It cannot be disputed that UPND leader Hakainde Hichilema has upped his game when it comes to social intercourse. Those who follow him on social media will agree with us that the man, ‘fondly’ known by the Patriotic Front as Kalusa’ due to his numerous election defeats, is no longer that board room politician. The ‘calculator boy’ has picked a few generation X and millennial habits along with an unconventional language that has taken youths by storm.
Mr Hichilema and his media team seem to have adopted a strategy of being up to date with social trends on the street and in the townships. And it seems to be working, judging by the numbers on Facebook. It is not surprising that Mr Hichilema can hold a rally at the same time as the sitting Head of State and get more than twice the viewership, likes, shares and reactions on the live feed. We don’t know about those citizens who are not on social media, but we can share with them that the UPND leader has recently been getting people talking, and laughing out here.
He posted on November 22, 2019: “Iwe Ndani, please wake up, the country is on economic distress and you are not doing anything to address it. Nchito kumwa walwa na chite uyo. A Eurobond we obtained of K3.9 billion equivalent is now equivalent to K10.53 billion ($750 million).”
He posted on November 18, 2019: “All the best to our boys as they take on Zimbabwe tomorrow. We have Hope in you because Help is on the way. High-five elo punkenimo bane nga tuli pamo ne lyashi lya Hope and Help na Lesa pa ntashi muli ba Chipolopolo mailo!
Win or lose, ni Chipolopolo chabe mwana wa mai ndaba ivo vinangu votisokoneza monga economy suzachita iwe ndani. HH.
On November 17, 2019 he posted: “Ba Kopala laka! When your heart is filled with Hope and Help. You are guaranteed with a better tomorrow. Signal iyo pa Chipulukusu, in Ndola. Nga tuli pamo its high-five elo punkamo. HH.”
He posted on November 12, 2019: “Ah, wait a minute! Any idea on the number of electricity load shedding hours now? Looks like it is easier to count the hours of power than load shedding. Actually, having ZESCO power is like being found in possession of some illegal substance in broad daylight! HH.”
To those who are not aware yet, Hichilema has taken the initiative of calling random citizens; nurses, farmer, teachers, journalists, students etc, to have one-to-one conversations on the state of the economy. We understand, using his Facebook page, he has scheduled personalized interactions with his supporters as well as those who disagree with his position on national matters. In a country where there is an economic crisis and people are desperate to hear from their leaders, one can only commend what Mr Hichilema is doing.
But this should not attract bitterness, hate or jealousy from the Patriotic Front. They should not react with malice and sarcasm to rubbish the UPND initiative. Instead, the PF leadership must go for soul searching, they must ask themselves why their youths are beginning to pay attention to the ‘Kalusa’. Have they been listening to the complaints from the hungry, jobless youths on the Copperbelt? If not, this is a signal!
The social media aggression that the UPND leader has shown needs to be met with a desire by the PF to get up from slumber and focus on turning the economy around. As a party in power, they must view this challenge from the UPND as a wake up call to stop playing with people’s lives and focus on reinstalling lost hope.
This is the whole purpose of a democracy in a multi-party system. It is the job of the opposition to keep the governing party in check and to challenge its popularity, while it is an obligation for the party in power to remember the mandate given by the people. The Patriotic Front has a choice to make; they can choose to ignore the ‘Kalusa’ and take it for granted that their victory is guaranteed, or they can consider the changing social media dynamics as a warning shot.
They have a choice to ignore the cries of the people or to take advice from anyone including their ‘enemies’, as long as it can benefit the country. There are postings that Mr Hichilema has recently made, which in our view, the PF can adopt without even giving the UPND leader any credit if they so wish, as long as the solutions help the people of Zamia.
Unfortunately, it appears that the Patriotic Front’s most preferred solution to their dwindling popularity is to put JK and his band into the studio to start recording another hit campaign song ahead of 2021. But if they think they can repeat a magic trick and expect people to be fooled twice, they will be stunned.