By Dr Charles Ngoma

Fred M’membe’s Socialist Party is campaigning against the United Party for National Development(UPND), AGAIN! M’membe is forgetting some very important points.

Hakainde Hichilema took over the leadership of the UPND in 2006 when he was a political nonentity and a novice. The political map of Zambia did not have a person called HH. Immediately after taking over, the UPND fractured when several prominent and well known members left the party. Furthermore, it was M’membe himself at The Post who de-campaigned HH whenever he hit the keyboard. He branded the UPND as a ‘Bantustan.’ At that time M’membe was a better known personality in Zambia than HH, having been at the helm of the most popular newspaper for 16 years.

HH competed against seasoned politicians who were household names in the first three elections that he lost. The real test for HH came in 2015 against a candidate who had not been in politics for long. Whether it was Dr Guy Scott’s dislike of the candidate or the democratic credentials, that denied Edgar Lungu state resources to run his campaign, we will never know. Nonetheless, like Banda before, Lungu may have won a sympathy vote, beating HH to second place by under 30,000 votes.

HH’s real test came in 2016. I would argue that this was his first real test as a politician and to fight the election with at least 10 years in the public eye. Furthermore, this was not a bye-election and the PF had been in power for 5 years (divided between Sata and Lungu). Against this background, HH lost by about 100,500 (2.7%) to the incumbent Lungu who had used state resources to the full for his campaigns. That result was disputed and never pronounced upon by the newly constituted Constitutional Court due to a technicality.

You cannot blame HH for thinking that he could have better luck next time. The man has matured as a politician and in spite of all that has been thrown at him left, right and centre- arrested umpteen times, denied the oxygen of publicity in public and taxpayer funded media and surreptitiously financially investigated, slandered by hired guns, he is still standing. Some people once out of favour with the ruling party sooner rather than later return to their vomit when the going gets tough. Others face charges of tax evasion and abuse of power and financial impropriety. Not so with HH. The man has shown moral and ethical integrity very much like our recently departed dear KK. His enemies are now accusing him of benefiting from his diligence at his work!

One wonders where the opposition would have been today if someone else had succeeded Mazoka as leader of UPND. Many of the contenders have turned out to be political flip flops. If President Lungu has done anything well, it is because he has had to compete with a formidable opponent. There is a rat knowing at his heels. The late Levy Mwanawasa appreciated the late Michael Chilufya Sata as a worthy opponent. He is on record saying that he worried when Sata became ill and feared to lose him. This is what democratic politics should be like.

Competition is good for progress. The Zambian people must give credit to the man who has given the PF a good run for their money, or whose ever. Every patriotic Zambian, and this includes those in the ruling party, must welcome a strong, uncompromising and lively opposition.
HH deserves a chance to take the next penalty and we wait with bated breath whether he will score, this time. The last time he scored, he was ruled offside by the referee, who then refused to view VAR. This player has been getting better all the time, but if he misses, it is probably his last chance. Which other political party would have the wherewithal to take on an emboldened PF?


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