The way some politicians perceive party activities clearly show that a good number of them do not really appreciate the role of Public Relations (PR) consultants in political parties.

In last week’s article entitled ‘Veteran politicians should promote peace and stability’(Daily Nation: 18/4/2016), it was alluded that political parties should engage PR personnel or hire such consultants to help them be pro-active; to handle PR related issues professionally so that they are addressed before to avoid a crisis.

It was also stated that, during early democracies and in some early governments; especially in western countries,  PR practitioners were hired both on full and part-time basis to help individual politicians, political parties and a government to do what electorates want; create a favourable image for themselves with a view to sustaining power to their respective offices.

Embattled veteran politician, Vernon Mwaanga (VJ) who served in many diplomatic missions abroad and ministerial positions for a long time during the former UNIP and MMD regimes respectively knows the role of PR consultants in political parties.

For instance, in Zambia, among other examples, we saw how former republican president, Rupiah Banda (RB) during the former Movement for Multi-party Democracy (MMD)’s regime hired image builders who travelled almost everywhere where RB went to campaign in the 2008 presidential by-elections. Perhaps RB and MMD did the same in 2011 presidential and general elections. This implies that no law in Zambia or elsewhere prevents any organisation; including political parties from hiring consultants for a legal purpose.

The above case studies prove that any organisation is free to hire consultants of any kind when need arises. Therefore, political parties and their leaders are legally and morally free to hire PR consultants to help them achieve their legal objectives in a given time.

Among other functions, PR consultants in political parties help in conducting public opinion polls on the popularity of a given party. In the process, they also help to maximise the votes in areas where a party has low or high support. PR experts also advise political parties on some of the options the latter should do to engineer support before elections and increase potential for a respective to win an election.

Now when United Party for National Development (UPND)’s leaders such as Hakainde Hichilema and his special advisor Douglas Siakalima tell the nation that President Edgar Chagwa Lungu and the Patriotic Front (PF) government have hired some foreign nationals to rig the August 11, 2016 presidential and general elections in favour of the ruling party, does it mean that such opposition leaders don’t know that political parties or individual party leaders can hire political PR consultants to help them strategies for favourable  image building as thate party is preparing for presidential and general elections? Why didn’t they ask VJ? Or, for whatever motive, did VJ tell them a wrong answer about the role of PR consultants in political parties?

Moreover, since Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ) has been planning, managing and announcing results of every election for decades now, if President Lungu and his PF government were conniving with such an electoral body to manipulate the forthcoming elections, couldn’t it be the former; and not the latter to hire consultants to help in rigging such elections in favour of President Lungu and his PF government?

How possible is it that someone outside ECZ who doesn’t participate in any processes can help to stage-manage elections when all the representatives from different parties are monitoring every activity ECZ officials do in planning and managing the electoral process up to announcing election’s results?

No one is claiming absolute knowledge on how rigging is done or how it cannot be done. But the point is, as it was stated in last Monday’s article, it is only those who know and have evidence about how such has been done before that it can tell the nation the way it is done- how President Lungu and the PF, on one hand and ECZ on the other hand, plan to fix the forthcoming elections so that all stakeholders can be extra alert to guard against such rigging in the August 11, 2016 presidential and general elections!

Do you remember that President Lungu started on a very low note; as a novice republican president? In his humble approach to life, during the January 20, 2015 presidential and general political campaigns, he was even quoted that he said he had no vision for Zambia.

However, when one reflects on what President Lungu and the PF government have done from the time President Lungu entered State House to now, can one convincingly argue that President Lungu is a leader without a vision for Zambia?

Improved road network, bridges, schools, colleges and universities, among others, have been constructed in many parts of the country. Many other economic empowerment strategies and tactics have been put in place to cushion some Zambians from some economic challenges the world at large; and some Zambia are experiencing. As a result, many Zambians; including their traditional leaders and many churches are happy with massive development facilitation President Lungu and his PF government are doing in most parts of our country. President Lungu is also highly involved on and supportive to community concerns and unforeseen developments such as disasters.

Therefore, where has the vision from the seemingly ‘no vision leader’ come from? Can’t one successfully argue that President Lungu and his government have powerful advisors who also include part-time PR political consultants who have been advising on how best to raise huge resources and manage such resources to the excitement of majority Zambians?

No one is claiming to be President Lungu’s and PF government’s spokesperson. The point is merely seeing, Chris Vugari of Uganda, Adi Timor of Israel and her partner Isaac Livni and an American called General Wesley Clark in Zambia; and probably such people being publicly cleared of security checks at State House during the day cannot warrant to accuse President Lungu and the PF to be preparing for manipulating the August 11, 2016 presidential and general elections in favour of President Lungu and the ruling party.

If it was so, one would argue that such foreign nationals would have been sneaking into State House at awkward hours to avoid being seen entering such a residence. Additionally, they would also be working with ECZ covertly at clumsy hours to avoid many people knowing what is happening between PF and ECZ to maneuver the results of the forthcoming elections in favour of President Lungu and PF.

Henceforth, if it’s true that such foreign national frequent State House to see our Head of State, perhaps these are the people who have been; and who are advising President Lungu and his advisors on what to do, where and when to win the hearts of many Zambians.

Maybe this is why President Lungu has become so popular that everyone seems to be about to conclude that the PF government is likely to retain its power of running public affairs of this country after August 11, 2016 presidential and general elections.

Therefore, instead of saying President Lungu and the PF party are conniving with ECZ to rig the forthcoming elections in their favour of the former; say: ‘President Lungu and the PF are using ‘professional and effective PR strategies and tactics from foreign PR political consultants to win the August 11, 2016 presidential and general elections.’

And if it was true that such foreigners are working with President Lungu to strategise on how President Lungu and PF should win the forthcoming elections; and if I was President Lungu or PF spokesperson, I would have admitted; and say: ‘Yes, those are our PR consultants or our image builders helping us to ensure that we do the right things at the right time in the right places to satisfy objective and realistic majority Zambians for PF to win the August 11, 2016 presidential and general elections.’

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