If you live in Chazanga, Kanyama, John Laing, Kabanana or Misisi compounds, the only opportunity you have of meeting the Head of State is when his Indian counterpart, President Kovind is visiting and Cabinet Office puts up smiling faces of the two leaders on Billboards along the Highway.
If you live in Mandevu, Lilanda, or Matero, you could probably chance him from a far distance at the Olympic Youth Development Centre as he does his propaganda aerobics. You won’t get close because his security is just as tight as that of Robert Mugabe before General Constantino Chiwenga rebelled against him last December.
Those in Kamanga, Chelstone, Kaunda Square and along the Great East Road are privileged to watch his motorcade moving to and from the airport every other week, but even then, he prefers to fly the 20 kilometer distance from State House to the door step of the Presidential challenger jet sometimes.
For those outside Lusaka, if your member of parliament hasn’t died and there is no by-election coming up in your area, you have to wait for the Zesco loadshedding hour to pass in the evening so that you can watch him on the repeat of ZNBC news. Of course if you have Internet bundles, you can meet him via a live feed on his Facebook page, as he attaches himself to a church service or commissions a Chinese project.
But if you have brilliant developmental ideas and you are looking for an opportunity to sit across the table with the President to share with him how the Patriotic Front can transform the country, you have to wait for the “Meet the President Gala”. But first you have to go to the bank, get a K20, 000 loan if you are in formal employment, and find a designer to make you a tailor made suit.
By the way, that K20, 000 is only enough to get you into the venue of the “Meet the President” event; if you have nothing left in your wallet, you probably won’t even meet him. If you are lucky, you will get a handshake, but that’s all. In order to attract his attention, and probably get an invitation to State House, you will have to have 10 times, the loan you acquired so that you can purchase his auctioned jacket or wristwatch.
That is how it works in Zambia today. His name is Edgar Chagwa Lungu. Writing a letter to advise this President is a waste of time. Seeking an appointment through his advisors is a sure way of getting blacklisted because they don’t know what else you may want to whisper to the Head of State, which may not be in their best interest – like reporting State House corruption.
So if your name is not Zang Wei or Li Xiu Ying and you don’t own a construction company, there is no chance for you to contribute to the pool of national development ideas. From where we stand, President Lungu is the most expensive President to meet in the region, and we are not the only ones who feel that way.
Last weekend, the Patriots for Economic Progress leader Sean Tembo, expressed worry about the commercialisation of the presidency.
“As Patriots for Economic Progress (PeP), we are deeply concerned with the newly adopted habit of the ruling Patriotic Front to commercialise the Republican Presidency by charging our impoverished citizens exorbitant sums of money of up to K20, 000 per person per event, just for them to be accorded an opportunity to meet their President so that they can express their problems. We believe that such conduct by the PF is immoral, insensitive, fraudulent and inconsiderate of the plight of our citizens, the majority of which live in absolute poverty and squalor,” stated Tembo.
“We also suspect that these so-called “Meet the President” fundraising events are in fact money laundering activities where various shady individuals such as beneficiaries of illicit government contracts such as fire tenders, ambulances, water dredgers etc., actually pay their commissions to the ruling party. As we head towards the 2021 general elections, the political playing field cannot be said to be level if others are exploiting a constitutional office of Republican President to raise illicit financing for themselves and their political party.”
Just like that other guy who leads the People’s Alliance for Change, called Andyford Banda, this Sean Tembo fellow is also very progressive in his thinking. Including Elias Chipimo of NAREP, these are political leaders whose influence and significance on the political front is sadly unappreciated, but their articulation of issues cannot match the so-called heavyweights.
We know that the Patriotic Front will advise other political party leaders to also host their own “Meet the president” events and charge as much as they wish, but the point Mr Tembo is trying to make is that this is the Republican President whom every conman trying to siphon State resources will pay a fortune to meet. His point is that charging K20, 000 for businessmen to meet the Head of State is a fraudulent move by the PF to generate campaign funds by commercialising the Presidency.
We understand that apart from being Head of State, Mr Lungu is also the Patriotic Front President. But why have we never had State sponsored meet the President events where citizens don’t pay anything to meet him? Why haven’t we had an event where economic experts with no political inclination can go and share their brilliant ideas with the Head of State?
Well, the answer is simple. There is only one idea welcomed at State House, that is, “how to keep President Lungu in power beyond 2021”. Anyone who can’t say ifintu ni Lungu and wants to go to State House without an endorsement agenda is not welcome.
But a time will come when it will be very easy to visit and meet President Lungu without paying anything. In fact, he will be the one paying people to meet him because he will need a lot of ideas from the citizens that he is charging exorbitantly to shake his hands.
A time will come when Mr Lungu will be very lonely because the Chinese will be paying to meet another President. His face will be ripped off the billboards. His Facebook page will only be followed by his family members, loyal barmen and those who will want to “Keep up with Chagwa’s fall”. This is not a curse, it’s called posterity. We are watching.