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Monday, 18 March 2013

Five Reasons Why NAREP is Failing

I recently asked our Facebook Page contributors for their assessment of NAREP and why it appears to be failing to make a mark with voters. More than 110 people responded in a well mannered and respectful political discussion. Here are the top five reasons they gave on why they think NAREP appears to have failed to make an impact. These are their reasons not mine:

(1) Lack of engaging leadership -  In one word NAREP’s leadership is described as “poor”. Its leadership is believed by many to be closely aligned to the PF government. This has resulted in NAREP leaders going abroad with President Sata and also being unable to hold Government to account with necessary boldness. Elias Chipimo’s leadership was particularly cited as lacking charisma and a common touch (in contrast to President Sata and other leaders). NAREP has not created a diverse leadership that compensates for Chipimo’s weakness as a result his failings are amplified.

(2) Confused message - In one word NAREP’s message is described as “confused”. It is viewd as an elitist party targeting less than 10% of Zambians but without a clear political and economic message. The question simple question – “what does NAREP stand for in a single sentence?” – is not one that can be answered. This has meant it has failed to connect with the grassroots who need ideas communicated to them in a simple way. In a competing environment with strong PF, MMD and UPND machinery, NAREP message is confused.

(3) Poor party image - In one word NAREP’s image is described as “dented”. The party is largely viewed as an appendage to the PF. Elias Chipimo’s trip with President Sata to Brazil, at tax payer’s expense, is an iconic image emblazoned in the mind of most. Since then NAREP has shunned from forcefully holding PF to account and instead tended to intellectualise the very pertinent issues facing the country to take the heat out. Many also believe that NAREP has purposely pursued a selfish approach to politics, where it has sacrificed working with other political parties to be seen in favourable light by PF. Their leaders have not sufficiently explained their current posture.

(4) Incoherent strategy – In one word NAREP’s strategy is described as “invisible”. It has failed to reach key constituents and its energy has heavily focused on social media. Twitter and Facebook does not vote! It also lacks a flexible campaign strategy (rural vs. urban) There is a clear need for NAREP to deliver a more effective strategy that goes beyond the internet and encompasses creation of vibrant local structures. It also needs to find a way of controlling the print and local radio media.

(5) No political space in Zambia – In one word the political situation is described in Zambia as “regional”. Each party seems to have a regional power based that then allows it to spread its message more widely. NAREP faces the challenge that all power bases are taken and that its leadership has not sought to develop one. As a result it is fighting on all fronts. It is feasible for NAREP to build a regional base (e.g. Lusaka, Copperbelt) without being tribal. But such a base appears necessary in a country with little political space. The wider question is whether there’s any space in Zambia for more than 2 or 3 parties. If the answer is no, it may be that NAREP can only progress through mergers with existing parties. Though proportional representation voting, if it is introduced in the next Constitution, may offer a glimmer of hope for a small electoral foothold.

NAREP's President Elias Chipimo does read our website. So I am sure he will take on board the positive feedback (every feedback is positive because only people who care provide feedback). And I am hoping that he will respond and engage with our readers who do care about the party but clearly have some concerns. We shall share his comments when he does.

Question: What do you make of these five reasons? 

Copyright © Zambian Economist 2013


  1. NAREP has to be seen in favourable light by the PF because most PF supporters have identified Mr Chipimo as heir apparent to President Sata going by their comments on social media. It could be the reason Mr Chipimo is playing it safe. He doesnt want to rock the boat !

  2. Interesting findings. However, one thing we forget is that the Zambian mind-set when it comes to development, politics, governance, rights and other issues is relatively slow, lacks innovation, is illiterate and assumptive. The dependency syndrome is real and a difficult germ to get rid of. The last 50 years have seen most of the population be passive participants. We tend to think subjectively rather than objectively. We fear change if it doesn't look similar to that which we want to change from. In other words, our minds are stuck in a way of thinking that is both negative and dangerous to human and country development.

    Zambians enjoy talking. It's considered a skill. Not because we say something wise but because we believe we say things that make us popular. You see, we have become comfortable making decisions about our well-being based on popularity rather than reality. Reality is too serious for us so we would rather ignore it and continue with our passivity. Once we accept reality over popularity then we are accepting that we, not the leader, are responsible and accountable for the choices we make. Popularity goes with hearsay, reality is by truth and facts. We are lazy! We do not want to take the time to read or think about the issues. Rather let’s just take what the other is saying if it sounds good enough. It’s easier and faster and has less responsibility on our part and more on the leader. Why do you think most kids these days are unruly? Most teens I have talked to will always have someone to blame for something. It’s rare to hear a teen say that it was their fault. These are the leaders of tomorrow, no, today! We are used to people making commitments to us and for us and holding them responsible and accountable without remorse should things fail. It’s easier that way. Then we move on to the next person and if they can't make any promises that seem tangible in the now or near future with little effort on our part, then they are not good enough. We have become lazy, greedy and selfish.

  3. Development is not about the now and near future. If you are considered to be in the decision-making age range then believe me, whatever development plans you are part of are not for you...they are for those that come after you, whether you are alive at the time the developments are realized or not. Our mistake is that we go into development thinking it’s for us. If Moses did that then he would have ended up being a depressed drunk knowing he would never see the promise land. But the truth is that he did see it...he saw the vision, shared it and passed it on despite him not physically being there to experience it. I work in the nutrition, agriculture and environmental sectors. With nutrition I find it is easier to get people to participate because the benefits are almost immediate and tangible. In agriculture it takes a little more convincing because of the length of crop maturation and soil health improvement. With environmental interventions I have almost had to pull my hair out because few if any take any real interest at all. Their responses, "I won’t even be around to see it" or "let the kids worry about that when they get there. Not our problem." To get people to see the bigger picture is difficult in Zambia. Our visions and understanding of visions is to short and shallow. What's my point you may be asking right now...simple...Zambians will never be satisfied or grow productively with the type of mind-set that we have.

    Poverty is not about the lack of money or material things. Poverty is what comes from something else. A large segment of the population is still unable to afford the cost of minimum conditions of well-being. These conditions are the several forms of insecurity, inadequate consumption and an inability to participate positively in social life. For the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), human development is defined as “the process of enlarging human choices”. Human poverty means therefore “that opportunities and choices most basic to human development are denied – to lead a long, healthy, creative life and to enjoy a decent standard of living, freedom, dignity, self-respect and the respect of others”. Human poverty alleviation is critical to Zambia's development. If people are given power to access, acquire, use and control the resources, skills and knowledge that people need to live a life of dignity then poverty will be alleviated and the country will develop. Poverty alleviation and development are parallel but poverty alleviation is key.

  4. (1) Lack of engaging leadership - I disagree. The leadership is there. It’s the willingness of the people to recognize the style of leadership that is the problem. It puts responsibility on the people as well as the leaders. Going on trips on the PF ticket is something others have done too. Assuming that NAREP is unstable and a sell-out based on this is just that... an assumption. Keep your friends closer and, well, you know how it goes. As for the charisma and common touch, it is what any leader would need to bring people on board. However, it also needs a lot more than that to make leadership work. Look at the squabbles going on in PF now. If there was some kind of organized, regulated, reinforced leadership in their party on top of the charisma and common touch then most Zambians would not be looking for other political parties to vote for. If NAREP can continue being organized and develop their charisma and common touch then the impact will be massive.

    (2) Confused message - I disagree. In a word I'd say the NAREP message is INNOVATIVE. They are not promising sugar. They are promising ways of getting sugar. Complacency is a killer. We are so used to the simple approaches that if asked to stretch our minds just a little more we cry foul. Laziness and irresponsibility. People have had trainings, tools, finances and so on placed in their laps when they cried for them, but they still do nothing. Simple or a bit tough, if the will isn't there then blame no one but ourselves. People need to step up and push themselves to do better when faced with a challenge like understanding what "economic freedom" is. Most successful businesses worldwide have the majority of employees who have a considerable level of education. Education mind you has several forms. Let us learn to ask, listen, learn, teach, ask some more. Zambians still want baby talk and to drink milk. It’s time we grow up. No one is stopping us but ourselves. Connecting with the grass roots through simple messages works, but a leader who can open the mind of the grass roots to think for themselves is even better. Progress people, progress!

  5. (3) Poor party image - I disagree. I realize that at the time of writing this article was before the fiasco going on in PF, MMD and other parties right now. All the same, the NAREP image I believe has been that of integrity. Again, the “trip” was also with Edith Nawakwi if I'm not mistaken. I feel it was a good move. The RIO+20 is a serious dialogue platform that Zambians ought to take seriously even though our government does not. Kudos to Nawakwi and Chipimo for going along. Any opportunity to learn, share and advocate. Holding PF to account? Who has honestly managed to do that with the weak mechanisms in place? It's better to even concentrate your resources where you can build up a bigger impact. Mind-set change. If Zambians refuse to understand the issues and take responsibility for them despite our shameless leaders that happen to be in government at the time, then holding them to account just becomes another witch hunt and we just waste our breath. Know what’s really going on first, translate it to the people and let them hold government accountable. As for playing alone in the school yard, hey, sometimes its best so as to avoid getting bad manners. It’s the party's prerogative and they obviously may have their own timing and ways of playing with the other kids. It's all about strategy. The day is still young.

    (4) Incoherent strategy – I disagree. Face book and twitter definitely vote!!!! While this coming 2015 election may be a tricky scenario to predict, I feel the 2016 will have more clarity. The young voters will have registered and if NAREP can reach them now then WOW!!!! On top of that you have the unselfish and visionary intellectuals. On top of that if they manage to develop a comprehensive campaign then OMGoodness!!! Currently I feel they may be a bit lacking when it comes to rural reach but can you blame them. Mind-set remember? I see it in the community work I do. I had a tough time getting a certain community to participate and take charge of a project to benefit them because they believed the sponsor was also giving out money to the community workers. Me being the middle-woman got squished in the process. The project continued but with difficulty and inconsistencies. People in the rural and even peri-urban, whether we want to admit it or not, want hand outs. If we consider Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, we can see that the basic life needs - air, food, drink, shelter, warmth, sex, sleep, etc. matter first and foremost to people whereas personal growth and fulfilment are last, with other needs in between, which is not to say any which one is less important than the other. The political way in Zambia is unprofessional and has capitalized on this needs approach by throwing treats to people and making them think the treats will continue. "ni chekelko" is the order of the day or you won’t get our participation. A leader that can help people see beyond those tangible items and open their minds to the reality of them accessing those items with a lot of work on their part is the right leader. For NAREP and other parties to do this they will need to strategise and restrategise so as to develop the right mind-set for self development. In one word, I believe that NAREP's strategy is "STRATEGIC". It takes time to mobilize the right people to work with and to know and study your target. It’s a learning process.

  6. In conclusion, if NAREP is able to keep focused on good principles of development, recruit the right minds to drive the vision for a better Zambia and keep the bad elements at bay then I believe that they can go far and long. Everything we do is insignificant but we do it anyway because no one else will. Everyone has a part to play. Good things take time no matter how small and insignificant the contribution. With the right support, they grow. Zambians need a compatible mind-set for development and to go with the global development going on. The question I ask myself is which party can manage to open people’s minds, enable Zambians to think on their own, and guide us to develop productive and self-engaging mindsets for improved country and human development. Is it NAREP? We’ll see. NAREP may “seem” to be failing to make an impact but a good impact it is making. Stay strong and stay blessed NAREP! It’s a long road ahead.


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