Zambia: Facebook Group Leads 2011 Poll Debate

Can a Facebook group, ‘Zambian People’s Pact‘, tip the Zambian elections due in the next few months against the ruling Movement for Multi-Party Democracy (MMD), which has been in power for 20 years now?

The group has been in existence for the last few months and has members ranging from the son of Zambia’s first president Kenneth Kaunda, Lieutenant-Colonel Panji Kaunda, himself a former member of parliament, to little known Musamba Chama Mumba who has only come to prominence as one of the group administrators. She probably never even experienced life as an adult under Dr Kaunda’s leadership.

Zambian President Rupiah Banda. Photo released by Antonio Cruz/ABr under Creative Commons (CC BY-SA 2.5)

Zambian President Rupiah Banda. Photo released by Antonio Cruz/ABr under Creative Commons (CC BY-SA 2.5)

Political debate within this group comes thick and fast with up to 800 and 1,000 posts and reactions per day. Frankly speaking, it is difficult to follow every thread, but the posts are never short of acrimony between members of the group.


Below is the Zambian People's Pact's description:

It is very important to clarify from the outset that the Pact comprises of three parties. The first party, and the most important for that matter, is the people of Zambia. This party is composed of the majority of Pact supportes. Its membership is diverse- the young, old, professionals, peasants, politicians, and so on from diverse backgrounds and interest groupings. Thier central objective is to unseat the MMD government through the elections of 2011 for for gross incompetenece and impunity in the management of government affairs.

Most of the group members happen to be opposition Patriotic Front (PF) supporters whose leader, Michael Sata seems to be favourite to win this year’s elections. Known as King Cobra because of his abrasive nature, Sata has contested every presidential election since 2001 when he was by-passed by the then President Frederick Chiluba who had to give up his fight for an unconstitutional third term of office, a move which was resisted by Zambians from all walks of life.

MMD national secretary, the party’s chief executive officer and Minister Without Portfolio, the third highest ranking cabinet position, Sata made sure that all possible contenders for the party presidency which leads to automatic republican president candidature were expelled from the party a few months from the elections. Some of the expelled members included the then republican Vice President Lieutenant-General Christon Tembo and party Vice President Brigadier-General Godfrey Miyanda who went on to form their own respective parties.

President of the main opposition party in Zambia, Michael Sata. Photo source: Patriotic Front website.

President of the main opposition party in Zambia, Michael Sata. Photo source: Patriotic Front website.

Sata went on to form PF which has been growing from strength to strength since, narrowly and controversially losing the 2008 by-election which was called after the death of President Mwanawasa, two and a half years into his second term. Then Vice President Rupiah Banda who acted as president, won the election by less than 35,000 votes.


Sata’s support this time around is overwhelming in most parts of the country but even more so on social networking websites such as Facebook. Apart from being a Facebook group with over 5,000 members, the Zambian People’s Pact also has physical branches around the country.

A few of the group members are also members of MMD, opposition United Party for National Development (UPND) which was at one time in a pact with the PF, and National Restoration Party (NAREP) and passionately and steadfastly stand for their parties.

One of the Facebook debates a few days ago went like this:

Terence Siansalama quoting
a Lusaka Times story kicked off the debate:

ushitasha mwana wandoshi! [He who does not appreciate is born of a wizard] Zambia has reserves of over US$2.5 Billion! Wow. Thats great. Congrats Mr President. RB is doing something at least and all opposition parties must appreciate the efforts. What is our positive take on this?

The story quotes President Banda extolling his government's achievements:

PRESIDENT Banda says the US$2.5 billion (about K12trillion) in national reserves is a sign that Zambia’s economy is growing.

Mr Banda said Government will remain committed to ensuring that Zambia becomes a middle-income country by 2014.

The post sparked a debate, which at the time of writing, went up to 63 reactions.

Alinuswe Mwamulima commented:

An increment of what from last year?220million increment of just under 10%.Good.
We are in a once in a life time econmic boom.Copper price is through the roof.Are we doing enough with it?
Lets compare with countries in the region whose economies are experiencing growth fueled by these same high commodity prices.
-Tanzania with the gold-3.687 billion December 2010
-Botswana with their diamonds-7billion
-Namibia-2 billion
-Angola with oil-16 billion!
Not much you see.average amount and performance.Unless we want to compete with agrarian countries like Malawi with 500usd in reserves,or former almost failed states like Zimbabwe 350mil usd and Congo 1 billion usd.
So forgive me and alot of those that think like me who are not jumping up and down going delirious with glee over unexceptional performance.

Terence Siansalama responded to Alinuswe's observations:

Alinuswe Mwamulima, cousin, its nice that you have seen that we are one of the top in the region. We cant be comparable to Angola as you rightly put it, there oil makes them be above board. So we are doing fine.In the world we are one of the 10 top countries with a growing economies. So need to appreciate that we are doing fine as a country and thanks to His Excellency Rupiah Bwezani Banda for the improvements. Its no joke. It takes alot of planning my brother.

The exchange continued.

Lawrence Mindela:

Guys reserves are not in any form or shape an economic indicator. Pit that against the national debt and see where we stand. We have borrowed massively over the past 4 years. If we have building our reserves forgetting that what we really need to build is a competitive educational system which leaves no one behind regardless of their family income and background. That will be the eventual path to sustained prosperity. Our growing economy is on paper, tell me the rate of poverty and by how much has it declined in the past 5 years. How many people has your government moved from being poor to middle class? Unless you have no clear understanding of political economics then you will think RB is manna from heaven.

One contribution is not exactly kind to purported MMD supporters:

Zambian Youths:

This is a very educative debate and it seem most of you people are very competent. However, it seems our friends in the MMD and theirs cadres are still using ‘stone age tools’ to measure economic performance. The world over or serious economies not longer look at reserves but the number of people the economy employs to determine performance. The great number of people out of employment, the greater the poverty levels and as such we can't look at reserves as a way to determine success. In fact, having reserves in the face of high unemployment and poverty is as silly as a starving man with capital who does not know were to invest his money.

Another post that attracted some debate was a post from the Zambia News Features, quoting Information and Broadcasting Services Minister, Reverend Liuetenant-General Ronnie Shikapwasha on ZNBC’s biased coverage of political stories in favour of the ruling party. The minister had been reacting to a story quoting Law Association of Zambia President Musa Mwenye challenging the national broadcaster to abide by the law setting out its operations.

ZNBC, as other state owned media organisations, is at its lowest ebb in terms of popularity because of the manner it is used by the ruling party, only covering opposition parties negatively.

Andrew Sakala:

shikapwasha denies anything and everything. if instructed he can even deny that his name is shikapwasha

Both the minister of information who happens to be the chief government spokesman and the national broadcaster are derided:

Martyn Mulenga Malauni:

The honourable Minister of Info lives in a utopian world. For him to have said what he said to ZANIS [Zambia News and Information Service] in defence of ZNBC [Zambia National Broadcasting Corporation] popularly called Zambia Nonsense Bragging Cheats in some circles is not shocking to some of us because he appears to see everything in reverse. As to whether he is a true man of God, i leave it to his congregation that is assuming he has one.

Social media observers like myself will be waiting to see if the results of the 2011 tripartite  elections—presidential, parliamentary and local government—to be held on a date yet to be announced by President Banda will be influenced by the use of social media.


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