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Opinion: Will character perceptions about HH and Lungu influence vote and decide the winner?

Filed under: Politics,Special Comments |

By Kalima Nkonde

My analysis is to outline the public perceptions of the two major candidates of the January 20,2015 elections and it will be up to the reader to decide to what extent the public perceptions will work for or against a particular candidate. Perceptions are underrated in our society but they do matter. In this article I will outline the positive and negative perceptions first of Edgar Lungu, and thereafter look at Hakainde Hichilema – HH.

Edgar Lungu

Edgar Lungu

Perceptions about Lungu’s Character

Edgar Lungu has been projected as a humble person, who never dreamt of being president and is not power hungry. He once voluntary relinguished his PF Chawama candidature for MP to another PF member on Sata’s instruction. He recently let go the Acting Vice Presidency post to Dr. Scott. It is also argued this is the reason that President Sata “anointed” him to take over from him. On the other hand, it is believed that Edgar is such a weaker leader and can easily be manipulated therefore not fit to be a President. It is argued that Lungu is not his own man and he is surrounded by uncouth characters who are corrupt and are all out to protect their interests.

There is a belief that Lungu loves his bottle like the late Boris Yetsin of Russia. Lungu is said to be a drunkard and possibly an alcoholic. This is supported by the infamous Post Newspaper secret taping of Finance Minister, Chikwanda who comfirmed that although very intelligent-Lungu graduated with a distinction in his law degree at University – the man loves his beer. It is alleged that as a result of his drinking habit over a long period of time, he has a kidney problem!

Most supporters of Lungu gravitate towards him because he is said to be a team player who listens to other people’s views before making a decision and has no dictatorial tendencies. This is argued is a mark of a great and successful leader and is a major departure from his former boss, late President Michael Sata who was known to be a dictator and a “ Chumbu Munshololwa”. Edgar, they say is prepared to learn and he does not have a know it all attitude like his predecessor nor his current opponent, HH.

There are those who feel Edgar Lungu’s ascendancy to the Presidency is rather meteoric. He has not achieved anything of note in life. His resume is thin and there is nothing to write home about . He is basically a non achiever it argued! In addition, it is said his integrity is questionable especially with the allegation that he helped himself to a Client’s money and was as result suspended by the Law Association of Zambia and his suspension was only lifted after he became Acting President.

There is a perceptions that Lungu represents the common man and this attribute endeared him well with the late Michael Sata. He is an MP of Chawama constituency which is made up poor people. He has lived in Chawama among the poor and he easily relates to them. In addition, Lungu grew up in a metropolitan area of Ndola on the Copperbelt which was a boiling point of different tribes. There was no tribalism during its upbringing as all tribes lived in harmony. This background makes him a unifier and not prejudiced. He can easily and naturally relate to any Zambian regardless of the region they come from! The friends he has are from different tribal groupings.

Hakainde Hichilema

Hakainde Hichilema

Perceptions about Hakainde Hichilema’s Character

Hakainde Hichilema was born in Monze in a very humble surroundings herding cattle. His resume is an impressive one. It is a story of from rags to riches. He is perceived as a highly successful business man and farmer who can replicate his success to the Presidency of the country.

On the other hand , HH is said to be arrogant, power hungry and stubborn whose success has gotten to his head and does not relate well the less successful people nor poor people. His critics point to his refusal to be Vice President to Levy Mwanawasa when he was offered the job as well as his refusal to be Sata’s VP in the aborted alliance as evidence of being power hungry and bigoted. Recently, in negotiations with MMD’s RB faction, he wanted RB to be his Vice President which RB refused and found it to be very disrespectful having been a President before and with more experience in Politics than HH.

He also has never held any elective office so does not have any constituency at all! They point out that he should have been humble enough and prepared to learn what is involved in politics and public office by playing second fiddle to the experienced politicians before wanting to ascend to the highest office in the land!

In view of his qualifications and business experience, HH is perceived as one who understands the modern economy in general and the Zambian economy in particular and knows exactly what needs to be done in order to fix the Zambian economy. Among all the candidates, he is the best qualified as the economic manager. There is general agreement that if the Presidency only involved hiring a person on basis of qualifications to fix the economy and candidates were given a job interview, HH beat other candidates hands down! Alas the requirements of Public office is much more complex than that.

When Anderson Mazoka was President, The UPND was perceived as a National party and it was growing in leaps and bounds. The top leadership had a national character and if it had not been for his death and by the change of the winning formulae by HH’s administration, UPND would have been in Government by now as they were a progressive party at that time. It is widely believed that UPND under Mazoka won 2001 elections and MMD with the help of the self styled political engineer, former president late Frederick Chiluba actually rigged the election! Following the death of Mazoka, and the infamous, “UPND can only be led by a Tonga” , and the anscendancy of HH from no “where to lead the party” which resulted in massive resignation of non Tonga Leaders, the party and its leader HH has been perceived as a tribal Party.

There is, however, a positive, perception about HH being a strong leader and a no nonsence person who is used to making hard decisions given his experience in business. The Presidency is all about making difficult decisions. The Country which is as sick as Zambia is in terms of lack of the rule of law and other ills needs a knowledgeable and strong leader who should make decisions which are in the best interests of the country and not for political expediency. HH, therefore fits the bill.

HH is said, by those who are close to him, to be dictatorial and not a team player with a know it all attitude. It is argued that If one strongly disagrees with him, he harbours grudges for a long time and he can be very unforgiving. He does not reconcile easily to those who differ with him. He somehow does not understand that the definition of politics being “ disagreement” and the need for compromise.

It is also felt by others that he is a divisive character not a team player or unifier . This perception was clearly demonstrated last year to the public by his boycotting the Golden Jubilee and some thanks giving Church services at Cathedral of Holy Cross and St Ignitius Catholic Church and where even the Political rivals like late President Sata and former President Rupiah Banda were seen on TV cameras smiling and greeting each other as brothers. Political party leaders like Edith Nawaki, Chipimo, Dr Mumba and others attended such services but HH was absent! He missed great opportunities of show casing himself as national leader and taking advantage of the optics of such occassions.

There is also a perception or an allegation that HH is member of the free Masons which Christians believe is a Satanist movement. He has not done enough to dispel this perception which can be damaging to some sections of voters. In addition, there is also a belief that he represents foreign interests and as a liquidator of some mines and parastatals, he greatly benefited personally and this was the source of his riches. He is compared to the Russian Oligarchs who were mostly young clever Russians like Chelsea’s Ramanov and others who got rich when the USSR disintegrated by cleverly looting Government assets.

In many other jurisdictions where voters are enlightened, the personality of the candidate, and his track record can influence who eventually emerges as a winner. In Africa in general, and Zambia in particular, the impart of perceptions by voters on the candidate is unknown. The value judgements of our society is also different. In western countries for example, President Zuma of South Africa could not have been elected twice President because of his baggage of corruption and polygamism.

In Africa ,there is a tendency to vote for the Party rather than the person but also we vote for a person we identify with. The winners are normally who the majority feel with promote their interests and who will satify the majority’s basic needs .Also, the weight assigned to the positive and negative perceptions by voters differ quite a lot because of the societal value judgement.

The winner, in my view, will be the one whose values that the majority of the voting block will identify with!


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