UPND president Hakainde Hichilema says he would like the African Union and the SADC leadership to consider the forthcoming August elections illegitimate, owing to the “unfair and impartial manner” in which the Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ) conducted the voter registration exercise. In his letter dated March 25, Hichilema said the ECZ validated electoral roll indicated that the number of registered voters in provinces which strongly favoured PF had increased, while the numbers in the UPND strongholds had decreased.

“Dear African Union Chairperson HE President Felix Tshisekedi of the Democratic Republic of Congo and SADC Chairperson HE President Lazarus Chakwera of Malawi. We are writing to express our grave concern regarding the outcome of the recent voter registration process in Zambia ahead of the general elections scheduled for 12 August 2021. Based on the figures presented by the Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ), it appears that concerns that the new electoral roll was not developed in a fair and impartial manner have been validated. This is most clearly seen in the fact that the number of voters registered in provinces that voted strongly in favour of the incumbent Patriotic Front party in 2016 have increased significantly. Meanwhile, the number of voters from provinces viewed as traditional opposition strongholds have seen substantial decreases. We also believe it violates the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance (ACDEG) and the OAU Declaration on Principles Governing Democratic Elections in Africa. We therefore call upon Your Excellencies, to: Ensure the AU and SADC does not legitimize an election based on a compromised voters roll,” demanded Mr Hichilema among other things.

With all due respect, the UPND is wasting their time. Their complaint to the African Union and SADC cannot and will not have any effect on the August election results. If we are told that this letter was a matter of formality, then we will understand. But if Mr Hichilema really means his words, and he wants SDAC and African Union to intervene in the ECZ voters’ register, then he has very bad advisors, because any person who is politically astute will know that such letters are nothing but academic. It’s okay for the UPND to put it on record that there was unfairness in the manner in which the ECZ conducted the voter registration exercise, but to expect that those institutions can do anything about it is being naïve.

What has been done has been done. What is remaining now is to convince the people of Zambia to vote for them. Those are the people whom the UPND should be concerned about. If the Opposition party would like to report the Patriotic Front for any electoral malpractice, that report should be given to the people of Zambia. They are the ones who vote, they are the ones who can intervene, they are the ones who can punish the PF for their crooked ways.

There comes a time in African politics when no international organization can stop electoral malpractice, when no court can stop the injustice in the electoral process. There comes a time in African politics when the people have the final say. This is exactly what happened in Malawi. International observers from the African Union, and SADC among others endorsed electoral malpractice. But the people had the final say. We are at that stage in Zambia. Whoever wants to win this election must convince the people of Zambia that they are capable of turning around the economy and improving their standards of living.

If indeed there is a wind of change, as we would like to believe, then that wind of change cannot only be in the UPND strongholds. That wind of change must also be taking shape in the PF strongholds as well. Therefore, it is meaningless to complain that the Electoral Commission has given more numbers to the ruling party. What the UPND should do instead is to target those so-called PF strongholds and campaign vigorously, leaving o stone unturned to make sure that the voters PF registered in those regions vote them out. That is the politics that the UPND must play.

It’s too early for the UPND to start crying foul or to start disputing election results even before the people cast their ballots. Asking the African Union and SADC not to legitimise the August elections already makes us wonder. What if the UPND wins this election? What would they say? Will they still ask the AU and SADC not to legitimize the election outcome?