Monday, February 10, 2014

'UPND needs to change'
By Editor
Fri 29 Nov. 2013, 14:00 CAT

The UPND must begin by recognising the scale of their poor electoral performance and of their problem. Why has the electoral performance of the UPND been declining since 2001? Honest answers to this question will help the UPND move forward and see a reversal of political fortunes.

The advice Dr Katele Kalumba is giving the UPND, albeit for free and unsolicited, is very valuable. The UPND needs to change its ways - its strategies, tactics and also probably do a bit more work on principles.

Katele says "there is need for a lot of effort and change in the way one relates to people, especially the grassroots. Unfortunately, I don't see a major change in the culture of the UPND.

With due respect, I think the UPND has a lot to do to change the image that they are an inward-looking party rather than an outward-looking party. They have concentrated too much on Lusaka politics, but we in rural areas don't listen to the politics of Lusaka. So I don't see radical change in popular views of their status as a political party in Northern or Luapula provinces".

What has been the discernible political strategy of the UPND over the last seven years of Hakainde Hichilema's leadership of the party? Failed pacts! Regionalisation of the party! Preaching the same worn-out message of being discriminated against every day!

In 2006, the UPND tried to forge an opposition pact that took it nowhere. That pact was beset by hostilities towards them from their partners. In 2009, the UPND initiated another pact with the Patriotic Front. It also failed. Why?

The UPND has been very much on radio in Lusaka. Its cadres are every day on phone in radio programmes literally dominating them. But what is their impact? Nothing. It is the same chaps every day singing the same song and people are simply fed up with them. Of course, this can be misleading and it makes the UPND feel it has an impact in Lusaka. Yes, they easily get excited with small things and exaggerate their support base. Before the 2011 elections, they used to claim they were the most popular political party in Lusaka and the Copperbelt. But like in 2008, they performed very badly in Lusaka and on the Copperbelt.

Hakainde spends more time in North Western, Western, Southern provinces and the lower parts of Central Province. And with this, he thinks he can win the presidential election. How? As Katele correctly observes, Hakainde hardly spends any serious time in Luapula, Northern and Muchinga provinces. For the Eastern Province, he seems to think that his alliance or relationship with Rupiah Banda will secure him the necessary vote. This is a fallacy. Things don't work that way.

When one listens to Hakainde and his followers, the message is always the same regardless of where they are. It is a repeat of the same message all the time and everywhere. They are all the time crying about being discriminated on account of tribe and trying to assert themselves politically on the basis of tribe.

They seriously lack creativity politically. And when Hakainde tries to be humorous, it is about demeaning women, it's about marriages and sex. Who wants to listen to that all the time?

There is need for the UPND to take stock of its politics and revise its strategy and tactics. It doesn't make sense to hang on to strategies and tactics that have repeatedly failed in successive elections.
Without touching on the suitability of Hakainde as a presidential candidate of the UPND, there is a lot, as Katele observes, that needs to change if the UPND is to be taken seriously as a political party seeking power. At the next elections, the Zambian voters would have known the UPND as a political party for 15 years and Hakainde as a politician seeking to be president for 10 years. There will be no surprises - people now know who they are and what they stand for. They may not vote for them as they have done in the past, but they know them. They know their identity. They know their character as a political party. And without changing their ways, the result will almost be the same.

Change is a necessity for the UPND to move forward. For them to win in 2016, a lot of things will need to change. They may not be able to change their presidential candidate but they will certainly need to change his ways, his approach, his political strategy and tactics. And they may have to force him to adhere to principles.

As we have repeatedly stated, political parties that do not change die. And if the UPND does not change, it will not survive for long; if it survives, it will be just in name like UNIP.

Many things are changing in our politics. And if things are changing in the way politics is conducted in this county, and they don't, then they will become of no value or consequence to our politics.

In advising them to change their ways, we are in no way implying that they should lose their identity. We are simply urging them to keep their relevance and gain the nation's trust.

Their reading of politics has been very poor. In 2011, they strongly believed that without a pact, no opposition party could defeat the MMD. When they failed to assume hegemony over their pact with the Patriotic Front, they pulled out and joined forces with the totally discredited and corrupt MMD of Rupiah. And together, they were defeated by the Patriotic Front.

What strong message do Hakainde and the UPND have for Zambians to convince them to vote for them? Insulting, trying to humiliate and belittle Michael? Is that a message that will enable Hakainde and the UPND to gain the trust and confidence of the Zambian people? We doubt it!

They need to improve their understanding of things. It is well known that when you do anything, unless you understand its actual circumstances, its nature and its relations to other things, you will not know the laws governing it, or know how to do it, or be able to do it well. This is what dialectics teaches us. That is, if a man wants to succeed in his work, and achieve the anticipated results, he must bring his ideas into correspondence with the laws of the objective external world; if they do not correspond, he will fail in his practice. After he fails, he draws his lessons, corrects his ideas to make them correspond to the laws of the external world, and can thus turn failure into success. Concrete analysis of concrete conditions, as Lenin said, is the most essential thing in politics, the living soul of politics. In this world, things are complicated and are decided by many factors. We should look at problems from different aspects, not just one. In approaching a problem, we should try to see the whole as well as the parts. A frog in a well says, "The sky is no bigger than the mouth of the well."

That is untrue, for the sky is not just the size of the mouth of the well. If it said, "A part of the sky is the size of the mouth of a well", that would be true, for it tallies with facts. And this is probably why Katele is urging the UPND and its leadership "to change the image that they are an inward-looking party rather than an outward-looking party".

In seeking an electoral victory, those deciding the political strategies and tactics of a political party cannot overstep the limitations imposed by the objective conditions; within these limitations, however, they can and must play a dynamic role in striving for victory. Their stage for campaign must be built upon objective possibilities, but on that stage they can direct the performance of many a drama, full of sound and colour, power and grandeur.

People must adapt their thinking to changed conditions. Of course, no one should go off into wild flights of fancy, or make plans of action unwarranted by the objective situation, or stretch for the impossible.
We should always use our brains and think everything over carefully. A common saying goes, "Knit your brows and you will hit upon a stratagem." In other words, much thinking yields wisdom. In order to get rid of the blindness which exists to a serious extent in their party, the UPND leaders and members must encourage their comrades to cultivate the habit of honest analysis of politics. If they don't, they will keep on getting things wrong, coming to wrong conclusions from correct premises like they did in the 2011 elections and the elections before. What is needed is an enthusiastic but calm state of mind and intense but orderly work. We hope they will not dismiss all this as insults on their intelligence. Like Katele, we are simply sharing our views with them. If they find anything valuable in what is being said, let them take it for free. If everything that is being said is crap, let them graciously ignore it.

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