Swing provinces in January election – Some personal reflections

Filed under: Politics,Special Comments |

By Henry Kabinga

A recent posting on Zambian internet sites quoted the political analyst and friend of mine Neo Simutanyi as saying whoever wins Lusaka and Eastern Provinces will decide the winner of this month’s Presidential election. The article seemed to suggest that the two provinces must both be won by one candidate to decide the outcome of the election. It is not clear if this is what Neo meant as he was being quoted off an interview he had given to QFM radio.

It is possible he simply said Lusaka and Eastern are the swing provinces because the question that arises in my mind immediately is who wins if one candidate takes Lusaka and the other takes Eastern Province? (The assumption here is that we are talking about Hakainde Hichilema and Edgar Lungu). I raise the last question to demonstrate that there is more to the question than the answer suggests. Furthermore, I think that unlike some of the previous elections where swing provinces have clearly been seen such as the 2006 election where it appears Eastern Province swung the election in favour of Levy Mwanawasa (hence the appointment of Rupiah Banda as Vice President), the 2015 scenario is not as straightforward.

I will proceed to outline some of the factors that make this coming election somewhat different from previous relatively black or white affairs. Firstly, the 2015 election is being held against the backdrop of very serious fissures in two of the major contenders, namely PF and MMD. The fratricidal fights that have taken place in these two parties have led to very major realignment of forces that make outright predictions rather perilous.

We have a scenario where the MMD, Zambia’s dominant party in twenty of the last twenty three years split into three rather significant groups. One group comprising of both Members of Parliament and NEC is rooting for the party President Nevers Mumba who is the official MMD candidate. The other group also comprising of MPs and NEC members has chosen to back the UPND candidate, Hakainde Hichilema while very recently, a group that had backed Rupiah Banda’s failed election bid, and led by Rupiah himself has thrown its weight behind Edgar Lungu of the PF. This electoral variable cuts across provinces and affects the whole country.

As if the dynamics cited above are not sufficient enough to cause difficulties in making predictions, the PF itself is split into three factions, yes, you heard me right, three.

One group is backing Edgar Lungu while the second group that includes PF MPs Geoffrey Bwalya Mwamba (GBM) and Sylvia Masebo has come out in support of Hakainde Hichilema. This group includes not just individuals but entire PF structures such as the Western Province Committee that is supporting Hichilema’s candidature.

The third group comprises those that have only recently left the PF to join Wynter Kabimba’s newly formed Rainbow Party. I include these as a PF faction because until very recently, they comprised whole PF structures such as Constituency, District and Provincial Committees. I am made to understand this category is also supporting Hichilema. A recent article in one of Zambia’s leading papers mentioned that the Rainbow Party in North Western Province led by losing Solwezi Parliamentary candidate Newton Malwa is campaigning for Hichilema.

Predicting provincial election outcomes in previous elections was relatively easy. For instance, it was always known where the UPND would score big and where they would fare very badly, and likewise for the MMD and the PF. Even as far back as 2001, Anderson Mazoka’s landslides in Southern, Western and North Western Provinces were predictable just as his abysmal performance in Luapula, Northern and Copperbelt Provinces could be foretold.

One notable previous outcome arising from a swing vote was 2001 when the UPND candidate, (in an arguable win that is still a controversial talking point today), took Lusaka Province by a wide margin. Anderson Mazoka emerged winner against most predictions (it was always assumed that Christon Tembo of the FDD would carry the day in Lusaka). Mazoka’s surge in Lusaka was a very late one and appears to have come on the back of two very significant events. One was his polished ZNBC live television debate performance against a rather lackluster and bumbling showing by Christon Tembo. Godfrey Miyanda, another serious contender tied himself in all sorts of knots as he tried to explain away his not so easily understood Village Concept!

What appears to have clinched the deal though, was Dr. Kenneth Kaunda’s rather indirect endorsement of Mazoka when he (Kaunda) appeared on one of the last Let the People Talk programmes on Radio Phoenix prior to the election. Kaunda, when asked a very touchy question at the time, as to whether Mazoka had stolen (some say switched) cattle when he was Zambia Railways Managing Director replied “do you think I would not have had him arrested if he had” or words to that effect.

That answer put to bed all talk on that subject from then on, effectively clearing Mazoka of any past wrong doing. And when asked who he was endorsing for President, KK gave the audience a choice of three names; Mazoka, Tilyenji (his son) or Nevers Mumba. The populace took that as an endorsement of Mazoka as the other two were in any case not serious contenders. The result? An emphatic win for Mazoka.

Let me get back to the subject of swing provinces in Zambian elections, I am of the view that in this election, predicting outcomes for a number of the provinces will not be easy. For instance, we have seen for the first time, a very determined effort by Hichilema to reach out to areas where his showing in previous elections was very bad. Hichilema, buoyed by the support of such big names as GBM, UPND National Chairperson Mutale Nalumango, Felix Mutati and Morgan Mucheleka among others in Northern Province; and Katele Kalumba, Chief Puta and his Indunas among others in Luapula Province; is set to do infinitely far much better than UPND has ever done before in these areas.

The fact that these personalities are on the ground and campaigning even in the absence of Hichilema will definitely result in a very robust showing. There is also no doubt that given the overwhelming support of Copperbelt rural and the discontentment of urban Copperbelt dwellers especially in Chingola, Luanshya and others, with PF neglect; Hichilema is bound to increase his vote in this province very significantly.

Most observers would state that Lusaka, Luapula, Northern and Copperbelt provinces are safe areas for Edgar Lungu going by the previous showing of the PF. This could be so but could equally turn out to be delusional. I say so because what made them safe was Sata’s sheer personality and campaign abilities. Sata was a mover and shaker and carved out a niche for his party singlehandedly and single mindedly. Sata died and with him the PF persona. Edgar does not have Sata’s personality and charisma and whether he can maintain the PF’s strength in these ‘safe’ areas makes for a serious bet. I have already mentioned the expected significantly improved showing of Hakainde in these areas.

Another significant aspect of this election is the ethnicity of the major contenders. A good number of the strong candidates in this race are from Bemba speaking areas, the traditional stronghold of the PF. Whereas the general assumption is that a divided opposition vote favours the ruling party, this may not apply this time around. With Nevers Mumba, Edith Nawakwi and Elias Chipimo all ethnically hailing from the same PF stronghold, Edgar Lungu’s advantage over Hichilema is severely curtailed as he is bound to share this ‘Bemba’ vote with these others. It does not help when campaigns take on an ethnic tone such as Elizabeth Mulobeka’s recent tribal remarks about Bembas voting only for other Bembas. No doubt the fact that Lungu, while enjoying overwhelming Bemba support, is not Bemba, will not be lost on the voter.

Continuing with the ethnic card, the recent support that Edgar has garnered from Rupiah Banda, while appearing to favour Lungu in Eastern Province could turn out to be a poisoned chalice for Lungu. Banda’s support and the rather not well thought out and weak reasons he advanced for his endorsement were not very convincing and the ‘Umodzi ku mawa’ and ‘Wako ni Wako’ tribal connotations could easily be discerned. Does this help Lungu’s overall vote countrywide? Given the adverse reactions from even his closest confidants such as Ambassador Joe Mwale and a good number of Eastern Province MMD MPs, I am inclined to respond in the negative. Banda’s support is also bound to be very suspiciously regarded by the PF rank and file who might well question the wisdom of voting for Lungu.

The rural vote is not homogenous across the country and often follows elements of ethnicity or ethnic associations. This vote comprises mostly of peasant farmers whose concerns are basically those to do with provision of farming inputs and payment for their produce. The PF Government has failed the peasant farmers most of whom have not been paid for the previous farming season and their anger has resulted in riots and demonstrations across the country.

It is already a talking point and recent indicators point to the Eastern Province, a major agricultural producer voting against the PF candidate basically as a result of these agricultural failures. This may wipe out any advantage RB’s endorsement of Lungu may have brought to Edgar’s campaign. I would hasten to think that for the first time, this voting block could become homogenous and unanimously vote for Hakainde countrywide. I therefore submit that if there be a real swing vote by block, it could be right here in this paragraph!

I would like to address the issue of the individual top contenders last. Hichilema has so far been in three presidential elections in which on all occasions he came third. He can be considered a veteran of elections and it has started to show. That he has improved his electoral strategy is very clear. His campaign currently is the most organized, his message consistent and focused and his coverage very wide spread. He started with whistle-stop campaigns in all provinces and followed these up with a concentration of campaigns in areas where he is weak.

It is understood that after completing tours in his strongholds of North Western, Western, Southern, Copperbelt Rural and large parts of Central Province, he will use the remaining two weeks to do ‘the big ones’ which include Lusaka’s peri urban and Copperbelt urban areas. This format is both strategic and tactical and could well decide the election.

Lungu’s campaign started off shakily having come off a very acrimonious convention that left his party deeply divided. To date the wounds are still fresh and the campaign itself is yet to gather the momentum of his major rival. Another factor working against Lungu is his lack of a message. Almost from the start, Lungu appeared to be unprepared for this election. From admitting to not having a vision of his own, Lungu has bungled his way through the campaign, making the exact same promises Hakainde is making and generally failing to articulate issues in a coherent and cogent way. To be fair to him, he was not ready for the task at hand.

Lungu does not have the luxury of time. From my personal experience of campaign politics, I can say with certainty that Lungu will not be able to sufficiently cover the country in the time remaining. He still has a number of provinces to cover which he hasn’t been to with only two weeks before the election. As I write now, he is just shuttling between Northern/ Muchinga and Eastern Provinces! This could be fatal for his electoral chances given that he is a relatively unkown quantity. There will be areas in this campaign where some people have never heard of him let alone seen him. His opportunity for visibility was further tactlessly squandered when he refused to appear on a ZNBC presidential debate programme.

There are those who think this election is too close to call and that could well turn out to be true. On the balance of my arguments above, I am personally inclined to think that Hichilema currently holds the advantage. I conclude by stating once more that the issues at hand are complex and cannot be reduced to the question of the ultimate winner being one who takes Lusaka and the Eastern Provinces as suggested by Simutanyi.


30 Responses to Swing provinces in January election – Some personal reflections

  1. Everything turned out sour the moment you Mr. Kabinga decided to side with HH.. You’re killing him that way as he’ll be unable to rectify his mistakes. The whole article sounds like all is well with team HH, but the opposite is true.

    I visited Lusaka and Copperbelt last week, Baba forget! The majority of voters who are youth amazed me. Despite being unemployed they still cling to PF saying the party has done more in 3years than MMD and UNIP combined. They are still expectant and would not want to experiment. In other words, they feel given enough time, PF will redeem them…

    January 6, 2015 at 7:58 pm

    • Which Lusaka and Copperbelt did you visit and where are u from? The issue of the unemployed still being expectant is your imagination bwana. Truth be told PF is gone.

      January 6, 2015 at 11:06 pm

      • Maine, the problem is that you think you hold the absolute truth or that only your opinion matter. State your opinion and let others’ opinions stand also. Don’t counter other people’s opinions. Just state your opinion, “KWAMANA!” to borrow Kabimba’s way of talking.

        RB disciple
        January 8, 2015 at 2:00 am

    • yes you are right Dollar, the have borrowed more than mmd and unip, so that is a plus for

      January 7, 2015 at 12:52 pm

    • Iwe dollar you are a liar. Which people were you talking to on the Copperbelt? HH has penetrated the pf hide outs on the Copperbelt like bush fire, and Kabinga is very factual as is obtaining on the ground. People have rejected Edgar for many reasons including his beer addictions, his claim that he is vision-less, his marraige with RB and his getting campaign funds from boko Aram or Nigerian muslims. Pf has lost half of its members to Rainbow party, to GBM, Masebo and Miles (though he is back). So to be honest HH is above board.

      Bwembya Charles
      January 7, 2015 at 2:58 pm

  2. This article is excellent. You have been very objective and analytical.
    I did not really agree with Simutanyi’s logic on the Eastern and Lusaka win.

    Anyway that aside I want to share that some PF bloggers feel that all those who voted for Sata or RB will vote for EL. It is so unbelievable that someone can think like that. My guess is that they are “hanging onto their jobs” by thinking positive. Does it help? No. The earlier they acknowledge the high possibility of leaving their jobs in the missions abroad the better for them. If EL wins, which I highly doubt, lucky for them altho’ am sure a number will be “purged”.

    As for me, it is

    Viva #FlightHH2015.

    January 6, 2015 at 8:00 pm

  3. Very critical analysis and so un-bias.

    January 6, 2015 at 8:31 pm

  4. I have not been so keen to read these analysis to the end but am compelled to agree with Kabinga he really brought out issues that are not based on immotion denial but rather spliting petinent issues one after the other. Well thought article

    Chimbwi No Plan
    January 6, 2015 at 9:12 pm

  5. Excellent analysis-clearly shows the writer is a well accomplished educated individual.

    January 6, 2015 at 9:28 pm

  6. On the ground though is that the majority of the voters across the country including lusaka have no access to online media which propagates all the info that makes the writer here think the way he does. If you want to do a real analysis go to the street go to the village am sure you will cry that indeed Pf is carrying the day. Just at our stations here in lusaka, at city market people only know and hear about Lungu, on a very small sections of the population has access and do follow these social media pausing as news rooms…. it very different on the ground baba. Dont spend your time reading page after page on watchdog, ltimes, reports eye etc…. go see for yourself and you will be disappointed. You dont even need to go to the villages just lusaka, it worse if you go to the rural town, only a small group that work for the bomas have access to other media like the post, the rest of the population only know whats on ZNBC and you will agree with me that ZNBC is showing the so called “good works” of PF which to the eyes of the people is wow!

    January 6, 2015 at 9:31 pm

    • The article has nothing to do with social media. I think it is an article that is well thought out. And when you say on the ground you seem to suggest you are the only one on the ground or Lusaka bus stop is the ground. For example the farmers voting against PF has nothing to do with reading social media but what is really on the ground which is their experiences with PF.

      January 6, 2015 at 11:04 pm

      • The difference between me and you is most of the info you have is what you are reading on social media and I am on the trail daily even as I comment on this article. Behind an article like this one is a human mind which is decided towards some direction and if you will base all your analysis of the election on what you read, just wait and see, time will surely tell…

        January 6, 2015 at 11:39 pm

  7. “This article is excellent. You have been very objective and analytical. I did not really agree with Simutanyi’s logic on the Eastern and Lusaka win.”

    You will have to learn to accept it even if you don’t want to. Truth is that, Sata (MHSRIP) is still a big factor in this election. In a typical rural Northern, Luapula, Muchinga provinces voters just see Sata in pf, they don’t see Lungu. Its not tribal its just natural that an american would protect fellow american, that a mwaba would protect fellow mwamba cause they came from same father, in the same way typical tonga will vote tonga, typical bemba will vote bemba, its not tribal, its nature that was caused by the creator, by nature I am inclined to help my father and not your father, I am not being tribal by that, its just nature and this natural inclination grows from unit family to community/village, to province etc. thus in this election where we have Lungu covered in Sata’s skin vs HH as the biggest contenders,, Nature will swing Northern, Muchinga, Luapula etc, towards Lungu and Southern Towards HH. The unrepresented will now be swinging not by nature. Like it or not, RB is a factor in Eastern province, let alone Lungu himself and for these 2 – nature is on their side for this province. Ofcourse western swings to HH but believe me the number of positive pf-wards in this province increased tremendously in the last 3 years, call the sata – pf developmental projects “propaganda” :- they worked typical villagers etc sow a huge difference even in western province; you can deny this only to your disappointment.

    This is how lusaka becomes a swing province cause here there is a lot of mixing. But the challenge is that the majority of the voters here are the poor, who have only informal means of living, by the way just mandevu constituency has more registered voters than some of the provinces and so lusaka is huge factor. So just accept Simuntanyi’s analysis…its is true on the ground may not make sense in the social media

    January 6, 2015 at 9:56 pm

    • You are a very backward person. And its scary that we have people like you in Zambia.

      January 7, 2015 at 4:36 pm

  8. By this statement “But the challenge is that the majority of the voters here are the poor, who have only informal means of living,” I meant to add that these have little or no access to the info on social medea like you and me and so they dont have the kind of info you have which tunes your thinking and analysis in the way you do. These are the same people you will find in the streets who only know what they saw on ZNBC and what they “hear” is the headline in the post. ask them about watchdog, zambianeye, lusakatimes etc, they have no idea what you are talking about.

    January 6, 2015 at 10:04 pm

  9. Malandisa if you have no counter analysis to the article and hope that ZNBC or the Post will influence this vote is wishfully thinking please just keep quiet. HH has been more on the so called ground than us the armchair critics and indications are that he is winning. The article compares the two candidates in terms of campaign strategy, message, whose side time is on to preach his message, how much time one has spent on the so called ground, the ethnic card and it’s effects, experience in elections and so on. The article concludes HH is ahead of EL period!

    January 6, 2015 at 11:15 pm

    • indeed the article concludes…. but is this what is really happening? You are right the writer here writes his thoughts and he has the right to think and write…. and just the fact that you seem to think that every zambian has access to social media just shows how uninformed about our societies you are. Please if you are in Lusaka, walk around and see for yourself…. nearest judt drive to Mumbwa just 2 hours away from Lusaka and see for yourself instead of taking articles in social media as gospel truth…. Believe it or not the fraction of our population that has access to all the info in the social media is very tiny, The larger population of our country depends purely on ZNBC and print media for their source of info. Like it or not this is the reality of whats happening in our country. And finnaly, regionalism is real and natural if its bad, then its a mistake of the creator, thats where its roots are…. starts with family tending to stick together, then to a small community/village, tribe, groups of tribes etc… its just natural that people who grew up together in the same region tend to side with each other and tend to have something that bring them closer to each other than if there is someother person from some other place, …2 zambians in the US tend to feel like brothers even if they are not related… its nature and wether you enjoy this or not it has an influence on elections and will continue to have for a long time to come….

      January 6, 2015 at 11:57 pm

      • Bwana malandisa, up to this point you have made 5 postings on the article above which looks at issues as they’ve been unfolding in the recent past. On your part you are WISHING that it is not true and therefore TRYING TO CONVINCE THE REST OF US that the situation on the ground is different. WAfter all we’ve been to all the places you are talking about and beyond.

        It’s OK to DREAM and you can continue until results come out.

        Let the wise ponder, understand and take note, while the Dreamers continue entertaining us.

        January 7, 2015 at 10:06 am

  10. Praise God for this analysis-Viva HH our next president of Zambia.

    Chishimba Nkole
    January 7, 2015 at 2:09 am

  11. Arguably a good indicator of which party and candidate will win the election is the presence of a Wind of Change. Zambia has gone through 3 winds of change in the past 25 years. The first was the 1991 wind of change which saw KK and his UNIP being booted out of power by the MMD. This was mainly due to the bad economic situation in the 80s and the corruption allegations made by Fred Mmembe that KK stole $7billion from the national treasury. The second wind of change was in 2001 which Anderson Mazoka and his UPND is believed firmly in many sectors that he had won but stolen by Fredrick Chiluba’s MMD. This was a result of corruption levels that became prevalent, destruction of the agriculture sector and the failure by government to improve people’s lives generally after privatisation of national industries. The third was the 2011 wind of change which ushered into office Michael Sata with his PF party that saw the defeat of Rupiah Banda (MMD). The main reason for the defeat of RB was still attributable to corruption, arrogance and failure to improve people’s lives. Currently there is a wind of change that is blowing against the PF and that is a result of PF’s rampant corruption even from State House (RDA), destruction of the agricultural sector (again), lack of a people driven constitution, general bad governance, tribalism and nepotism, violence and arrogance. There is a serious wind of change towards HH. This is not an ordinary election like the 1996 and 2006. The PF is depending on numbers that attend rallies but huge crowds were there with KK and with R.B when they lost power.

    January 7, 2015 at 7:24 am

  12. I hope your young brother Lucky Mulusa, whose article is next to yours takes some wisdom from your well researched presentation! Solwezi hopes he can come to his senses.

    January 7, 2015 at 1:56 pm

  13. This analysis is not correct. PF still intact. There leaders may be divided, but the people love and know only one person. The true humble leader Edgar Obama Lungu. The best leader and rising star. HH is using marketing tactics. Natwishiba fwebene umuntu tulefwaya. Even you call us marketeers, panga family incushi. We are not worried about riches obtained through privatisation. Edgar is educated, married and still with the wife and she is suppportive through and through. Find out more about your HH’s personal life you will cry. The man cannot be compared to Edgar. Balitemwa indalama. Ifintu ni Lungu!

    January 7, 2015 at 2:05 pm

  14. Thank God for HH’s humility and he has campaigned in a very smart manner without deranging anyone. He has dwelt on issues while the EL campaign is all about tribal and name calling, false promises which they failed to fulfill in the last 3 years. We than you God for giving HH’s to be the 6th president of Zambia.

    Bwembya Charles
    January 7, 2015 at 3:06 pm

  15. Continue dreaming,Edgar is carrying the day tho am UPND supporter have sensed victory for Edgar

    January 7, 2015 at 3:58 pm

    • You are in for a rude shock.Continue writing articles of appeasing yourselves.HH will never sit on a toilet in state house.Edgar Chagwa Lungu is winning.You will leak your buttocks after 20 January 2015.

      January 7, 2015 at 4:10 pm

  16. Very good article Henry! However, you still did not give your opinion on which provinces will swing the election.
    I tend to disagree with you though on your opinion that Eastern will give HH more votes than Lungu because of failed PF agric policies. I still think Lungu will get somewhere around 60% of the vote.

    My swing states are Copperbelt and Luapula. In that should PF get less than 60% of the Copperbelt vote, and HH gets 30% of the Luapula vote, it will be rough for PF. Copperbelt is structured 3, urban, peri-urban and rural. HH seem very strong in peri & rural, and all he needs is about 30% of the Copperbelt urban, so C/B looks good for HH.

    January 7, 2015 at 4:28 pm

  17. To go with the PF is like going with the pharisees in the time of Jesus.

    All the signs point at HH winning but simply because you are PF yours is just pabwato.

    No money in the pocket – pabwato

    No new constitution – pabwato

    Malnutrition kills your child due PF poor economy- pabwato

    FRA fails to pay you Father and mother maize money – pabwato

    No desks at your child’s school – pabwato

    Unable to explain the PF vision – pabwato

    The PF stealing public funds – pabwato

    It seems that thinkless, thoughtless people are all piling in PF

    Tobias Hatembo
    January 7, 2015 at 6:35 pm

  18. Simple “what comes next exercise”

    1. KaundA
    2. ChilubA
    3. MwanawasA
    4. BandA
    5. SatA
    6. HichilemA or LungU?

    January 8, 2015 at 8:37 am

  19. PF lied to us in 2011 and continue to lie in 2015

    Vote for HH 2015

    Jameson Kaliza
    January 8, 2015 at 8:55 am

  20. Zambians must take power from these politicians by teaching them a lesson in this election, Politicians can not tell the people in 90 days we will do this and that and fail to do it then come to give excuses and still expect to be left to continue. By getting the PF out of government the politician will learn to own up. Even The next President HH should be treated the same, if he does not live up to the promises, he goes out for him, it will be in months. Secondly i think HH is more appealing because he says poor management is the problem we are facing, what is the point of building more universities when the ones you have are in poor shape.

    January 8, 2015 at 10:10 am

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