Political parties have historically been concluded to be imperfect candidates for strategic planning because of the complexity of designing and implementing in the environment in which they operate.
The political environment in Southern Africa continues to be complex, with the need to attract political "professionals" to meet the growing demand for democracy.
Democracy Works Foundation, under their Southern Africa Political Parties and Dialogue Program (SAPP&D) embarked on strategic planning for political parties in Zambia in 2019. This was a first for many political parties in the country, with a majority of them focusing on election manifestos while neglecting planning for the internal success of their organizations.
Democracy Works Foundation began the strategic planning process by conducting a political economy analysis and capacity assessment for five parties under the Zambia program, including the United Party for National Development (UPND), Patriotic Front (PF), Movement for Multiparty Democracy (MMD), Forum for Democracy and Development (FDD), and the Party for National Unity and Progress (PNUP).
The situation analyses revealed that almost all the parties had no functioning strategy plan, with members outside of the parties' central executive feeling left out of decision-making and planning for the party.
It was further discovered that political parties in Zambia at top leadership levels, often work in isolation and retain control of party resources and power to influence strategic decisions.
With this discovery, the programme gathered provincial leaders from all political parties to engage in consultation and document their views, challenges and outlook with the party executive leadership and secretariats.
The input from these engagements and the environment assessments marked the basis for the strategic planning for political parties in Zambia.
Emphasis was placed on these consultations to increase ownership and implementation of the strategic plans by all political party leaders at the national and provincial levels.
Initial drafts were concluded by early 2021; however, following the outcome of the August 2021 General Election, the programme engaged the parties once more in post-election reflections with the view to tailor their strategic plans to the prevailing political context.
Following the intense periods of consultation, review, editing, workshops, and refining sessions, the program successfully handed over the finalized five-year strategic plan documents to the political parties.
The first party to receive their plan was the UPND in April 2022, and with further refining, the program, during March 2023, handed over the finalized strategic plans to the FDD, MMD, and PF.
The handover ceremonies were conducted in Lusaka and headed by the SAPP&D Chief of Party, Dr Augustine Magolowondo, and Deputy Chief of Party, Ms Fannie Nthakomwa.
The political party strategic planning initiative under SAPP&D does not end with handing over the strategic plans to the political parties. The continued process of planning for the political parties continues as the programme intends to increase further chances of strategic success by training the custodians and implementers of the parties' strategic plans before mid of 2023. This is to increase the collaborated efforts of national and provincial political parties to effective strategy implementation.