LAST weekend, United Party for National Development (UPND) chairperson for elections Honourable Gary Nkombo made a rare admission, stating that the biggest opposition party needed to make internal adjustments, instead of always blaming the Patriotic Front government for its loss of elections. This statement attracted a lot of praise from people who share the same view.
Unfortunately, the admission came without any accompanying confession regarding where things were going wrong. The party official simply said: “We take note of the results and I think the fairest thing to say is that even as we cast some blame on the system and the players, we also would like to say that maybe from our own end there is a lot of buttoning up to be done.”
Honourable Nkombo must be commended for facing reality and making an admission that the party has internal challenges. The Mazabuka member of parliament is also on point to say that the party cannot go on apportioning blame on the system. Indeed, the UPND needs to introspect and realise that they are still far from catching the elusive key to government. This realization is what they need if they are to apply the right efforts in the right areas of political mobilization.
One of the biggest challenges which UPND has is that they arrive before they reach. It is our considered view that the party listens too much to its own propaganda. In many cases when the country is heading towards elections, people in UPND begin to behave like they have already won the elections. Some already start picturing themselves in government positions. They just look at the number of people who attend their rallies or the thousands of comments they get from followers on social media, and they conclude that they are winning, no matter what comes. In the end, when the results are announced, they reflect the opposite of what they were so sure about. In the end, the rigging excuses take centre stage.
It is not an issue of debate, the UPND is a very popular party. But it is also among the least in terms of strategy. The party lacks a think tank which can examine the winning strategy or the Patriotic Front and begin to work towards countering that. If they believe that they have been winning and their votes are always stolen, what have they done about that for the past 20 years? What measures have they put in place to protect their claimed victory? How is the PF winning elections in the face of so many scandals and poverty among the people? What are they telling the voters, what are they giving them? What is the PF campaign strategy? Where do they apply their efforts. These are the questions that UPND must be asking and answering.
When we look at the UPND, we also find that many party activities are centered on the party president. We don’t know whether this is by decree that no one should move unless the president sanctions or it’s the laziness of some members who wait for handouts from their rich leader before they can go flat out to mobilise. Today, we are winding up September and in just over 10 months, elections will be on the doorstep, yet some top UPND officials and some MPs are just sitting ndwii, waiting to miraculously win so that they can be appointed to those government jobs they have been dreaming about.
Let’s look at the UPND media strategy. Apart from the HH pages and the Zambian Watchdog, which other publicity and mobilization platform does the UPND have? Which social media pages can they point at as the party aligned platforms for campaign? Nothing, as far as we know. In the absence of the Watchdog, the UPND would have no aggressive platform to counter the PF propaganda. Meanwhile, their rivals are firing from all cylinders, if the topic is privatisation, everyone takes a bite at the targeted subject.
What about in Parliament? On paper, the UPND has over 50 members of parliament, but in reality they are about five. Those five are the only ones who are able to engage in debate. They are the only voices people hear all the time, raising points of order while the rest wait for the routine order paper questions so that they can stand, ask and go back to sleep.
Meanwhile, their rivals on the right have over 40 ministers ready to battle, before you even count confident noisemakers like Tutwa Ngulube who are never tired to defend, defend and defend, no matter the magnitude of the scandal.
Our conclusion is that the UPND doesn’t just need to button up, it needs a new set of clothes in some technical areas. They need to change the way they look at elections and what to expect from the process and the voters. The PF is a bit too advanced in its crookedness.
To start with, the PF will never level the playing field. They will never allow the opposition, and the UPND in particular, to stand a fair chance of winning the elections. They will do whatever it takes, no matter how many laws they break, to stop one Hakainde Hichilema from going to State House.
This means the UPND stands little chance of forming government without breaking laws themselves. So, katwishi mayo. Fili uko tuleya.