Political parties perform an important task in a multi-party democracy such as ours.
They ostensibly bring like-minded people of together as they to seek form government so that their policies can be implemented while they hold public office.
These policies are packaged into a declaration of beliefs, values, motives, and intentions. They are rational and they include what they will do, why they will and how it will be done.
Other details such as who would be responsible, including a timeline are reduced into sector-by-sector policy documents that serve as a guidelines for direction.
Such a document is what is popularly known as a “Manifesto”.
A manifesto thus functions as a statement of principles/ policies as well as gives a policy compass giving direction for a political party. *It is a vision crystalized into a document.*
Therefore, a political party without a manifesto is both visionless and directionless; and because it is directionless and visionless, it is prone to drift wherever the wind goes like a rudderless vessel.
Such is the rather unfortunate status of the United Party for National Development (UPND).
They have been afloat, lost at sea aimless, and directionless, – without a manifesto for more than Twenty Years.
Instead of a being guided by detailed manifesto complete with the *What*, *Why*, *How* and *When* as well as the *Who*; all UPND has is a terse disjointed wish list they call a Ten Point “Plan”, which they hastily put together for convenience sake just before the last General Elections.
Curiously, some UPND members have during the last few months contended that their party does have a detailed Manifesto which according to them was put together in the year 2000 by some dons in the academia in conjunction with some named senior members of their party.
If that is the case, then their rudderless limbo is worse than anyone could imagine! It is preposterous!
It would mean that they have not had an updated manifesto for the last eighteen years- inclusive of the more than 12 years their current leader has been at the helm of the drifter! Shocking!
Some may question our interest in this matter and they may even say it is none of our business.
However the reality is that a “manifesto-less” UPND is every Zambian’s business regardless of whether or not they belong to UPND, because as it can never be overemphasised; the quality of our country’s overall democracy and politics, is a function of the quality of the democracy and politics of the individual political parties.
What makes UPND of further particular interest to ALL citizens is the fact that they are supposed to be the foremost opposition party.
For our democracy to thrive, the ruling party needs worthy competition in the form of a credible opposition party worth its salt; one that knows where it stands ,where it wants to go and how it plans to get there except for the “Only I can fix it all” attitude.
In the interest of the development of our country, the Patriotic Front covets a contest of ideas; not the violent challenge of regional allegiance practised by some.
The PF development agenda is premised on a mission with a vision seen through the clear lenses of the PF Manifesto, 7NDP and vision 2030.
We have so far been unfairly deprived of an opposition of excellence.
We yearn for a contest of policy, from those who are supposed to represent an alternative government (such as the UPND, NDC, DP and others). We echo our challenge to them to play the role of proposition parties.
Therein lies the dilemma; how possible is it to have such discourse when the UPND and these other small political parties don’t even have a manifesto for themselves? How can they offer what they don’t have?
Even UPND’s Ten Point “Plan” has been rendered irrelevant and it is as practical as delivering sand to the Sahara or ice to Alaska; because everything UPND promises to deliver has already been swallowed up by the exploits of the Patriotic Front.
A party without a vision is an empty shell. The void is eventually filled with negative stuff such as personality cults, bile, innuendo, bitterness, insults and all manner of negativity.
Once a political party is not anchored by a well thought out manifesto, it becomes petty as it frenetically pursues every whim of sensationalism; and having no vision-related benchmarks, the abnormal becomes normal – it is eventually sucked into the dark hole of irrelevance.
A name; but no game.
Instead of opposing anything and everything from the ruling party just for the sake of opposing thereby getting themselves deeper into the rut of irrelevance, UPND, NDC, DP need direction; they need detailed manifestos that are clear, practical and relevant – sector by sector, for the people of Zambia to interrogate.
As Habakkuk 2 verse 2 says:
_“Write the vision and make it plain on tablets, that he may run (with it) who reads it._
How can, for instance UPND run with “Zambia Forward” when they themselves don’t know where they are going?
Without a manifesto,they will eventually run themselves into oblivion…
_The Author is Patriotic Front Media Director At the Patriotic Front Secretariat, Lusaka_