THREE UPND officials say the relaxed disposition of party leader Hakainde Hichilema easily passes him as a company chief executive officer, unlike a president of an opposition political party.
Their narration typifies the inner feelings of frustrated loyalists.
On Monday, The Mast carried a story where a PF central committee member, who requested for anonymity, said while his party was battling for supremacy, the “political timidity” of Hichilema had gifted the governing party.
The following day, a senior opposition UPND official said those in the party need to wake up, “otherwise, we will cry again in 2021.”
He anonymously said he had seen mannerisms of laziness among some UPND senior leaders.
On Wednesday night, three UPND officials requested to meet this reporter and granted an interview.
Despite persistently cajoling the trio to be identified, they refused, saying: “we’ll be misunderstood and you know what that means.”
“Naming [us] means problems. We’ll be misunderstood and the next thing [will be] disciplinary issues,” the sources feared.
“So, let’s carry on the way you did, was that yesterday (Tuesday).”
They are displeased that Hichilema, especially during this COVID-19 period, is spending more time at his New Kasama home in Lusaka, “behind a posh mahogany table in a fancy boardroom arrangement in formal dress.”
“To me, that kind of life easily passes him as a CEO than a president of an opposition political party. Our president cannot continue to occasionally summon you ba media [to] his impressive multimillion dollar mansion. No! No! No! You correctly reported [on Tuesday] that we have too much political work [to do]” the trio’s leader said.
They suspect Hichilema is unwilling to rule Zambia.
The sources say as the leader of the UPND, Hichilema, over the years, had grown into a formidable force and that he had made several serious incursions into Zambia’s politics.
Hichilema resigned from a lucrative corporate world chief executive officer post to join politics in 2006.
He lost the Republican presidency in 2006, 2008, 2011, 2015 and 2016.
Of late, the opposition leader has been lounging in social media approval, especially among the young population.
It is, however, results of ward by-elections held last week which have ‘annoyed’ those who tout Hichilema and the UPND as the best alternative to lead Zambia.
The PF won most of the ward by-elections, including in Western and North-Western Zambia where the UPND is held in high esteem.
Zambia will hold general elections next in August.
The sources explained that for a Zambian population that is severely impoverished and barely surviving, Hichilema’s wealth flaunting makes him an exquisite and distant “messiah.”
They complained that Hichilema appeared not in tune with ordinary people’s real world of poverty, and the daily struggles between life and death.
“Ironically, this is exactly what our man (Hichilema) and even ourselves as his followers are advocating for, [that] one can hail from a poor and hopeless background, but with determination and hard work, still ascend to the top floor,” they said. “It’s tragic that what we are saying as UPND leaders doesn’t resonate well with ordinary Zambians who, over the nine years [of the PF reign], have carelessly been made to believe that corruption is the shortest way forward to wealth creation than, for example, our president’s (Hichilema’) persistent call for patience and diligence.”
They added that many UPND supporters were persistently ‘whispering’ that Hichilema should shed off the tag of a comfortable business tycoon.
“What we are telling you here, in the punishing cold, is representative of the feelings of many people in our party. We feel discouraged… Attitude; people in the party don’t want to work,” they explained. “Our torchbearer also [is] quiet at home! [We want him to] connect directly to the masses and give them a message of hope, than lavish them with a theme of his current wealth.”
They continued: “we want to see the president leave his castle behind.”
“[Let him] dress in chitenge shirts and go with us to these townships, over-crowded slums and villages, in markets, farms and fishing sites with rolled up sleeves than in his favourite elitist business suits. You cannot continue fearing an imaginary disease (COVID-19),” the sources said.
“Let him go out there and we’ll be with him. We are giving out all this information out of loyalty to UPND and the president. If we did not care, we could be [at] home now. It’s cold!”
The sources tipped Hichilema that the Zambians he was ‘fearing’ meeting would feel happy if he could make himself one of them.
“All these people want is to rely on our man in the midst of this extensive misery that Edgar Lungu has bestowed on us. But you can guess the feelings of our poor people when their preferred man, our man, is comfortably holed up in his luxurious stately surroundings,” they grieved.
“The president is our highly-prized trophy and it will not help us to keep quiet [when] people are always complaining that it is very difficult to access him, even when it matters most.”
The sources want Hichilema to start visiting party grassroots leaders around Zambia.
“Look, we are seeking political power and it can’t be that the man we are selling to the people is sometimes summed up as a poor communicator and a non-people person! Then what are we doing as the marketing team?” they said. “But to be honest with you, it’s quite a tragic irony of a man that yearns to become President of Zambia very soon from today. We surely love our man [but] he has to do the correct stuff for our love for him to grow and grow.”
The sources further accused Hichilema of maintaining “dead-wood” in the UPND’s supreme body, the National Management Committee (NMC).
“Tell us the political contribution of our former army sergeant, ba SG (secretary general Stephen) Katuka, [in terms of] mobilising the party. Tell us what Charles Kakoma does ku information. Those two gentlemen are only loyalists to the president,” the sources said. “Many people have been saying let’s strengthen the party secretariat so that we can have [good] results during elections. But it’s like the president has a fear [that] replacing ba SG Katuka and Charles Kakoma will make the UPND unpopular in North-Western Province.”
The sources are also uncomfortable with Hichilema’s inner circle of advisors who they say are: “business executives and professionals not akin to the brutality of African politics.”
“Do you even see the president’s advisors? You can’t! They are not politicians at all. They are not human beings because they interact with nobody, apart from computers in their offices,” they said.
“They are always on computers and the only thing they can tell the president is [that] continue sending [messages] on Facebook and Twitter. But we need to go to other people in compounds who can’t read and write.”
Asked why they do not find ways of directly delivering this narration to Hichilema, the sources insisted that: “the thing is that we’ll be misunderstood and for me, I don’t want problems.”
Told about the incoming UPND general congress and what key leadership changes they would want to see in the party, the sources ‘voted for’ Sylvia Masebo as the right party secretary general.
Masebo, a former Chongwe member of parliament, is currently the opposition party’s mobilisation and strategy chairperson.
“You see, Sylvia Masebo is a fearless independent thinker and she is also a fiery orator. The president likes Masebo but it’s like the advisors have told him that Masebo is too boorish to hold together a complex and diverse assembly like the NMC as its chief executive officer. But let’s try her!” sources explained.
They stressed that Hichilema’s greatest fear for Masebo holding the position of secretary general appeared to be her aggressive style and definite openness, qualities which were incongruent to Hichilema’s love for being obeyed.
Meanwhile, the sources regretted that COVID-19 had ironically helped Hichilema to justify his barricade and to reinforce his love for self-absorption and: “new found social distancing.”
They believe those in the PF are happy with this and that: that’s why they keep on waving the coronavirus red flag in his face.”
“But look at what ba PF are doing! Full throttle traversing the country to campaign for support and dishing out handouts to poor relatives in villages!” they said.
“Our man is seen as the only hope in this country. But this apparent laissez-faire attitude that we are seeing, of being a seemingly an unwilling alternative to those in the PF who are clearly increasingly unpopular and overly corrupt, is making many citizens to scratch their heads.”
They concluded that: “if the president does not seize the opportunity that so much favours him and our party, against this corrupt incumbent government of the PF, “then the horizon beckons for a possible third force.”
“If our man does not pull up his socks and continues to refuse [to] come out from his self-imposed COVID-19 quarantine, a new leader may emerge who may be the much anticipated messiah,” said the sources.