In the past month or two, we have seen an interesting change of strategy in the opposition UPND camp. The newly appointed office bearers have resuscitated the dying morale in the party, and since the campaigns were launched by President Edgar Lungu, we have seen Mr Hakainde Hichilema rise to the challenge in a much more robust manner than expected.
When addressing his supporters, the UPND president shows an admirable level of courage befitting an opposition leader. Of course we still think he has a lot to change before he can convince none UPND supporters to convert, but so far he seems to be going on the right path.
In fact, to his credit, Mr Hichilema is one of the first politicians who raised the red flag on the NRDC saga. He also disclosed that the PF government had plans to sell land where Lusaka Central Prison is sitting today. We actually encourage him and his MPs to critically look at the NRDC Memorandum of Understanding, which the Minister of Lands took to Parliament last week. Point (3) of the agreement clearly states that AVIC International will construct a new Natural Resources Development College with the same scale or capacity as the current one, at an alternative location to be designated by government.
This is contrary to what everyone in government has been saying. They have been telling people that the new college will have more than twice the capacity to accommodate an increase in students’ enrolment. Mr Hichilema and his party could make a great deal out of this lie.
Many Zambians would have expected him to start on this note immediately after being released from prison when even PF members were persuaded by sympathy to listen to his voice. Sadly, he went into ‘hibernation’. While the nation was anxiously waiting to see him execute political strategies that would shake and uproot the Patriotic Front, Mr Hichilema took a sleeping pill and continued dreaming about the presidential election petition.
We are glad that he seems to have recovered now from the prison ‘torture’. His recent campaign activities cannot be described as boring. Mr Hichilema and the UPND have engaged in a high-pitched political counter attack on the PF that has proved that they are equal to the task.
The opposition leader is sounding more courageous than we have heard him before. He has demonstrated a desirable level of vigilance and reacted to government illegalities with vigour. That is what it means to give checks and balances; that is what people expect from an alternative government.
However, it is our opinion that the UPND president and his press advisors need to do a little bit more research on the issues that they use to challenge the Patriotic Front. We are afraid that sometimes he sounds unreasonable when he is trying hard to prove a point on a matter that is nonexistent.
For example, last month, Mr Hichilema went to town talking about a video clip where President Lungu was (according to the UPND) confessing that he lost the 2016 election but he refused to go, and plans to do the same in 2021. This was a twist of the truth. With all due respect to the Head of State, he was sounding foolishly arrogant and unpresidential in that video clip, but his message was simply that regional voting cannot remove PF from power.
Last week, Mr Hichilema was encouraging Zambians to make sure that they should use the toilet tissue branded with President Lungu’s face, which was being distributed. The truth is that there is no such tissue in circulation; it was a doctored photograph that anyone with basic computer knowledge could figure out.
We feel Mr Hichilema can cause a lot of damage to the PF without adding fiction to his arguments. He is a president of the biggest opposition party; a party that has a lot of intelligent members of Parliament. We expect the UPND leader to show that he receives accurate intelligence on political matters, which he must pass on to his MPs so that they ask more pressing questions in the House. He shouldn’t spend too much time talking about the wind of [regime] change coming to Zambia. When is this change coming and how?
In Chewa they say Mwai wamuzako saugonela pabwalo (you can’t rely on your friend’s good fortune). Robert Mugabe ruled Zimbabwe for 37 years and citizens in that country never revolted until he messed up by trying to install his wife as his successor. The UPND president should not be dreaming that he will soon wake up to find the Zambia Army and citizens on the streets marching towards State House to remove President Lungu for him to take over. The circumstances are not the same.
It is also laughable for Mr Hichilema to say that what happened to Jacob Zuma is soon coming to Zambia. South Africa’s Constitution is totally different from ours, their judicial system is more independent, their civil society and watch groups are more aggressive and most importantly, the opposition in that country is alert and working. That is why the ruling party revolted and removed the Head of State.
But that is not about to happen in PF any time soon. It is true that some senior PF officials don’t want President Lungu to continue in office, but they know that procedures for removing him are easier said than done. We therefore urge Mr Hichilema to work harder than he did last year and win the support of those who voted for PF but are now regretting, let him not waste time preaching that regime change will come sooner than 2021.
We heard what he told his supporters last week that since he was a schoolboy, he used to dream about examination questions ahead of time and his super powers have continued to show him his desired destiny. We think that he must stop relying too much on information he receives in the night when his brain is shut down. If his dreams were anything to go by, then we would be compelled to ask why the UPND leader participated in 5 presidential elections, knowing ahead of time that he would lose.