Zambia prepares to go for General Elections on 12th August 2021 to elect the president, members of the national assembly and council representatives. The country has in the recent past seen increased activities within political parties as they ready themselves for the coming contest.
Opponents and critics of Zambia’s largest and arguably most resilient opposition political party, the United Party for National Development (UPND) partly attribute the party’s failure to form a government to its unwillingness to uphold intra-party democracy. They argue that UPND is a party led by a tired and rigid leadership that refuses to embrace new ideas and thinking. This has lingered on as a thorn in the flesh for its Party President Hakainde Hichilema who has stayed at the helm of the party for almost 15 years without renewing his mandate through a democratic process.
After much talk and speculation, the UPND general conference (convention) is here. Not shocking that the party has settled for Valentine’s Day on 14th February 2021 considering red is its official colour.
UPND President Hakainde Hichilema delivered a well constructed and impactful statement as he opened the conference. He earlier posted the following on his Twitter:
“Today our party the UPND, takes part in a very important democratic exercise of the General Assembly. The Assembly which will be conducted virtually will carry out various activities that will culminate into elections that will choose capable women and men including the youth, that will steer our Party to the Presidential and General elections that will be held in August this year.
Please join us in prayer as we beseech the Sovereign and Eternal God, the Author of liberty and peace, to grant us wisdom and be with us throughout this entire undertaking, as He provides safety to our delegates and staff, that have gathered in all the Provincial Capitals of our Republic.”
The convention was held virtually considering the increase in the Covid-19 cases in the country. UPND Chairman for elections Gary Nkombo recently told the press that the change in dates from 21-23 January and the mode of the meeting which was initially planned for Kabwe (Central Zambia) were because of increasing cases of new infections which has so far claimed hundreds of Zambian lives.
Party Elections Chairman Gary Nkombo told Journalists that all positions at National Management level, including that of the President, are open for contestation.
The party is holding its convention in fulfilment of Article 60 of the Republican Constitution. A total of 1, 500 delegates will form the Electoral College including 6 constituency officials; 8 from the district; 34 from the Province. Nomination fees for aspiring candidates are pegged at K1,000 and one must have the support of at least 2 provinces to be considered.
Other voters at the Convention include 30 students from higher institutions of learning, all UPND Members of Parliament (MPs) and 10 members from the Diaspora.
The convention comes at a time when the party is desperate for new blood, new ideas and new energy. There is growing pressure from the public on the party and its leadership to rise to the challenge and provide inspiration ahead of the August 2021 polls as many describe the party as lacking in strategy and having no clear convincing message to stir upwind of change desirable to oust a sitting government.
It is my opinion that from the time UPND was formed in 1998 by Anderson Mazoka its best chance of forming a government was in 2015, second only to the spectacular run Anderson gave Levy Mwanawasa in 2001. The 2001 elections were in my view the last general elections where frontrunners collected good votes across all the regions of the country with no widespread tribal and regional voting as experienced in the last three general elections.
There is growing pressure from within and outside UPND for the party to choose a new president to stir it forward giving that HH who is famously known as ‘bally’ has tumbled in the last five attempts at the presidency. However many still feel he is the right man for the job adding that substituting a proven striker in injury time can be suicidal.