SIANGA’S OPEN LETTER TO HAKAINDE HICHILEMA

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Dear Mr Hakainde Hichilema,

I hope you are well and the family is alright. I write this letter to you as an extremely disappointed Zambian. I am disappointed because sir, you seem to have made yourself irrelevant and maybe it’s time for you to retire from active politics and focus on business.

I voted for you in 2015 and 2016 and after you lost, I was hoping that you would be an effective leader of the opposition by providing checks and balances to the ruling party. I hoped that you would speak for the voiceless, lift up the downtrodden and give them hope for a better Zambia. I prayed for you to be an effective opposition leader.

When I watched videos of Julius Malema and his party taking the ruling party and President Jacob Zuma to task in the South African Parliament, I got inspired. I admire Malema’s courage and good political strategy. His MPs cause a lot of havoc in the South Africa Parliament but it seems your MPs only know how to boycott proceedings and collect big allowances. I won’t blame them too much since they follow your instructions and the buck stops with you.

When I see your statements, all I hear is complaints about the stolen elections in 2016 and how you will not recognize the current president and how your court cases are still pending. Have you ever asked ba mu komboni if they care about those things? Have you ever gone to Shangombo and asked them what the right to be heard means to them and how it will put food on their table? I don’t think that Zambians will vote for you because you are refusing to accept the current president.

What you fail to realise is that Zambians respect authority, even if they often don’t agree with the people holding it. They come from a long tradition of chieftainship and it is wired in their minds that you avoid openly disrespecting the chief. You can refuse to recognize Edgar Lungu as president and it is your right. But when you make that the major issue you always talk about, people like me lose interest in you. You are proving that you don’t have a coherent strategy and you don’t have proper advisers on your team who can read the mood of the nation and advise you correctly.

Instead of what you are doing, how about you begin focusing on the real problems Zambians are facing? I did not really like President Sata but I give him credit for being a very effective opposition leader. He grew his party from 3% of the vote and one parliamentary seat in 2001 to taking over power ten years later.

His party kept growing with every election whereas UPND kept declining until it benefited from the implosion of MMD. Whenever Mr Sata would be on radio, the taxi drivers at taxi ranks would all be tuned in and listening attentively, including passersby who would stop.

The other opposition leaders Saviour Chishimba and Chishimba Kambwili are far more effective than you, despite having small parties. When they speak, the ruling party reacts and issues counter statements. Mr Kambwili has been so effective that attack dogs like Bowman Lusambo and Munir Zulu have been sent to fight him.

CK and SC have been talking about corruption which is what I also expected you to talk about much more. Whistle blowers are not coming to you with information, despite your much bigger party and audience. They are going to your competitors. It was SC who brought up the Maize scandal, not you. It is CK talking about miners and workers’ rights but not you. Only now have you joined the bandwagon.

Last Friday, Laura Miti, Pilato, and Sean Tembo of the PEP party went to protest against the $42 million fire tender scandal. I did not see you there or any top leader from your party. You did not even send your party officials or your cadres to march in solidarity. You missed a golden opportunity to show Zambians that you are standing up for them. Instead you sit comfortably issuing press statements from your nice air conditioned mansion instead of being on the frontlines.

That demonstration was going to give you a chance to force the courts to interpret again the provisions of the Public Order Act. We know that you do not need a police permit to hold a peaceful demonstration as long as you notify the police. But the police like to claim you need a permit.

Why haven’t you sued the police over the POA? You can’t give the excuse that the courts are not independent when you took the matter of your election petition and the right to be heard to the same courts. You are focusing on the wrong things.

Justice Minister Given Lubinda recently revealed that he invited submissions over amending the POA but none of you in the opposition gave any. But you are the same people who complain when the police are heavy handed against you and stop your meetings.

After 4 months in jail, I expected you to become more determined to speak for us Zambians but it seems nothing has changed. You had become irrelevant after the 2016 elections and were lucky to be brought back into the spotlight by a self-inflicted wound by the ruling party. You have gone back to being irrelevant by your own choice.

I wonder if you learned anything from Kenya. Raila Odinga was more politically astute and he pushed a petition within 14 days that focused on the process of tallying the votes and he won his case. It is a far cry from your case last year that you destroyed with so many preliminary issues and filing 80 grounds. 53 were thrown out for lacking merit.

Your petition had absolutely no chance of being heard in 14 days. And here you are, a year after the elections trying to force your case to be resurrected like Jesus, instead of accepting that you shot yourself in the foot. You should have been planning for 2021 instead of wasting our time.

Much as I don’t like it, the sad reality is that the ruling party will win again in 2021. I see your party losing significant support in Lusaka, Copperbelt and Central provinces. Unless you change your strategy and focus on real issues affecting real people, you are going nowhere and you won’t get my vote again.

Yours sincerely,

Paulos Sianga

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