As promised in our earlier article that we shall time and again pause policy issues to discuss pressing national issues, this week we shall dedicate time to discuss coalitions without jeopardising the unity being exhibited by opposition political parties. After the constitution court ruling on the eligibility of President Lungu for 2021 elections, there is some level of anxiety on how best to bring about change by any legal means. Some are suggesting that only a coalition of political parties would be able to triumph in 2021.

It is encouraging though that under the current circumstances, opposition parties are beginning to discuss matters of common interest. These issues include electoral reforms through the dialogue process, restoration of the rule of law, media and judicial reforms, public order act and corruption, among other things.

These discussions have also created anxieties of what the actual plan is; is it 2021 or it’s really just discussing matters of common interest? Some paid propagandists of course are twisting the whole narrative and painting the opposition’s intentions black with the hope of achieving their grotesque agenda of manipulating the minds of the Zambian people. On the other hand, our members are also anxious about what we are actually planning. Will my leader be the Presidential candidate or has our party been swallowed?

All these anxieties indicate that there is need to be patient and manage the process. The process has to be managed to ensure that all political parties continue to be relevant- a key aspect in our democracy. Hence, the emphasis of the coalition is to ensure that we focus on all matters of common interest and in so doing providing a service to our country in unity without due pressure of who has been chosen to be the opposition Presidential candidate for 2021. That a sole candidate will be chosen or not, I can assure you is far from where we are. For instance, nothing has been agreed on fielding sole candidates in the by-elections. It’s important that all political parties who participate in elections continue to do so to remain relevant.

Truth be told, an opposition alliance is not a guarantee for change in any election but it is something that should be considered depending on the demands of the political climate prevailing at the time of elections. Because we must be alive to the fact that political climates change with time, the man or woman who is famous today is not guaranteed of being famous tomorrow. It’s not a given. Thus, it will be suicidal for us to start marketing one brand as we go towards 2021, we must be smart, patient and tactical.

Being marketed under one brand today, will give the ruling party ammunition to make sure we are finished before we start. Therefore, as we discuss these issues, we need to focus on the core issues of our coming together in the interim. Opposition political parties in this coalition must also work hard for their credibility. This will be key in order for each party to bring something to the table when the time is right. Each political party has influence over a certain demography. It is this influence that will create a certain flare and flavour to the political scene and upset the current establishment. Thus, there is urgent need for all of us to go flat out and mobilise.

What is important for now is that we have met and have agreed on what to focus on. We are all clear that we must all go back to the field and yield tangible outcomes so that at the right time, we can bring results to the table. Our individual party efforts have the potential to bring forth a harvest that can surpass that of the ruling party.

So what do we do? The people must be excited but patient and support this process step by step. Your leaders are wise; they have realised the need for unity and they understand that the country comes first before any ambition. For now, the key issues that your leaders are pursuing such as electoral reforms, restoration of the rule of law, media reforms, judicial reforms and many others are things that will affect many generations to come. As a result of this, we must all appreciate that once these reforms are passed, it is not the leaders who will benefit but the whole nation at large.

By law, the elections will be held on 12th August 2021. We still have over two and half years to go. The time to strategise is now. We have to start with small wins now so that the big victory is assured then. So this process of focusing on issues of common interest will also give an opportunity to the leadership to learn each other and understand each other’s strengths and leverage on them.

The people must support it. It must have a general buy-in from members of the public. The opposition political parties must work to upgrade their credibility and magnanimity. This can only be done by issue-based politics. It will not be called an Alliance of Opposition Political Parties if only one or two political parties synergise. There is strength in unity and even more in numbers.

The People’s Alliance for Change (PAC) is a political party that was formed to merge an alliance with the people. A true alliance with the people is one that puts the interest of the citizens ahead of itself. This is the only way the opposition’s alliance – whether on issues of common interest or in an election – will be seen to be relevant. We also need to be alive to the fact that the country is in dire need of a shift in its political leadership. We cannot compromise the fact that a new generation of leaders must be entrusted with the running of this country if we have to achieve meaningful development and create jobs for the people and give a support base to small businesses.

Andyford Mayele Banda
People’s Alliance for Change (PAC)