That’s what power does. It goes to your head and when that happens, you cease to see the legal limitations of your ambitions. We saw this from President Edgar Lungu’s expression while in Solwezi where he hinted that after winning the 2021 elections, he will stand again in 2026. He was saying this knowing too well that there is no law that permits him, but because power has gone to his head, he feels invincible.
First of all, President Lungu knows that he still doesn’t qualify to stand in 2021 because he has already been elected to the office of Republican President twice. The argument that he was finishing Michael Sata’s term in 2015 and 2016 doesn’t arise because he was not vice-president or rather a running mate to the late president. This is what all genuine learned State Counsel in the country have said in their interpretation of the law, including Lungu’s friend Wynter Kabimba SC.
So we wonder how a president who doesn’t even qualify to stand in 2021 can have the audacity of declaring that he will be available for re-election in 2026. And even assuming that he succeeds to disregard the law and contests the next election, President Lungu knows that he cannot be that certain of his victory, unless he is planning to use criminal means to stay in power.
Again, even assuming that using whatever criminal methods, he wins the 2021 election, which law allows him to contest the presidential elections for the fourth time? Even with all the lacunas in the Constitution put together, there is no way he can produce a provision for a fourth term. So what the President was essentially saying is that if he wins the 2021 elections, he will change the Constitution to make him a life president.
Now the people of Zambia should understand that dictators do not come from hell. They come from among perceived noble leaders; they get democratically elected into power by the citizenry and then they begin to change. With every election, they grow stubborn and unwilling to leave power.
Dictators never tell you about their intentions when they are getting into power. They come in very sweet and humble. They speak a language of unity and patriotism to win votes. President Lungu came with a lie that he only wanted to be a transition president to lead Zambians into peaceful elections. But after getting into power, he has come up with such phrases as “Zambians don’t want to change a winning team” or “we will not succumb to imperialists who are pushing for regime change”.
This is what happened with president Robert Mugabe of neighbouring Zimbabwe. At the beginning of his era, he was an adored hero, but no one knew he planned to stay in power for four decades. In fact, if, when Mugabe was assuming the presidency of Zimbabwe in the early 1980s, someone had suggested that the man was going to rule for life, no one would have believed that.
This is how Yoweri Museveni of Uganda got into power in 1986 and is now unwilling to leave. This is how Pierre Nkurunziza found himself at the helm of Burundi and wants to rule forever; his neighbour Paul Kagame has been doing the same thing in Rwanda for 19 years now and he keeps changing the Constitution to fit his desires. At 86, Kagame’s namesake, Biya of Cameroon doesn’t see the reason why he must step aside for someone else to rule the country.
Do not be surprised 20 years from now when President Lungu’s name is added to this list of African dictators. If he talks like a dictator, lies like a dictator, and kills opponents like a dictator, then he probably is a dictator. The President of Zambia has shown all the signs that he doesn’t want to leave power at all. He wants to rule for as long as God gives him breath. The question is: why? And the Answer is in the Chinese adage.
The Chinese say: “He who rides a tiger is afraid to dismount”, referring to a person who embarks on a course of action which subsequently cannot safely be abandoned. This is the case of President Lungu. The man is riding a tiger, and he cannot safety climb down without being mauled. This President knows the atrocities he has caused during his reign. He knows that the moment he leaves the presidency, he will be a potential prisoner. This is why he doesn’t want to leave power.
But the law is the law, and no one should ever be allowed to be above the law. This is why the people of Zambia need to fight and make sure that Bill 10 doesn’t get enacted. This is the piece of legislation that will disfigure the Constitution to an extent of allowing a Head of State to stay in power for as long as he pleases.
We have very candid advice for our humble Great Leader: A good performer leaves the stage while the audience is still clapping. In President Lungu’s case, people stopped clapping a long time ago. In fact, they are booing and pelting objects at him. The stage is basically closed, curtains drawn and Zesco has even switched off the lights, but the man still wants to stay on. Awe tafilesekesha!