At this stage, we now have every reason to believe that President Edgar Lungu is drunk with power; and we are genuinely concerned that this drunkenness has led him to lose sensitivity to what the people who put him in office are looking for. This power has corrupted him and Mr Lungu is no longer the man that he was when PF offered him the Presidency.
In order for our analogy to be understood in the right context, let’s talk about how a drunken person behaves. We have all seen them. When someone is drunk on alcohol or any other intoxicating substance, they lose common inhibitions. The things that embarrass a sober person do not embarrass them at all. This is one of the many downsides of drunkenness. A drunken person can urinate in public without feeling embarrassed, insult and do all sorts of insensitive things without shame.
This is what we are seeing with our Head of State. He is drunk with power. And just like a person who is drunk on happy juice, an experience which President Lungu is very familiar with, he has lost the ability to feel embarrassed by the kind of public scandals that would embarrass many other leaders. It seems our President has reached a stage where he does not mind undressing in public, and we will give examples of what we mean here, as we get to the point.
We have observed that there are now very few informed people in this country who are still not concerned about the direction that Zambia is taking. Even the most conservative public figures, who would ordinarily not criticize the government openly, are now opening up Twitter or Facebook accounts to speak out for Zambia. The litany of scandals is just getting so long that we are even failing to keep up. Even the people closest to President Lungu in this government are looking genuinely concerned. They can’t believe some of the things that are being done by him or in his name.
This is why it is not uncommon in the recent past for different wings of the government to contradict themselves. The Chief Government Spokesperson is saying one thing; State House is saying the opposite. And then you have a Permanent Secretary somewhere also having his own say. There seems to be no clear strategy on how to run government. The only thing that is consistent is that someone who is close to power is eating at every turn. But President Lungu, who is supposed to intervene, is also drunk with his own power and does not seem concerned.
It is no wonder factions are even emerging in the PF. It seems some heads in the PF are thinking that this has to be stopped. They have observed that State House is running the government like Somali warlords with no coherent strategy except for personal enrichment, and they are concerned that if this is not corrected, they will lose power.
These concerned people in PF have a good reason for being worried. In the last few weeks, we have been treated to the shocking stories of donor funds going missing, acknowledged by government, and then miraculously ‘found’. Before that scandal even settles down, we have learnt of the government buying luxurious aircrafts, which we, as a nation, can ill-afford. At a time when government is struggling to pay civil servants’ salaries on time, President Lungu and his inner circle are not ashamed to go and purchase one of the most expensive executive jets on the market today.
We understand that this American-built Gulfstream 650 ER, which the Zambian government is buying for President Lungu from Israel, can take him from Lusaka to New York non-stop. That is rather convenient we must admit, but at what cost? Then we are told of two Italian C27J transport aircrafts from Leonardo Aerospace Company, all for a country that is looking to heaven for economic solutions.
We are further told that this aircraft is coming fully equipped with all kinds of science fiction gadgets that would make even US President Donald Trump jealous. Now, it is outside our liberty to talk about the necessity of the so-called MUSIC system installed on this Gulfstream 650 to shoot down missiles aimed at Mr Lungu’s aircraft, but we are wondering why an African President in a peaceful country like Zambia desperately needs this priority sorted above all the devastating national demands that are screaming in the President’s face.
In our view, this could probably go unchallenged if Zambia was a very rich country, able to give aid to Somalia and Malawi, not when we have gone cap in hand to beg for funds from other countries. This is like your cousin arriving in a Ferrari asking for K50 to put in some fuel.
A sober person, a person who is not drunk, would tell the people who are proposing such a deal to him, to go to hell! When this story was broken, we expected the government to apologise to the long-suffering Zambian people and tell them that these deals would be cancelled. But that was not to be.
Instead, what we saw was a lowly-Permanent Secretary, whose qualifications we don’t know, except that he is a friend of the President, gathering courage to stand up and confirm that apart from the three other aircrafts that were known to be in the process of being purchased, there were five aircrafts being bought from Russia, including a Sukhoi presidential super jet. Why would a sober President buy two presidential jets at this time? Surely, with the prevailing economic times, one jet is a scandal on its own, buying two is absolute madness and eight is plain insanity!
But the Zambian people need to open their eyes. President Lungu’s government has not denied that it has given contracts to its Israeli connections, which are in the neighbourhood of US $1.4 billion. While people are going mad about China, and the opaque loans that President Lungu and his friends are contracting, Israel is flying under the radar.
Here is what we meant when we said President Lungu seems willing to undress in pubic. Given the simmering scandals between Zambia and Israel, it would have been in our wildest imagination that one would see President Lungu exposing his private links to Israel. But there was our Head of State flaunting pictures to the media, showing him with a disgraced ex-convict and former Prime Minister of the Middle Eastern country. Not only was President Lungu seen jogging with Mr Ehud Olmert that early morning, he was also seen displaying his affection for the old man who left prison only last year, as if to announce that ‘this is my mentor in whom I am well pleased.’ Isn’t that undressing in public without feeling embarrassed?
The photo opportunity that President Lungu created for himself and Olmert must worry every right-thinking Zambian. What is Olmert doing in Zambia? What deals is he pushing? How do they benefit us? These are the questions that we must ask. This is an issue that President Lungu has to address. The company that he keeps is no longer a private matter. When he was a private citizen who could wander into Chawama to have a drink, it was no one’s business whose company he kept, but today the company he keeps is our business.
A convicted criminal is denied a tourist visa to go to the United States of America, but here, we have a President according a convict red carpet VIP treatment. Like we said, a person who is not drunk would feel embarrassed to welcome such a figure into State House grounds, but this President is drunk on power, he now thinks that he is not answerable to anyone. He has lost sensitivity, even for those who elected him.
But Mr Lungu is not the first Republican President in this country to think that our people are docile and he can continue manipulating them. Let him educate himself to some of our recent history. The end for those who get drunk on power is never good. Our President should learn to respect the office that he holds, and most importantly, the people that he leads. As one of our popular artists sang, “insoni ebuntu”.