‘I Will Crawl Before You’ Political endorsements, defections and patronage in Zambian elections

  • John Bwalya
  • Owen Sichone


While public endorsement of presidential candidates is a relatively new phenomenon in Zambian politics, political defections have existed for a longer period. However, both of these political manoeuvres have increasingly become ubiquitous since Zambia’s return to multiparty democracy in the 1990s. Often, defectors prey on the perceived popularity of a presidential candidate to secure lucrative government positions for themselves and their kin. Defections demonstrate that Zambian politicians, at all levels, have weak ties of loyalty or ideological commitment to political parties. These weak ties result in vertical mobility of defectors from a perceived weak party to one considered to have higher prospects of forming government and ‘eating’. Based on a critical case study of the January 2015 presidential by-election, this paper uses the well-tested concept of patronage to explain political endorsements and defections in Zambia’s Third Republic. The paper concludes that recurrent cross-party endorsements and defections undermine the consolidation of political parties and maybe even democracy itself.

Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 1995-641X
print ISSN: 0256-2804