Wednesday 20 October 2010


Zambian political parties are gearing up for the 2011 general elections which are likely to be one of the hotly contested polls ever in the country’s young democracy.
Next year, Zambian voters will be voting for their councilors, members of parliament and their republican President.
These elections are likely to be heated because we now have more political parties than ever before in the history of this country.
We also know that political parties will be or are already moving around constituencies canvassing for new voters to back their candidates.
Aside of door to door campaigns and public rallies, another battleground has already been discovered and a number of political parties are already in that field wooing potential supporters.
In case you might be wondering which battleground this is, I’m talking about the internet.
A number of political parties have realized that the internet (Facebook in particular) is a rich and good platform for politicians to win supporters.
During US President Barack Obama’s campaigns for the White House between 2007 and 2008, his campaign strategists realized that the internet was the best platform to woo young voters and for sure the first black US President was made Commander-in-Chief with the help of the voters on the internet.
In Nigeria, President Goodluck Jonathan has resorted to campaigning on Facebook for his 2011 re-election campaign, he actually announced his presidential bid on Facebook.
My recent research of Zambian political parties campaigning on the internet has revealed that fewer than five political parties have joined the 2011 general elections “cyber war” on Facebook.
Leading these Facebook campaigns is the ruling Movement for Multi-party Democracy (MMD) followed by the opposition National Restoration Party (NAREP), the United Party for National Development (UPND) and the largest opposition political party (in terms of seats in parliament) the Patriotic Front (PF).
The MMD leads in terms of daily updates of political issues and other comments on current affairs.
MMD Spokesperson Dora Siliya is very active on Facebook and she posts an average of three posts per day and responds to almost all comments she receives from Facebook users.
Ms Siliya also updates the MMD’s Facebook page daily.
This also gives an opportunity to her supporters, critics and observers (like me) to comment, ask questions or “shoot” her on her party’s conduct in national affairs.
NAREP is second most active political party in Zambia in the political campaigns on Facebook.
NAREP National Youth Coordinator John Phiri also updates his party’s Facebook page not on a daily basis but twice or thrice a week.
Mr. Phiri gives NAREP supporters and sympathizers an update on his party president Elias Chipimo Jr’s itinerary in political campaigns.
Despite the party taking part in the on-going campaigns for the Chilanga parliamentary by-election, not many updates have been posted on this topic.
The NAREP Facebook platform could have been the best to introduce their party candidate Valerie for the said by-election.
The UPND is also present on the internet though its president Hakainde Hichilema’s pages are rarely updated.
Mr. Hichilema has more than one page and this leaves potential voters to wonder which one of the three pages is the opposition leader’s official page and mouthpiece.
Despite UPND Lusaka Province Youth Coordinator Brian Hapunda being present and active on Facebook, not much comes from him in terms of his party’s activities and campaigns.
Mr. Hapunda’s postings are usually personal and religious.
As a young politician, he could have used his personal and party Facebook pages to galvanise support for the 2011 general elections.
The PF is also present on Facebook.
The party’s president Michael Sata has a page which is rarely updated.
Since the PF is popular among urban people going by the elections results of 2006 and 2008, the party could have utilized online campaigns as there are more people online in urban areas where the internet is accessible.
In terms of the UPND-PF Electoral Pact on the internet, I have come across three pages on Facebook purporting to be campaigning for it.
These pages have proved to be popular on the internet though some online discussions have brought heated exchanges on the sustainability of the one year old electoral pact.
In the 2008 presidential elections, another cyber war was waged.
The opposition PF, UPND and the ruling MMD had launched websites for their presidential candidates.
This helped voters to have access to latest information on the activities of these respective political parties.
As we drift towards the 2011 general elections, it is my hope that more and more political parties will utilize the internet and learn the strategy President Obama used to beat his Republican Party rival Senator John McCain in the 2008 US presidential elections.
By Paul Shalala

Monday 11 October 2010


The battles for the Chilanga and Mpulungu parliamentary by-elections have now been declared following the filing of nominations on 7th October, 2010.

In Mpulungu, five candidates successfully filed in to replace late area parliamentarian Lameck Chibombamilimo who died in India a month ago.

These were ruling Movement for Multi-party Democracy (MMD)’s Given Mungomba, Alex Mwazia of the National Restoration Party (NAREP), Freedom Sikazwe of the Patriotic Front (PF), Germaniko Simusokwe of United National Independence Party (UNIP) and Chilobwela Sinyangwe of the newly formed Alliance for Democracy and Development (ADD).

Bearing in mind that the ruling MMD will be campaigning to retain ‘their seat’, the party will fight to the last blood to maintain its dominance in terms of the parliamentary seats it holds in the Northern Province.

Currently, the party has eleven of the 21 parliamentary seats in that province.

Most of these seats are in the northern part of the province and they stretch from Kaputa constituency in the west to Isoka East in the East. 

This means that all parliamentary seats bordering with neighbouring Tanzania are all held by the ruling party.

Mpulungu is right in the heart of the MMD ‘strongholds’ as it is sandwiched between MMD constituencies such as Chimbamilonga, Senga Hill and Mbala.

However, the opposition PF is said to have made impressive in-roads in Mpulungu though they expect a stiff fight if they are to turn the tables to their favour.

The PF is likely to use the hounding out of the late area MP from the MMD as one of their campaign issues.

Late Chibombamilimo was expelled from the party after President Rupiah Banda sacked him as Energy Deputy Minister when he accused him of being loyal to the media and not him.

The President vowed to follow him to his constituency in an event of a by-election but that day never came as the late MP died before his appeal against his expulsion could be disposed off by the courts of law.

In Chilanga constituency, four candidates have entered the race to replace former area member of parliament Ng’andu Magande who was expelled from the party a month ago.

These candidates are ruling MMD’s Keith Mukuta, United Party for National Development (UPND)’s Captain Cosmas Moono, Valerie Mukeleni of NAREP and UNIP’s Henry Silumesi.

With the campaigns already under way, all parties have what it takes to upset tables but the main contest (I think) will be between the MMD and the UPND as these seem to be well grounded on the Chilanga terrain.

This is so because the MMD will be riding at the back of incumbency while the UPND has a former area Member of Parliament as its candidate who a number of electorates may still remember. 

The vast Chilanga constituency borders the following constituencies both in Lusaka and Central Provinces: Katuba, Mwembeshi, Kafue, Kanyama and Chongwe.

It is this vastness which defines the distinct nature of voters in this constituency.
From what I can call Chilanga proper are people who are mostly civil servants and the working class, to the western part of the constituency are farmers and villagers.

Among these people are these various issues that may be at the heart of voters in Chilanga: poverty, farming, security and education.

It is this background that will help any of the four candidates to woo voters and win the seat.
In terms of the significance of the seat to the various political parties, if UPND’s Capt Moono wins, he will be getting back the seat he lost in 2006 and it will be his party’s only seat in the province at present.

If MMD’s Mukata carries the day, he will maintain a seat that his party has held tight since 2006. He will also ensure that the party maintains its five ‘rural’ seats in the entire province.

For NAREP’s Mukeleni, this is the first election the party is taking attempting since its inception early this year. She is likely to be the happiest of all looking at the possible historic significance of this seat to her party.

The country’s independence party UNIP is looking at Chilanga as the second seat they may have in the 150 seat Parliament of Zambia aside of Lundazi which is held by Home Affairs Minister Mkondo Lungu. The Chilanga seat will also help the almost forgotten and once ‘almighty’ party to rekindle its old glory.

As the people of Mpulungu and Chilanga cast their ballots on 30th August 2010 (if at all the date won’t be changed), their task will be to choose an MP who will listen to their cries for development.

Pundits, commentators and political observers like me will keep an eye on every twist and turn on the campaign trail till the end.
For now, I expect the candidates to campaign wisely with issues and not character assassinations, so that voters can vote wisely irrespective of their party affiliations.
By Paul Shalala