When the Opposition Alliance was formed earlier this year, many Zambians applauded the decision of our politicians to unite for a greater cause, which is, providing checks and balances with one strong voice.
We were among the many who applauded the formation of the alliance and in our opinion entitled “A vibrant opposition is as good as an efficient govt”, we urged and warned the members of the alliance to have a greater cause than simply fighting President Lungu. We also warned that uniting for ulterior motives has the potential to leave the opposition even more fragmented than it already was.
Below is a summary of what we wrote in that editorial comment:
This united opposition front, or whatever appropriate name it has adopted, must be supported by all well-meaning Zambians. In fact, it is good that various political parties are showing willingness to work together before the hype for the next general elections reaches climax.
If anything, a vibrant opposition is as good as an efficient government, if not better. People think this unity is too early or premature because they want it to be formed for one purpose and one purpose only, which is to remove President Lungu and his Patriotic Front from power. Yes, eventually, it inevitably culminates into that objective, but forming political pacts for that sole purpose is what has caused united fronts to lose elections in the past.
We would like to argue that the responsibility of changing government is not bestowed on the opposition, but the people who desire to be governed differently. People want a government of leaders who are willing to sacrifice their personal interests, leaders who genuinely love this country, take advice, tolerate criticism, respect the provisions of the Constitution and have the capacity to unite the country.
We must warn that uniting for ulterior motives has the potential to leave the opposition even more fragmented than it already is. If those who are organising this political alliance are going in with the desire to weaken and swallow other political parties, there will be a devastating fallout from the divisions that will ensue because new enemies would have been created.
For this alliance to work and last long in delivering the desired checks and balances on behalf of the people of Zambia, its leaders must suspend their egos. Those who feel powerful and more popular must be willing to lower themselves and elevate those alliance partners who may be perceived to be weak and less popular; otherwise why are they inviting them to a formation if they don’t recognise their relevance?
What we feared has already started manifesting. The NDC feels aggrieved that that their alliance partner UPND has fielded a candidate in Kitwe’s Lubwa ward, despite the NDC withdrawing its candidate in Katuba constituency to support the UPND.
“I am just shocked because even as late as yesterday, my vice-president and I had a meeting with HH and Mrs Nalumango where we requested for their support and out rightly, we agreed to support them in Katuba but they have insisted to field-in in Kitwe. It actually puts us in a very awkward position, you know, if you are going to compete in a by-election, it is awkward and what might be said to one another may not be pleasing because we are fighting to get the seat. I really feel so bad personally, I have always had an impression that we are going to have a very good working relationship where we should agree that ‘let this one field-in, let this one not field-in’, but to end up in a situation where they have insisted to put up a candidate in Kitwe, it is something that has shocked me,” said NDC president Chishimba Kambwili.
Mr Hichilema must not rush to condemn this complaint from his brother. Having served in the opposition for much longer and being a leader of the biggest opposition that stands to benefit more from this Alliance, he must call Mr Kambwili and hear his inner thoughts. What has really made him so disappointed and how can he be helped?
If there has never been any such electoral pact with the alliance members, ask Mr Kambwili where he got the impression that UPND would stand down in other future by-elections to support the NDC? Let Mr Hichilema sit down with his aggrieved brother and find a win-win situation that will keep the alliance together. Kambwili has not insulted anyone, he is merely expressing his disappointment, which is within his right.
But if the UPND insists on this egoistic path they have taken, which suggests disregard for others, then PF will not need to break a sweat come 2021. If this Opposition Alliance fails, the PF will only need to show up on election day to claim victory! Doctor Humble President Lungu will have his third term in State House and the UPND will be left petitioning another election.