Allow me space in your distinguished newspaper to analyse some of the mistakes over the national day of prayer that may cost UPND leader Hakainde Hichilema the presidential race in 2016.
Just how did UPND at the last minute flip-flop its position against attending the national day of prayer?
On Saturday October 17, UPND deputy spokesperson Cornelius Mweetwa urged all UPND members to participate in the event but surprisingly, with dazzling chutzpah, in the morning of October 18, he asked them not to.
This is a question that for months to come may be on the lips of religious pundits, political analysts and historians. UPND’s blunders were costly and have certainly dented Hichilema’s presidential chances next year.
Below is a small sample of Hichilema’s mistakes:
1. Know your history and audience: That Hichilema was a poor student of history and appeared not to have a clue about the message his audience wanted, was obvious prior to October 18, the national day of prayer. He criticized President Edgar Lungu for seeking God’s divine intervention to take charge of Zambia’s political and economic situation. Hichilema’s ‘you can’t run a government through God’ played well into his opponents’ hands who had already branded themselves as God-fearing offering new faith-based leadership. Hichilema fell pretty well into the trap they had inadvertently set for him as an alleged anti-Christ Freemason politician. By the time he realized that the evangelical vote would be swaying towards the PF, it might be too late.
2. The faith and emotions connection: The President comes from a strict Catholic background and is now a passionate Pentecostal Christian. The national day of prayer was well choreographed in the Biblical terms.
This charm offensive in the form of nationwide prayer gatherings was not only aimed at winning God’s favour but also winning public empathy. Images of PF leaders freely praying and kneeling in churches in supplication to the Lord, played a key role in connecting them to the grassroots. It worked and galvanized faith-based support groups. Hichilema’s no-nons nse tough image of a snobby opposition leader floundered miserably.
3. Keep away from the Post newspaper: For months, Hichilema’s press briefings have relied heavily on the Post newspaper, who continuously have painted him as a likely presidential winner in 2016. This costly mistake has made Hichilema lethargic and made him live in a make-believe-bubble based on the assumption that victory was already assured.
The Post newspaper published Hichilema’s letter of preconditions intended for the head of state’s eyes only before it even reached State House to the chagrin of the presidential aides who decided not to respond.
As UPND shuttles to the 2016 general elections its chances of the ultimate prize are compromised by its inability to keep holy October 18 which has now been declared a public holiday dedicated to national prayer.