I have no doubt that United Party for National Development (UPND) president Mr Hakainde Hichilema is a a good man with a good heart and good intentions for Zambia. However, his recent political tactics are painting an ugly picture of a man seemingly out of touch with reality.
With all due respect to Mr Hichilema, the Zambians who supported him did not vote for him so that he can gripe and moan endlessly about a stolen election seven months after the fact. Yes we all know he has a very valid point about the elections being less than above board owing to various irregularities. Mr Hichilema is not helping himself or his supporters by being stuck in the past and crying over spilled milk instead of looking to 2021.
If Mr Hichilema is to be honest with himself, he made tactical mistakes which cost him an election that he had a good chance of winning. He became overconfident and thought he had the election in the bag. This coupled with underestimating the ruling Patriotic Front (PF) under Edgar Lungu caused him to be complacent and fail to plug potential loopholes.
Mr Hichilema failed to put in place a proper functioning Parallel Vote Tabulation (PVT) system in place that could quickly raise red flags, especially in Lusaka. As a famous quote attributed to former Soviet Union leader Joseph Stalin says, the people who vote decide nothing; the people who count the votes decide everything.
Mr Hichilema petitioned the election results last year and what happened during the 14 days Constitutional Court case was a comedy of unbelievable errors. HH and his team wasted the entire 2 weeks raising preliminary issues. Believe it or not, even on the final day of deliberations they raised 4 preliminary issues that took up to 19:00 hours to decide on!
So when Mr Hichilema continues to say that he wants his dead case to be heard, he sounds utterly ridiculous. No one put a gun to his head and forced him to waste the 14 days he was given. He could have revealed so much during the case and we would have learned about the shenanigans that taint elections and a precedent would have been set for future elections.
I was shaking my head when I read his recent statement that no one can force him to recognize Edgar Lungu as president without hearing the petition. According to him, it is a “sheer waste of time”. He is a very intelligent man but such statements taint his credibility and make him sound delusional. And when Mr Hichilema claims to be talking to US President Donald Trump to come and sort out “African dictators” like Edgar Lungu, he reduces his credibility further. Does he really expect Mr Trump to come and sort out his own mess? Does he really believe that his election petition will ever see the light of day, in direct contravention of the Constitution which provides for a 14 day hearing?
As the News Diggers editorial comment of 3rd April 2017 noted, Mr Hichilema can cry all he wants about the “stolen election” and “being heard” in court, but hardly anyone is listening to him. Instead of providing robust opposition and checks and balances to the ruling PF the way the late Mr Michael Sata did to the then ruling Movement for Multiparty Democracy (MMD), Mr Hichilema continues to waste our time with pointless regurgitated statements that add no value. He would do well to heed Mr Sata’s statement years ago that elections are not won in court but on the political battlefield.
The PF have given the opposition so much material to hit them with every day but Mr Hichilema is failing in his duties to provide robust opposition. He can help the PF govern better by pointing out their mistakes and he can go on radio every week and show Zambians a better alternative to the PF policies. He should be selling himself instead of whining and complaining.
If Mr Hichilema has failed to fulfill his role as biggest opposition leader, perhaps it is time to step down from politics and go back into full time business. It is bad enough that he lost 5 elections, but to continue making himself irrelevant to Zambian politics means he is doing the nation and his supporters a huge disservice. He is digging a very big grave for the UPND.
Mr Hichilema and the UPND should focus on real issues like getting the application of the Public Order Act properly sorted out by suing the Zambia Police. The Police are illegally enforcing a non-existent provision by assuming the power to give permits for holding rallies. The Supreme Court in 1995 (Christine Mulundika and Seven Others Vs The People) ruled that the Police do not have the power to issue or deny a permit for a public gathering. All one has to do is notify them in advance. I end by quoting some excerpts from the case:
“The requirement of prior permission [for a gathering] is an obvious hindrance to two very important freedoms under the constitution since the right to organise and participate in a public gathering is inherent in the freedom to express and to receive ideas and information without interference and to communicated ideas and information without interference. The fact or possibility that permission to assemble and to speak may be refused – so that the constitutional freedoms are denied altogether – on improper or arbitrary ground or even on unknown grounds, renders the subsection [5(4)] objectionable for a variety of reasons.”
“…the holding that section 5(4) is unconstitutional will simply mean that the police and other authorities can no longer deny the citizens of this country their freedom to assemble and speak. The requirement of a prior permit is a left over from the days of Her Majesty’s Governors and the British themselves do not require permission to assemble and speak. Why should we require it?”
“In sum and for the reasons which we have given we hold that subsection 4 of section 5 the Public Order Act, CAP 104, contravenes Articles 20 and 21 of the constitution and is null and void, and therefore invalid for unconstitutionality. It follows also that the invalidity and the constitutional guarantee of the rights of assembly and expression preclude the prosecution of persons and the criminalisation of gatherings in contravention of the subsection pronounced against.”