Autopsy noun
1. An examination of a body after death to determine the cause of death or the character and extent of changes produced by disease —called also necropsy
2. A critical examination, evaluation, or assessment of someone or something past
Congratulations again to Michael Chilufya Sata and his party the Patriotic Front (PF) for winning the Zambian elections on 20th September 2011. As much as Sata had a superior campaign, I feel that the loss by Rupiah Banda and the Movement for Multi-party Democracy (MMD) was also self-inflicted due to some important tactical mistakes:

1. Banda’s handling of dissenting voices within his party was terrible (eg Sylvia Masebo, Lameck Mangani, Jonas Shakafuswa, Lameck Chibombamilimo, etc). After he was chosen by the MMD National Executive Commitee (NEC) to succeed the late president Levy Mwanawasa, he should have been more conciliatory towards the Ng’andu Magande supporters. You need strong unity going into a tight election. Even though some of the dissenters have lost their re-election campaigns, they have taken away valuable votes from MMD that could have made a difference. eg in 2006, Masebo got 16,104 votes versus 4,618 for the PF candidate Kalonga Atanga. This time round, she got 8,143 as a PF candidate versus 14,384 for Japhen Mwakalombe from MMD. MMD therefore has not only lost 2,000 votes from 2006, but they have given away about 4,000 votes representing the difference between the PF candidate in 2006 and 2011. Considering the incumbency factor, Masebo also took away many valuable votes which could have otherwise gone to MMD if she was contesting under them. This logic can be extrapolated to the other seats contested by prominent defectors.

2. After the collapse of the UPND-PF pact, Banda missed a golden opportunity by not offering Hakainde Hichilema the Vice-Presidency. UPND could have been absorbed into MMD and the result a stronger party. When Sata was declared winner last night, Banda and Hichilema together had 54.6% of the votes compared to Sata’s 43%.

3. Removing Vernon Mwaanga from campaign manager was not a wise move. Banda apparently was over-confident, thinking that Zambians would be impressed by his developmental projects, forgetting that perception is everything. You can do things you think support your cause but your opponent can twist them to make you look bad. Banda was good as an Economic Manager but terrible as a Political tactician and VJ could have helped him on this.

4. Banda’s poor handling of the Western Province riots, leading to the shooting of innocent people was the final nail in the coffin (point made by Chanda Chisala). Banda was outmanoeuvred by Sata who took a more populist approach, even changing his position on the Barotseland Agreement. Banda has paid the price of not realizing how important this issue was. Western was the swing province in 2008 that has come to haunt him this year (he lost several constituencies he won last time round).

In my view, Banda made some excellent decisions on the economy, better than any of his predecessors. The privatization of Zamtel, reducing regulations, courting investors and removing windfall taxes are examples. Zambia’s 7% growth rate is not just an accident of copper prices but of the economic policies he implemented. You just have to look to countries like Congo, Liberia and Zimbabwe to see that policy is far more important than natural resources.

I think we should all give Banda the utmost respect and salute him for his great work which has laid a solid foundation for Mr Sata to build on. He has handed over power peacefully unlike many African leaders and he has earned the admiration of millions of Africans.

I still have serious misgivings about Mr Sata and I am not yet convinced that he embodies the change Zambians expect. However, I sincerely hope I am proved wrong on this.

For now the jury is still out.