Lungu’s good decision lacks wisdom

President Lungu at the airport: File picture

President Edgar Lungu’s announcement that he will not travel abroad this year is unrealistic, and must worry every concerned citizen about the kind of leadership that is in State House. This decision proves that our Head of State doesn’t have a focused agenda for Zambia; he speaks out of impulse rather than from a critically thought-out point of view. President Lungu has exposed himself as an emotional leader who says things that he later regrets uttering.

When the President was moving from one country to another without even passing through Zambia, we were told that he was selling the image of the country, striking oil deals and wooing investors. They said President Edgar Lungu was diplomat number one who needed to be in the forefront, building and cementing bilateral, as well as multilateral relations.

During the period when President Lungu was at the peak of globe trotting, The Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Chief Government Spokesperson justified every move; saying they were trips which the Head of State could not delegate anyone else, because of their nature.

Indeed it is true that there are meetings that are structured for Heads of State at the level of the United Nations, African Union, SADC, Great Lakes Region, etc. That is why they are called Summits; meaning to be attended by the highest representative of a government, like a Head of State.

Those are truly very important assignments, and we don’t remember that Zambian condemned President Lungu for travelled to New York for the UN General Assembly or to Addis Ababa for the African Union Summit. They may have complained about the number of people in the presidential entourage; but critics never said the President must stop attending the AU or UN.

What Zambians complained about were trips like the one he made to Swaziland to attend the Reed Dance. On that trip, Citizens felt the Head of State carried with him too many people who did not necessarily need to be on the presidential entourage. There were so many government officials on that trip who hardly had any business in that country, apart from watching pointy virgin breasts of Swazi girls. What is worse is that some businessmen who are now bidding for oil supply contracts were seen posing in pictures with President Lungu. That is what people condemned and they had the right to do so.

At the time when President Lungu was elected into office, Zambia was broke and already significantly indebted. The Minister of Finance said the country was faced with a dangerous fiscal imbalance because of the discrepancy between its capacity to raise revenue and the responsibility to provide public services, such as physical infrastructure, health care, education; and above all, debt repayment. In other words, Zambia was spending money that it didn’t have. Government officials then started preaching austerity measures.

But while Zambians were tightening their belts, the Head of State was competing in flying hours with a Swift Bird that holds the Earth’s longest flight record at 10 months without landing. In 2015, President Lungu made 18 international trips, or 26 trips in his first 18 months before being re-elected in August 2016. Surely people had the right to criticise the President and his government for being hypocritical.

But now, President Lungu’s resolve not to make a single trip this year, raises a lot of new questions, especially to those who believed that the numerous trips were beneficial to the nation’s economic growth. If indeed by travelling, President Lungu was bringing foreign direct investment into the country, why has he stopped? Why has he given up on ‘developing’ the country through frequent travel? Well, the truth is that our national leadership is in limbo.

Like we said earlier, President Lungu speaks out of impulse, without subjecting his thoughts to the reality that every word he utters is government policy. When we checked with the State House Press Aide a day after the President made the announcement, it came to pass that, in fact, there are several “important” trips that have been lined up for the Head of State this year; one of which is coming up in just two weeks time. So what was President Lungu talking about? If his intention was to concentrate on rebuilding the domestic agenda, why didn’t he just say so, without making a false declaration?

Of course we support the President’s decision not to make unnecessary trips this year. In fact, that is how it should have been from the beginning. So we encourage President Lungu to extend that resolve to next year and the rest of the years that he will remain in power.

We say this because, we have done a detailed analysis of President Lungu’s travels abroad with the help of whistleblowers who have shared an insight into how cash flows when our President is in a foreign country. This, we will publish in the course of this week for the benefit of the public.

But going back to the announcement President Lungu made last week, our opinion is that he made a good decision for the bad reasons. We feel it is wrong for the Head of State to say his intention is to shame the critics and not to cut back on government spending. This means our President doesn’t really personally appreciate that he has made a good decision; he would love to continue travelling, but he won’t because he needs to shame the opposition.

We are concerned that the President is running the country like it belongs to him, and two or three opposition leaders who are putting him under pressure. He speaks to citizens like they are so dull to read through his propaganda. If President Lungu truly wants to shame critics, we challenge him to dare those who say he has lost popularity. Let him to call for early elections next year and prove them wrong.

Our point is that it is unsustainable for a President to make decisions aimed at shaming critics, because people will always talk. Let him make decisions that are good for Zambia and Zambians. Otherwise, if the police in Kitwe say they have arrested a man who was saying “Lungu wamafi fye”, what will our President stop doing in order to shame that disgruntled man?

         

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