The UPND’s test of trust: will they secure reelection in 2026?
By Dr Lawrence Mwelwa
In the lead-up to the 2026 elections, the UPND finds itself grappling with not only rival parties but also a disillusioned electorate.
The people of Zambia are tired of broken promises and unfulfilled expectations, and their frustrations are mounting. One of the most pressing issues the UPND must tackle is the skyrocketing cost of living. Ordinary citizens are struggling to make ends meet, and they cannot be appeased with empty words or promises. The party needs to take swift action to alleviate the economic hardships faced by the people. The hunger and discontent of voters will weigh heavily on their minds when they go to the polls in 2026.
Another critical aspect is the accessibility and affordability of basic necessities like meali-meal, fuel, and electricity. These are the essentials of daily life for ordinary Zambians, and the mismanagement of these commodities has plagued governments around the world. The UPND must reassess its approach to ensure that these necessities are readily available and affordable for all. The government should be a source of support, not frustration, for the electorate. The UPND must also be open to criticism and dissenting voices. Embracing diverse perspectives and being willing to self-reflect is crucial for a healthy democracy. The party’s intolerance to criticism risks alienating segments of the population and undermining the democratic principles it seeks to uphold.
Having risen to power on the wave of a protest vote, the UPND must remember that maintaining the public’s trust requires constant effort, transparency, and a commitment to addressing the core concerns of the electorate. The 2.8 million who voted for them in the last election cannot be taken for granted; the UPND must work hard to retain their support and win over new voters.
One of the biggest challenges facing the UPND is the alarming depreciation of the Kwacha. This crisis is fueled by dangerously low foreign exchange reserves and heavy reliance on imports. To stabilise the situation, the government must prioritise building up foreign exchange reserves and promote local production to reduce dependence on imported goods. Support for local businesses and investment in key sectors are crucial for economic growth and alleviating the strain on the Kwacha. Furthermore, Zambia’s over-reliance on copper exports is a vulnerability that must be addressed. Diversifying the economy is not a luxury but a necessity to shield the nation from the unpredictable fluctuations in the copper market. The UPND must champion this cause and explore opportunities in other sectors to ensure a resilient and diversified economy.
As the UPND gears up for the 2026 elections, it stands at a critical juncture. The path ahead is filled with challenges, but it also presents an opportunity for transformative leadership. Fixing the Kwacha, tackling the cost of living crisis, and addressing governance issues require more than just policies; they require a commitment to the well-being of the Zambian people. Complacency and dismissive attitudes towards citizens’ concerns are not an option. The UPND must take a proactive, inclusive, and responsive approach to secure electoral victory and pave the way for a Zambia that is economically robust, socially just, and politically stable. The clock is ticking, and the 2026 elections will test the UPND’s vision, resilience, and dedication to the democratic aspirations of the Zambian people.
In addition to these challenges, the Catholic bishops have raised their concerns about the shrinking democratic space and suppression of freedom of expression and assembly. They highlight the intimidation of media houses, curtailment of media freedom, and selective application of the rule of law as worrying trends. The mistreatment of opposition members and the need for a more mature and responsible approach to politics are also areas of concern.
Transparency in economic restructuring and debt management is crucial, as the Catholic bishops call for the disclosure of agreements and contracts with bilateral and multilateral partners. They also emphasise the high cost of living, particularly the price of mealie meal, and stress the need to address the root causes. The review of the mining tax regime and promotion of local ownership in the industry are seen as essential steps towards economic stability and job creation.
Agriculture is another key area highlighted by the Catholic bishops, as they emphasise its importance in both job creation and food security. They call for improvements to the Farmer Input Support Programme and its distribution of inputs. Additionally, they stress the need for support in developing the manufacturing industry and addressing high lending rates to stimulate economic growth.
The disconnect between policies and implementation in service delivery is a concern, as the Catholic bishops call for investigations into challenges related to the Constituency Development Fund. They also emphasise the responsible use of social media and the enforcement of cyber laws.
Importantly, the Catholic bishops defend the Christian identity of Zambia and express their opposition to the LGBTQ+ agenda. They denounce the derogatory labeling of Archbishop Alick Banda as the “Lucifer of Zambia” and call for a public apology.
The Catholic bishops stress the importance of constant communication between the government and the people. They advocate for the review and reform of the Public Order Act and the enactment of an Access to Information bill into law to ensure the preservation of the multi-party and democratic character of the state. They emphasise the importance of unity, peace, and the avoidance of discrimination based on tribe, politics, or religion.
In conclusion, the UPND faces significant challenges as it prepares for the 2026 elections. The disillusioned electorate, the pressing issues of the cost of living and accessibility to basic necessities, and the need for proactive governance and economic reforms must all be addressed. The views of the Catholic bishops, highlighting the shrinking democratic space, need for transparency, and various economic and social concerns, provide valuable insights that can guide the UPND in its pursuit of transformative leadership. The path ahead is a difficult one, but with dedication, responsiveness, and a sincere commitment to the well-being of the Zambian people, the UPND can work towards a brighter future for the nation.
The author is a respected academician, politician, musician, and revolutionary writer. For feedback write to: firstname.lastname@example.org