Hakainde Hichilema, president of the opposition UPND strikes us as a man who can restore order if he went into State House. In many respects, he is a decent politician; too decent in fact because he embraces dignity, which is not a necessary prerequisite for Zambian politics. We strongly feel that given a chance, Mr Hichilema can bring back law and order in Zambia.

In saying this, we are not insinuating that the UPND leader would create paradise in this country if elected President. There is no one who will get into State House and turn Zambia around, away from the rampant abuse of office and public resources – for as long as we remain with the current ill-given Constitution. The amount of power that a Head of State wields under the Constitution of Zambia is too dangerous. It makes it impossible for anyone who takes over office to manifest self-discipline and respect the separation of powers. They will all be the same.

We recall that in 2010 during president Rupiah Banda’s reign, Inonge Wina who is now Republican Vice-President condemned the MMD regime for being corrupt. Under the armpits of Michael Sata, Wina vigorously took on Banda for abusing the Public Order Act and for threatening to shut down private media. Today, we don’t even know what Wina has to say about what her own government has done and continues to do.

So therefore, under a Constitution that gives power to a sitting President to decide who leads the electoral body, the judiciary, the Auditor General’s office and the Anti Corruption Commission, there is nothing that can change. To fix Zambia’s governance problems, we need a one-term head of state to go in and remove all the unnecessary powers from the presidency, at the expense of re-election. That way, any person who goes into State House would find a considerably weak presidency, but an exceptionally strong governance system.

Our point is that, bad as our Constitution is, we need a leadership that can uphold it. It’s sad enough that our laws are designed to benefit those who are in control of political power, but to see a government oppress its own citizens in the manner that the PF has been doing is unacceptable. That is why we feel Zambia needs a leader who can, at least, uphold the rule of law; a president who can uphold the constitution in its current state and restrict their actions to what is permissible under the law. Our view is that Mr Hichilema might be that leader.

The problem however, is that much as he might make a better president, Mr Hichilema seems to be struggling to weather the storm as an opposition leader. His diplomacy is good for a sitting President, but his lack of aggression is bad for a person seeking power in a Zambian political setup.

We say this because, just like many Zambians, we thought after leaving prison, Mr Hichilema was going to turn the tables and capitalise on the overwhelming public sympathy that prevailed while he was in incarceration. As a matter of fact, he promised that he would do so when he held his first press briefing following his release from jail.

“It is not correct for our people to continue living in the manner they do. We have to do something and we are committed to doing something. Just watch what we are going to do in a couple of days and months, just watch. There are many people who were saying ‘oh, azachoka mu jele obeba (he will come out of prison a tired man)’, Hakainde oyembela ng’ombe angabebe? [Hakainde who herds cattle can get tired)? I want to assure you that we are stronger now than before, we are 10 times stronger than before we were incarcerated,” said Hichilema.

It has been a month and half now, Zambians are still waiting to “watch” what he will do. They are still wondering ngati sanachoke mu jele obeba. So far, it is clear that he has not come out of prison 10 times stronger. And that is where the problem lies. Unless there is a secret strategy that he is scheming with other UPND leaders, prison seems to have sucked out the little political venom that our biggest opposition leader had.

Prison gave HH what he was lacking in politics – simplicity. It transformed him from a boardroom politician to a common hustler on the street. Those who viewed Mr Hichilema as a rich elitist started considering him as one of their own. But what has happened? The rich man has continued to flaunt his wealth, posing at his cattle ranches on Facebook, holding press briefings from his billionaire mansion. Of course there is nothing wrong with that, expect it does not portray a man who understands the sufferings of the Zambians he seeks to serve.

We expected that after leaving prison, Mr Hichilema would gather everyone in the opposition, including Chishimba Kambwili, and demand accountability from the PF with double the aggression. We expected that when the controversial fire-tender story was brought out, Mr Hichilema and his MPs would be in the forefront demonstrating. But according to the latest statement from his office, the opposition leader asked the police to allow those who wanted to demonstrate – not interested enough to join the protests himself.

We urge Mr Hichilema to watch the Roan PF member of parliament very closely and learn one or two things from him. Kambwili is not likely to win the election in 2021, but no one can deny the fact that he is already such a force to reckon. He is already a fierce factor in Zambian politics and at the pace he is going, Kambwili may be the kingmaker. Those who have remained in PF know that Kambwili has gone away with a lot of their votes, but the UPND should not make the mistake of thinking their support base will remain intact, because Lusaka and Copperbelt are politically fluid provinces where voters are not loyal.

It will be really unfortunate if Mr Hichilema will gain nothing out of his 127 days illegal imprisonment. We know he would be a better man in State House, given the limited options we have, but the mountain seems a little too tall for him to climb.