Since Zambians voted out the Patriotic Front on the 12th of August 2021, the country has remained divided into political lines.
Long time opposition leader Hakainde Hichilema pulled a surprise landslide victory against incumbent President Edgar Lungu.
Zambians gave Hichilema 2.8 million votes while Lungu got a paltry 1.8 million votes and since then, Zambians on either side of the political spectrum identify themselves with those figures.
On social media, those who support the new government call themselves Ba 2.8 (The 2.8 group) while those who voted for Lungu call themselves Ba 1.8 (The 1.8 group).
Over the past one and half months since Hichilema was sworn in as Zambia’s seventh President, these two groups have clashed on many fronts on issues such as the appointment of Cabinet Ministers, recall of diplomats and the slow pace at which the government is taking to fire government and parastatal heads who are seemingly supporters of the previous government.
However, their battles have not just been in politics.
Surprisingly, even music is now a new battlefront especially for the young and first time voters who are ever online.
During the run-up to the general elections, the Patriotic Front lined up the crème de la crème of Zambian music who produced powerful songs to entice Zambians to vote for continuity.
Popular musicians such as Slap Dee, Macky 2, Dandy Crazy, Bobby East, Nez Long, JK, Mampi and many others sang for the PF much to the annoyance of Zambians who detested the Police brutality, extrajudicial killings, tribalism, internet shutdown and corruption which the PF is accused of perpetrating.
After the elections, these musicians have had a tough time fighting off the PF cadre tag and most of them claiming they sung for PF because it is their business to make money.
But with the nomination of Slap Dee, whose real names are Mwila Musonda, for the 2021 African Muzik Magazine Awards and Music Festival (AFRIMMA) in the Best Male Southern Africa category, the two camps have clashed again and the battle is online.
“I remain optimistic and grateful for the nomination. Third time in a row. I trust one day we will bag it,” wrote Slap Dee on his official Facebook page on 8th October 2021.
Other nominees in this category are Tha Dogg of Namibia, Jah Prayzah of Zimbabwe and three artists from South Africa: Cassper Nyovest, Focalistic and Shimza.
Bombshell Grenade, a female Zambian rapper, and Australian-based Zambian artist Sampa The Great have also been nominated for the AFRIMMA Awards in the Best Female Rapper category but they have not received a backlash as they did not sing for the PF during the elections.
In his previous nomination, Slap Dee was pitted against Master KG of South Africa, the artist behind the popular song ‘Jerusalema’ who took the award.
The AFRIMMA awards are decided by online voters and Slap Dee was previously nominated twice and lost and this year’s nomination is the third attempt at these prestigious music accolades.
Slap Dee is a successful and popular local rapper who has built a record label XYZ Entertainment which also has a clothing line.
For years, he resisted singing for politicians saying his music cuts across the political divide.
However, the 2021 general elections enticed him to join the bandwagon of musicians who sung for Lungu and the PF.
As the voting for the AFRIMMA Awards rages on, Ba 2.8 have taken to social media to denounce Slap Dee and most of them have posted screenshots of their votes for South African musician Cassper Nyovest while Ba 1.8 are rallying Zambians to be patriotic and vote for their own rapper.
The anger for Ba 2.8 is that Slap Dee never apologized for ‘siding with the oppressor’ who described Zambians who had been suffering under PF as disgruntled youths.
“So you who are joyously not voting for Slap Dee because he sung a PF song, who do you think you are punishing? Basically, what you are doing is dimming the light of our national flag. Just by being among nominees, Slap Dee has made it already, I mean being among greatest artists, with or without your votes,” wrote Chanoda Ngwira, a supporter of the PF.
Zambians on Twitter and Facebook have not just fought the battle on the Zambian cyberspace but they have crossed the border to South Africa and showered praises on Nyovest’s Facebook page which has 5.4 million followers.
“Why am I trending in Zambia?” wrote Nyovest on his Facebook page.
Hours later, the artist posted again: “Okay Zambia I get it…….. So its Just business.”
The fight for the AFRIMMA votes has also brought in established online media houses to woo voters on each side.
The official Facebook page for the Patriotic Front is asking Zambians to vote for Slap Dee, however, it is the young ones on social media who have gone at length to denounce the nomination and have opted to vote for a foreigner.
“Cassper Nyovest also sings for the ANC, so why won’t you vote for Slap Dee again?” wrote the PF on Facebook.
But one of the youths Chris Aaron responded with this on the same posting: “Simple……… Let ANC members vote for Slap Dee.”
Others think this episode will end up benefiting the young rapper who has swept several local music awards in the past years.
“The fact that Slap Dee is trending, he is also gaining new fans. Casper Nyovest has 5.4 million followers. The Zambians have provoked his response. He may win the award but the reaction will make Slap Dee gain numbers from curious followers of Caspers page and other Zambians who don’t know his music including chancers. Slap Dee gains, its business,” wrote local film producer Angel Phiri on his Facebook page.
Popular medical practitioner Dr Aaron Mujajati, who commands 317,000 followers on Facebook has urged Zambians to vote for Slap Dee.
He argues: “Is he perfect? No. Has he made mistakes? Yes. I will vote for him because I like to keep family differences in-house. When we are among outsiders we must hold together. It is about us. It is about Zambia. Vote for Slap Dee.”
Journalist Mastone Moonze has also weighed in on the topic.
“If Slap Dee wins, the money will be used in my country in helping to boost the economy. It might create job opportunities for young people. What unites us is greater than what divides us,” he wrote.
Tactfully, politicians have stayed away from this decisive issue and they have left it to Zambians on Twitter and Facebook to battle it out.
In the end, Cassper Nyovest may gain a lot of votes from Zambians but Slap Dee still has his loyal fan base despite having disappointed them a few months ago.
The 8th edition of AFRIMMA is set to be held on November 14th, 2021.
But this is not the first time Zambians have opted to vote for a foreigner at the expense of a local person.
In 2017, Zambian football legend Kalusha Bwalya opted to give more votes to foreign players during the CAF Awards at the expense of then Chipolopolo Captain Rainford Kalaba who had been nominated for the Best African Player based in Africa Award.
Zambians on social media can be brutal at times.
Just a few days after losing elections in August, Lungu had to deactivate his Facebook page after a blitz of negative comments on each and every posting he made.
In the morning, the former President used to post verses from the Bible but that would be received with thousands of bad comments by mostly youths who blame him for their joblessness.
Cover Image Courtesy of AFRIMMA