Mr Edgar Lungu is an unfortunate leader because his presidency has been riddled with scandals. But most, if not all, misfortunes that our Head of State has encountered under his reign are self-made.
It all started with breaking the promise he made to himself in January 2015. When he was elected President, following the death of Michael Sata, Mr Lungu told the whole nation that he simply wanted to lead the country for 18 months, into the next general election so that citizens could then choose their desired five-year-term President.
He made it clear that being President was not among his ambitions and that his stay in State House was going to be short. That was the promise he made to himself, and the people of Zambia took his word. Mr Lungu then assembled a team of ministers, mostly from Sata’s Cabinet, to help him achieve his short mandate.
But along the way, those he appointed in his Cabinet, especially those who wanted to succeed Sata, like Miles Sampa, Chishimba Kambwili, Geoffrey Bwalya Mwamba and Bob Sichinga observed that slowly Mr Lungu started distancing himself from the vow of being a transition President. Even senior party officials and members like Sylvia Masebo, Bridget Atanga, Antony Kasolo and of course Dr Guy Scott himself realised that the short term leader had picked some long term ambitions after tasting the sweetness of power.
Indeed, six months into his reign, Mr Lungu started pruning away those who actually had Presidential ambitions and threatening the arrogant ones that he would whip them with his long stick or fall on them like a turn of bricks. In search of loyalty, President Lungu went shopping in the MMD pond and hooked up Dora Siliya, Vincent Mwale, Victoria Kalima, to mention but a few.
By the time 2016 was knocking on the PF door, those who had challenged Mr Lungu’s candidature in 2015 had been cast out to sea, voluntarily and by force. The transition leader had glued himself to the presidential seat. He went through unopposed as a PF presidential candidate for the August 2016 polls.
After ‘winning’, Mr Lungu immediately started mobilizing for a third term in 2021; bringing bootlickers closer to sing for him the endorsement chorus. The humble leader became the Great Leader! The Patriotic Front started breaking apart, but the powerful Lungu kept mending the holes with new faces.
Meanwhile, corruption, plunder of national resources and abuse of power by his inner circle became rife. The civil servants who had been slapped with a wage freeze started uprising, denouncing the presidency on social media and leaking documents. In the end, a banana republic was born – the disorderly cipante pante government.
Under this cipatente pante regime that President Lungu is superintending today, there is no rule of law and there is no governance agenda. The leadership theme is ‘get rich or die trying’. Government officials crisscross each other’s responsibilities while ruling party executives are trying hard to usurp power from the State.
In the PF government, the President is the chief contractor of all state projects, his spokesperson is also the finance minister, the political advisor is the Army Commander as well as Inspector General of Police. The High Commissioner is the Secretary to the Cabinet while the Secretary to the Cabinet remains a mere party cadre. The provincial minister is the secretary general of the party and the secretary general is the Chief Justice, High Court judge, ConCourt president – everything!
Citizens have now become used to this kind of confusion and chaos. But there is something new that we are picking from the new ‘chief government spokesperson’ going by the name of Alexander Chiteme. Substantively, Mr Chiteme is supposed to be the new Minister of National Development Planning, but the bug of confusion has already coerced him into the habit of assuming roles that are not his.
Last month, President Lungu announced that he would not travel outside the country this year in order to shame critics who were condemning him for globetrotting, but the Great Leader has already taken three trips including an unannounced journey to South Africa. This trip raised a lot of speculation among citizens, forcing radio personalities to take the debate to the airwaves.
On Wednesday, Hot FM presenters opened phone lines to pick views from the general public concerning the ‘secret trip’, and among the callers was the de facto presidential spokesperson, Chiteme.
“Who said the President has gone on a working visit to South Africa? People go to South Africa for medical check ups, they travel to South Africa on a private holiday. If it was a working holiday or work visit, Amos Chanda always announces that the President is going to be out of the country for so many days,” Chiteme told listeners.
But the radio presenters wanted clarification, and they asked: “So how should we interpret this trip?” to which Chiteme responded, “That maybe he went for medical check ups or maybe he went for a private visit…so you want when the president goes for a personal holiday he should say? When the President has gone, should we be telling people that he has gone for a medical check up?”
Firstly, yes we need to know everywhere our President goes, but secondly and most importantly, we are interested to know where Mr Chiteme was getting the medical check up tip? We can easily rule out the holiday speculation because before leaving, the Great Leader invited us to his 5-day looooong weekend holiday. So we know he was not tired. If Mr Chiteme tells the country that the President did not go to South Africa for work, it leaves us only one narrative; that he went to the hospital, as suggested.
If that is the case, we would like to ask; is President Lungu sick, and how sick is he? What kind of medical check up did he go for? Was it a routine check or did he collapse again? Are things okay with his health? Does he need prayers from Zambians, and what healing should they pray for? Citizens need answers.
As a minister who sits ‘next’ to the President in Cabinet, Mr Chiteme knows something because he kept on referring to “medical check-up” throughout his radio contribution. Now, Zambia has already lost two serving Presidents, and so the thought that our Great Leader, who wants to stand again in 2021, being unfit, brings shivers to one’s body.
We know that High Commissioner Emmanuel Mwamba said the President met his South African counterpart Cyril Ramaphosa on his “working visit” to that country. But the Cabinet Minister who is much senior and closer to the President has dismissed that meeting as a mere coincidence. So we demand answers from those who travelled with him to Mzanzi. If the Great Leader went to watch Zodwa Wabantu, we will understand. After all we know he loves dancing and hates accountability.