The other day, UPND leader Hakainde Hichilema (HH) made triumphant entry into Kumawa – Eastern province! He was proudly flanked by his two able deputies; son of the soil and illustrious medical practitioner Canicious Banda on one hand, and the man renowned for inflicting so much pain on the ruling party for bull-dozing his way into their stronghold and firmly planting UPND there, self-made multi-millionaire businessman, Geoffrey Bwalya Mwamba otherwise better known as GBM, on the other.
And indeed UPND can now boast of a Councilor in Northern Province!
Children abandoned whatever they were doing and trotted after the motorcade, women shrieked excitedly and ululated joyously while the youths stripped-off their shirts in a typical Ngoni warrior way and ran alongside the procession as it made its way into the city. And the men nodded their heads in approval, and vigorously waved the UPND symbol.
While this may spell a bad omen for the ruling party PF, it is definitely a harbinger of better things to come for opposition UPND.
Eastern province is President Edgar Lungu’s home province; naturally, one would expect Lungu to command unassailable support in the area. If late President Michael Sata for example, never commanded unparalleled support in the area where he hailed from, he wouldn’t even have imagined himself romping home to victory in the September 2011 polls. If the manner UPND leader HH has excited the crowds and captured people’s imaginations in Eastern province is anything to go by, a panic button has definitely been set in motion within PF circles!
The chief economic stay of Eastern province is obviously agriculture. This is the area known for producing quality chalimbana groundnuts, cotton, maize and tobacco among other things. What message is therefore likely to gel well with the Easterners?
Obviously, electorates want to connect with a party that is going to assure them of early delivery of farm inputs, accord them affordable agriculture inputs and of course facilitate easy access to the market. This is the kind of message which is going to mellow-down people’s hearts and make their faces glow with glee in return! This is exactly the same gospel that UPND has been preaching to easterners over and again, and it seems to be finally paying dividends.
If we are to take the current political landscape into perspective, we can safely conclude that UPND already has Central, Western, North western and Southern provinces under its belt while PF may claim to maintain some semblance of foothold in their traditional strongholds of Luapula, Northern, Muchinga, Copperbelt and Lusaka provinces.
However, this may no longer be the case. Of course there are several factors pointing to this. Firstly, the massive job losses in urban provinces, particularly on the Copperbelt, have definitely alienated a significant chunk of voters from the ruling party. About 8000 miners and contractors lost their jobs in the mines due to the structuring exercise. Add their immediate and extended families to this figure; this translates into thousands of votes.
Secondly, the Miles Sampa factor has tremendously eroded the PF support base in Northern, Muchinga and Luapula provinces. Lungu must be ruing the day he crossed swords with the evergreen Member of Parliament from Matero who has since gone on to launch his own political party. When he resigned as deputy minister, the astute and shrewd politician that Sampa is proving to be by the day; “tricked” the leadership that he wanted to concentrate on helping reorganize the party around the country. As soon as they got hypnotized and fell sound asleep, the man from Matero got down to work converting PF members into his disciples! Just wait for parliament to be dissolved and you’ll see what will be left of PF.
This leaves us with one province – Kumawa! Of course the wise people from the east have already decided what they want.
This one will definitely be quite an interesting election indeed. As they say in Nyanja, “wina azalila!” Someone will definitely cry come August 11, 2016, let’s wait and see.
By Prince Bill M. Kapinga