By Elias Munshya wa Munshya
The most anticipated launch of the UPND/PF pact has finally materialized. The Pact members were mobilized in Lusaka to launch a pact that they feel would achieve the aspirations of removing the MMD from power. But as I show in this article—the launch of the UPND/PF pact, while being a major political milestone in the country, is much ado about nothing since this launch has not answered the most perennial questions the Pact leaders must answer.
First, the real issue with the Pact is not whether the grassroots in the two parties are united or not. That is not the issue. The main issue is about whom between Hichilema and Sata will be the presidential candidate in the 2011 elections. Regardless of how many rallies and launches the Pact goes through, if it does not address the presidency, its prospects for 2011 remain bleak. A Pact candidate matters since it may determine how Zambians will vote in 2011. While the respective spokespersons of the two parties have said that the candidate will be picked through a vote-they have not elaborated how. They are just assuming that he will be picked through democratic means. Learning from history, no party has held truly democratic intra-party elections since Chiluba was elected MMD president in 1991. As such, I have no illusion to believe that there will be any meaningful democratic modalities to pick the Pact’s candidate. The two respective parties themselves have not held freely democratic elections within their parties, how then do they expect to exercise democracy when picking the candidate for 2011? All that is known, for now, is that both Sata and HH are candidates for the 2011 elections, and such an atmosphere is not helpful to convince innocent Zambians that there is a meaningful alliance.
Second, while it is true that mathematically the Pact may, taking the lead from the 2008 election, have more votes than the MMD—the political algebra just does not mean that they will have those votes come 2011. From the 2008 elections it is clear that a combination of the PF and the UPND votes comfortably beat the votes for the MMD. But that is where the faulty reasoning lies. The Pact may be assuming that people who voted for the two parties will vote for the Pact in 2011. This assumption is fundamentally faulty since it does not take into account the complex reasons why people vote in the first place. To assume that the Pact will take all the provinces that the UPND and PF as individual parties took in 2008 is flawed. As above, let me reiterate the fact that the deciding factor in the next elections will be the Pact’s presidential candidate. If the Pact fields Sata, Southern voters will not vote for the Pact—it is as easy as that. Southern voters have expressed in clear terms that the Pact will only be supported if it fields HH. On the other hand, if the Pact picked HH as its candidate—the MMD will exploit HH’s weakness as a regional candidate. This is the dilemma that the Pact faces. Either-way it is a bust for the Pact.
Third, the launch of the Pact is much ado about nothing since it fails to explain exactly what is being launched. To launch something, you need to have a plan. But the so called pact does not seem to have a plan in place. While they have a desire to remove the MMD from power, they lack a comprehensive plan of how they are going to do this, and they are assuming that by saying that they are a pact then they can easily boot out the MMD. What Zambia needs is not a pact, in the lines of the UPND/PF pact. We have tried those before and it has never worked. If it is political unity the PF and the UPND needed then what they should have done is to dissolve themselves and then form one party; head for party elections; elect a president; and then launch themselves as such. But going by Saturday’s event, they are doing things backwards. And it is this backwardness that will come to haunt them latter in 2011. This Pact has no plan and it is just wasting innocent Zambians’ time.
Fourth, both HH and Sata are right in saying that the Pact is people driven and in fact they are cautioning the people to guard the pact very jealously so that it does not fail. I see that to be a serious anomaly. Since when did ordinary people matter to Zambian politicians? I have no delusion to believe that the pact will work simply because the people say so. In 1991, unity worked because the MMD had a plan and its leaders (Wina, Mulemba, Lewanika etc) selflessly supported Chiluba once he was elected as MMD president. Besides, Wina, Mulemba and Chiluba never declared their candidacy for the 1991 general elections; they instead waited until the MMD had elected one of them as its president. From our political history, it is political leaders and not just the ordinary people that determine the Zambian political landscape. And regardless of how much ordinary Zambians want the Pact to succeed; if HH and Sata do not make it work, then it would not work. What HH and Sata need to understand is that the future of the Pact does not lie in Chiwempala, Chawama, or in Chama, but rather in Rhodes Park and Kabulonga where Sata and Hichilema live. And if they do not agree right there in Kabulonga I do not see how the ordinary people in Milenge will make the Pact work. The fact that the Pact is people driven and not leadership driven is the very reason why it will fail come 2011. HH and Sata can do the people a great service, by agreeing on a clear plan of unity which should make them excuse themselves from 2011 candidacy until their Pact chooses a president to lead the Pact. In the meantime, they are working from a wrong assumption that they are both presidential candidates until the Pact rejects one of them. How about if they worked from the assumption that none of them is a candidate for 2011 until the Pact decides on the candidate. But who am I to suggest anything to these politicians, they only do what they want to do and not what the people want!