PRESIDENT Edgar Lungu has warned anyone wanting to take advantage of the election season of imminent arrest, saying if one wants to succeed him, they can only do so in 2026 or 2031 when he will finally be out of power.

And President Lungu says suggesting that Zambians cannot run mining companies is an insult.

Speaking when he featured on Radio Delight Kwitonta, Thursday evening, President Lungu hinted that he would still be Republican President up to 2026 and possibly beyond.

“Those law-breakers who want to take advantage of this season kubakanuna, kubekata! (we will arrest them!) What is important is that we want to get our moral conscience, reflect on the need for peace. Ichikalamba mutende. Ngo ulewufwaisha wu kateka limbi kuti mwaisa mu 2026 nganafumapo, limbi kuti mwaisa mu 2031 but nga mulefwaya uku onaula ichalo kwikata. (What is important is peace. If you really want to have the position of President, you will come in 2026 when I will be out of power or 2031, but if you want to destroy the country, you will be arrested!) The first thing we will do is to make sure that police are ready for these elections in terms of equipment and logistical support and that they are trained to respect human rights, of course. But the law will apply on all law-breakers that I must say very firmly and clearly so,” President Lungu said.

“And those who want to perpetuate violence tulebapepelako, prayer works. I was just telling someone that nga baisa ku (when they come to) church kuchimpwena bale fwaya aba ku bavotela (they are looking for people to vote for them); convict them, let the holy spirit prevail over them bachinje imibele (so that they change). It won’t help anybody ukulufya umweo (lose a life) just because you want to be an MP or a president. Ukateka bani nga ba fwa abantu? (How will you rule when everyone dies?) We have to make sure that the Ministry of Religious Affairs and National Guidance, working with stakeholder groups, including our traditional leaders begin prevailing on us to ensure that we respect each other; we work in unity, peace and love. Obey the rules of the game and ensure that we work. After all, this is just a game, it is not a lifetime ambition; you can’t be President forever! Five years, 10 years utmost waya bambi bayisa (others come).”

He said social media would be regulated to ensure that it was not abused during the forthcoming campaign period.

“Bulya ubushiku nalelanda naku Isoka na bashi mapepo bale pamfya ukutila ubuteko ubikeko amano uchefyeko ukusalula abantu nokutukana ifima nsele pa social media. So, ilya naya ku Lusaka nkalanda naba Minister ba Transport and Communications tukalandishane bwino bwino nga kuti twakata ishuko yakuchita efyo abanesu balecita Ku America. Mwali umfwa ati kateka uwa fuminepo mailo efyo bamwisalile. (The other day, I was talking to the clergy in Isoka, they advised me to regulate social media so when I go back to Lusaka, I will talk to the Ministry responsible so that we also emulate the Americans). You heard that the former president (Donald Trump) was blocked from accessing social media. In other words, he was switched off from social media, he can’t tweet, he can’t do a WhatsApp and all these things so amaka yafwile yabako somewhere. Nga tayapo naifwe tuka fwaya mu Zambia (If there are no laws, we will have to put them) because certainly freedom of speech is not a licence to insult anybody and peril the country to a point where you plunge it into chaos! We don’t want chaos,” he said.

President Lungu said government would adopt “best practices” from Uganda, among other countries’ elections.

“People have voted, yes, in Malawi; people have voted in Tanzania; people have voted in Uganda recently; people have voted in Ghana; they voted in the United States…We will pick the best practices and apply them to Zambia where applicable. So, in short, what I am saying is that we will stop at no point to ensure that there is free and fair elections and not abusing social media and media platforms. It should be respected and used for its intended purpose. So, I am not threatening or trying to intimidating anyone; what I am saying is that mechanisms, which are there, which will help us to maintain law and order and respect each other will be applied. If we don’t have these mechanisms in Zambia, we will see how we can acquire them as soon as possible so that we control social media,” he said.

And when asked to comment on the opposition’s promise that they would reverse government’s decisions on the mining companies that the State had bought, President Lungu said he would not allow it.

“Tatwakabaleke. Uku bwekesha imigodi eyo twapoka kuli aba ba mwisa abaletuchuchunganya! (We will not let them. To give back the mines that we have possessed from these people that have given us headaches!) We will not allow that. No Zambian will allow that. What happened in the case of Mopan Copper Mines is that they wanted to place that mine under care and maintenance and lay off 2,000 people or thereabouts; we would have had those 2,000 people on the streets, imagine? The suffering that would have ensued,” he replied.

“What we said is that, you cannot place the mine under care and maintenance; what you need to do is to continue operating because the mine is viable and the directors of the Mine Department (in the Ministry of Mines) have told us that you just want to run away and leave us in problems; the owners on Glencore shares, which own 90 per cent of that entity, Mopani Copper Mines, said let us talk about you buying those shares so that we become the owners, so we negotiated; we are going to pay them over a 17-year period. And there will be an arrangement where some of the production will be sold to them and eventually, we pay off the liability. We have all the best brains in the industry to help us. ZCCM-IH was involved; IDC was involved; our people in the Ministry of Finance were involved; Mines were involved and eventually, it was agreed. We have a responsibility to protect the welfare of this country. So, one cannot say, ‘Zambians cannot run the mines,’ that is an insult!”

He also argued that the ruling PF had performed well.

“The Zambian government has tirelessly worked to transform the lives of the people in Zambia across the board without leaving anyone behind. We in PF can point to a lot of success stories and these are not debatable. I have heard some people say, ‘there is policy inconsistency…’ Can you talk about policy inconsistency when you have COVID-19? You really have to be a manager who will make decisions and change them depending on what’s obtaining on the ground in which you are breaking from. As a soldier, you cannot take your troops to and fight a battle and when the terrain shifts or changes from what you planned for in the boardroom, you cannot send more troops to die,” said President Lungu.

“You will go back and say, ‘can we assess?’ So, for us in PF, we are very clear about our track record, we are very clear about the achievements that we have attained under the Seventh National Development Plan and we are very clear on the challenges that we have encountered and those we anticipate. PF, I think has done very well and I think PF’s wisdom lies in listening to the people and taking stock of the obtaining situation on the ground. We want Zambians to enjoy quality life. We have to make sure from where we are coming to where we are going, people should be able to say, ‘I used to have three meals a day, but the quality of food has improved.’ That is how we are going to do this and we will not shy away from saying, ‘we are where we are because we listened to the Zambian people who are our masters’.”