President Edgar Lungu’s spokesperson Amos Chanda says no formal recognition honour was accorded to any youth this year on Youth Day.

But University of Zambia lecturer and political commentator Dr Sishuwa Sishuwa has rubbished Chanda’s claim, saying Chanda represents “what happens when all sense of shame is lost in pursuit of personal gain”.

Responding to public criticism about the government’s decision to honour Youngson Kalobo, the infamous former leader of a Copperbelt gang of black market copper traders popularly known as jerabos who died in 2015 aged 37, Chanda said that the State did no such thing.

“The formal Honours’ List is under the Presidency, headed by Her Honour the Vice-President and this year, no special recognition was given to anyone. On Women’s Day on 8th March, the President made a special recognition of some women; so did Hon Given Lubinda on International Human Rights Day on 10th December 2018. On Youth Day, President Lungu laid a wreath at the Freedom Statue in honour of the fallen youths who contributed to Zambia’s freedom struggle. He did not specifically confer any honours any one individual”. Chanda said.

The presidential spokesperson went on to explain that the government had a formal procedure for bestowing State Honours that required structured approvals before anyone could be awarded.

“The formal Honours’ List is under the Presidency, headed by the Her Honour the Vice-President. Her committee identifies and evaluates potential recipients and the approved names are entered into the Government Gazette, which is exclusively published by the Government Printer. Therefore, any other localised decisions are outside this established criteria.

But Dr Sishuwa, who had earlier criticised the move by the government to honour “a known gangster who caused havoc during his time”, dismissed Chanda’s statement as a poor attempt at damage control.

The outspoken academic charged that President’s spokesperson appeared not to understand the distinction between the State and the Government.

“Amos Chanda is being deliberately disingenuous. First, there is nobody who said that the individual honoured by the Kitwe District Commissioner and Copperbelt Permanent Secretary on behalf of Government appears on the State Honour’s List, so Amos is making a counter argument to a non-existent argument. Second, President Lungu’s spokesperson is conflating the State and Government. This perhaps is indicative of his and the PF’s general assumption that the State and the Government are the same. They are not, and Amos would do well to learn the distinction between the two,” said Dr Sishuwa.

He also advised Chanda to desist from usurping the role of the Minister of Information and Broadcasting Services, Dora Siliya, whom he said is the appropriate and official spokesperson of the government.

“While it should be fairly obvious to many people, l should also mention that it is beyond the functions of a presidential press aide to speak on behalf of Government. That task is the responsibility of the Minister of Information and the Chief Govt spokesperson, Dora Siliya”.

Dr Sishuwa added that if the government really disapproved the decision by Kitwe DC and the Copperbelt PS to honour Youngson, then stern action should be taken against the duo for disregarding formal processes.

“Lastly, officers of any Government that operates according to the law cannot act outside powers given to them by the State. If they step outside the institutionalised due process and start arbitrarily to dish out honours at local levels, they are operating outside the formal rules and must, ordinarily, be dismissed”.

Chanda later took to Twitter to respond to Dr Sishuwa’s criticism. The president’s press aide tweeted “50 queries why Govt/Pres. ‘honored’ Youngson must be significant enough to warrant an explanation of established procedure & protocols on State Honours. But If ‘honoring & not honoring’ him are both bad, then we leave it to the infantile self-righteousness on online platforms!”

The tweet immediately drew a sharp and strong rebuke from Dr Sishuwa, who replied “I must commend you, Amos, for stealing your conscience! You are what happens when all sense of shame is lost in pursuit of personal gain: arrogant in ignorance, persistent in poor judgement, inconsiderate in actions, intemperate in impulse, & seemingly proud of all these things!”