Previous election results have showed the clear geographical political divide across Zambia. The UPND maintain a strong base across North Western, Western, Southern and Central whilst PF can rely upon Eastern, Luapula, Muchinga and Northern. Lusaka and the Copperbelt are then the battlegrounds for which the two parties compete hardest for votes, with an electorate historically far more fluid than the rest of the country.
What we saw yesterday however in Mansa, traditionally a PF stronghold, was a significant show of strength from the UPND that defied all previous conceptions. Hakainde Hichilema arrived in Mansa to be greeted by a huge number of supporters. Furthermore, in their address, he discussed with them very local issues such as the desperately needed resurrecting of Mansa’s battery manufacturing industry which has collapsed in recent years. The attendees went wild for this.
Whilst some of this increased support can be put down to the new leadership group of the UPND, particularly Mulenga Sata and GBM, and their strong Bemba heritage, it also demonstrates how the UPND is capitalising right across the country upon the discontent felt by many towards the PF in their former strongholds.
Observing the rally yesterday, what was most notable was the words of young mother in the audience called Precious: “We feel like the PF have forgotten us here. Everything is so expensive now, there are no jobs for us and life is very hard, particularly when I have children to feed. We need a leader who can support us here and give us the tools to create jobs.”
In the past HH has not always been able to compete against Lungu when it comes to being able to put himself in the shoes of his voters, however the trend that is now being felt right across the country is one where the voters care less about whether the President wears the same shoes as them but instead a President and can fix the mess the country is in and improve their individual existence. Yesterday we saw that sentiment clearly across in Luapulu, and if it is coming across there then there then it will likely be felt in other traditional PF strongholds. And that threatens to turn the normal order of provincial political support on its head.