Opposition alliance without unity of purpose may crumble, warn UNZA lecturers

UNZA lecturer Professor Bizeck Phiri has warned that unless the general membership of all the political parties in the opposition alliance, together with the top leadership, are committed to key objectives, it may crumble.

And political scientist Dr Alex Ng’oma has urged the newly-formed opposition alliance to start offering credible checks and balances to the PF government and show Zambian voters what they would do differently from the current administration

Commenting on the alliance of 10 major opposition political parties, Professor Phiri urged the general membership, together with their leadership, to work towards achieving clear objectives or face the prospect of crumbling.

He wondered how the general organisation of the alliance was; what the objectives were and how individual political parties would be organised and function concurrently.

He further questioned how many of the 10 political parties in the alliance had representation in Parliament, being a critical platform where the voice of a political party was heard.

“To start with; is that alliance just between leaders themselves or does the alliance trickle-down to the membership of those 10 political parties? Are their party members in agreement with what their leaders are doing? Because that’s where the strength of an alliance comes in,” Professor Phiri, a political historian, said in an interview in Lusaka.

He warned that if individual leaders among themselves were agreeing, but people on the ground retained their own views in a “business-as-usual” approach, then the alliance would.

“In the past, alliances failed because leaders themselves did not agree who to field as a presidential [candidate]; for the alliance, among the 10, are they in agreement? Because to say we have formed an alliance is another thing, but each one of you quietly think: ‘I hope it is me they will choose to be a presidential candidate’; that has been a weakness of past alliances,” Prof Phiri observed.

He recalled that ahead of 1964, the nationalist movement, which merged to win the country’s hard-fought Independence, were successful because they had a real unity of purpose.

Approximately two years before Independence, Dr Kenneth Kaunda’s UNIP and Harry Mwaanga Nkumbula’s African National Congress (ANC) merged to form a coalition government on December 16, 1962, formally marking the end of European political dominance in colonial Zambia.

However, the thirteen month period between December, 1962, and January, 1964, was tumultuous as it was fraught with endless political infighting amid significant differences in party policy and political ideology; UNIP was more communist-leaning, while the ANC was more predisposed toward capitalism and free market ideals.

“In 1963, political parties, for example, UNIP and ANC emerged that saw the removal of United Federal Party (UFP) during Independence in 1964. It was clear that people and leaders agreed, there was unity of purpose, to be independent,” Prof Phiri recalled.

He has since urged the opposition alliance to avoid possible infighting, saying politics was about governance for the benefit of citizens.

And Dr. Ng’oma urged the newly-formed opposition alliance to start offering credible checks and balances to the PF government and show Zambian voters what they would do differently from the current administration.

“What we need to hear, for example, from the current alliance, is what is it that you are going to do differently from what PF is doing. What is it that the alliance is going to do better than what PF is doing? These are the things we need to know and that should be the purpose of the alliance,” Dr. Ng’oma advised.

He noted that opposition alliances in Zambia have failed to fulfil their purpose of offering credible checks and balances on the Executive because they had historically been formed for the sole purpose of removing an incumbent party from office.

“…Except that in Zambia, what happens is that alliances are formed only to fight the government of the day, only to see how best to remove the party in government without offering any credible alternative whatsoever,” Dr. Ng’oma observed.

He added that alliances usually crumble when it comes to deciding who is going to be the alliance presidential candidate, cautioning against such a possible move.

“There will be in-fighting among all the people involved; each one of them wanting to be president and that’s how the whole thing will crumble,” cautioned Dr. Ng’oma.

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