President Edgar Lungu has vowed that he will not stop inspecting development projects around the country because civil servants work harder when they see him. He explicitly says when people hear that the President is coming, they get busy with work, sweeping and mopping. Further, the President says people across the country have been lied to and he has taken up the responsibility of telling them the truth. This sounds strange coming from a Head of State who claims to be in charge of a disciplined government workforce.

President LUNGU: “What I am finding when I travel is that development is being delivered to the people and some people were lied to, so we are explaining to them the truth and the truth is better when you hear it on your own. I like to come when there are problems because the people can say ‘you don’t come quick enough’ and when I come, I find that things are moving faster when I visit places. When people hear that I am coming, without hesitation, they get focused and they sweep, they mop, it is happening. So, those who are complaining, if they have something sensible, we will meet them,” said President Lungu.

Sometimes, we wonder if our humble leader listens to himself when he talks. Is this not just the worst statement that any leader can ever make? Because to us, it sounds like pure admission of failure. It’s a confession of incompetence because if a leader needs to be in the face of his subordinates for them to work, it means those workers have no regard for him and his leadership.

If your appointees will only mop and sweep when they see you, then you are one hell of a horrible boss! In fact, this should be a basis for President Lungu to take offence. If people only do what they are employed to do when the President’s motorcade arrives, it means they stop working the moment the boss leaves, and this should annoy the President. A Head of State should not take pride in this state of affairs.

We pray and hope that this is not how things work around President Lungu’s house, because a government has a similar structure as a family. When the head of the house is not available, the wife takes charge, making sure that what needs to be provided is provided and the work that needs to be done is done. In an event that both step out, the next (senior most) member of the family steps in to keep things going. And when the parents return, they get to see the results or achievements made in their absence. That’s what happens in a normal household.

It is not normal for President Lungu to inspect every project that government has embarked on. Where are his ministers and permanent secretaries? Where is his State House Special Assistant for Project Monitoring and Evaluation? This is absurd!

But people should not waste time listening to President Lungu’s lullaby. The explanation that he is gallivanting across the country to inspect projects is a song meant to put the opposition to sleep. The real reason the Head of State has been on this vigorous countrywide tour, supervising the construction of everything from chicken runs to fish ponds, is what NAREP leader Elias Chipimo described last month as a full-fledged campaign.

Yes! President Lungu is in gear 5 of campaigns ahead of the 2021 general elections. If anyone doubts this, they must listen to what he says whenever he takes to the podium. The man doesn’t finish his speech without asking for votes, and calling on his party structures to mobilise new members ahead of the elections. If that is not a full-fledged campaign, then we don’t know what is.

In fact, the opposition shouldn’t accuse him of campaigning because he declared in February last year when he visited Ndola that that was exactly what he was doing. “People are saying I am traveling a lot and I am campaigning; yes! Campaigns have started, so what? If you want, you can also start campaigning, elections are in 2021, I am doing my job,” said President Lungu on February 8, 2018.

The only unfortunate thing about these early campaigns is that they paralyse the function of government. Ministers, members of parliament and all other appointees of government have stopped focusing on delivering services to the people, they have instead gone to the ruling party’s strongholds to secure votes.

This is why we are seeing a lot of campaign-based project implementation, and campaign-based projects are not development; they are nothing, but campaign gimmicks, which last only as long as the campaign itself. Some of the projects will never be completed, especially if the people in that region do not show interest to support the party in power. This is exactly what has happened to the so-called state-of-the-art football stadium in Mongu. The one who promised wanted votes, and it was abandoned after the people withdrew their support.