THE complexion of the United Party for National Development has drastically changed over the past one year – politically, structurally and ideologically – enough to make Anderson Kambela Mazoka turn in his grave.
Who could have ever imagined the likes of Geoffrey Bwalya Mwamba, Guy Scott and Miles Sampa worming their way into the decision-making inner circle of this once exclusive club whose membership was strictly reserved for the deep-intoned Tongas of the Valley with a six-figure cheque book and bow tie!
Who could have ever imagined that HH would embrace the cartel, the epitome of evil and malevolence! It is strange how the urge for survival can change a man’s principles and political taste.
After losing the epic 2015 presidential by-election to the then little known Edgar Lungu for the presidency of Zambia, Hakainde Hichilema was transformed. He could not allow another such humiliation and the way forward was to overhaul the political engine of the UPND and create a new model.
In the process HH was forced by his own ambition and outside pressure to sideline some of his trusted lieutenants and comrades-in-arms such as Jack Mwiimbu, Request Muntanga, Cornellius Mweetwa and Gary Nkombo, among others, and look north for a winning formula.
Battered by its opponents and malicious propaganda that UPND was a tribal institution founded on tribal hegemony, the party submitted itself to structural and ideological cleansing in the hope that it could win the hearts and minds of intellectuals and political heavy-weights from other regions.
Unfortunately this was not to be. The tribal tag was too deep to paper over with confetti.
It had to take a mini earthquake within the ruling Patriotic Front following the death of its founder Michael Sata for the UPND to go shopping for the kind of balancing act it was looking for. The departure of GBM, Dr Scott and the former Matero strongman from the PF provided an opportunity and HH could not resist the temptation.
As we see it this was a gamble full of political landmines. Will the feisty UPND leader be able to contain the explosive, unguarded pin of the man they call Mike Tyson or the short fuse of the former Vice President? Not to mention the unstable posture of the disgraced UDF leader.
We fear the present lull in Zambia’s biggest opposition party could be the break before the storm. Will those who laboured through thick and thin to make UPND what it is today sit and watch their party hijacked by a gang of rebels who until recently were calling them all sort of names?
Does HH have the mental stamina, astute leadership and brinkmanship skill of a tight-rope walker to keep the UPND ship afloat and lead it to shore? It remains to be seen.
The challenge facing the UPND today is that in its desperate attempt to shed the tribal orientation it has taken on board excess baggage of unstable political liabilities than can make it more likely to sink than sail. As a result its election campaign message has some what changed emphasis from substance to shallow promises of a pie in the sky.
We are wondering what the former intellectual luminaries like Hyvie Hamududu, Canisius Banda and Martha Mushipe make of this new image and ideological stance of the UPND, dominated by the three PF rebels. Why are they so quiet? Are they busy campaigning, bidding their time or simply licking their wounds?
As UPND limps on to what the party leadership promises its supporters to be a first-round victory in the August election, a big cloud of uncertainty and intra-party political unease looms over the horizon. Will HH truly fix it as he says? We wonder.