By Elias Munshya wa Munshya
When some of our people expressed serious reservations about the so called UPND-PF Pact, they were met with severe intellectual attacks. Both Sata and Hichilema, decided to promote an idea of the Pact that they both were not fully committed to. They both were singing a song that they were not truly committed to. The Pact was going to work, not because the people of Zambia wanted it to work. The only people that were going to make it work are two: Hichilema and Sata. And it is the two that have made the Pact to fail. Sata and Hichilema were both naïve. They thought that somehow, the main issue in the Pact was going to resolve itself. They encouraged everyone around them to unite and convalescence around an ideal of a Pact, and yet they were the two gentlemen that never united in the first place. This so called Pact was a failure right from the start. It would be unnecessary to belabour the reasons why it would not work, but for the sake of argument we must revisit these reasons so that we may learn from them and hopefully posterity will judge our activities.
The first reason why the Pact was doomed to fail from the very beginning is a fundamental issue to do with our constitutional republican system. Zambia’s republican system impedes the subsistence of a coalition government. This is because; the President or the Executive is not elected by parliament but directly by the people through universal suffrage. As such, in our system a parliamentary coalition just cannot exist. Coalitions only work in parliamentary systems like the UK, Israel, Canada, or South Africa. In these systems the President or the Prime Minister is not popularly or directly elected by the people, but rather is chosen from parliament, or from the party with the most seats. It is the leader of the party that has the most seats in parliament that heads the State or the government. If no party has taken the most seats, the parties then can jostle with each other and form coalitions so that they can form a parliamentary majority to form a government. Contrasted with the Zambian situation, the leader of the Zambian government and Head of State is not elected from among the MPs, but through direct universal suffrage. As such, parliamentary seats are irrelevant to the presidential question in Zambia. It does not matter how many seats the president’s party has won in parliament, all that matters in forming the next government is whether a particular candidate has won the presidential election. It is after he wins the presidential election that he can now choose his Cabinet from among the MPs. And he can choose any MPs from any political party to form his cabinet. In Zambia, the President is the Executive, he is the government. This fact was stated very clearly by President Mwanawasa when he fired Nevers Mumba. Levy told Mumba bluntly, “I am the Government.” The UPND/PF Pact framed themselves on the basis of a coalition. A coalition that is alien to the Zambian political system—it was indeed a deceased idea before it even started.
Second, to build on the item above, a clear definition of who was being earmarked to become the president was an essential question that the Pact needed to answer right from the start. But in their wisdom, both Sata and Hichilema somehow thought this issue will resolve itself. We all knew that the Pact would only succeed to the extent that both Sata and Hichilema make it work. Additionally, before even defining the perimeters of their relationship these two leaders started presenting themselves for candidacy to stand on the Pact’s ticket. Nothing is more concerning to me, than for intelligent people to make decisions based not on fact but on illusions. HH when coming back from his overseas trip, thought that Zambia was as mature as the USA or UK, by claiming, right at the airport, that he should be considered for Pact’s presidency on account of his age. His political illusions led to yet another even more concerning delusion—the fact that the Pact’s presidential election is a free and fair matter that anyone can openly campaign for. Sata at least did not react immediately to HH’s insinuations, instead he waited until now to tell off Hichilema, in the words of the song, “age aint nothing but a number”.
Third, the Pact has failed because these two parties have radically different manifestos and philosophies. Sata is anti-Chinese investment, and has promised that he would grab ZAMTEL back from the Libyans when he assumes office. HH on the other hand is pro-business and pro-market enterprise. In fact, HH is more acquiescent to Chinese investment. On the constitution making process, HH’s party accepted to be part of the Constitutional Conference, whereas participation in the NCC was the reason why Sata fired 16 of his MPs. With such radical differences between the two, only time would tell whether they would go anywhere. Interestingly, there are several commonalities between the UPND and the MMD. Could this be the reason why a Pact between UPND and MMD is being floated as more realistic than the present one?
Fourth, the corporate structures of the two parties also were radically different. UPND has three vice-presidents and they are searching for a fourth, while PF only created the position of Vice-President for political expediency—to create room for former Secretary General Guy Scott. UPND at least has even had the decency to pretend to hold a party convention while, the PF has not even bothered to do so. Sata has repeatedly dismissed the idea of a party convention saying it is just a waste of time and resources. He would rather use the time and the money for campaigns instead of a convention. A man, who thinks like that, has the potential to cancel national elections so that he can have some more time to campaign.
Fifth, the regionalism and tribalism characteristic of both the UPND and the PF could not just make the Pact work. It is evident that the PF enjoys more support among Bemba speaking peoples, while the UPND enjoys wide spread support among Tonga speaking peoples. This regionalism between PF and UPND was very fatal. Parties with such tribal and regional encroachments cannot possibly work together. Sata has been accused several times by non-Bemba speaking peoples that he is a Bemba hegemonist. Most recently at a campaign rally in Mwinilunga a speaker accused Sata of having made some tribal remarks. As for HH his behaviour towards Saki and Lubinda is still fresh among many Zambians. In spite of efforts at making these two parties have a more national agenda, they have not made any real effort at changing their tribal perceptions.
Six, the Pact has fallen because the Pact in fact never existed at all. Zambians were taken for a ride. They were forced to believe a lie. Some within the two parties even met together, ate together, held conferences together, all in a bid to promote something that was just a fiction of their imagination. The Pact has failed, because a Pact never existed in the first place!