For the first time since losing the 2016 general elections, UPND leader Hakainde Hichilema has played the kind of opposition politics that the ruling Patriotic Front dreads. He has come out of the boardroom where he usually spends time talking to himself and a few people who understand the world economy, to speak a language that communicates with the ordinary citizens.
It is not only his words; it’s his deeds too. In the past three months or so, Mr Hichilema has been doing what Zambians expect a leading opposition figure to do when the party in power keeps manufacturing scandals.
After being released from prison in 2017, so much was expected of Mr Hichilema but instead, he went to sleep, at least in our opinion, leaving his party on auto pilot as it lost parliamentary and local government seats. Today, it seems, the man has woken up and is back with a bang!
The Patriotic Front do not like this. They are in total shock because they did not expect this type of politics from Mr Hichilema, especially at a time when their own party is badly hit with internal divisions. They have to deal with central committee members who don’t want to go to the next general elections with Mr Davies Mwila as their Secretary General, they have to unite ministers who can’t speak to each other because they are jostling for the running mate position, and they have to deal with the corruption that has been engraved on their foreheads.
Mr Hichilema has given the PF a fight, which they are not used to from the opposition. They have been used to issuing scathing rebuttals through the party secretariat, and the Ministry of Information. But now the UPND leader has made them dance to their own failures. His plan on how he would deal with load shedding and the fuel price reduction strategy have gotten people talking. Over 1,500 comments on his Facebook posting within just a few hours of sharing his idea!
And now his response to the hunger crisis has given the PF a panic attack. It has left government with no option but to stop him. He has put the PF in between a rock and a hard place. They don’t have enough food to feed all the hungry people but they also don’t want Mr Hichilema to contribute and get political mileage out of it.
We recall that for a long time, the PF had been challenging Mr Hichilema to solve some of the country’s problems with his money. They said “you are a rich man, why don’t you donate to the needy?” But today, after the opposition leader has accepted the challenge, State machinery has swung into action, blocking him from sharing food with the starving population.
How do you stop someone from giving? If Mr Hichilema says “using my personal money, I want to drill boreholes for communities that don’t have ‘worra’ and deliver relief food to those that don’t have”, what reason can you have for stopping him? When did you create a law that anyone who wants to donate to the needy must give their donations to the DMMU?
Yes, HH wants political mileage out of a crisis situation, but what is wrong with that? Who ever donates and doesn’t want to take credit for it? Just accept that HH has outplayed you on this. Let him donate so that people, including hungry PF cadres, can eat.
We have noted that out of panic, the PF has started finger pointing. Others are blaming the pressure from the opposition on the silence of Mr Isaac Chipampe at State House. We can’t help but laugh. Yes, Mr Chipampe is permanently sedated, and perhaps needs a pillow so that he can enjoy his sleep, which is good for him and bad for a President like Mr Lungu whose mouth needs a baby sitter. But Mr Chipampe’s silence cannot be blamed for the dwindling political fortunes of PF.
What the PF needs to know is that they have created a lot of room for the opposition to shine. Even PF members hate PF for what this government is doing to them. In their social media blogs, they talk about how bad things have become, how their small businesses are sinking and only the corrupt top leadership is enjoying.
We like what Mr Hichilema and his NDC colleague Mr Chishimba Kambwili are doing to this Patriotic Front. This is good for the whole country, regardless of one’s political affiliation.
We can see that the Head of State has also joined in physically donating and distributing mealie meal to hungry Zambians. This is what we need – to awaken the sleeping leadership.
Keep it up Mr Hichilema!