We mean no malice to late president Michael Sata and his family, but Zambia is in its current political state of affairs because Michael did not want to leave a proper succession lineage. He knocked out those who were perceived to be next in line after him, while keeping the weak, less ambitious and ‘humble’ very close.
We cannot speculate about the motive behind late Michael’s political strategy, but what we know is that the succession dispute he left behind has brought us where we are today. Because the PF president did not want to have a co-captain on standby, the ruling party was left in the hands of a man who – by his own admission – never desired to rule our country; thus Mr Edgar Chagwa Lungu.
It is a fact, not only in Zambia, but in many African countries that a ruling party candidate normally stands a 75 per cent chance of winning an election. This is mainly so because of two reasons: Rigging by the state machinery, and because the party in power has easy access to internal and external sources of campaign funds. In fact, sometimes a ruling party candidate may not even have a strong appeal to attract voters, but those who already have government jobs work with government contractors to manipulate and influence the will of citizens in order to protect their own interests.
Mr Lungu was adopted PF presidential candidate on December 3, 2014 and in less than seven weeks, he was pronounced Republican President after the January 20, 2015 election. This was made possible because of one, or all the above stated reasons. This reality of African politics, makes us hold the view that the ruling party must at least give citizens an opportunity to know ahead of time, whom they would be voting for in the next election.
We hardly care about the MMD or UPND candidate because the opposition never rigs elections. If they were to win, like the PF did in 2011, it would be because the Zambian people resolved to vote for regime change. It is the ruling party candidate who has the capacity to ‘win’ an election even when the majority of citizens vote otherwise; so the time is ripe for the Zambian people, non PF members, to start asking who the PF candidate will be in 2021.
We are lucky, as a country, that our incumbent Head of State, says he is enjoying quality health and has since announced his intentions to recontest the presidency in four years time. Fortunately or unfortunately, we are told that it is not up to him to decide his availability because the law doesn’t categorically support his desire.
That is why we are concerned with the slow pace at which the Constitutional Court is moving on this very important issue. We have heard opposition aligned lawyers in Zambia like Mr Wynter Kabimba and Mr Elias Chipimo saying the Constitution does not permit President Lungu to stand again. We have also heard PF aligned lawyers like Mr Frederick Imasiku and other state advocates saying the amended Constitution permits the Head of State to stand again. Zambians deserve to know who is right. We do not agree with lawyers like Mr Tutwa Nguluba who are saying “now is not the right time to discuss the topic”. We need this debate now. It would not be fair to keep the voters in suspense until a few months before the next election.
In demanding this, we are not insinuating that our incumbent President is ineligible to stand in 2021. We are not asking the Constitutional Court judges to announce a decision that rules out President Lungu. We understand that there are some Zambians who love Mr Lungu so much that they would want him to be President of Zambia for 12 years or more. But we are also aware that there are citizens who will need to psychologically adjust to the fact that this particular President will be in power for that long.
It is for this reason that we are asking those who have been given the national duty of interpreting laws and settling legal disputes, to give the country direction. A country governed by laws should never run out of answers. If our current Constitution was meant to stand the test of time, how can it be so hard to interpret a term of office?
This might appear to be a premature topic of discussion for people like the Kabwe Central member of parliament, but it is too soon to forget how the PF succession dispute in 2014 paralised the entire governance system. What happened in the ruling party then, was the beginning of a long journey to the present day. Those in the Patriotic Front can choose to bury their heads in the sand and pretend that it is too early for tabling the PF succession, but the truth of the matter is that “who succeeds Lungu?” is the elephant in the room. Even those in the PF want to know if they will be campaigning for the same candidate again, but they just don’t want to talk about it. They are afraid of being misunderstood.
As an organisation that is not politically alligned, we are asking the Constitutional Court, on behalf of all the interested Zambians, to expedite the interpretation of this mater.
As a lawyer, President Lungu must also show willingness to wait for the court’s interpretation before embarking on 2021 campaigns, which he has already started doing. Should the court permit him, we will be happy to cover his campaigns, and if the Zambian people buy his campaign messages, they will be happy to vote for him again. But let him stop going round the country, telling citizens that he will be back in 2021.