Vernon Mwanga says it is unprecedented for a party that has just formed government to start campaigning four years ahead of the next election. The veteran politician also says it is unfair for the PF to swing into campaign mode while fronting the police to arrest anyone else who wants to mobilise and join the race for 2021.
We know that Vernon Mwaanga is yet to succeed in cleansing his name from past accusations of election rigging in Zambia, but we have difficulties disagreeing with his observation about what the ruling party is doing.
It is true that the move by PF to start campaigning four years ahead of the next election is unprecedented. But of course, so many things happening in the PF government are unprecedented and this doesn’t shock us at all. In fact, we are not even surprised with the unfairness of campaigning in the absence of competitors because the PF is used to bullying. When they enter the ring, they first tie down their boxing opponent and then start knocking out their rival’s teeth. Since taking over power, those in PF have always enjoyed an unfair advantage in their political battles – closing down pro-opposition media houses and opening up their own ‘private’ media houses.
Our question, however, is: why has President Lungu declared himself eligible to contest the 2021 elections before the court rules in his eligibility case? As a lawyer who does not want to interfere in the judicial process of political cases, such as the treason matter involving Hakainde Hichilema, why is he pre-emptying the court’s decision in this matter? Is this not judicial interference by the Executive arm of government? Is this not threatening a judge who might find the President on the wrong side of the law?
We don’t know if those who are competing with President Lungu on the political arena are realising how serious this matter is and the bad precedence it will leave if President Lungu illegally succeeds to retain power in 2021. For us, we have been following statements from the Head of State and we know that he means business.
On 27 July, 2017, President Lungu urged PF officials to hit the ground running in recruiting new members ahead of the 2021 general elections. “If we do not prepare now, 2021 will be very difficult for us. We must prepare for what’s coming and what’s coming are elections in 2021. So we need to consolidate our strongholds and make them better so that we are able to gunner more votes than we did last time. If we don’t have the mandate to come back in 2021, the developments we are seeing now will be lost,” President Lungu told the people of Luapula.
On July 12, 2017, President Lungu told Livingstone residents that he was looking forward to 2021 so that voters could give him a renewed term of office. He said, “I am not here for politics, I am here to see development and I will be here up to tomorrow to interact with the party and government officials both at district and provincial level. That’s my job until 2021 when we will ask the people of Zambia to give us another mandate.” Again on August 4, 2017, the Head of State told a business community during a function saying, “I can’t fire anyone for being ambitious. Those of you who are ambitious, I am also ambitious, that is why I am President, and I am ambitious to come back in 2021.”
There have been several other cases where President Lungu has brought up his desire to retain the presidency in 2021. He has been going round telling people to vote for him again four years from now in order to protect the development that he is about to give them. This doesn’t make sense. Like Nason Msoni once said, the normal way of eating is finishing the food on the plate first, before demanding for more. But our President is shouting for bevula before even settling down in a restaurant.
It’s like President Lungu is so worried about losing power in 2021, otherwise he would be concentrating on creating the 500,000 jobs he promised last year, instead of campaigning again. But it seems as though whenever the President remembers that his mandate ends in four years, he gets migraine headache, he loses sleep to imagine that it could be over for him in just four years’ time. That is why he is ‘disputing’ the court’s ruling on his eligibility to recontest the presidency even before the judge pronounces it.
But why is our humble, hardworking, God-fearing President so worried about losing power? What has he done in the past two and half years that is making him shiver at the sound of 2021? Has he been ruthless to those who are likely to take over power from him? Has he been merciless to media houses that could have kept a grudge against him? Has he been creating enemies within the police by abusing the men and women in uniform? Has he lost friends in the Church by issuing threats to Church leaders? If this is President Lungu’s worry, then now is the time to make things right – not campaigning. We say this because if President Lungu has injured all the government stakeholders above, campaigning to retain power in 2021 is definitely not the best way to come out of his quagmire. He will continue to injure more and more people and create more and more enemies; especially within PF because there are people inside and outside the PF Central Committee who feel he must go because he has sold the party to strangers.
Our advice to President Lungu is that he must find his lost humbleness and start making peace with everyone – politicians, civil servants, Civil Society Organisations, and of course journalists who view him as an enemy. In so doing, Zambians may fall back in love with him and give his party that desperately desired third term. If the court says Wynter Kabimba was wrong to state that Lungu doesn’t qualify to stand again, then at that moment, Zambians will be happy to hear his campaign message. Right now, the President of the Republic of Zambia is talking to himself about 2021.