PF UPND Pact - marriage of convenience?
by mazuba mwiinga
When a political pact between opposition Patriotic Front (PF) and United Party for National Development (UPND) was formed on June 3, 2009 ruling MMD Chief Whip Vernon Mwaanga called it ‘a marriage made in hell’.
But the pact leaders said Mwaanga was in for a rude shock because this Pact was going to work for it was called on by the people themselves. But Mwaanga still argued that, Zambia’s political archives show that no political alliances made on tribal lines were successful in the country since independence in 1964. But the Pact leaders argued that this alliance will work because it involves Zambia’s first two big opposition parties whose members can’t be weighed evenly with those of the MMD. But Mwaanga repeatedly said “PF leader Michael Sata 73 and UPND leader Hakainde Hichilema 48 are totally different people with far more different ideologies and beliefs and can’t work together because they both love power too much”.
With little known of the agreements made in that closed door meeting at the formation of the Pact, it came to seem that, that little wasn’t enough to satisfy the public as to how this Pact will work; considering the fact that both leaders from the two Parties have strong loyalty and submissive following from their members.
Still in this quagmire of thoughts at the time, one of UPND’s big wigs Robbie Chizyuka, a Member of Parliament for Namwala, one of the historical Constituency in the Southern Province being the birth place of freedom fighter Harry Nkumbula; went on a local radio, Sky Fm and announced that, he can only support his President Hichilema for the leadership of the Pact which himself didn’t like. No one took him seriously for he is known to be a controversial man.
Robbie Chizyuka, though continued working with his Party still held his dissident view of the Pact solemnly to his heart. Today, he is an expelled member for “bringing the UPND Party in disrepute for refusing to accept the Pact”. He has put an injunction in the High court, and rumor has it, the President wants to award his ‘courage’ by giving him a position of Minister for Southern Province.
One year down the line, PF and UPND Pact, has garnered more dust with the speed of a snail muddled in insincerity, deceit and hide and seek maneuvers from both sides. In the last few months, its actions have shown everything one has to know about a marriage of convenience. Its members have grown too partisan, as they fretfully wait to hear who gets on the Presidential ballot paper in 2011. This multi-million dollar question has until recently instilled suspicions and name calling amongst followers.
But speaking on QFm radio July 16, 2010 UPND deputy spokesperson Cornelius Mweetwa said “the PF-UPND pact is not a marriage of convenience, but a necessary vehicle for uniting the people of Zambia and the opposition political parties’ voice”. His words were not convincing.
In dramatic turn of events, prior to the August 6, 2010 Local government by-election in Kaoma Ward Western Province, the Pact ate its own rule of not competing each other. With a history of regarding Western Province as a power house for UPND since its formation in 1993 by the late Anderson Mazoka, the UPND leaders in Kaoma Ward, thought it an automatic move for them to field their candidate, but in defiance, the PF local leaders refused arguing that their Party was more popular in the area and so needed the chance to contest. The standoff failed to lull and the two Parties went separate ways alongside the MMD. This was the start of a –would- be tag of war of words in the weeks that followed.
UPND leader for Copper belt Province Elisha Matambo on July 21, 2010 accused the PF of having little respect for UPND president and treating UPND like a junior party. The following day appearing on local Hot Fm radio Sata said, “If we wanted to bulldoze, either UPND or ourselves would have stood in Luena. We are far much stronger in Luena and we prevailed on our candidate in Luena not to stand as an independent candidate… I have not toured the country denouncing HH. But he has done so. I have not gone to the press, coming from America and say ‘I’m the best because I’m young’. I wasn’t born old.”
Sata was referring to a statement Hakainde had earlier said when coming from a visit at the White House that this country needs young leaders who are abreast with modernity. In that radio interview Sata , further stated that numerically the PF was bigger than UPND.
The Pact technical committee’s Press briefing the following day did little to convince the ruling Party that all was still well with their threatening adversaries. MMD sympathizer Senior Chief Mukuni of the Toka-Leya people of Southern Province commented that, “They formed the pact and quickly announced it to the nation with the hope of sending the MMD into panic. Now they are the ones who are panicking…they have gone back to their original acts of insulting each other.”
Sata’s words goaded UPND. Party deputy Spokesperson, Cornelius Mweetwa angrily replied on State television later, “PF is treating UPND as a minority Party in the Pact instead of an equal partner. But they forget that from the time the Pact was formed UPND has won more by-elections contested than PF”.
The public reacted differently to this warfare, many calling for the choosing of a Pact leader now to end any speculations and try to heal any wounds that may come as a result of some members feeling left out if their preferred leader loses. But the Pact technical committee maintained that the issue of leadership will wait to a later date. When that date will be, still remains a dating affair.
In August 13, 2010, UPND national youth leader Joe Kalusa branded the alliance as a ‘a headless Pact’ prompting a PF MP Chishimba Kambwili to fire back demanding for Joe Kalusa’s resignation from UPND for “ issuing derogatory remarks against the pact leadership”. But in a defiance move Kalusa said the national youth leadership of the UPND was a well recognized and respected wing in his party’s constitution and that Kambwili’s reactions on the youths’ demand for an explanation of the national programme, guidelines and regulations of the pact, clearly showed that the PF lacked respect for its youth wing.
On September 13, 2010 PF leader Sata put adverts in The Post newspaper calling on his members willing to contest for the forthcoming Mpulungu parliamentary by-election to apply. Joe Kalusa came back on the scene the following day gave an interview to QFm radio in which he condemned Sata for not consulting the Pact elections committee on which Party should be allowed to field a candidate. Sata issued a media statement calling for UPND to discipline Kalusa but UPND leader Hichilema on September 14, 2010 said, “We advise Mr. Michael Sata to follow procedure in airing his grievances against Mr. Joe Kalusa. Our party will not take disciplinary action against Mr. Kalusa because there had been no formal representation from him”.
The following day another MMD sympathizer, chief Mwanachingwala of the Tonga people of Southern Province said, “I told Mr. Hichilema to make a pact with President Banda and the MMD because that is the only way he can have a chance to probably come and stand for the presidency in 2016. He came here and I slaughtered a buffalo for him but he only ate one piece. I was very annoyed. Mr. Hichilema is the one to blame over the pact problems and not Mr. Sata because he is the one who joined Mr. Sata. ”
The public still nursing their wounds from this cross-fire, the UPND lost a Parliamentary by election under the flag of the Pact in Luena’s Western Province while the PF won theirs in Kasama’s Northern Province. Commenting on this result, PF Vice President Guy Scott wrote a controversial article in his column of the Post newspaper that the two Parties needed each other if MMD has to go. He stressed a appoint that annoyed UPND that, “the UPND no longer commands Western Province and PF commands 60% of popularity in the nation based on the 2008 presidential by elections and the UPND has 40%. To be 100% sure the MMD is out of power PF needs the 40% from the UPND”.
Spiky reactions from the UPND over the article prompted the PF leader to exemplify Dr. Scott’s writing as “This is not the first time Dr Scott has written such articles. He has been writing as an individual and has never written as PF vice-president. What he writes are his own opinion. So, there is no need for our friends (UPND) to be jittery.”
But UPND Spokesperson Charles Kakoma, refused to take Mr. Sata’s explanation stating that, “Guy Scott is a senior member of the PF, and whatever he writes or says amounts to represent the standing of the PF”. A call for separation started coming in from some quarters of the politic. But Hichilema chose to refuse to discuss Pact issues through the media saying their problems will be dealt with through their structures.
Historically Sata and Hichilema have had a bitter political standing before forming the Pact. At one point in 2008, Sata had called Hichilema a light weight in politics and a calculator boy referring to his economics education, while Hichilema had hit back that Sata is an outdated old politician who doesn’t know how to use even a simple calculator.
Their forming a Pact last year seems to have stemmed from some of the contentious issues that were coming out of the Draft Constitution. One of the clauses in the Draft Constitution were that for one to stand as a Presidential candidate needed to have a first degree and should not be more than 60 years old. Both clauses were seen as an attempt to block Sata from his presidential aspirations. And knowing the way politics play its tune in Zambia, it was so prudent for Sata to be in this Pact, just in case the two clauses pass, hoping at least for vice presidency if the Pact won with Hichilema as president. And Hichilema needed PF’s majority.
But with both of the clauses now removed, it seems PF has no fear for their leader who till now commands a lot of support from many parts of the country. But what worries anyone who cares is that, if this Pact has to fail, no matter how much popular the PF is, will never be able to beat the MMD.
Since then, a truce of silence has taken root over who leads the Pact as the clock ticks on closer to the anticipated elections next year. But another question remains un solved; how will that leader be chosen? It seems the public that called for this marriage can’t get it right either, let alone crossing their fingers for anything other than MMD.