By Sapien Sapien
I will choose to be controversial a bit and analyse critical issues around the Zambian election, its outcome and implications to the region this time around. I will seek to zero in on the incoming President of Zambia, Hakainde Hachilema and his relationship with the Zimbabwean opposition, discussing what that entails to the geopolitics of Southern African Development Community (Sadc) and by extension, Zimbabwean politics.
It is not a secret that HH, the incoming Zambian president, enjoys cordial relations with the MDC-Alliance led by Nelson Chamisa. These relations are not euphoric as envisaged by numerous engagements between stakeholders of and from both parties over a period of time now, going back to numerous elections held in Zimbabwe.
The present euphoria being witnessed between the UPND and MDC-A is hence not a spur of the moment spasm.
Zimbabwean social media space, specifically Twitter, has been abuzz with insinuations that what happened in Zambia can be replicated in Zimbabwe. The president of Zimbabwe, Emmerson Mnangagwa joined into the banter by suggesting that “whoever assumes that a Zambian scenario can be replicated in Zimbabwe must wake from his deep slumber and brew beer”.
This political banter is definitely going to form the basis of engagement between ED and HH, alongside their regional allies. The UPND Youth League has been active on social media, extrapolating an image of African opposition solidarity and regional unity, suggesting that “a victory for the opposition in Zambia is a victory for Africa”.
This verbosity has been taken a notch further through the invitation of the eccentric MDC-A youth league member, Ostallos Siziba to grace the occasion of the inauguration of HH.
All of a sudden, MDC-A structures in Zambia have been rekindled and an air of optimism is spreading right across the Zimbabwean opposition movement. Senior members of the opposition in Zimbabwe have suddenly risen from their laurels and started lauding the narrative that the “youth vote” is going to be the determining attribute come 2023 elections in Zimbabwe. This revelation is correct but then its truthfulness can be stretched, if ever the truth can be assumed to adhere to the Hooke’s Law of elasticity limit.
Zimbabwe is a country defined by a huge youth bulge.
The recent national census highlights that around 70% of the population are rural dwellers with over 55% of the population falling within the youth bracket.
The prior election in Zimbabwe was won and lost by the youth vote. There is something about philosophy and ideology that guides and determines voting patterns over and beyond the reality witnessed in Zambian elections.
It is out of character to assume that every youthful voter is going to vote in a certain way without factoring in the importance of ideology.
Zimbabwean social media space, dominated by bots, swarmcast and prominent characters is misleading when it comes to political analysis.
Only recently, published statistics indicated that only 8% of the Zimbabwean population are active on social media. This means the other 92% are not.
This 92% is very critical when it comes to analysis and prediction.
This statistic constitutes a very important national barometer. Instances of hypernationalism, especially when it comes to foreign values such as gay rights form crucial yardsticks for analysis.
Ignore this at your own peril.
The Zambian coup by the opposition is good for optics but will not substitute for coherence in strategy.
Strategy follows structure. At present, the opposition strategy is in a shambles whilst its structures are so discombobulated that it is difficult to identify, let alone pinpoint, genuine opposition cadres from anti-status quo elements.
The other thing being toxic narratives propagated by those who are anti-status quo blinds rational analysis of reality on the ground. For diplomacy and statecraft, Sadc will once again prove to be the arbiter.
HH is going to evolve into a statesman who operates over and above opposition politics and related activism. National interests will substitute political party aspirations.
Zambians expect him to act and behave like the Zambian president whilst his regional allies anticipate him to respect aspirations of regional solidarity.
For the ruling party in Zimbabwe, their biggest strength, a potent ideology, must be complemented by robust policy interventions that make the lives of the people better. There still is a long time to go before the 2023 election and numerous intervening variables are going to emerge but one thing for certain is that it is too early to use the Zambian election as a barometer of what is going to happen in Zimbabwe.
Of course, this opinion is not popular with most active elements of our social media space but then that is what it is.
- Sapien is a security and business specialist.