By SYLVESTER MWALE –
FINALLY the heavily contested 2015 presidential elections are over ushering in a new president-the sixth since independence- with his new cabinet members to govern for less than two years before the general elections are held again.
There are certain issues that characterised the just-ended elections which were conducted within a short period of time and witnessed extensive travels by participating parties as they campaigned to succeed President Michael Sata who died in October last year.
The mode of travel by the top candidates was a helicopter which was used by the two top contenders Hakainde Hichilema of the UPND and Patriotic Front’s Edgar Lungu.
Although 11 political parties floated their candidates, it was clear from the onset that the real battle was between Mr Hichilema and Mr Lungu.
Prior to the D day (20th January), many events took place from the time it was announced that President Sata had died in London.
The events nearly destroyed the ruling party with reports of a clandestine group comprising some party bigwigs commonly known as ‘cartel’ emerging.
In the former ruling party the MMD whose leader Nevers Mumba had failed to unite since taking the reigns of leadership, the party was rocked by reports of the former head of state Rupiah Banda’s bid to come back and be adopted to stand as the presidential candidate.
Poor Nevers was only saved at the eleventh hour when the Supreme Court ruled in his favour allowing his name to be on the ballot.
With the twists and turns in the post-Sata era, there might be many lessons to be learnt by both politicians and the electorates but I have picked out four which I think should be more striking.
Leadership goes to those who are ready to give it away. It has been said a million times that when God says yes, no one can say no!
The election of Edgar Lungu is probably one such example.
While it was clear that many bigwigs in the PF were keen to succeed Mr Sata by defying the wishes of the majority as well as using other underhand methods, Mr Lungu looked disinterested, calm and neutral.
As acting president while Mr Sata was away, Mr Lungu exhibited the highest degree of humility.
What was perhaps more striking was that he was ready to handover instruments of power to then Vice President Guy Scott even when some cabinet members believed that should not have been the case.
As if that was not enough, he was sacked within days of Mr Sata’s death by Dr Scott who appeared to have been overwhelmed by the instruments of poor handed over to him.
It has been debated on whether the sacking was legal or otherwise but what is in agreement by many is that Dr Scott acted wrongly to take that decision.
Mr Lungu did not personally contest the dismissal but the protests that followed and the disapproval from the majority members forced Dr Scott to immediately reinstate the Chawama lawmaker.
That was however, followed by a series of actions that undermined him as chief executive of the party before he was unceremoniously removed as SG when he applied to be adopted as presidential candidate.
Mr Lungu’s approach of being humble, composed and without any sign of desperation to get to the top ultimately worked to his advantage.
There was a time in Zambia when whatever was aired or published by the media was treated as gospel truth and people accepted it. Not anymore.
This time around the voice of the people took centre stage by refusing to be swayed or manipulated by lies and propaganda especially of tabloids with vested interests in national affairs.
The election of Mr Lungu showed that despite heavy propaganda in form of highly-questionable opinion polls and outright lies that were aired and published, the electorates thought otherwise.
Therefore, while Mr Lungu faced incessant attacks and seemingly unfair criticism from both the online media as well as the mainstream press, his victory has granted him the last and probably the loudest laugh.
Death of the MMD
Although Nevers Mumba won the rights to represent the party in the 2015 elections via the welcome intervention of the Supreme Court, he lost the support of almost the entire National Executive Committee (NEC).
In fact, the MMD was the only participating party in the elections with members supporting three different candidates in the race.
While NEC led by party chairperson Kabinga Pande backed Hakainde Hichilema of the UPND, there were also some members led by former president Rupiah Banda who endorsed Edgar Lungu of the PF.
Just a handful of supporters, it appears hanged on to Dr Mumba.
The fate of those who supported different candidates has been subject to speculations although Dr Mumba looks determined to get rid of them.
On the other hand, it appears that the dissidents are equally determined to get rid of Dr Mumba before 2016.
While this argument can go up to 2016 without reaching a settlement, the end results would probably be the worst performance in 2016 if at all the party would still exist by that time.
Based on Dr Mumba’s poor performance in the 2015 polls when he was beaten by the likes of Edith Nawakwi’s FDD, it is hardly wrong to suggest that the once mighty party is dead and buried.
ECZ needs adequate support
The success of any election largely depends on the capability of the Electoral Commission manning the polls.
That ability relies on the support that the commission gets from all stakeholders including individual political parties.
It is indisputable that the Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ) held a successful election based on the principles and standards set out in the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance among other accords.
This was despite having limited time frame in which to prepare for the polls.
Apparently, the 2015 elections have been hailed as a success by organisations with great repute such as the African Union (AU), Electoral Institute for Sustainable Democracy in Africa (EISA) and the US.
Therefore, accusing the ECZ without substantiated allegations will not help politicians to win the votes. In this regards, there is need that all political parties support the ECZ and engage it where they felt aggrieved.
It was alarming to hear or read some postings on social media serious allegations on ECZ which turned out to be baseless.
For example, the ‘impounding’ of a truck carrying ECZ lamps on claims it was transferring pre-marked ballot papers, which turned out to be a hoax.
There were also reports that ZAF choppers carrying pre-marked ballots had crash landed somewhere.
These were not only baseless, but also showed that ECZ is not getting enough support from all the stakeholders.
Therefore, there is need to remove a notion that politicians lose elections because of rigging!
Getting people to vote is even more important out of 5,166,084 registered voters, only 1,671,662 cast their ballots.
This represents 32.36 percent of voter turnout and it is the lowest since the birth of democracy in 1991.
This is a worrying situation for the growth of the country’s democracy and requires that every stakeholder play their role to change the situation in 2016.
Placing the blame squarely on the ECZ for a low turnout is certainly unjustifiable.
As we brace ourselves for the 2016 tripartite elections, lets understand that in any election the best man wins despite the odds against him.