By Nicholas Phiri
It is more evident today than two years ago that the opposition front in Zambia is diminishing at a faster rate than imagined and postulated by political analysts in the aftermath of the 2011 general elections.
While the UPND has been on the declining trajectory since 2006, if parliamentary and presidential elections are a reliable barometer for measuring political fortunes, the rate at which the MMD is losing political grip is a cause of concern for the survival of democracy in Zambia. Multipartisim without strong democratic political players is no better than “one party participatory democracy”. The current external and internal forces bombarding the MMDif not contained and managed properly may actually turn the former ruling party into a shell of itself after the 2016 tripartite elections.
Opposition parties as a whole are not only being systematically consumed by the PF, but unfortunately, they too are turning into monsters against one another consuming their own kin and kith. The recent defection of MMD members to the UPND and allegations that UPND is on the hunting spree of top MMD members is definitely an affront to the opposition asa collective. Although the UPND may be happy to be getting top MMD officials into their books, the move is actually a disservice to the UPND than it is a merit.
When MMD fell from glory, two schools of thought concerning the future of MMD and opposition politics in Zambia emerged. The first school of thought argued that MMD would bounce back to powerand some of the proponents even put a timeline of 2016. The second school of thought held that the losing of MMD to PF marked the beginning of the end of the MMD in the political history of Zambia just like it was with UNIP after losing to MMD.
The third school of thought held that PF would do everything within its power to undermine the existence of a strong opposition since it did not have outright majority in parliament. Whatever the school of thought one ascribed to, it was hardly anticipated that the collective opposition would turn against itself particularly the UPND and MMD.
Today, there are three forces undermining opposition political parties in Zambia including a hostile political environment, poor leadership and egocentric tendencies or obsession for dominance. Of all the three forces, the most dangerous are the last two because they fall under the jurisdiction of the opposition itself.
There is doubt that the political environment is less accommodative and conducive to opposition politics as can be seen from the number of arrests of leading political leaders and journalists by the state. Political violence and impunity has been institutionalized while perpetrators have been elevated above the law and given immunity from prosecution by the police, the same institution which should have been leading the prosecution of those promoting political violence.
All political violence that has happened under the leadership of the PF only confirms one thing; while power changed hands in 2011 to change the style of governance, the heavy-handedness type of governance system has not changed in Zambia. If anything, it is getting worse.
The PF, just like the pervious regimes have continued to use state agencies to stifle and lynch perceived political adversaries.
Political violence seemingly perpetrated by PF political cadres is one side of the pressure being exerted on the opposition parties from external sources. The other is a perceived clandestine orchestration aiming at depleting thenumerical representation of opposition MMD and UPND in parliament. It is very clear that the PF is determined and may, unfortunately, succeed to amass the so called “majority in parliament”.
Some commentators fear that the PF dominated parliament may indirectly be a recipe for one party state, one is compelled to ask, what difference has the opposition political parties made since 2011 with a majority in parliament? I dare to state that, the only political factor that would make political holes in the PF political fortunes is the PF itself.
But for this to happen, a PF dominated parliament is a fundamental perquisite. With the majority vote in the house PF would most likely pass laws and policies that would swallow the party in the long term. Today, people complain that the PF does not listen to other views nor does it consult adequately on national issues. What more when they have majority in parliament?
The other issue that the opposition should deal with as soon as possible is the development of a clear national development agenda that does not only resonate with the masses, but one which is alsofeasible, attainable and clearly distinct from the Patriotic Front development agenda. The nation awaits political, social and economical emancipation, who shall lead the way?
The alleged poaching of MMD members by the UPND does not make political sense. MMD was ejected from power with the full fire power of the same people that UPND is courting today. The MMD was not saved from fate at the hands of the PF while those who have been given elevated positions in the UPND were at the full service of the MMD.
It is skewed logical to assume that a collection of weaknesses would make strength. If not handled carefully, the UPND may be getting itself further down into a political dungeon. Secondly, it does not make political sense for opposition party to recruit members from the opposition side when the collective opposition is already under siege from a power hungry Patriotic Front. This actually means that some opposition elements are indirectly collaborating with the PF to accomplish the obliteration agenda of a strong opposition by the PF government
In principal, MMD and the UPND are in a so called loose allianceand should, all things being equal, work together to keep the PF government in check.
Unfortunately, today the opposition political parties seem to be in disarray and losing the fire power by the day due to obsession for power. The ruling patriotic from is rapidly closing in on the weakening opposition parties making the prospects of a one party state by default more possible now than ever before.Opposition political parties have now turned to be monsters against one another.
Until we get leaders who put service before self, people before politics and patriotism before patronage, Zambia shall perpetually be a rich poor county and always a “young democracy”. The biggest problem facing the Zambian leadership today is the unbridled preoccupation for power. Succinctly, the opposition is preoccupied with how and when to dislodge the ruling PF from power than how best the Zambian poor can be served and lifted from political and economic servitude.
Today, we have opposition political parties’ that are more reactive than pro active. The opposition has failed to show an alternative to the PF policies. The PF has continued to set the political agenda while the opposition is always reacting to that agenda without showing the other alternatives.Ofcourse the PF enjoys the status quo.
The PF are “masters of the political war of words” in Zambia.The opposition in the current can not outdo don’t Kubeba using punch for punch or don’t Kutina approach. With the PF governance regime coming under increasing scrutiny and criticism, the opposition needs to craft and show a better alternative to Zambia’s social, political and economic quagmire.
Zambians are ready to use the ballot to eject any regime as long as there is a better alternative even among the worst. The opposition is turning against each other instead of proposing alternative govenrce style. Who will serve the opposition from itself and from extinction?