Opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) leader Chishimba Kambwili says the Patriotic Front has lost popularity on the Copperbelt, and that is why President Edgar Lungu has been frequenting the Province to try and win back the lost loyalty from the ruling party’s grassroots.

“When a government becomes very complacent, arrogant and develops an ‘I don’t care’ type of attitude, they only wake up when things are bad. Now, everybody is trying to find out what has gone wrong? What are they going to do to rekindle their lost glory? It is just the poverty levels on the Copperbelt and all over the country, which have gone out of proportion. So, yes, on the Copperbelt they have felt the weight of NDC,” said Kambwili.

“I can tell you that the way PF will cry in 2021 will be more than how Rupiah Banda cried because they have detached themselves from the grassroot. How many times have you seen the President going to the Copperbelt within a month? It shows you that nafikaba! (Things are hot!)”

What Mr Kambwili is saying about the loss of popularity for PF on the Copperbelt is very true. There is no doubt that the Patriotic Front is very scared of what is happening to them in the region, especially given their Roan Parliamentary defeat. This fear is not something that the PF can deny because they have confessed it on several occasions. Almost on all the occasions when President Lungu travels to a Copperbelt town, this is the issue that comes out strongly. His Secretary General, Davies Mwila, also made the same plea to PF structures last week after realizing that a new comer called NDC is dismantling the ruling party structures.

“As a party, we do not have any problem. The problem is ourselves, that is what I know. If the district is not united then in the constituencies it will be worse. So I don’t want to hear any more fighting; let’s fight the opposition, let’s not fight ourselves. You are failing to fight with NDC but you are fighting amongst yourselves. If there is no unity, it’s difficult even for people to defend the party when they go on radio,” Mwila observed.

To start with, when a party and its government are doing the right things, officials have nothing to defend when they go on radio. But it is now common knowledge that the PF and its government have committed so many atrocities on the people of Copperbelt. Desperation to win back this lost confidence has caused them to make wrong decisions, decisions which have created further problems for them.

The youths who were promised jobs have been abandoned, some have died while scavenging to eat at the Black Mountain. The PF grassroots have realised that their party leaders care more for themselves and their rich friends. They listen more to those influential defectors who come back after insulting the party. No one is looking out for the youths. When they talk, they are threatened with expulsion. The levels of arrogance among the PF bosses are as if they can win elections without the support of the grassroots. The PF intraparty elections have also proved to be useless as the winners are decided by State House and not the ballot.

So the youths have decided to look elsewhere for hope. This is the reason why the National Democratic Congress has gained so much popularity on the Copperbelt because Mr Kambwili has demonstrated that he understands what these youths are going through and he is speaking their language.

When we held our Public Discussion Forum in Kitwe, we saw how popular and organized the NDC is on the Copperbelt. It was the only party that facilitated transport for it’s members to attend the public discussion on job losses on the mines. So it did not surprise us much to see the party win the Roan Parliamentary by-election.

We can add that the fear that the PF has for NDC is not misplaced, because history has shown so far that no one wins the general elections in Zambia without the Copperbelt vote. So the PF is in order to panic, things are not well for them.

But while we acknowledge this reality, we would like to petition Mr Kambwili and his NDC leadership that they must not use the people of the Copperbelt for political expediency. Finding faults and pointing fingers is easy, but fixing the problem is another ball game altogether. The NDC must not just talk for the sake of condemning, let them not stop at identifying the challenges facing the people. We want to know what they will do differently.

While it seems clear that the voters in Ndola, Kitwe, Chingola, Luanshya, Chililabombwe, Mufulira and all other mining towns don’t want PF anymore, it would be a lie to say that they want NDC or UPND. What the people want is better living conditions, that’s all. It doesn’t matter who is in State House. The retrenched miners don’t want NDC; they just want their jobs back. The employed workers don’t want UPND, they just want better wages and investors who respect labour laws. In short, they want a government that listens and acts in their interests.

Therefore, those in opposition must not grow big headed and take this support they are receiving from the Copperbelt mining community for granted. They should promise practical solutions to these voters if they truly care for their needs. If they don’t, they too will face rejection. The PF also started with a bang in 2011 while they were in opposition, but they have gone back to beg for voters after realizing they are going down.

The Bembas says “ubuchenjeshi wa nkoko, pungwa tasakamana”.