Webinar on outcome of Zambian elections

Dr O'Brien Kaaba
Ms Laura Miti
Fumba Chama
Ms Goitse Maswabi

On Tuesday 31 August 2021, CACS, in collaboration with the UJ Library, hosted a Zoom webinar on ‘Zambia Before and After the August 12 Election: Analysis and Way Forward’.

SPEAKERS

  • Dr O’Brien Kaaba, lecturer in the School of Law of the University of Zambia and Senior Research Fellow of the Southern Africa Institute for Policy and Research;
  • Ms Laura Miti, ZAmbian political activist and current Executive Director of the Alliance for Community Action (ACA), Lusaka, Zambia;
  • Chama Fumba (pilAto), Zambian hip hop artist and political activist.
  • The webinar was chaired by Ms Goitseone Maswabi, CACS Research Assistant and Social Media and Content Coordinator.

Background

Since its return to multiparty democracy in 1991, after an 18-year intermission, the Republic of Zambia has generally been lauded as a democratic success. The peaceful transfers of power to victorious opposition parties in 1991 and 2011 confirmed that Zambia was a bright spot in the third wave of democracy in Africa.

However, since 2015, under president Edgar Lungu, Zambia seems to have squandered its democratic ethos. Spiralling external debt, a tanking economy, harassment, arrests and imprisonment of political opponents and activists and a general restriction of political and civil liberties have engendered a toxic political climate. Data from The Economist’s Democracy Index shows that, since 2015, Zambia’s democracy has been under growing pressure, and the country is now a hybrid regime, moving towards becoming an authoritarian state.  For these reasons, the elections on  12 August, 2021 have been widely regarded as a watershed in Zambian history.

The contest was mainly between the ruling Patriotic Front (PF) and the main opposition party, he United Party for National Development (UPND). Their campaigns were laced with disturbing levels of tribal-speak, violence and vacillating political affiliations. This was thrown into even sharper focus by the death of Kenneth Kaunda, Zambia’s first president, on 17 June, at a time when the campaigns were at fever pitch.

Kaunda’s antipathy for tribal politics were embodied in his ‘One Zambia, One Nation’ mantra and his adoption of Mahatma Gandhi’s non-violent philosophy of satyagraha. His graceful acceptance of electoral defeat in 1991, after 27 years in power, set the tone for subsequent peaceful handovers of power. Fortunately, this tradition has endured. Following a  landslide victory by the businessman and opposition leader Hakainde Hichilema, Lungu agreed to a peaceful transfer of power.

In this timely webinar, three prominent Zambians commented on the background to the election, its outcome, and what Hichilema’s election may mean for Zambia’s future.