Blue’ led by Katele Kalumba. Mwanawasa re-appointed his vanquished allies to the NEC.
PRESIDENT RUPIAH BANDA
President Banda is riding on a crest of development programs that are coming to fruition. In 2000, the World committed itself to the Millenium Development Goals (MDGs, through the UN.
All resources and plannings were directed to achieving these goals to eliminate extreme poverty and rural underdevelopment. The 15 year program of building basic and now high schools, hospitals and health centres, roads and other infrastructure are coming to fruition as we race towards the completion point of 2015.
However, besides these projects related to the MDGs, President Banda has sourced funding for Roads related to his own programs.
The Chinese government has come handy and borrowings from commercial entities have helped begin to achieve this.
This infrastructure development is only comparable to the massive construction undertaking in the 60s and 70s under Dr. Kaunda.
Recently, government announced a K707 Billion construction and rehabilitations of urban roads. The project starting in May 2011, will upgrade major township roads in Lusaka and Copperbelt.
The road construction and rehabilitation, will concentrate on Bus Routes, Markets, Commercial Centres and Township roads.
This is to deal with the eye sores standing in place of roads especially in Lusaka and Copperbelt townships.
For President Banda, attempts to control and fashion the party to his liking has been a difficult one.
He inherited a government and party structure from the late President Levy Mwanawasa. The circumstances under which he became President are unique and they compel him to tread a fine line or indeed walk a tight rope.
He is expected to make and provide changes that should not be seen as actions demonstrating any disdain or disrespect to his predecessor.
Yet he is expected to deal firmly with rebellious elements and those refusing to accept him as the boss.
Banda’s actions to hold provincial conferences and attend all the nine held in the provinces, helped endear him to party members.
But the Conferences revealed that he is far from controlling the party. In many cases, he persuaded the party to elect a provincial chairman and provincial chairwomen of his choice.
The members obliged but proceeded to elect the rest of the entire party structures from the ‘hostile’ camps thereby controlling any grassroot influence.
This became apparent at the convention. While Banda’s team were keen and concentrated on hounding out former Minister of Home Affairs, Lameck Mangani out of any position, the very old team he has been trying hard to replace were all elected with impressive votes.
While the President was dealing with Provincial Chairmen and Provincial Chairwomen, his rivals were dealing with the rest of the full committees without those two positions.
This became more effective for his rivals and a nightmare for President Banda’s team.
President Banda even requested Sylvia Masebo whose links with The Post, a media outlet he has deemed and declared ‘’hostile’’ and inimical to his administration, to stand down.
Masebo defied President Banda’s instructions and refused his request to stand down and proceeded to thump his candidate Ann Chungu with a landslide.
Chungu was not the only casualty of this serious political game. Suresh Desai (Treasurer), Stephen Manjata (Arts and Culture), Kenneth Chipungu (Trustee), Kelvin Sampa (National Youth),Terrence Findlay (Trustee),Kapembwa Simbao (Health but withdrew), Todd Chilembo (legal), all lost despite open presidential support, muscle and maybe money.
But some won such as Dora Silya (Information and Publicity), Kalombo Mwansa (Intl Relations), Peter Daka (Transport), Ronnie Shikapwasha (Security), Catherine Namugala (Tourism), Kenneth Konga (Energy)and Dr. Eustachio Kazonga (Agric).
A promising but youthful political upstart, Kelvin Sampa who enjoys good relations with President Banda was quickly dipped in a dirty storm, that saw him charged and suspended on the eve of his election as National Youth Chairperson. Patrick “Pubs” Musonda was also suspended for lack of good standing in the party. Yet the Party has not dealt with Mbita Chitala and other MMD members currently running the PF Secretariat?
But the biggest casualty was Vice-President George Kunda who filed his nominations, campaigned heavily for the MMD Vice-presidency and turned out at the Convention with an impressive troupe and branded vehicles only to have his vied for position abolished! No one was courteous enough to warn him of the impending actions against the positions he openly vied for? Or was this the intended embarrassment set for him by the Mwanawasa loyalists that see him as a Judas Iscariot?
An amendment abolishing the Vice-President position was packaged with other 15 constitutional amendments thereby giving no adequate chances to debate individual clauses such as the abolition of the VP.
The new NEC quietly dubbed the ‘’2016 Hope’’ has exposed President Banda’s lack of control of the party. The biggest winners of the outcome of this Convention is not President Banda but Maureen Mwanawasa, Sylvia Masebo and Felix Mutati who skilfully but quietly took over the reins and control of the MMD.
Clearly Kunda is now increasingly looking like a liability. The entire constitutional process that started in 2003 and has gobbled about K500billion in hard earned tax payers money so far.
Sadly it came to a screeching halt at the door-steps of Parliament. A caucus called by President Banda at State House received assurances from the Chief Whip Vernon Mwaanga that the Constitutional Bill would go through with numbers over the required 106 MPs.
Mwaanga assured the Caucus that the 23 UPND MPs and the 17 PF rebels MPs will join MMD’s 72 MPs in voting for the Constitutional Bill. He was wrong.
After voting, MMD could only marshal 92 votes. Disaster struck and the die was cast. Questions remain unanswered.
Why didn’t Mwaanga defer the Bill when he noticed that 10 MMD MPs were not in the House? Did he speak to the UPND? Why wasn’t there any awareness or publicity regarding when the Bill would come on the floor? What’s the role of the Whip if not to worry about numbers and ensure that enough votes are available before such a historic undertaking was done?
Many think and believe the MMD’s failure to push through the constitution was a serious indictment on the influence Mwaanga says he wields as Chief whip.
After the failure of the Constitutional Bill, why did he quickly make ‘’whispers’’ to the astounded waiting media ‘’it’s the fault of the leader of the House’’? Was this to deflect attention for his own ominous failure? Was he looking for a scape goat yet again like he has done many times in the past?
While President Banda’s camp is rolling out an impressive but expensive marketing machinery of his candidature, it lacks a human touch.
He appears to be packaged as a branded lifeless commodity than a leader who should give hope and take care of the poor, underprivileged or the unemployed .
The campaign should reflect concerns of people, real people. The campaign should marry him to solutions of; urban unemployment, rural poverty, worker’s welfare and the many challenges that plague the country.
While the achievements of his administration are impressive, that should not be his only strength. He needs to quench the increasing calls for change against the MMD as he should also be the change!
Further, it doesn’t make sense for the MMD to deal with Lusaka and Copperbelt as traditional stronghold for the Opposition. Why has the MMD given up on recapturing the two critical provinces? What are the issues for the provinces that alienate the MMD from these provinces but become fertile ground for the Opposition? Why can’t MMD do a needs assessment of Lusaka and Copperbelt and attempt to genuinely capture significant votes from these areas? Why deal with these areas in resigned manner?
THE PATRIOTIC FRONT (PF)
With the death of the electoral alliance between the UPND/PF, pundits expected a plain sailing victory for the MMD and President Banda. But this is not to be. Forces are gathering around PF leader Sata to make him a suitable and acceptable candidate of the Opposition and a determined figure to defeat Banda.
The forces are led by senior elements in the Catholic Church that are supporting Sata as their proxy candidate.
Ignore their ranting about the professed Church’s neutral role! The Catholic Church proved to the greatest and strong obstacle to the recently failed constitution making process.
They led a boycott against the Constitution Review Commission (CRC) and also led another less successful boycott against the National Constitutional Conference (NCC).
The Church also wishes to make Zambia a secular state again. In all these activities, the PF have been an instrumental frontline organisation railing against government policies and championing its own position.
Fred Mmembe, editor of The Post is also at the centre of such forces. He took a risk and helped break the UPND/PF Pact for his own petty differences and personal dislike of leader of the UPND, Hakainde Hichilema.
The Post gave a tilted coverage boosting Sata’s standing while constantly consigning Hichilema to the position of a junior partner.
Mmembe is counting on the new young registered (1.2m) voters and his perceived win of votes for PF from Western Province to bridge the 35,000 vote difference.
This was the difference between Banda and Sata during the 2008 Elections. He planted the debate on the Barotse Agreement and achieved the goal of alienating the MMD government from the Lozi people.
Meembe’s aunt and PF Chairperson Inonge Wina is trying hard to win over Western Province to the PF from the MMD. But she is old and tired.
The province has seen the emergency of personalities such as Luena MP, Charles Milupi who formed the ADD. The PF is trying hard to wrestle power in the province from the UPND, the ULP and the MMD. But this appears to be an uphill battle.
Another figure helping the PF is Bob Sichinga. One of the founder members of the MMD and known competent drafter of the first MMD Manifesto and UPND Manifesto, he is leading a team that is trying to ‘’ institutionalise’’ the PF. He is at the centre of intellectual activities in the PF. He has helped put up a new and credible Manifesto for the PF.
Michael Sata is now made to read a prepared speech at functions. Sichinga is also coordinating activities among cooperating partners and seeking donor support for the forthcoming election.
This is to ensure that a Sata Presidency is possible and accepted. Sichinga has organised speaking engagements for Sata to undertake before the elections at world renowned Universities. His first stop is Oxford University where Sata is expected to discuss Chinese Investments in Africa.
Sichinga has helped Sata hold provincial conferences to shed off the perception of a dictator running a one-man-show. Soon the party is expected to hold a National Conference. It has also a launched an interactive and good website to appeal to younger voters.
Disgruntled MMD members in Chitala and recently expelled Mike Mlongoti are also helping the PF. Chitala is helping set up a team across the country that will monitor elections and conduct a Parallel Voter Tabulation (PVT). Mlongoti on the other hand has handed over to the PF, documents relating to the entire country-wide structure of the MMD. This is to help the PF entice and lobby those MMD structures to fall to the opposition party.
Chitala and Mlongoti are being driven by feelings that the MMD has abandoned its foundation and has ‘’UNIPised’’ itself by bringing into the rank and file, UNIP members and structures.
Panji Kaunda and his brother Waza have joined the PF. Sata is using them to attempt to win over Rupiah Banda’s stronghold – the Eastern Province. It is expected that their father Dr. Kenneth Kaunda will join the PF just before elections.
Panji Kaunda, with the help of The Post has set up ‘’The People’s Pact Forum’’. This is to act as a neutral force calling on citizens to support ‘’Change’’ but openly campaigning for the PF. Panji is also using the Forum to revive UNIP structures country-wide. Panji recently evicted his young brother Tilyenji Kaunda and his newly-wed wife,(widow of Dr. Cornelius Matandiko) from Dr. Kaunda’s family and retirement home. Panji is set to take over the reins of UNIP from Tilyenji after the 2011 elections. He has accused his young brother of running down UNIP and plundering its assets.
George Chabwera and Lameck Mangani, who helped consolidate the Rupiah Banda’s presidency, are being frustrated out of the MMD. Sata is constantly courting such people. Mangani and Chabwera, together with the Kaunda family are being viewed as forces that can help swing Eastern Province from the clutches of President Banda and the MMD and win it over to the PF. It is yet to be seen if these targeted actions will yield the desired results for the PF.
UNITED PARTY FOR NATIONAL DEVELOPMENT (UPND)
Hakainde Hichilema is now an experienced politician. He cut his teeth as a company executive. He has over the years shed off his boardroom-look and boardroom-talk for a street flair that makes him indistinguishable with, or at par with the other presidential candidates.
When he inherited the party in 2006 from the late Anderson Kambela Mazoka, he is accused of shrinking the party from 47MPs and the largest opposition party in Zambia to 21MPs only. He also lost key senior members who helped give the party a national and multi-tribal character. The senior members who left accused Hichilema of practising tribalism to ascend to the top post. After the 2006, he nearly lost all of western province support to Sakwiba Sikota’s United Liberal Party (ULP).
The man with two difficult names has now become a household name. He is a much sought after partner for any credible electoral alliance or pact. Although the UPND feel confident that Hakainde has regained the party’s tradition support in Southern, Western, North-Western and Central provinces. The UPND has also shown consistency growth since the 2008 elections and have won more ward and Parliamentary By-elections seats than the MMD and the PF. The UPND has recently grabbed parliamentary seats from the MMD in Chilanga, Solwezi and Mufumbwe (though now under court contest).
So the UPND cannot be relegated to the underdogs or categorised simply as a third force or third runner. It has party structures country-wide, a credible leadership and a team. It also has a viable and written economic and revival plan. This makes it a party that attracts intellectuals, middle class, workers and peasants.
It is for this reason that the electoral alliance entered into with the PF formed a serious threat to the MMD.
The Pact collapsed for various reasons. Chiefly among them were undermining activities by The Post, by the MMD and by party’s own senior members.
The latter is also important since the senior members are insiders who feel threatened and displaced by the presence of rival team. In this case, Wynter Kabimba and Guy Scot who would be immediate casualties for the positions of Vice President showed naked hostility against the UPND and its leadership.
Kabwata MP, Given Lubinda who recognised the larger picture and national benefits of this alliance, was quickly shunned and shunted and his positive energies quarantined by the PF leadership. At the height of internal squabbles in the alliance, PF leader Sata withdrew the position of Part Spokesperson from Lubinda and gave to his new found favourite nephew, Kabimba.
When the Pact collapsed, Hichilema’s choices where limited. The 2011 elections are going to be very difficult and competitive elections.
Any credible electoral pact will foster peace as election results will be inevitably favour whoever would have a Pact or electoral alliance.
Without any pact, the results will be closely contested between the PF and the MMD (even the UPND), thereby increasing the chances of a bitter dispute and national insecurity.
WHAT ARE HICHILEMA’S CHANCES?
Hichilema could test out his five year hard-work by going it alone. At 48 years, he still remains the youngest presidential candidate and has many years of political life ahead of him. He has matured well and his rallies have begun to attract mammoth crowds. Although, Hichilema has been constantly accused of using the UPND as a pawn or bargaining chip to becoming Republican Vice President and as a launch-pad to an easy presidency, he can only be ignored by anyone at own peril.
The same card was used recently against Hichilema. When UPND finally chose to ditch the already dead UPND/PF Pact, Hichilema approached Vernon Mwaanga for possible talks with the MMD and President Banda.
Now, anyone knows the outcome and success of such talks would result in an electoral alliance with the MMD and a sure VP slot for Hichilema. But that’s where the problem lies.
Is the MMD willing to give Hichilema this position? For he will go in the Pact with no less position. Are the assertions by people like Mwaanga that Hichilema is inexperienced true? Are the assertions that the MMD has made ‘’tremendous in-roads’’ in Southern Province true?
Later, Hichilema accused Mwaanga of being a dishonest broker who used his position to collapse talks at budding stage.
Hichilema had experienced similar frustrations with the PF personalities. Such persons feared that their relevance would diminish or extinguished if the alliance succeeded.
Hichilema was willing to delay the launch of his campaign and give the talks a chance. Everyone expected the MMD to fall all over Hichilema. But this did not happen! Not in the MMD World!
A few weeks later, Hichilema launched his 2011 Presidential Campaign promising to exploit his new strength, his young age and bargaining to deliver to the country the prospect of ‘’Real Change’’.
Hichilema is the likely key to a clear and indisputable win for either President Banda or Sata. It is for this reason that Sata, recognising his lost opportunity, continues to claim that the UPND/PF Pact is alive many weeks after the UPND ditched it.
Left alone, Hichilema will likely be a dangerous spoiler for both President Banda or Sata. He is ostensibly the proverbial jewel in the crown.
THE BY-ELECTIONS SINCE 2008, WHAT DO THEY TELL US?
Since President Rupiah Banda came into office in 2008, the country has held eleven (11) parliamentary by-elections. The MMD has reduced its parliamentary seats from 78 in 2008 to 72 in 2011 (a serious loss of 6 parliamentary seats in such a short space of time).
In 2008, two seats previously held by the MMD were lost to the PF. These were Kanchibiya and Mwansabombwe.
Later MMD lost Mporokoso to the PF and the MMD also lost its other seats of Solwezi, Mufumbwe and Chilanga to the UPND. The PF retained the Kasama seat.
MMD managed to defend and retain its seats in Chitambo, Mpulungu, and Milanzi. Charles Milupi retained the Luena seat when he defected as an independent to his newly formed party the ADD
While the MMD and President Rupiah Banda appear to have a head-start following the anticipated death of the UPND/PF Pact, it however is not that obvious. President Rupiah Banda has worked hard to attempt to recapture Southern and Luapula provinces and tried hard to maintain his strength in Western, Central and North-Western Provinces.
But whatever work has been done in Southern Province, the people are expected to vote for Hichilema- or unless an alliance will be struck before then which would result in the parliamentary seats going to the UPND while the presidential vote would go to Rupiah Banda.
Sata is hoping to hold on to his traditional support in Lusaka, Luapula, parts of Northern and parts of Copperbelt provinces. But Luapula holds so much promise for President Banda. With the work of former president Frederick Chiluba and the PF ‘’rebel’’ MPs, work is under way to shift support and loyalties from the PF to the MMD.
A new problem has however arisen with infighting between MMD members who never left the party and those who have come back to the party led by the ‘’rebel’’ MPs. President Banda has to deftly resolve this new crisis in the province. This was one of the major factors that saw the MMD lose two Ward by-elections in Chilubi and Kawambwa. The other was the brute financial muscle being used by Manganese miner, Kennedy Sakeni.
Sakeni is proving to be a single nightmare against the MMD in Luapula with his hard-work among chiefs and ordinary members of the PF and the MMD. He is clearly standing in the way of a Banda win in the province.
The MMD is expected to hold on to rural areas of Lusaka and Copperbelt. The MMD is also expected to hold on to its new stronghold, Eastern Province. They will also likely still win constituencies in parts of Northern Province from Nakonde, Isoka,Chinsali, Mbala, and Mpulungu.
Sata’s handlers are also banking on grabbing Western province from the MMD. But Western province which became the new stronghold for the MMD in 2006 will face a scramble with the UPND and Charles Milupi’s ADD staking out their interest.
President Rupiah Banda should get the credit for the huge developments in the province such as the 78 km stretch – the K1.3trillion Mongu-Kalabo Road project, the Shangombo Hospital finally being completed by Tomorrow Investments.
Yet the emotive issue of the Barotse Agreement have overshadowed the huge development projects in schools, hospital and roads that the MMD government is doing.
MMD’s stronghold of Eastern Province is threatened by the Kaunda family and the way Lameck Mangani is handled. It is inexplicable and strange, that the Kaunda’s who are well known relations of President Banda have mounted such a fierce campaign against him, and have opted to work with his enemies.
They are also keen to join hands with those trying hard to hound out of State House, President Banda. What are the issues? What are their grievances? Government has built Kaunda a house? He shares political podiums with him and probably even breaks bread and wine with him? What has gone wrong?
Panji was on Radio claiming that the moment President Banda was seen working with former President Chiluba, is the moment he chose to fight him.
He claimed that the family hold Chiluba’s government responsible for the brutal death of Wezi Kaunda. It’s ironical that while Panji was making the same pronouncements on Radio, the Supreme Court was confirming the sentences and death penalty for the Wezi Killers!
Further, hasn’t President Banda pledged to work with all former presidents? all former leaders? Isn’t it the same reason he has embraced, Dr. Kenneth Kaunda, Dr. Frederick Chiluba and Mrs. Maureen Mwanawasa?
Isn’t it the reason criminal and corruption investigations against Maureen Mwanawasa were dropped? Why is Panji and his brothers fighting their own uncle this fiercely?
The Paradox of Elections
The MMD hold on Central, North-Western and Western provinces needs a critical look. How much did these provinces support the MMD because its leader Mwanawasa was a Bantu-Botatwe? If elections are won by the work and development deliveries of a party alone, Banda would win with a landslide with many votes to spare.
But elections are more complicated, so are the factors that determine whom one votes for and why people vote for a particular candidate?
By 31st March, 2011, the voter distribution in the country was as follows: Central- 482,571, Copperbelt 869,406, Eastern- 654,204, Luapula 409,754,Lusaka – 776,866, Northern 658,902, North-Western – 310,398, Southern-655,380, Western – 389,609 totalling about 5.2 million voters.
The presidential contest remains a 3 horse race with Banda, Sata and Hichilema slugging it out. Don’t believe the media hype in Sata’s favour or the propaganda in the public media for Banda. The media don’t vote.
Facts are not as stated by the two extreme ends. A middle, honest and sober perspective is required to determine who will win the 2011 elections. Some facts, factors and circumstances stated above might give us a clue as to whom the eventual victor will be.