Point Blank: Who will win in 2016?

Patrick Sikana

Patrick Sikana

By Patrick Sikana

Yes we are more than two years away to the voting day. And yes a lot is likely to happen between now and then which could tilt the political landscape for or against different actors on the political landscape in Zambia. But winning any election anywhere boils down to two things: the story (manifesto) and how you tell the story (strategy).

So today let me paint the story of 2016 for you in broad strokes. Like it or not, there’s a story Zambians are waiting to hear because without that story, a story with an epic purpose, you have nothing to set yourself apart from the rest. I will deal with the question of strategy in the next issue. So, what are the ingredients of that epic story?

First, remember that “politics is local”. Crowds can be galvanized by ideology and international headlines about empowerment, equality, environment or human rights but it is the party that tells the best “local” story that will carry the day in September 2016. My message to all presidential candidates in 2016 – whichever party you belong to – is simple: The average Zambian voter has four brains: The past (your record), his/her pocket (the economy), his/her stomach (access to food) and your identity (your surname). You must coin these four if you have to go anywhere; some through your story and others through your strategy. As you can see, all these are local. You ignore them at your own political peril.

Second, let your story say something about “now,” not some glorious distant future. If the 2011 presidential election taught us anything it’s that people vote on the basis of the “immediate,” not on the long term benefits. Remember one Michael Sata? He ran his campaign on the platform of immediate positive change through his infamous “90 days” sloganeering and made people believe that electing him would give each of them immediate paybacks. His story answered the question “what is in it for me now?” So don’t pitch your story on the long-term blah, blah…blah…line. Voters hate that. Consciously or not, we all believe in John Maynard Keynes: “in the long run, we’re all dead.”

Third, tell us the great evil you want to vanquish. A good story always moves forward and tackles bigger and better challenges. Good stories, just like good games, inspire people. The main character always moves forward trying to vanquish the great evil. So find the great evil that you will lead everyone to conquer, offering voters a clear way to move forward. Then you will have an epic purpose for everyone involved, both volunteers and voters. Back to 2011, on a national level, Sata made sure he demonized MMD and Rupiah, making the devil himself jealous. Then he sandwiched the wicked stanzas of his song with a promising chorus (90 days), insisting that things will get better. Details as to how that would happen were inconsequential to his overall purpose. People simply agreed with the greater purpose and forgot that the devil is in the details.

In conclusion let me give you the list of 6 issues – not in any order of importance – which if carefully exploited and choreographed in a tactful strategy will deliver you your victory. These six issues also have some geographical resonance. I’m giving the list to you for free. Take it, or leave it.

1. The Constitution. Like planting a tree, the best time to have a new constitution is 20 years ago. The next best time is now. This is a national issue, but if you put it off the right way you might please a lot of people in Lusaka. What is your story?

2. The Prices. Mealie meal, fuel, education and proper health care all cost an arm and a leg. The issue of rising cost of living is of national relevance. What is your story?

3. Employment and wages. There is a legion of youth that want jobs. The kwacha is like salt that has lost its saltiness. These are national issues. What is your story?

4. Chiefs and chiefdoms. Some feathers have been raffled big time. In Zambia tribe is identity. If you say the right things, you might make my in-laws in the greater North and my cousins in the West happy. What is your story?

5. Mines and minerals. This has been the mainstay of the Zambian economy. Haven’t you heard that to win an election you must win it on the Copperbelt? If you get this right, the North Western province might give you a smile too. What is your story?

6. Agriculture. God usually does his bit by sending the rain. Must He send the fertilizer, tools, and buy the produce as well? The Central, Southern and Eastern provinces might give you a vote for answering that question cleverly. What is your story?