By Isaac Mwanza
Why did Mr. Hakainde Hichilema and UPND insist on renaming the Opposition Alliance as UPND Alliance?
Mr. Hakainde Hichilema had just emerged from the Party General Assembly where he not only went unopposed for the position of the UPND Presidency but also amended the Party Constitution to ensure no candidate contest for a specific office of the National Management Committee but everyone would be appointed by him.
From the UPND General Assembly, Mr. Hichilema had just become a god to UPND members who had been elected to nameless positions in the NMC, as KK was to UNIP when all party powers had been vested in him in 1971.
Quickly, Mr Hichilema’s next task was: how to deal with the Alliance now that he had successfully managed to deal with his internal party politics. The danger in that Alliance was the National Democratic Party (NDC) and Chishimba Kambwili. The other so-called Opposition Alliance members are just nothing but shell of themselves having no influence and no following at all.
Hakainde Hichilema has some belief that in 2021, he would form Government. No doubt, Dr. Kambwili was the most probable running mate because among all others, either within the UPND or the Alliance, none would manage to canvass the vote from Bemba-speakers, the Copperbelt and Lusaka as would Dr Kambwili.
Paradoxically, even the newly appointed UPND Vice President Mutale Nalumango, she has little influence among Bemba-speakers just as GBM influence had been overrated when he became the running mate in 2016.
What Mr Hichilema needed was Dr. Kambwili and not necessarily the NDC. Kambwili would simply have jumped on the bandwagon without questions but this is the man who, no doubt, tried to look out for the best interest of everyone than himself. What he didn’t know is that some of those whom he had tried to look for their interest were the opposite of him.
With the belief Mr Hichilema carries that he would win the August 2021, the UPND probably started contemplating the thought of having a powerful and ambitious Republican Vice President as Chishimba Kambwili with a good percentage of Members of Parliament belonging to his party.
If by any chance the PF lost elections as did MMD in 2011, it would be a little easier to dismantle the PF in Parliament than it would be to dismantle the NDC whose leader would, at that time, be the Republican Vice President and potential President in 2026. With Mr Kambwili as Vice President, NDC and PF still having numbers in Parliament, it would not be easy for Hichilema to govern, so the UPND could have reasoned. So what was the plan?
The plan was to frustrate Chishimba Kambwili in the same manner Michael Sata and Wynter Kabimba played a fast one on Hichilema during the PF-UPND Pact. I have a fair understanding of what was happening when the PF-UPND Pact was being dismantled but that is the story for another day.
Bridget Atanga who was until 2017 a member of the UPND had just been appointed Secretary General of the NDC and Joseph Akafumba who was rejected as UPND aspiring candidate for Livingstone Central had just been appointed as Vice President of the NDC. The appointing authority was Dr Kambwili himself, whom the duo now claim is not a registered office bearer of the NDC and has no powers at all.
The two former members of the UPND who now occupied the 2nd and 3rd Position in NDC were an entry point for the scheme to do away with Dr. Kambwili. This is where the journey is. But what is the benefit of this to Mr Hichilema in particular?
Unless you were young then Kaunda started on the same path as Hakainde Hichilema on a journey towards a One-Party State. Mr Hichilema does not want to form Government where NDC has Members of Parliament and a Republican Vice President he cannot control.
Mr Hichilema has just managed to become a god within his party where everyone now occupied a position at his pleasure. They can be replaced at any time at his own pleasure. For NDC to be in Government with the UPND, it is first impossible to fire the Republican Vice President. It is equally impossible to discipline Alliance MPs who would be in Parliament on NDC ticket.
Worse, Mr Hichilema whose party Manifesto has promises amendments to the Constitution if he assumes power would still not have it easy to amend the Constitution with Members of Parliament who belong to NDC and under the command of his Republican Vice President Chishimba Kambwili.
Mr Hichilema’s insistence to rename the Opposition Alliance to UPND Alliance was to ensure every MP stands on the UPND ticket in 2021, can be disciplined by the UPND even expelled if they espoused allegiance to any other person apart from Hichilema himself.
Kambwili would not only become toothless but also Hichilema would fully control Parliament even turn it into One Party Parliament, if he managed to get the PF MPs to defect. This is what he has done to his internal party arrangement. I know they may insult me for saying this but deep down this is the reality they won’t acknowledge. Mr Hichilema has gone the similar path Kenneth Kaunda went.
In short, Mr Hichilema’s scheme of the UPND Alliance and everyone standing on the UPND ticket is about loyalty to Mr Hichilema himself. This is the project that begun with changing internal arrangements where all UPND leaders espouse loyalty and sing praises to Mr Hichilema or risk being replaced.
What Mr Hichime did to UPND was extended to the Alliance of Political Parties, a few days after he successfully installed himself as the all-powerful Father within the UPND, the same way Kaunda did with those who seemed to have had influence. Kaunda had to bring them under the wings of UNIP and he was later to declare a One-Party State and become a dictator, “kumulu lesa, panshi Kaunda.”
The name of the Opposition alliance was quickly changed at a time when UPND had no office bearers to negotiate with other Alliance partners. So, who finalised the negotiations of the name and adoption of the UPND Alliance Presidential Candidate on behalf of the UPND? It was Mr Hichilema himself as all the 70 NMC Members could not have sat with a few to finalise the arrangements.
Mr Hichilema is moving at the same path that Bashi Panji was moving into transforming himself into a dictator. Kaunda had UNIP and a few good numbers of other Opposition leaders cheering him in the same manner some UPND and those Milupis are doing to him.
Again, let this sink that Mr Hichilema wants every other opposition person to stand on the UPND ticket, the party he himself has taken full control, because he wants only the party he controls to have MPs. If there is no NDC, and if he managed to subdue the PF MPs after August 2021, then Zambia will be back to a de facto One-Party State. With such power, one can only imagine the legislation Mr Hichilema will pass in Parliament.
As to Kambwili’s fate, the English say, it shall be seen what will become of him next. He is not wanted by the Opposition Alliance as long as he stands on his principles and does not bow down to Hichilema.
Can he go back to PF? The sad part is that he has stepped on the toes, insulted so many people, including Edgar Lungu.
What Kambwili can count on though is that President Lungu is a man with a big heart. Almost all who tried to undermine him (Miles Sampa, Mulenga Sata, GBM, etc) he embraced them, some he gave positions in Government, others in the party, Government bodies or diplomatic service. On that basis, President Lungu who is always forgiving no matter what can seat and listen to Kambwili if he shows remorse. Afterall, Kambwili and everyone is just in politics. There are no permanent enemies in Politics but only same interests.