The recent UPND press conference at which president Hakainde Hichilema expressed concern that the ruling Patriotic Front was targeting his members of parliament and bribing them to defect, made very sad reading. But why is the UPND losing ground instead of gaining, in the face of all these national scandals?

According to the intel gathered by Mr Hichilema, State House is planning on giving as much as K3 million to UPND members of parliament so that they can defect, the same formula, which the Patriotic Front has reportedly been using on opposition councillors.

“I am told now that Lungu has made a decision that he will try one or two MP’s from the UPND and buy them as well. He will say, ‘what’s your salary?’ So, they will pay them for all the months left from 2021, calculate and then say, ‘here is your cash’, ‘what is your gratuity supposed to be?’, calculate, ‘here is your cash’ then even add an extra and then send them into foreign mission,” Mr Hichilema lamented.

“But honestly speaking, what about the people who have no food who voted for you? What about those who campaigned for you? What about those who have been killed for you to be in office? You can agree to take K2 million or K3 million? That is blood money, you take it and you say you are a shrewd politician. I want to say that it will be sad to have anyone of our people found in that situation.”

We shared this concern with Mr Hichilema because if indeed it is true that the PF has succeeded to infiltrate the UPND to the point of bribing members of parliament to defect, then this problem is not for the UPND alone.

Some people may not agree with us at this stage, but when the PF is done with deflating the UPND, it will be a matter of time before we all face the real consequences of a completely obsolete opposition. This is exactly what the PF has been fantasising about.

We must never forget that the PF has always relished a one-party state. Its secretary general has been on record telling the nation that they prefer a one-party state; and that their plan is to have no opposition left in Zambia by 2021.

So, Zambia needs the UPND to be alive and strong. But how has this party found itself in this predicament and who is to blame? Well, our opinion is that the problems that the UPND is facing cannot entirely be blamed on Mr Hichilema. This party has huge organizational challenges that it has grappled with for years.

For example, we recall that when Mr Hichilema was imprisoned last year, the UPND went into disarray. Vice-president Geoffrey Bwalya Mwamba vanished into South Africa, leaving the biggest opposition party completely headless. There were no party activities going on at the time and the secretariat was deserted. The only activity we saw was at Kabwe Maximum Prison, because the party officials and MPs felt it was more important to show their faces to Mr Hichilema in jail, rather than inspiring hope and providing leadership to the desperate grassroots in the countryside.

When Aljazeera knocked on the UPND door looking for an official who could represent the party in that famous debate around the treason charge slapped on Mr Hichilema, the party spokesperson Mr Charles Kakoma and his deputy Mr Cornelius Mweetwa were nowhere to be seen. The senior most UPND official we saw on television defending the party president was Brian Mwiinga. The secretary general, Mr Stephen Katuka, the national chairperson, Ms Mutale Nalumango not to mention the members of parliament, were all watching the television programme from the safety of their houses.

We are sure that these named people perhaps had very good explanations for that, but nevertheless, that in itself is a statement of what is going on in the UPND.

Assuming it’s true that some UPND MPs are on the PF payroll, how can Mr Hichilema be soliciting for this information from Mr Saviour Chishimba, a leader of another political party? Where is his own intelligence? Why are these things happening behind his back and no one is telling him about it?
Something fishy is going on in the opposition party. It must worry the rest of us as Zambians that when the PF obliterates the UPND, it will be very easy for them to suppress and destroy any other party that may arise to challenge them.

We are tempted to think that some UPND members are entirely blaming Mr Hichilema for his failure to win elections, but the truth is that elections are not won by one man. If Mr Hichilema has failed, then the UPND as a party has failed him. We say this because we know for a fact that Mr Lungu would not be in State House today had it not been for his aggressive campaign team and (most importantly), a shrewd media team; which has continued with its ingenious publicity ideas, such as the PF interactive forum.

Currently, the PF has a dedicated social media team in charge of State House, the President and the party secretariat. These informative PF social media platforms are competing with each other for news, and as a result, voters can’t miss a PF event. Whether it’s happening in Chifunabuli or Kanakantapa, their media team is there.

As we speak, we don’t know if the UPND has an official Facebook page for the party secretariat. If it exists, we don’t know what it is called and how many followers it has. If it exists, it could be an initiative of one dedicated member who has not received any meaningful support from the party since the dawn of social media.

What we have seen instead is a pandemonium of UPND propagandists toiling under the shadow of Mr Hichilema. They are sleeplessly on duty populating his Facebook page with videos and campaign pictures. Even the social media campaign of a mayoral candidate was done on the president’s page. These propagandists want to be noticed as hard workers under Mr Hichilema’s nose, and they feel if they work from too far away, he may not recognize their input when the time for reaping comes.

But as a consequence of this, nobody knows what activities are happening in the UPND away from Mr Hichilema and perhaps his deputy. Is it a question of resources? No. It is called positioning. People in UPND like to work within the eyesight of Mr Hichilema because they see State House press aides, political advisors, private secretaries and chiefs of staff among themselves, even when elections are still three years away.

It’s either UPND members fear Mr Hichilema so much that they are scared of creating initiatives, or Mr Hichilema doesn’t want anyone else to overshadow him by introducing mobilisation activities. Whatever the case, this party’s problems are bigger than its leader.