The opposition UPND celebrated its 20-years milestone of existence. Twenty years by any standard in opposition politics is a long time. Indeed they have metamorphosed from some nondescript opposition political party synonymous with being an offshoot of the MMD in 1998 under former MMD Bauleni Ward councillor Anderson Kambela Mazoka. Today they are can stake a claim as the largest opposition political party. At least in comparative terms to their competitors. It was a party founded on a strong transformational agenda under a team of highly qualified personalities. Some of the names thrown in the ring had excelled in their various callings like Sakwiba Sikota, Bob Sichinga, Dr John Mulwila, Given Lubinda, Patrick Chisanga, Henry Mtonga, Inonge Wina, Sikota Wina and Benny Tetamashimba among others. Given the fatigue that the electorates were having with the MMD under Frederick Chiluba the citizens were looking to a breath of fresh air and the UPND provided party of that promise heading into the 2001 elections. It was a team of fairly eminent and self-driven individuals. After having recorded some victories in by-elections ironically in some of the areas that have remained their strongholds to date. They went into the 2001 elections with Mazoka controversially falling short by 2% off the winner Levy Mwanawasa of the MMD.
The UPND got 49 seats in a 150 parliamentary chamber although combined the opposition seats reached 81.
As they say numbers don’t lie even at their highest, the UPND parliamentary mark put their legitimacy claim to govern the country in serious jeopardy. Granted they had made some strides but their overall gains could not be said to have won over the citizenry in totality.
To their credit, they did provide some progressive noise in parliament with their well-researched motions.
Notably the developed a culture of presenting an alternative budget that critiqued the government official one.
However, the death of the founding President Anderson Mazoka before the 2006 elections fundamentally threw the party off balance.
With that emerged Hakainde Hichilema under a cloud of tribal anointment with top UPND officials infamously declaring that Mazoka would only be succeeded by a Tonga. Wittingly or unwittingly the prophecy came to pass with the party suffering its second leadership crisis laced with tribal flavour. Of course the first one that saw Dr John Mulwila quietly leave was not very publicized. Hichilema’s arrival provoked the exit of some of the top party stalwarts like Saki, Henry Mtonga, Given Lubinda and Chisanga.
Fast forward Hichilema has participated in five elections with the UPND now having 55 parliamentarians in an expanded National Assembly.
Hichilema is looking to participating in his sixth Presidential election in 2021 and should he not win, the UPND will have to extraordinarily be naïve to retain him. As to whether or not the UPND is any better or worse from its 2001 election high is not for us to say. But when you have Anderson Mazoka, Sakwiba Sikota, Bob Sichinga, Henry Mtonga, and Patrick Chisanga on one side and Hichilema, Geoffrey Bwalya Mwamba, Stephen Katuka, Mutale Nalumango and Patrick Mucheleka on the other it would not be so hard to work out which team is stronger. But credit to them as 20-years in opposition is surely a very long time.
Happy 20th anniversary to the UPND membership.