“IMWE ba News Diggers!, tell ‘Yo Bally’ to start taking advantage of the PF scandals if he is serious about winning the next election. With what is going on in government, the PF cannot continue winning all these by-elections, including in the opposition strongholds; it means there is something he is not doing right with his team. He is just entertaining people on Facebook, but on the ground, there is nothing! Ifwe fwebali pa social media, we don’t even have voter’s cards, the voters are out there,” a UPND supporter wrote to us.

Another one added: “Nakaso anasheko Bally, abantu bali nensala. No matter how you look at it, in politics, you have to feed the people around you. That’s why he is losing even in his strongholds. PF knows this, and they are using it against him…njala ibaba and people will definitely follow food and money until you completely wipe out politics of the belly and inculcate politics of ideology – but that’s not happening in your lifetime.”

Well, like the ever-changing Zesco excuses for load shedding, the UPND excuses for losing elections keep evolving. For the past 10 years, they have been saying, “by-elections are not a good measure of popularity.” By the way, that point is only applicable to the ruling party,;if the UPND wins a given by-election, it means they are gaining popularity. Apart from that excuse, we have also heard about the rigging schemes of the PF. “They have been stealing our votes!” Then we have also heard about the abuse of the Public Order Act, and most recently, we heard that they are not allowed to campaign due to COVID-19.

Bembas say, “uwawa, tabula akabepesho” loosely translated as “a failure never runs out of excuses.” Mr Hakainde Hichilema has stood as a presidential candidate in the years 2006, 2008, 2011, 2015 and 2016 and is expected to stand for the sixth time in 2021. Only in the years 2015 and 2016 did he manage to come close to winning; losing by only 27,757 votes in 2015. During the 2006, 2008 and 2011 presidential elections, Mr Hichilema was lacklustre, stiff and appeared as if he was lecturing and complaining to his audiences, rather than asserting his political will power. Today, we are witnessing the same “I will fix it/everything” campaign.

So, ahead of 2021, the question is whether much has changed in the years past about the strongest challenger of the incumbent, or he still portrays himself as some ‘boardroom calculator genius’ who views his ascendance to the Republican Presidency as an entitlement owed to him by the Zambian people. Will he win the next elections or the PF will simply lose power and the Presidency will fall in his hands? That, we don’t know.

What we can say with confidence about the political state of affairs in Zambia is that we have no government and we, quite honestly, have no opposition. The past looks horrifying for the UPND and the future looks doomed for the PF. There has never been a scandal-riddled government like the Patriotic Front in history, yet there are still hundreds of thousands of undecided voters. There is certainly something wrong in the opposition, beyond just the UPND. They seem to lack a winning strategy.

Mr Hichilema has generated a lot of social media traffic and that’s good, but in an analogue society, you need to analyse that traffic and see how much of it has actual electoral value. If someone thinks that traffic directly translates into votes, then forget it. To borrow Seer1’s words, “you can say Bally this, Bally that, but there is nothing you are ‘ballying’ because on that day, Bally will be nowhere on the ballot.” If there is no realistic youth mobilization strategy run by the substantive party structures under the Secretariat, Bally will be buried, leaving his party more divided than it has already been.

Gaining ground on social media is great, but there is no electronic voting in Zambia, at least not for 2021. There is a difference between showing off popularity among those who have access to the Internet and securing actual votes. A thousand comments in one minute on a Facebook post mean nothing to the Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ). The winner of the 2021 presidential election is that politician who knows what really counts; that politician who is out there in the bush, strengthening the grassroot structures.

But what do we know? As we are told, when PF wins elections, it’s not the UPND that loses, but the people of Zambia; and they’ll keep losing until they liberate themselves like Malawians did. More like a man who says to a woman: “it’s your loss if you continue rejecting my marriage proposal!” Why do you keep proposing if you have nothing to lose? Such remarks lack the required humility from a potential next president.

Unfortunately, both front-runners in next year’s election have ego problems. They are difficult to advise. On one hand, the incumbent wants power at all costs and doesn’t want any suggestions against his candidature, while on the other hand, the opposition front-runner feels he has already won and needs to start working on his Cabinet structure. LOL!

Anyway, ba Zambia, fili eko tuleya.