By Munshya wa Munshya
The urban areas made the Patriotic Front win the 2016 elections. The United Party for National Development lost because there had not been enough movement in the urban areas away from the Patriotic Front. The rural vote was clearly split between east and west with the urban areas becoming the determining vote to decide the presidential election. The rural east and rural west divide is likely to continue for a foreseeable political future of our country, making the urban vote much more critical than ever before. Everything being equal, if there is even a slight movement towards the UPND in the urban areas between now and 2021, the Patriotic Front will be history. This is the more reason why the PF need to manage its urban popularity much better than what they have done so far post-August 2016. Recent events put pressure and brings serious doubts about whether the PF is serious with its urban support primarily and with all voters in general. The Patriotic Front failed to manage its so-called proposals to amend the constitution properly. Instead of being much more forthright, they caused a narrative to be driven for several days, that the party had been pushing for the re-introduction of deputy ministers. While there are good reasons why Zambia may need deputy ministers, both the timing and the circumstances are very poisonous for the PF party to push such amendments now. By the time the Chief Whip Musukwa was issuing a statement denying the party’s involvement in this matter, the damage had already been done and several citizens including PF supporters had expressed dissatisfaction with the deputy minister amendments. If the PF has any ears to hear, they should not resuscitate this matter further. Let them abandon these plans if they had them. Amending the Constitution to now re-introduce deputy ministers will be political suicide from which the PF may never recover. Certainly, Lusaka and Copperbelt are watching closely and things could get ugly. While the PF was seemingly pushing for the reintroduction of deputy ministers, the government was at the same time pushing this idea that councillors are not salaried employees and should not be expecting to draw a regular salary. Counter-intuitively, the same citizens who do not want to have deputy ministers re-introduced support the 2016 amendments to the constitution that seem to suggest that mayors and councillors should be on a regular salary from the central government. Putting councillors on regular payroll makes sense, in fact, it makes a whole lot of sense. Councillors are the true servants of the people. They are the closest to the people. They know the people and they live among the people. It is to be expected that for the work they are doing, they must get the meagre salary that our laws and constitution seem to suggest they deserve. Government’s refusal to pay councillors while at the same time trying to acquiesce the re-introduction of deputy ministers demonstrates a double standard that the Zambian people find repulsive. Zambia does not need deputy ministers, but Zambia needs the local civic leaders to be paid the fair share of the little ngwee they work for. What makes Mr. Felix Mutati more deserving of tax-payer “manone” and yet starve elected councillors who are toiling daily for the common woman on the streets of Milenge and Chabanyama? Last week, Zambian politicians and government leaders were invited to travel to China for a China-Africa cooperation initiative. And then the pictures of the ministers in first class thumping wines and iPads went viral on social media. The optics were not too good. On one hand our country is very broke, has no electricity and depends on borrowed kaloba to survive, but how can it afford to buy first class tickets for Mr. Bowman Lusambo and his colleagues? The explanation from Government does not make sense. Government seems to be suggesting that it is China which paid for our politicians. A caring government that is trying to manage the optics would have alerted the Chinese to the fact that we cannot afford first class now. Luxury travel does not show austerity, it shows extravagance and in the minds of urban PF voters it may go to show how much wastage Government is engaging in for the privileged few. Lusaka and Copperbelt urbanites are willing to give the PF government a benefit of doubt, if the urbanites feel like the ruling party is a partner in the struggles of the ordinary people. If on the other hand, the PF begins appearing too rich and too pompous, the urban vote and support will dissipate very quickly leading to a serious electoral catastrophe in 2021. Travelling economy class for our politicians isn’t optional, it is imperative. Why should Government spend $20,000.00 on first class when they can as well spend a quarter of that for Mr. Bowman Lusambo’s flight to Beijing? If the urban areas revolt, the Patriotic Front will go the way of Rupiah Banda’s MMD. Or perhaps, the PF has already become Rupiah Banda’s MMD. Who knows?