Political campaigns are like trials before judge and jury

Filed under: Politics,Special Comments |

By Munyonzwe Hamalengwa, PhD

A political campaign is like a trial before Judge and jury. Even when you think the evidence is in your favour, a slight slip on an important point by one witness, can lose the case for you. The O. J Simpson trial in the USA is a case on point. The prosecution (the government)thought they had the case won, they thought they had mountains of evidence. The victory was in the bag. Alas, one witness in the name of Mark Furhman derailed the prosecution case and the defence (the opposition) won. The defence reduced prosecution evidence from a mountain to a mole hill, to nothing. The roles can also be reversed where the opposition (the defence) may think that they have so much damning evidence against the prosecution (government ) in form of police misconduct and corruption in the case, witnesses lacking in credibility and other serious weaknesses undermining the case, only to be derailed by one defence misstep like a lying witness or a stupid defence lawyer’s submission to the jury on a crucial point.

What prosecutors and defence lawyers have learnt in their practices is that you can never pre-judge how a jury will rule. There are like in politics, many hidden forces that influence the decision and outcome. The police can influence the crown witnesses or jury members as the police know where all jurors live and they know whether or not they are broke or are drunkards and can manipulate them by corrupting them. The Judge who appears impartial can manipulate subtly sometimes by his slanted instructions to the jury or can tip the balance in favour of one side by his rulings on what evidence goes in or what evidence is inadmissible. The judge is equivalent to the Electoral Commission or the Judiciary if an election result is challenged. The police is equivalent to the police who may deny a permit to a party from holding an election campaign while allowing one party to campaign unobstructed. To the people it may appear that the police or the Electoral Commission is applying the law in a neutral fashion while it is not the case or may mot be the case. Witnesses or voters may be bought. The Electoral Commission or a Judge could be bought. Sometimes the witness or the Electoral Commission or a Judge is courageous enough to refuse a bribe. There are still tough minded people out there who listen and respect the truth and their conscience.

Some of us who have conducted jury trials never predict what the result would be in advance. I have lost jury cases I thought I had won and I have won jury cases where I thought I had no chance. Most times hidden forces do the winning or losing for you. Sometimes you only find out accidentally after the fact what made you win or lose.

A long time ago, John Major of Britain thought he had the re-election victory in the bag, only to lose miserably to the opposition, just like in jury trials. In the USA, John McCain (a white man)it is rumoured that he thought he could not lose to Barrack Obama ( a Black Man) just as Hillary Clinton had thought. But they were trounced by Barrack Obama. Closer home, Rupiah Banda from what people say, never thought that he could lose to Michael Sata. But he did.
Just the other day, no one thought that a Muslim whose parentage was from Pakistan could win the position of Mayor of London, the heartland of imperialism. But he won. The candidate was a White mainstream face of British colonialism. But voters have evolved. They can never be taken for granted even in Zambia. Tribal talk no longer sways, potent as it is still used by some politicians. In January 2015, the difference in the margin of victory in the presidential election was only 27,000. Zambians have matured. All major political parties contain people from all tribes and age groups and both genders.
The point is, never count the chickens until they hatch. Predicting and pronouncing victory in advance is allowable as a propaganda and psychological tool. But never take it seriously. There are many hidden forces that can tip the victory one way. Most rulers in the world are not the legitimate people’s choices. They are impostors, just like all types of quack pastors who predict who is going to win any election. Politics is the art of the possible.

Dr. Munyonzwe Hamalengwa was once Vice-President of the University of Zambia  Students Union (UNZASU) and now teaches law.


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Start: 2019-07-01 End: 2019-07-31