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David Siampondo: Lessons from Zambia

By David Siampondo

The Choma massacre is an attestation of results of an extraordinary determination by a people to change their circumstances. The disgruntled, but intimidated and starved people of Choma who at the slightest show of displeasure and discontentment from increasing economic hardship and widespread deprivation were subjected to brutality and ridicule.

David Siampondo is a social scientist
David Siampondo is a social scientist

The people of Choma had a perfect response to their tormentors and oppressors, they laid an electoral ambush, their prey in its drunken stupor of political power staggered into the snare, and by the crack of dawn of 13 August a loud shout was heard in the street of Choma; Chagwa! Wagwaaa! The dwarf in giant robes was floored! Hakainde Hichilema whooped him 53 973 for 4 086. People Power!

Away from Choma, and on the very day, August 12 2021 the lethal, brutal, and ruthless yet democratic Zambian disciplinary committees were busy elsewhere, the electoral bloodshed and the annihilation of chief priests of economic decay, mismanagement and corruption was in full force in Dundumwezi, Chilanga, Mongu, Kalomo, Katombora, Sinazongwe, Kanyama, Bweengwa, among other centres.

The message and intent from the people was clear and audible, they wanted change and they got it. People Power! This Zambian electoral episode have lessons for all, the interested and uninterested, leaders and the led, but more specifically and crucially so, the youths and the voters.

From the onset the contest was between PF and UPND, that is Edgar Lungu and Hakainde Hichilema, but as fate will dictate there will always be party spoilers who even fully knowing they have no capacity to win even a percentage of the vote they went on to crowd the ballot paper, some out of genuine ignorance and low opinion of themselves, whilst some out of pure political mischief and nefarious intentions, these include the crowd’s losing favourite Hamududu Highvie who was a source of entertainment whenever commissioners called out his name.

These odd people who suffer from cognitive bias and are blinded by illusory superiority, tend to overestimate their own qualities and abilities are not confined to Zambia alone but the strange specie is also indigenous to Zimbabwe, the likes of Douglas Mwonzora, Thokozani Khupe, Lovemore Madhuku, Mteki, among other politically mischievous nonentities. This therefore commences the lessons we draw from the Zambian elections and the mass’ determination for change.

The electorate was conscious, informed, clear, resolute, and precise on their objective of bringing change through the ballot. The first step was to conquer a defeatist mentality that “a vote won’t count, it’s a waste of time, and they will rig anyway”. They went out in numbers and registered to vote.

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The next step was going out to vote, Zambians voted as if this was their last vote on earth. The last thing was protecting the vote! This was excellent, they gallantly defended their vote, and they did not leave the polling stations until results were announced.

The most breathtaking attitude by the electorate was the way they completely ignored the party spoilers and incumbent enablers. They zeroed them even in some polling stations where they placed their own agents, reminiscent of one Zimbabwean presidential candidate who got a zero at a polling station where her daughter voted, probably the daughter was politically conscious and knew voting mom was throwing the vote in a drain.

The Zimbabwean people must emulate what the Zambians did, go and register to vote, go out and vote, secure the vote, and more importantly never to waste a vote by voting a candidate with no chance of dislodging the ruinous regime. A vote casted for an insignificant party and candidate like Madhuku’s NCA and Mwonzora’s MDC-T is tantamount to a vote given to Zanu PF and a wasted vote in as far as bringing political change is concerned.

The most important and critical part was played by the youths. The youth vote carried the day for Zambia. The youth used their numerical advantage and cornered the tyrant into submission and kicked him out of power. It was not a stroll in the park, listening to the UPND Youth Commander Joseph Kalimbwe you could tell the sacrifice and determination they had.

They faced desertion from their comrades, some of their leaders and members developed cold feet and walked away in the middle of the process, and some crossed the floor to join the gravy train of PF who promoted them into rank marshals and incorporated them in some ephemeral projects which normally dries by the end of each electoral campaign.

It is the unity of the youth leadership that remained steadfast to the cause and who ensured that the struggle resided and remained with the people till the end of the electoral process. Zimbabwe is the flip side of Zambia, the Zanu PF regime uses the same tactics where it lures youths with ephemeral projects and allocating them vending stalls, and stands which they demolish at every end of the electoral campaign.

Such situations require political conscientization among the youths, where the youths are shown the pattern and consequences of manipulation, and then encouraged to take the freebies knowing that the freebies are electoral baits, but when the voting time come they should crack their electoral whip hard on the back of these creepy political sycophants and ditch these ephemeral freebies and vote for sustainable opportunities and real empowerment.

The Zambian youths faced high levels of unemployment, they were suffocated by patronage, nepotism, and cronyism. Those employed their salaries were and is continuously eroded by a menacing inflation and they live in abject poverty just like their unemployed compatriots. The Zambian youths understood their problems, more importantly they understood the architectures of their problems which was the PF government.

The most remarkable thing is they agreed on the viable vehicle to dislodge the PF government which was the UPND Party and the candidature of Hakainde Hichilema. Wasted votes among the youths was insignificant. The same applies to Zimbabwean youths as they are a carbon copy of what was and is obtaining in Zimbabwe.

The youth leadership should invade all youth spaces both physically and virtually projecting the capacities and potentials which the youths possess that can demolish the citadel of their misfortunes.

Lastly and more importantly is a similarity that l will only introduce and visit on a later date. The use of “musicians and social media socialites”. PF government recruited gullible musicians and social media “celebrities” to influence the youths to throw away their votes. Most of these “celebrities” had to back-down when their numbers dwindled and the loves and likes started to dry up.

There were deliberate efforts on the part of the youths to unfollow and not waste their data bundles on viewing their shows and this helped to abate the odour of their nuisance. Zimbabwean social media socialites ride on the back of the same youths whose future they are destroying by colluding with Zanu PF and hence the youths should switch them off and starve them of the attention.