THE dynamic nature of politics means that it’s almost impossible to predict who will govern our country during what period. The very fact that Mr Edgar Lungu is Head of State in Zambia today underscores our point. In 2011 when the Patriotic Front formed government, if anyone pointed at Mr Lungu and said ‘this guy will be Republican President in four years’ time’, that person would be taken to Chainama for mental check up. This is because, firstly, there were ‘better’, strong, influential potential candidates who were strategically positioned to be next in line. Secondly, and frankly speaking, there was nothing presidential about him and his demeanour. But the dynamism of politics proved everyone wrong.
Whether it was through violence or rigging, the fact of the matter is that those “potential candidates” are watching from the terraces today. That’s the nature of politics and this is not only true to Zambia alone. One powerful American media house got things so wrong in 2016 that they’re still struggling with the hangover of their false election outcome predictions. The mock candidate is in the White House and the ‘smart ones’ are still reading their books about how to become a successful politician.
Between today and August 2021, anything can happen. The people we consider as front runners in the ruling party as well as the opposition may be nowhere near the ballot by next year. We may sound crazy by expressing this probability now, but we may also be proved right 12 months from today. It is important for citizens who participate in a democratic process to keep an open mind. A well respected Zambian academician once said: “In this country, even death is a freedom fighter”. It sounds like an insensitive proclamation to make, but looking at it with hindsight, this proves to be an unfortunate aspect of the truth.
Our point is that it is too early to know who is going to be in charge of our country next year. Anyone who is so confident and certain about contenders or the winners of the next election is flirting with a potential heart attack. As we analyse the prospects of a potential Hakainde Hichilema presidency in our editorial opinion today, we would like to categorically state that we are not in any way suggesting that, come what may, he will be the President of Zambia next year. Like we have demonstrated above, the dynamic nature of politics teaches us to leave a lot of room for error.
Mr Hichilema has emphatically dominated his political rivals on social media. Youths, the working class and even haters are failing to ignore his early campaign euphoria. He is the man of the moment. Bally, they call him. Songs have been composed to the effect that Bally will fix it. The national debt crisis that the country has been plunged into, “Bally will pay”. People are being made to believe that under Bally, there will be no single day of load-shedding, mealie meal will be almost free, the exchange rate will be one-to-one with the dollar. Bally himself has said that the day he will be sworn in, the economy will peak instantly. There is need for citizens to be analytical and exercise caution over such commitments.
Those who are in the UPND campaign team have every right to continue peddling these messages. It’s their job to make sure that they attract as many votes as possible, even by way of deception. We have seen this method work before. Even a stupid, meaningless song can send someone into State House. So, our caution is not directed at them, our message is to the ordinary people who are governed. To say that Bally will fix everything is okay, but to believe that he actually will, is also another way of courting a heartbreak.
We can’t take away anything from Mr Hichilema. He is a self-made successful businessman, he has the right education, he commands a fair amount of respect and discipline from people around him. In more ways than one, he is quite presidential in his demeanour. While Adada in State House has been falsely promising to cut his presidential pay since 2015, Bally has put it on record that he will not draw a salary once he becomes Head of State (Yes we have not forgotten). So, depending on which angle you are looking at things, Bally may make a better leader than the Adada One.
But it is our responsibility to caution the electorate not to buy too much into the campaign promises that are now being churned out. If Bally becomes President next year, he will not fix it. He may fix some things and get started on the course of economic recovery, but he does not have sufficient magical powers to turn this country around from its current dive with the mere pronouncement of his election victory. It’s not about his capacity to fix, it’s about the extent of damage caused.
Not Harry Kalaba, not Chishimba Kambwili, not Nevers Mumba, not Andyford Banda, not Edith Nawakwi will fix this country. Not even Barack Obama can claim to have the overnight solution to our current crisis. It will take a very long time before Zambia reclaims its democratic accolades, before institutions of governance reclaim their authority, before corruption is rooted out, before tribalism is stamped out, before the overtaxed working class can be given some relief. Withdrawing cadres from the civil service, disarming them and reducing them to a singing bunch at the airport whenever the President is traveling, will not be achieved easily.
Whoever becomes President next year must understand that they are taking over a an extensively damaged country that will take a long time to fix. Be it Adada himself, Chitalu Chilufya, Bwalya Ng’andu or any other PF candidate, there is a mountain to climb ahead of us. In fact, whoever will succeed to fix Zambia will need to make very unpopular and harsh decisions.
Here is an example of what we mean: When the UPND and its supporters say Bally will pay back the loans, it will be foolish for anyone to expect that he will pay from his pocket. It’s also just as foolish to expect that he will succeed to have all the loans cancelled. So, where will the money come from to pay? We need to ask. It’s either the new president will have to borrow more and refinance the loans or more taxes from citizens and companies will be demanded to expand the national revenue base. There is also a possibility that the new president may consider removing all remaining subsidies for essential commodities in order to reduce the strain on the treasury. One way or another, people will be called to sacrifice for the good of economic recovery.
This is what we would like our fellow citizens to realise. These are the conversations that the electorate needs to engage in with their aspiring leaders. If, God willing, Bally becomes President, he will have to first fix people’s expectations.