The imminent rise of opposition politics before 2026


The imminent rise of opposition politics before 2026
By Aaron Ng’ambi
On February 24th, 2023, the Republican President Hakainde Hichilema (HH) gave a speech to parliament, on issues of national values as part of his state of the nation address.

This time around it was different; there was no response to this specific address from any prominent opposition leader in the country. And above all, the speech did not make rounds or noise on social media, as compared to other times before when the President spoke to parliament. Thus, the reactions or rather lack of reactions from the public, and even from the President’s perceived “enemies” should be a cause for concern. If anything, this speech to parliament highlighted the possibility that the euphoria of Ballymenia has dwindled or in other words; the excitement which was once associated with “change” in 2021 and the man at the helm of the new dawn administration is slowly fading away. The once pronounced chant of “Bally will fix it” can be very hard to promulgate among the people countrywide. Nevertheless, the narrative that there is no viable opposition or even one organised political party to challenge the current government still persists. This situation places the ordinary Zambian people in a serious predicament; because on one hand there are many that seem disappointed with how the government is conducting its business, while on the other hand many of them also think that the opposition political parties can do better.

In the light of this uncertainty or predicament, two things should serve as a reminder to those in government first, and to the ordinary people at large. There has always been this misguided position, which most people so often misinterpret whenever the word opposition to government is brought about in any public discourse. It is a misnomer at best to only associate the word opposition politics with just existing opposition political parties. In fact, this is a common mistake that our people make over and over again. However, our past experiences for the last three decades have proved otherwise. As an example, we must remember that since independence, history has shown us that the most furious opposition to governments or regimes does not proceed from organised opposition political parties. But rather, this kind of resentment, discontent or disapproval of any regime is often from ordinary citizens who do not necessarily belong to a specific formation or political party. And this is usually ignited by the arrogance of those in power and happens at the behest of the mistakes which that ruling party or government could have avoided. Hence, the quote which is mostly associated with Sean MacStiofain, could not be more precise and more telling of such a situation, he says “It has been said that most revolutions are not caused by revolutionaries in the first place, but by the stupidity and brutality of governments.”

In 1991, the Movement for Multi-Party Democracy (MMD) was only about a year old, when they won the general elections and formed government. And what we learn from that specific experience is no different from the lessons that followed many years to come. And one fundamental point is that not everyone that voted for the MMD was a card-carrying member of that party. In fact, the party was relatively young, so much so that it could have been a miracle for them to mobilise and organise every citizen to attain party membership just before the early elections that were announced by Dr Kenneth Kaunda. Therefore, it is a matter of fact that the ordinary Zambian people had long rejected and fallen out of favour with the government and leadership of President Kaunda of the United National Independence Party (UNIP). Hence, the MMD then became a vehicle for them to oppose the regime, and oppose they did through the ballot box in 1991. Thus, the people’s revolution of returning to multi-party democracy was not the doing of one man or a few individuals called revolutionaries. But rather, it was the mistakes of Dr Kaunda and his government that made the conditions ripe for change. Therefore, the new dawn administration of President HH, should remember this lesson, if at all they plan to serve the Zambian people for a few more years into the foreseeable future. Otherwise, the conditions on the ground for an ordinary person are not favourable for the regime.

As the old adage goes “history repeats itself.” Perhaps not so accurate for Zambian political experience because in our case, it is the people and their actions who have repeated the mistakes of the past, and not necessary that history has repeated itself. During the 2011 elections, President Ruphia Banda (RB) made the same mistakes, and single handedly gave the Patriotic Front (PF) of Mr Michael Sata the presidency. The corruption allegations against RB, the arrogance of his administration and other negative vices associated with his government made it all possible for the people to revolt against his regime in the ballot box and elect his opponent. Even though the fundamentals of the economy were all intact, with single digit inflation, a GDP growth of 5-7 per cent, a solid exchange rate against the US dollar, low levels of unemployment etc. Unfortunately, the good economic indicators on paper were not trickling down to the common man on the streets or to a villager in the forgotten parts of our country. The cost of living was still high, and people were struggling to get by. Thus, these were the conditions or issues that RB should have addressed for him to gain the confidence of the ordinary people, and sadly for him, he did not do the needful.

Just a few years later, in the general election of August 2021, President Edgar Lungu proved once again that he had learned nothing from the lessons of history. His disgraced government, which was almost synonymous with all sorts of scandals and allegations of corruption, literally gave Hakainde Hichilema a chance of a lifetime. The analysis by Dr Sishuwa Sishuwa is correct and very accurate to say the least. He argues that President Lungu’s mistakes or his failure to provide adequate leadership is the only reason why we have President Hichilema in State House today. This is undisputable for anyone who seriously analyses matters of politics and history in context. Therefore, in retrospect, and as we consider the examples of how UNIP lost to MMD, then MMD to PF, and subsequently PF to UPND we should examine and remember the words of Marcus Garvey, a Pan-Africanist and founder of the Universal Negro Improvement Association, the first mass movement of Black people on the American soil in the 1920s. To paraphrase and borrow the words of the honourable Marcus Garvey who once instructed Black Americans (Negros then) by saying “organise your people, if you don’t the conditions will organize them’’, this is a universal truth for people involved in any just cause or struggle around the globe. It is also true for our politics, with history repeatedly showing us that ordinary people are not necessarily moved by what the politicians say. But the prevailing conditions are what influence them to bring about change. It was the conditions that organised people against UNIP in 1991. And a similar scenario played out in 2011, as the people organised themselves to defeat the MMD, despite good economics on paper. Later on, in 2021 the conditions on the ground organised the people to rise up against the PF, and ushered in the current administration of the UPND, led by President Hakainde Hichilema.
Unfortunately, just one year and six months in office; the conditions on the ground do not seem to be favourable for an ordinary citizen. Both the working class and the ordinary unemployed people are feeling the pinch of this economy, regardless of the good-sounding economic policies which are pronounced daily by the UPND administration. It is a matter of fact, that the cost of living is still high for an ordinary Zambian. That the price of mealie meal is still not affordable for many, fuel prices keep going up monthly, and there is no liquidity or cash in circulation. And above everything else, the Copperbelt still remains in limbo as the future of the mines at Konkola Copper Mines (KCM) and Mopani is uncertain. The levels of unemployment among the young people are off the charts, with no concrete plan from the government to fulfill the many other campaign promises made prior to the elections of 2021.

The message to the new dawn administration is simple, and it is a message of advice in good faith; there will be an imminent rise of strong opposition against your government in no time. Therefore, do not be like the RB administration with solid records of economic growth on paper, while the people do not feel or see tangible results of your claims and hard work. Otherwise, if these conditions prescribed herewith do not change before 2026, then this government can be rest assured that it will be these same conditions that will mobilise people against them, with or without an organised opposition of political parties.
Send feedback to:


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here