By Chris Zumani Zimba
With all due respect, I am of the view that many ‘political observers’ are pathetically exaggerating the loss of PF in Roan’s Copperbelt province by either overpraising the political popularity of Hon. Chishimba Kambwili (CK) or brutally misleading many people on the rise of NDC, the conclusion is generally amiss or strangely out of proportion. After receiving many calls, questions and comments from more than 15 different comrades and media practitioners on the Roan by election, I have been forced to formally write my personal views on what I think is the right technical context and political outlook of both NDC, UPND, PF as well as CK himself following this controversial parliamentary by election. To simplify my churched political analysis and intellectual discourse, I will once again take you to soccer since politics is also a game and many Zambians follow English and European football.
As formidable as my legendary Barcelona that beautifully butchered and wired Manchester United boys at UEFA level 4 to 0 on aggregate last night, deadly Real Madrid, forceful Juventus, strong Bayern Munchen or mighty Liverpool, many are the times that these football gurus sometimes draw or lose to either average, small or underdog teams. For example, both Real Madrid and CR’s Juventus were humiliated and eliminated convincingly from UEFA Champions league by unknown Ajax.
But something is common among these big legendary teams: they always win a trophy each season somehow, come out second or finish among the top four to play UEFA in the next year. That is not the case with small teams like Leicester city, West Harm or Hull City as they lack consistency, resilience and big stage character. They may win the premier league once in a generation by magical accident or game fortune but lamentably fail to both defend it and even finish top four in subsequent years to play UEFA or Europa. Leicester City is a classic example in this case; despite winning and celebrating the premier league championship few years ago, they are now back to their traditional smallness and even failing to finish top ten (10) in England. Frankly speaking, this is the pragmatic state of NDC and CK in terms of Zambian politics despite winning his home parliamentary seat in Roan especially going into 2021 against PF and Lungu.
- How and why CK is a true political heavyweight only in Roan and not anywhere else
Now, let’s get back to CK and NDC victory in Roan. Yes, CK and NDC won the political premier league of the constituency while the reigning PF accepted defeat with a sure bitter pain. This is because, CK managed to beat and shame the men and women who fired him from PF with either envious malice or smoked pomp and pushed this bye election day and night before the courts and the speaker with a loud speech that he was ‘not a political factor’. In addition, CK managed to save his name for political relevancy as a defeat would have closed a dark coffin on his leadership career and public fame. With an MP in parliament, CK has secured more value within the UPND led opposition alliance than his counterparts as well as GBM. Even within PF, his relevancy is now above many close associates to President Lungu. Thus, he needed this victory for survival as political death and destruction was very visible on his back, face, waist and neck.
Therefore, CK and NDC victory’s in Roan was too big and sweet for the party consultant and the members indeed. But in practical terms, this political victory started in Roan and may simply end in Roan for the next two years as CK is an untouchable political heavyweight and a killer godfather in Luanshya, his dear home town among his dear voters he has nurtured for two decades or more; talking about his political popularity anywhere else in Zambia beyond and outside his village town is exaggerated falsehood and engineered politics of intimidation as you shall see for the following reasons:
According to the Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ), we know that NDC’s Chishala won the Roan by election by 8, 665 votes, beating the PF’s Joel Chibuye who polled 5, 533 votes. Yes, numbers don’t lie. These figures show that PF lost in their stronghold by 36% against their own popular CK, a darling political king of Roan. But remember that CK and NDC were helped by HH and his entire UPND members/suppers in Roan. It practically means that CK and NDC could have lost this seat to PF without the intervention and grace of HH and UPND. To me, this 36% difference between NDC and PF is what meant sweet victory for CK and his team through the courtesy of HH’s support and his followers in Luanshya. Therefore, the right news headline for me is, “HH and UPND help CK and NDC win Roan seat” or “HH save CK from going into political dustbin or history”; something like that. Thus, even in Roan itself, CK is not as popular as exaggeratedly concluded as numbers only defend him with HH and UPND in the picture.
On this great political day for CK, the UPND and NDC alliance only worked in Roan and failed to be replicated elsewhere. In the Bahati by election were these two parties combined forces with HH and CK as lead campaigners, ECZ announced that PF’s Charles Chalwe polled and won with 11, 481 votes while UPND’s Justine Bwalya got 2,381 votes on the same day HH helped CK retain the Roan seat. Back to mathematics; it means that PF-MMD coalition beat CK-HH and UPND-NDC alliance in Bahati by 81% vote difference. This means that the CK and NDC ‘political popularity’ is crudely caged and restricted only to Roan constituency as no value was added to help HH and UPND in the Northern region where they were humiliated by the PF-MMD coalition.
If we say that CK is a political heavyweight in Roan and Luanshya, we are accurate as facts say so, but by far at provincial level in the North, Copperbelt, Lusaka or national level. For example, in the April 2018 national wide local government by elections where NDC and CK participated and campaigned in some of them, they pathetically lost all while the ruling PF retained all the 9 seats in their strongholds with the support of their MMD coalition partners while grabbing 4 out of 7 wards in UPND strongholds. These by elections took place in Kalilele, Mushindano and Kanongo in North Western province, Lealui in Western province, Nampundwe and Shibuyunji in Central province, Kakoma, Mafinga, Kalebe, Shiwang’andu in Muchinga, Mikunku in Chinsali, Kalulushi, Kansunswa on the Copperbelt, Ntumbachushi, Kawambwa in Luapula province and Munwa, Chiweza and Chiwuyu in the Eastern province. The fact that NDC terribly lost in all where they took part with the heavy involvement of CK campaigning for his candidates, then we will be telling naked lies to believe that the political popularity of the NDC consultant exist elsewhere outside Roan, his child and adulthood political garden.
Let us trace and asses CK and NDC popularity in Lusaka city as well as Lusaka province. In June, 2018, both CK and HH combined their efforts to defend the Chilanga seat. This was the official birth of the UPND-NDC alliance as HH-CK were seen dangerously campaigning and happily dancing together around Chilanga. But you know what happened; they convincingly lost to the PF-MMD coalition; PF’s Maria Langa polled 7, 226 against her closest rival UPND’s Charmaine Musonda who got 6410 votes. The fact that CK’s full political presence to support UPND and HH never counted or helped to defend the Chilanga seat is a clear indication that the former Roan MP is certainly merely a big political grandfather in his home town and not in Lusaka or anywhere up here.
In July, 2018, the NDC Consultant, CK himself was everywhere and heavily campaigned around Lusaka to wool support, win hearts and votes for my dear friend and sister Ms. Saboi Imboela as Mayor for our Capital City. But CK made zero political impact and influence on Lusaka voters as his NDC ended up harvesting practically nothing by coming out fourth. When ECZ confirmed on 27th July, 2018 that the PFs Miles Sampa had won and was new Lusaka Mayor after polling 81, 936, his closest rival Kangwa Chileshe of the UPND getting 36, 753, ‘Petersen’, Mundia Mukubesa of the People’s Alliance for Change with 7, 741 while my friend Saboi Imboela of the NDC getting 2, 645 votes, it was clear that CK’s political fluency is absent in Zambia’s Capital city. As such, CK went under and mute for known reasons; his eyes were opened that he was both a political stranger and dwarf in Zambia’s most populace town. Unless otherwise, this may remain a dominant reality going into 2021.
In the same vein, just in this month of April, 2019, the ruling PF and Lungu outperformed UPND-NDC in the Kafue District Council Chairperson By-Election and successfully grabbed Kafue from the lead opposition party, an equivalent of what PF lost in Roan by voter population. NDC supported UPND to defend the Kafue seat but they lost it to the PF-MMD coalition. The PF’s Simakoyi Moono scored and won with 9 252 votes beating UPND’s Beatrice Kayuni who got 8 650 votes. This further explains that the NDC and CK big political factor doesn’t exist outside Roan or beyond Luanshya.
If Lungu and PF put up visible legacies of infrastructure development, modernization, employment creation, youth and women empowerment, improve the local or national economy for the people of Luanshya in particular and Copperbelt and Zambia in general, CK and NDC will fail to defend the Roan seat in 2021 and their alliance with UPND and HH will count to nothing. The 36% vote difference PF suffered in Roan was generally self-induced by failing to deliver social-economic development to Luanshya while thinking that CK could be blamed for this disaster and crises. But CK was playing at home where he is the unchallengeable godfather while PF merely came in huge numbers and thunders performing as well as dancing ‘Nakasaka Kandalama’ with a fleet of expensive musicians and comedians from big cities trying so hard to entertain a mob of hungry, frustrated, angry, hopeless, desperate, poor and unemployed voters in Luanshya. The lavish door to door campaign could not redeem them as the entire strategy was both poor and pathetic. And that accurate pass and assist from legendary HH and UPND is all what CK and NDC needed to triumph over them all. But trust me, a bye election within Copperbelt or anywhere outside CK’s home constituency may break and finish the political backbone of CK and NDC, exposing them to serious political puzzles, ashes and disaster in tears as it has happened before in many districts and provinces across Zambia based on the by elections of 2018 and 2019 itself.
Chris Zumani Zimba is a prolific Political Scientist, Policy Analyst, Author, Blogger, PhD Scholar, Researcher, Consultant, Public Health and Tobacco Control Advocate. Besides being the CEO at Chrizzima Democracy University (CDU) in Zambia, he analyses African politics weekly on Voice of the Cape Town, South Africa every Wednesday at 16:45hours CAT. So far, he has authored more than 10 political and academic books as well as published over 100 well researched articles on African politics and public health. Sometimes, he lectures Political Science-Part Time with University of Zambia (UNZA) and University of Lusaka (UNILUS) outside his usual commitments. Chriszumanizimba.firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com; +260 973 153 815 for calls or WhatsApp