By Gershom Ndhlovu
The UPND/PF, or is it the PF/UPND, Pact has squandered the people’s goodwill with which it was welcomed when it was announced just over two years ago. Truth be told, this political alliance between the two opposition parties is going nowhere. It is high time the two leaders, UPND’s Hakainde Hichilema and PF’s Michael Sata, faced up to reality and went their own individual ways.
Going by the history of elections in Zambia, which are normally held between October and December, political parties taking part only have nine to eleven months to prepare for the local government, parliamentary and presidential polls. For the two Pact parties to be still talking about the possibility of harmonising, rather than polishing their joint, manifestoes, policies and other strategies is too little too late.
The two political parties squandered their chance to consummate their “marriage” in June of last year when they officially announced the formation of the Pact at a rally in Lusaka. It was there that they should have told the nation their way forward regarding the manifesto, policy, leadership and strategy-wise. The statements coming out of the two parties now are not helping matters at all.
The danger is that if both the UPND and the PF hang on to the Pact which, for all intents and purposes, only exists on people’s lips rather than on paper, they will disadvantage themselves because by the time elections are announced, they will not be ready regarding who is to be their joint candidates at local government, parliamentary and most importantly, their presidential candidates.
If the two parties were serious with their Pact, the citizens would have by now known the presidential candidate picked by representatives of the two parties and the bickering going on, would have been behind them. What should have been remaining at this point in time was to tighten the last bolts and nuts of the government-in-waiting.
The most unfortunate development of the Pact’s existence is that the two parties have rarely held rallies together or at least acknowledged one another at these fora. It would appear to any discerning eye is that there is a lot of distrust between the two parties. Both leaders also think they are better placed to be the presidential candidate.
“While it is true that choice of the PACT Presidential candidate is important, the Joint Economic, Social and Good Governance programme is even more important as this is the basis upon which the citizens of Zambia are pinning their hopes on for a better Zambia.
“UPND believes that reaching consensus on the joint Economic, Social and Good Governance programme and the choice of Presidential candidate (together with other positions) should be taken as a package, not in isolation. In any case, the UPND’s considered view is that whoever is chosen to be PACT Presidential candidate should commit to the agreed Economic, Social and Good Governance programme.”
Principally, the above quote from the UPND’s statement of a few days ago underlines fundamental points making it reluctant to give away its position of leading the Pact. On the other hand, it appears that the PF derives its strength in being the second largest party at least going by the number of MPs in parliament and possibly that its leader, Sata, emerged second in the 2008 presidential by-elections.
Going by media stories, it appears that the PF is in full swing campaigning for itself in almost all parts of Zambia including the perceived UPND strongholds. From this alone, the UPND should abandon the pretence of the existence of the Pact before it is too late, to go out and campaign for itself in areas where it is patently weak such as the Copperbelt, Luapula, Northern, Eastern and parts of Central Province before it is too late.
The PF has also not refuted media stories of its potential cabinet which did not have any member of the UPND in it. This in itself shows how whoever came up with that list views members of the Pact partner party. This error of omission or commission could have been understandable early last year but it coming out early this year, especially unrefuted, is inexcusable.
Both the UPND and the PF should realise that the presidential poll parade is not shrinking, but rather expanding. Before the two parties know it, there will be eleven presidential candidates, obviously most of them pretenders, on the ballot paper. This is the time the two parties take decisive action on what they want to do instead of pulling the wool over people’s eyes about the existence of a Pact that is not there at all.
For now, I say to both Hichilema and Sata, cut the pretence about the existence of the Pact, or come up with something more concrete.
(Read related stories/posts here and here)