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Tuesday, 9 June 2009

On the Pf / UPND alliance

A detailed assessment of the new UPND - PF alliance from the Times of Zambia. Naturally, not the most objective or logically consistent of articles, but it does contain one or two important points that are still worth pondering (provided you are willing to work through the mud). I leave the reader to find them :

The question is: do political party pacts work in Zambia? No, maybe the question should be: will the pact between the Patriotic Front (PF) and the United Party for National Development (UPND) be able to work?

Agreed, the idea of pacts among political parties in Zambia is not new. The first pact in Zambia, and possibly the most important in its history, was when the African National Congress (ANC) was presented with an opportunity to participate in either a government led by a settler party- the United Federal Party (UFP)- or that by the nationalist party- the United National Independence Party (UNIP). Although UNIP was a breakaway from the ANC, its leader, Harry Mwaanga Nkumbula, decided to form a coalition government with Kenneth Kaunda’s UNIP because the major interest then was the formation of the first African government.

The background to that is, firstly, Northern Rhodesia was a British dependency, and a white settler to boot. Almost all Africans were equally oppressed. Racial discrimination prevailed socially in the form of segregation, economically in the exclusion of Africans from skilled jobs and politically in the very restricted franchise– until 1959, only 11 Africans had the right to a vote. The African nationalist movement, therefore, faced an external political enemy, Britain, as the ultimate imperial sovereign, and the settler-dominated governments of Northern Rhodesia and Central African Federation. Therefore, two consequences followed; a great need for unity among the subject population, which the ANC recognised in its 1962 decision to form a coalition government with UNIP, and, secondly, the manifest political irrelevance of linguistic and provincial differences in the face of a uniform blanket face of racial oppression.

However, this situation changed drastically at independence. British lordship and settler ownership both disappeared at independence, and the need for the continued pact between ANC and UNIP declined, and the political enemy now became internal. There was now competition between the ANC and UNIP, and sometimes within the ruling party itself, the more reason you will find the formation of the United Progressive Party (UPP) led by Simon Kapwepwe, Kaunda’s erstwhile friend.

But that is all in the history now. What is in the news now is the pact between the PF and UPND.

At a Press briefing last week, the two parties said they had agreed to work together at all levels on all matters of national importance and boasted that they were the only representatives of the Zambian people. “We have, therefore, started a long and difficult march in the same direction, not as one organisation but as two giants in Zambian politics,” they said. Mr Sata and Mr Hichilema further alleged that the MMD had in the past taken advantage of the differences within the opposition to entrench bad governance and massive inefficiency. They also said that in forming the pact, they were responding to the loud and growing appeal from the party members and the general public. Really?

So, what is the Zambian public demanding? One opposition political party? Mr Michael Sata or Mr Hakainde Hichilema as president? Removal through early elections of President Rupiah Banda who was elected barely six months ago? It is a pity that this country still has pessimists who still do not believe that political alliances can work. But is it really true that alliances, in this case that of the PF and UPND cannot work? Yes it is. Put differently, no, they cannot work.

That said, a critical look at the two opposition parties will reveal that they are poles apart. The only point where they trajectories intertwine is on their being regional political parties. It is a well-known fact that the stronghold of the PF, which in its near-decade of existence has never gone to the national convention, is largely in the northern parts of the country. On the other hand, the UNPD proved that its perceived tribal party tag by insisting on a southerner succeeding Mr Anderson Mazoka as president upon his death. If Mr Mazoka, a nationalist himself, was to come back to life today, some of the people in the leadership of the UPND would not have been able to look him straight in his eyes because of the tribal schemes they employed in finding his successor.

That aside. Just where do the two political parties share common policies and ideologies for them to be able to form a pact? And, by this, one means detailed policy issues capable of moving the Zambian enterprise to the next level. Or just say their economic policies. And that is just for a start.

From the outset, Mr Sata is a populist who leans more to the left while HH, as the UPND leader is affectionately called, a pro-business politician, almost to a point of being elitist.

When Mr Sata contested the September 2006 election, he clearly appeared as a populist championing the causes of the poor in the face of Levy Mwanawasa’s economic reform policies, which he said tended to favour foreign investors. He also accused Mr Mwanawasa of “selling out” Zambia to international interests, and at one event, he referred to Hong Kong as a country and Taiwan as a sovereign state. In response, China, which is interested in Zambia’s copper reserves, threatened to cut off relations with Zambia if Mr Sata was elected.

Now the China Mr Sata was talking about is one that has enjoyed cordial relations with Zambia dating back to the 1960s. Other than that, it is an emerging global power growing at a faster clip than any other major nation. You ignore China at your own peril because even super powers like the United States are clamouring to do business with this emerging economy. According to analysts, It is believed that China is growing fast and may surpass the United States as the world’s largest economy within 20 years. China-based factories already make 70 per cent of the world’s toys, 60 per cent of its bicycles, half its shoes, one-third of its luggage and already has an impressive amount of technological know-how and manufacturing capability. Huge companies from the United States, Japan and Europe have been eager to share their technology with China, with the hopes that they can penetrat the huge Chinese market. And that is the country Mr Sata has been antagonising.

In the meantime, the UPND’s economic policies, at least under Mazoka, were built around prudent economic management. When the MMD won the 2001 elections with Mr Mwanawasa, some analysts said he had bought into Mr Mazoka’s message of prudent economic management and holistic approach to fighting corruption. In other words, Mr Mwanawasa was rigorously implementing policies away from the policies that saw him in office although, it must be said, some of them were modified. In fact, some UPND stalwarts have themselves said Mr Mwanawasa helped himself with its manifesto benchmarks that saw him reduce inflation and interest rates and enabled him fight corruption including introducing fiscal discipline in the public service. A check on Mr Hichilema’s personal website will reveal that the UPND is committed to running a mixed economy, particularly promoting increased but properly structured private/public local and foreign investments in sectors such as agriculture, mining, construction, energy, tourism and manufacturing.

Even without going into the personal attributes of the two-Mr Sata and Mr Hichilema- it is clear that they cannot flock together. There is no guarantee that their marriage will last. In any case, it is not the first time that opposition political parties are entering into such pacts. Previous attempts, especially those in the Third Republic, have failed to yield their desired goal, which is: Entering Plot-One.

Even though both parties- the PF and UPND- are regional parties, it is clearly in their interest, as well as that of democracy, for them to continue operating independently while providing checks and balances to the ruling party. While the need for an effective and vibrant opposition cannot be over-emphasised in this era, such a one only emerges naturally and out of genuine and true ideals, much the same way the MMD did in the run-up to multi-party politics. With that, one can say when the history channel of this country’s multi-party politics is written, it will go on to document how political party pacts have failed lamentably including that between the PF and the UPND.

Political party mergers must be based on common political ideologies as in the case of the African National Congress in South Africa and its sister party, South African Communist Party whose camaraderie has remained unbroken for many years. It is just over three years since what was to be the strongest ever political marriage failed to deliver amid accusations of an insatiable appetite for power.

Remember the UNIP, Forum and Democracy and Development and UPND kitchen party which never culminated into the anxiously anticipated wedding? The United Democratic Alliance, as the grouping was called, was nursing bruises by the time the 2006 elections were coming, with some major players accusing its leader Mr Hichilema of being power hungry and elitist and the UPND element of being tribal. Similarly, accusations of an autocratic rule are not new in the PF, which is why there is still a bitter war between the seemingly more enlightened and patriotic members of the party who have chosen to attend the National Constitutional Conference and Mr Sata’s loyalists.

Is this an amalgamation of two tribal and regional parties or a merger of two power-hungry leaders? Already, the differences in PF between Mr Sata and the reformist members is a pointer to how far this alliance with UPND can go. It is no secret that the UPND boasts of some of the finest brains in this country, and these are the people who will be sitting around the table with PF members to plan the way forward. What a nightmare for the likes of David Matongo, Garry Nkombo, Given Lubinda, Emmanuel Hachipuka and Charles Kakoma!

Can this marriage go all the way to 2011 and not break up the way a possible pact floundered just before it could be finalised in the run-up to last year’s presidential election? The Zambian people will be watching how this romance between Mr Sata and the man he called a calculator boy unfolds.


  1. i want to know, as the author of this, what is so naturally not consistent about this story, and also as you say, not logically consistent about it

  2. Anon,

    I am surprised you can't see the contradition in your position.

    You cannot be Kelvin because if you were Kelvin you would not have signed in as "anonymous" and then claim to be Kelvin, whose name is clearly written on the article.

    When I get an email from Kelvin asking for an explanation or someone non-anonymous asks for an explanation, I'll provide a detailed explanation.

  3. Hi Cho
    I would like to find out what is not consistent about this article.

  4. There seems to be a life-cycle for political organizations, where much like insect species they pass through several distinct phases on their way to survival and maturity. At conception, it is merely a vision, a fleeting idea shared to some degree by two or more persons, often in a pub. Most political organizations die here, or rather devolve back into self contained single-person organisms in the light of sobriety.

    A few are carried forward by the commitment of their founders and the persuasive strength of their personalities to a point where they are able to gather enough converts to grow into a network of activists, all capable of working together in coordination designed to attract more volunteers from the like-minded.

    A few highly successful activist groups can spread their message so far and effectively that they take the form of popular movements, where the policy positions of the original activists become part of the core value set of a sufficient number of voters to effectively determine the results of one or more elections. This can be a difficult phase, as the most active persons must surrender their control over the message and begin to act instead as mouthpieces for the large population of the movement as a whole, or risk being left behind.

    Popular movements that become sufficiently powerful as to regularly sway multiple elections have the potential to become political parties in their own right, or to become incorporated as a coalition member to define and support a given plank of an existing party platform. Lasting popular movements whether national or regional are very difficult for any political party to ignore, as the voters that drive them often tend toward single-issue voting, rewarding or punishing candidates from any party based solely on their position on that one key policy.

    It is always interesting to see the social subcultures that form out of organizations, especially amongst political activists. Bits of language start to take on shorthand meanings within the group of persons most committed to the core concept of the organization. It takes a surprisingly short period of time for certain catchphrases to take on whole new meanings for the initiated, who cheer loudly whenever the proper order of words passes their ears, while the rest of us are left scratching our heads trying to search out a consistently intelligible message from the stream of partisan invective. Personally I think that there is an over-emphasis on the executive positions within the government, which in turn exacerbates the tendency towards use of party dialects, because so much of the vocabulary is delivered in the chosen words of only a few people.

    [to be cont...]

  5. [...inued]

    I think that Kelvin makes several good points about the likely longevity of the current pact between UPND and PF, including:

    1) The relative importance to any party of securing sole possession of Plot One is likely to prove difficult for the two charismatic leaders of the respective parties to overcome. On that I think we agree fully.

    2) The two parties appeal to voters in different regions. I would think that this would improve the odds of success in merger, due to lack of competition in party strongholds and united candidacies in other districts or nationally. It should theoretically concentrate money on the most winnable elections at the local and provincial level, as well as consolidate much of the individual votes for each into a single total higher than either separately.

    3) The two parties differ on ideology, enough so as to alienate key personnel or popular movements within both parties should the two be reconciled into a single policy platform. Here I think that you may also be correct, which increases the likelihood that the rank and file of neither party will be willing to support the head of the other one for President, and will withhold or transfer their votes to a third party in protest.

    I would say that the best structural case for a successful merger into a single party would be for the current party presidents to agree to step aside for an election cycle, and determine a united third candidate to support jointly via a unified convention of both party constituencies. The convention would have to decide on a common set of policy planks, and then choose a candidate to carry them forward to the public. There's no way of knowing in advance how successful the selected candidate would be at winning over the majority of voters in both parties and amongst the uncommitted public, but the odds seem better to me if it is someone not already automatically identified with either party. Someone who speaks a more national political dialect, or at least one new to the ears of listening cadres and voters of both parties. If the platform is equitably constructed, there could be enough alignment for a majority of core party voters to transfer conditional loyalty to a unified candidate.

  6. General,

    Many thanks for your question.

    In my introduction I note that the article is “not the most objective or logically consistent”. I’ll discuss this in reverse order.

    Logical Consistency

    The article is logically inconsistent because it conflates three different questions:

    1. Do political pacts work?

    The article provides some evidence were political pacts have worked and haven’t, but it fails to recognise that this in itself is a neutral question and one that is highly subjective. The author has not defined what “work” mean and therefore it is meaningless. Do they work in removing parties from power? Do they work in uplifting people out of poverty? Do they work in enriching their pockets?

    2. Is the UPND / Pf political good for democratic governance in Zambia ?

    Botswana is proof that a single party subjected to external but non-electoral pressure can be good for development. Changing parties is not necessarily good for growth. This we have argued on this website many times. What you need is checks and balances. If the Pf / UPND pact succeed in moving Zambia towards a more accountable system, but failed to win power that in itself would be a pareto improvement. The article erroneously focuses on winning power rather than seeing the broader picture which is a system with checks and balances is vital for Zambia’s prosperity. To do that requires closer working for parties outside.

    3. Will the pact succeed?

    This is essentially a toss up. The author highlighted some weakenesses largely drawn from the personalities involved and the tribal nature of our politics. But there also some arguments of why it might work and these are not sufficiently explored nor is the question itself adequately decoupled. I don't really know the answer to this question. A week is a long time in politics as they say. Who knew Banda would be President this time last year?

    Lack of Objectivity

    This should be self evident from reading the article.

    Instead of being an objective piece of analystis about our political system, it is full laced with politically motivated statements. Here are a couple of examples :

    “….the two parties said they had agreed to work together…boasted that they were the only representatives of the Zambian people” “

    ”… the UNPD proved that its perceived tribal party tag by insisting on a southerner succeeding Mr Anderson Mazoka as president upon his death.

    “….a pro-business politician, almost to a point of being elitist.

    “….Even though both parties- the PF and UPND- are regional parties…”

    “…..more enlightened and patriotic members of the [PF] party who have chosen to attend the National Constitutional Conference….”.

    “…..Is this an amalgamation of two tribal and regional parties or a merger of two power-hungry leaders?....”

    “…...It is no secret that the UPND boasts of some of the finest brains in this country, and these are the people who will be sitting around the table with PF members to plan the way forward. What a nightmare for the likes of David Matongo, Garry Nkombo, Given Lubinda, Emmanuel Hachipuka and Charles Kakoma!”

    The last quote is particularly insulting to the named individuals. The author ought to apologise to them.

    These are just quotes….I can go on to show you the areas ignored e.g. the importance of 50% + 1 and why that makes assessment of the past inadequate (50% + 1 may be a game changer for alliances) ; the flaw of the Chiluba example; international experience….etc etc

    The list is endless….and frankly, I was being polite in my initial assesment…but I hope this shows you the many areas…

  7. Cho
    I understand your point, but wasn't the author in order to concentrate only on the pact wrestling power from the MMD? After all, this is the basis of the pact..."to eject MMD from power"... one HH said.
    On the lack of objectivity, I agree with you since this seems to be the premise on which Zambian journalism is based. Look at The Post. Can't remember when I last saw an objective article by them.

  8. General,

    No I don't. I think the article would have been better if it offered a broader assessment along the lines I have articulated. As for the the "basis of the pact", I have seen from the commentary in the media that many see it as aimed at providing a stronger opposition that challenges and holds Government to account.

    I fully understand your point regarding the Post.

    But its actually misses a crucial point. The Post is privately owned. The Times is owned by tax payers. The two are clearly poor with regards to objectivity but we should not confuse that we care more about the Times than the Post because it is OUR MONEY that is wasted when the Times loses objectivity.

    I have never understood the obsession with attacking a private owned paper. If no one likes the Post they should start their own forum.

    I have sympathy with the Post because I understand what abuse from people is like.

    For example, there are a number of individual who go round writing derogatory remarks about this blog, insulting my relatives and those dear to me...for no reason. They move from one forum to the next....saying Cho this Cho....and calling this website all sorts of names...

    I have never understand that...why if you think this website is not your cup of tea, not just start another one and show everyone how it is done...

    We are not funded by Government to run this website...neither is the Post.

    Therefore why insult us?

  9. The beauty of blogs is that the hosting company lets us write about most anything we want, in our case Zambian economic development, and then publishes it worldwide at no cost to us and no additional cost to the reader beyond basic internet access. We don't require funding from anywhere, just people willing to spend time bringing information together and expressing their observations about what it means to them. Cho happens to administrate this particular blog, but I think that is because he is good at it, he has laid out and supported with his time and effort a site with a style that appeals to people seeking non-partisan solutions to the complex web of problems facing the country. The point is to examine the information and each others' ideas, and then apply one's own critical perspective to contributing to the whole sort of general mish-mash that results.

    From my perspective, publicly funded media is a good thing generally, but it is best when the editorial boards are run independently of, or jointly by, competing political parties. In the current circumstance, state media is an appendage of the executive branch, and thus another prize to be won among all the others in the overarching presidential elections. I think that we must ask ourselves whether the primary task of state media is to support the position of ruling government or to inform the public? Certainly these things ought not to be in conflict very often, however when they are, which consideration is paramount?

    Often the best solution to biased private media is as Cho suggests, more media. Even in the highly partisan two-party system of American politics where spin is all part of the marketing strategy, there was widespread outrage when a former white house press secretary let slip that his office had been regularly supplying FoxNews with "talking points" the administration wanted pushed that day. This was apparently part of Karl Rove's "perpetual campaign" strategy that now appears to have been incompatible with party building (there are fewer self-identified republicans today than any time since the Reagan 80's).

    It is said that one attracts more bees with honey than with vinegar. The more media choices Zambians have, the less the majority of them will be susceptible to biased information from any single source. Unless most people are angry about things, they probably will not choose to listen to angry sources of information.

  10. Yakima,

    Ever so kind!

    Indeed you are absolutely right. There's a role for government in terms of providing grant funding to new community stations and supporting "regulatory mechanisms" for the media - with the small "r" e.g. a Public Complaints Commission. Also having clear laws of defamation that encourages whistle blowers without leading to perverse burdens on our justice system (a post on this in the future).

    An area where Government has made strides is with ZANIS (the Zambian equivalent of APA / Reuters). ZANIS basically collects all the news we read and then it sells them to all newspapers and radio stations including the state ones (for these at a subsidy am sure, how else do they break even?)..

    I need to check one of the Parliamentary reports, but am sure ZANIS is very profitable. In fact it appears to be non-partisan although it is government owned. I am not surprised because it has the right incentives. If it does not do its job properly the radio stations and the other agents wont buy news from it.

    At the moment, the Daily and Times are a waste of tax payers money. They are being eroded. Considered the Watchdog has breaking news. It takes the Government papers 24 hours to update a breaking story!

    Whether the Government likes it or not, it is inevitable that these papers will no longer compete. Even Government ministers now get their news via the web.

  11. Cho,
    Did I touch a raw nerve? I didn't expect that kind of a response from you. Insults? Was that meant for me? I thought this was a civil exchange.

  12. General,

    I think we are talking cross purposes here.

    I did not insult you anywhere in any of my response. Please if you could be so kind as to refer me to the particular narrative you have a problem with.

    I was explaining to you what has been happening to this blog - I was drawing the parallel between the Post and other private forums like this one.

    I was explaining to you the abuse I have received by merely maintaing the website and encouraging productive and free dialogue.

    No where did I suggest YOU are responsible for this abuse.

    I hope that is clear, if not, please point me to the relevant areas and will not hesitate to clarify or apologise if necessary.

  13. Cho,

    I have been writing for UKZambians from its inception and to other internet blogs before it. My experience is that – a) in general most Zambians are not used to someone taking a different view. If you do, they take it as if you’re fighting them or insulting them. Their reaction? A heap of insults; b) there is a small group of Zambians, generally of low caliber, with or poorly educated, who surf the Zambian blogs only to generate invectives or insults. I noticed that, when I wrote pieces fully loaded with economics, they had nothing to say or I received fewer hits. When I accommodated them, hell broke lose.

    This situation is regrettable because it stifles genuine debate. Because of this many people only preferred to make feedbacks to me privately – thru my email rather than on open space. Therefore, we must be grateful to you Cho for soldiering on. Otherwise you would have given up, even though the information you are providing is of such importance. Making informed decisions depends entirely on quality information and data. Where would we go, since government hasn’t got such, a one stop source?

    Now talking about availability of media in general – government media (TIMES & Daily Mail) is not supposed to act only as a government mouth piece. It is suppossed to act also as an educative tool and aware raising instrument. If people don’t know what is happening, for example, to their funds – they cannot take measures to hold government & politicians accountable. Just as if masses have information about diseases, they may take precautions. Thus, if public media fails in this sphere, tax dollars are just wasted.

    As regards the private media like The Post – again their job is not only to oppose government. They have to provide information in unpartisan manner to the people so that they can take corrective decisions. You do not need to be very and always biased. The Post started off very well but as soon it became monopolistic in the private media industry, it lost its original vision. It now became a tool for fighting those it doesn’t like. In the end, even fights like anti-corruption got blunted. In this situation, the more competition you have the better. I don’t know how ZANIS is working, if it is selling news that is good.

    To defend its biasness, Post compares itself with some papers in UK or U.S.A., where some newspapers are viewed as liberal or conservative. Even if you were to choose that ting – first, say so, and then you still have to have objective reporting. When something is felt to be biased be prepared to allow space for counter arguments. That’s what happens in these countries. Are we there yet? No!

  14. I would like to defend the Post. The Post has been the only newspaper in Zambia that has given space for counter arguments. Recently even Tetamashimba chose the Post to publicise his diatribe against Masebo. The public media are the ones who are incapable of promoting divergent views. Honestly, without the Post I doubt if Zambians would have been aware of how rotten the system in Zambia is. Isnt the Post the medium in which all the rote that is taking place in Zambia has been exposed? I have always wondered why critics of the POst always accuse is it of bias when all they have done is expose wrong doing by the rulers. Interesting isnt that all the Presidents ever since the Post's inception have always hated it. Despite this the paper has survived without subsidies unlike the Mail and Times. They must be doing something right.A Zambia without the Post is too ghastly to contemplate.

  15. Kaela,


    I couldn't help laughing at your line about that "small group of Zambians"...

    Back to the substance :

    The Post started off very well but as soon it became monopolistic in the private media industry, it lost its original vision.

    The next logical question here is WHY?

    I discuss this in the post - A friday rant...on the media wars. Its the Government through holding onto the Daily and Times inefficiently that has made the Post dominant.

  16. Frank,

    "A Zambia without the Post is too ghastly to contemplate."


    This topic has produced some wonderful lines.

    On a serious note : I fully agree because without The Post we have no independent medium that is as widely read and has the COURAGE to take on government.

    I have always doubted Government's fight against corruption for two reasons :

    1. Press freedom has not been fully embraced that is why Government holds onto the Daily and Times - see the post Zambia’s corruption…whose to blame?

    2. Ineffective legislation on whistle blowing. How can one seriously push for corruption without developing mechanisms to support those willing to expose it?

  17. Just a question, but I wonder if anyone here is familiar with Michael Johnston's "Syndromes Of Corruption - Wealth, power and democracy". It sets out the describe the types of corruption, patterns that are repeated the world over.

    Sometimes corruption is described as some kind of personal moral weakness like greed, something that can be remedied by getting a good ('selfless') chap into power.

    However, corruption is actually a way of governing, and falls into patters that can be recognized from country to country.

    His book gives descriptions of corruption in different countries and different systems. In Africa, he specifically describes Kenya and Botswana.

  18. Hi Guys,
    I am impressed, extremely impressed at the level of analytic intellectualism demonstrated in these arguments. Jesus! You guys are brainy, very brainy indeed. Cho's ability to analyse this article is like finding a needle in a haystack or undergrowth. But why are things going so wrong in Zambia? Granted a good number of the guys in the civil service such as PSs, Directors, and managers are as sharp, but why are things going so wrong? Why do they fall into the ever spiralling cases of corruption one after another? lack of patrotism? Selfishness? Look at both Fred Mmembe and Mutembo Nchito, very brilliant guys but look at the mess they are in? Sad really sad. Please use this Analytical ability to benefi Zambia, our posterity will judge us harshly!


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