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It’s build or break, SWOT analysis of PF in the face of rulling UPND in Zambia

Filed under: Special Comments |
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By Dr Chris Zumani Zimba (Former President Edgar Lungu’s Political Advisor)

Everything is happening so fast and HH is in a hurry to institutionalize his power base and ensure minimal political competition for 2026.

He understands the political game, he has the workable strategy and has ruthlessly shown incumbency potency. In like manner, the former ruling PF is not giving up yet but drilling sure political holes for the New Dawn government everywhere despite bleeding both financially, materially and politically.

Below, l summarize a SWOT analysis of PF in the face of the ruling UPND government.

Some identified strength and opportunities for PF this far could be as follows:

  1. They have countrywide membership and structures that have remained somehow ‘united’ with very minimal defections to Socialist party and UPND;
  2. They have the second largest force of MPs in parliament, most council chairpersons and councilors countrywide; the real lead opposition party in Zambia;
  3. Many people still compare the UPND government performance to the PF government in terms of delivery against the UPND’s own multiple campaign promises;
  4. UPND has shown many cracks of frustrations, divisions and discouragement for failure to ‘equitably share’ the spoils of war amongst its members and cadres;
  5. PF has the full experience of being in the opposition for 10 years as well as running government for a decade too. If they harness this strength well, they could retain political potency more than UPND thinks;
  6. Many PF leaders and cadres are still hopeful that they can bounce back into power in 2026 or 2031 with the practicality of having 8 party presidential candidates willfully paying K200,000 each to succeed ECL. This is good as it raises both political morale and faith among their members;
  7. UPND has made PF more ‘united’ and forceful by denouncing, harassing and rejecting them as a wholesome team and thereby blocking mass defections which is usually the case if and when a party lose power. Thus, PF enjoys imposed and forced ‘collective unity’ due to UPND hostile face;
  8. The regional and global economic dynamics, geopolitical factors such Russia-Ukraine war may favour PF if prolonged as fuel, grains and fertilizer may become more expense plus the ‘poison’ of climate change especially if UPND fails to deliver on the economic front as promised in 2021;
  9. The Zambian economy too is still sick and not giving immediate positive signs for full recovery while the health sector as well as agriculture sector seem to be running on life support machines;
  10. Despite HH maintaining his firm position on containing cadres, UPND is speedily showing the deep wounds and cracks of political violence, cadre thuggery and the brutality of harassing and disrespecting citizens, civil servants and voters just like PF did and was rejected; and
  11. HH is now Republican President which makes it impossible for him to make rhetoric promises as he is supposed to just perform and deliver. Thus, PF is now popular on social media than UPND with many ‘Allie’s’ while HH now attracts more scrutiny and public criticism as voters expects results, not stories.

To the contrary, there are multiple weaknesses, challenges and threats against PF bouncing back into power in 2026 or 2031 as follows:

  1. PF still wants to exist and compete as Northern/Bemba party 20 years after its birth when political dynamics have completely changed. They needed to present themselves as a ‘national political movement’ focusing on Copperbelt and Lusaka while their rural regions are defended in campaign battles. Copperbelt and Lusaka have the largest numbers and made HH victorious in 2021 without debate. But PF still prioritize ‘their rural Northern regions’ even as they debate ECL’s successor;
  2. PF strongholds of Luapula, Northern, Muchinga and Eastern are porous, fragile and unreliable; they consistently show fluidity and non ethnic voting when compared to UPND strongholds that are ethnically biased, closed and rigid. Eg both RB and ECL were not fully supported by Eastern voters in 2011 and 2021. Last year, ECL narrowly won Eastern province by 51% with HH getting 49%; and HH beat ECL in Northern province by 51% against 49%. Along the three Zambezi provinces of UPND, HH got his lion’s share of 89% in total while ECL only got 11% in 2021;
  3. PF strongholds are being invaded and over powered by UPND while they have been blocked from making political life in the three Zambezi regions. While UPND cadres can now go to Petauke, Mwense, Mpika, Mansa, Chama or Chadiza to freely mobilize, campaign and win an election there, PF cadres cannot now freely camp, mobilize and win any election in Pemba, Sesheke, Lukulu, Chavuma, Mazabuka or Mwinilunga. It’s practically impossible;
  4. Many PF folks are blindly demanding and rushing to a convention to choose ECL’s successor with a 20 years old mind set of looking for a Bemba president instead of looking for a right and suitable leader. At this stage, PF is supposed to be looking for someone who is angry and with a national appeal, huge brains and amazing resources like HH himself, Alick Dangote, Elon Musk or Moses Katumbi because HH is not a child’s play at the path is moving for 2026;
  5. From the death of Sata to date, PF has survived with too many centres of power; more internally divided and fractured on ethnic and regional basis. Although ECL was their leader for 7 years, they consistently challenged and undermined him with ethnic reasons and political egos both internally and externally but he graciously tried to unite them this far;
  6. The PF leadership succession has too many people vying for power which may birth splinter or new parties after the famous convention and weaken them further. This convention is a huge threat to the survival of PF, it’s build or break especially that HH is more interested to know his next main rival;
  7. PF still wants to use their party constitution to the latter like a Bible. It’s too dangerous and risky now especially that UPND has tripled its political mighty and schemes. Central Committee was supposed to take control of the game than their supreme document and do the needful at every stage;
  8. UPND is penetrating and rooting itself in former PF strongholds while PF is being closed up in UPND strongholds; In 2026, PF will be confined to campaign only in 6/7 provinces as UPND will physically close their stronghold in the Zambezi provinces;
  9. UPND has mastered and perfected their art of political crushing of rivals over years. It started as ‘Mapatizya Formula’, it was used generously last in their strongholds with a signature of Jackson Kungo’s murder and in 2022, it delivered Kwacha, Kabushi and the recent local government bye elections;
  10. HH and the UPND government have tamed many local activists and pocketed Western donors to themselves. Don’t expect Americans, EU, British governments to fight or condemn him on anything soon or later because he is their preferred president. This makes PF and the entire opposition weaker and vulnerable to political abuse and defilement.
  11. HH has time to govern and with public resources on his table; the gods may touch and bless him to deliver on many of his campaign promises by 2026. If and when this happens, the political hopes of PF to sing “Alebwelelapa” will be turned into political nightmares and crushed;
  12. So far, UPND has shown unity of command where only HH is the lead political figure to command and rule everyone in the party. While HH enjoys this maximum loyalty and allegiance, PF has always had too many bigwigs, more than 10 Bonanzas and Bulldozers all challenging and vying for power without regards for anyone;
  13. HH has made a huge difference with real fiscal decentralization by loading millions of money into local communities.i.e K26 million annually per constituency; he is employing in masses and improving his free education policy. If these programs work out and benefit majority masses among others countrywide, PF may need more prayers and fasting for 2026; and
  14. As long as they can use it prudently and improve the economy as well as empower the lives of many Zambians, the IMF loan will remain a huge strength of HH regardless of what PF and UPND critics say. Until the IMF loan conditions start making many citizens angry, cry, mourn and fume, it will remain HH’s strength for now than a weakness.

Our mechanics rarely use old spare parts when they are repairing our cars; but that does not mean old spare parts are useless. Sometimes, they use some of them. Such a summary SWOT analysis may not be too factual, but it is good to help our brothers and sisters in PF and UPND to understand that 2026 is not going to be simple for both sides. What is coming ahead of them in 2026 is not a political battle but the actual Russia-Ukraine war as it’s best.

In addition, both PF and UPND must not miss certain emerging new political players like the Socialist party in their 2026 strategy and schemes. Such forces are more than useful now than later if they understand mass mobilization and grassroot politics. Anyway, we leave politics to politicians but submit our views and opinions.

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