STATE House says President Edgar Lungu will only address the nation when it is necessary. According to the President’s Special Assistant for Press and Public Relations, Mr Isaac Chipampe, President Lungu is okay and it should not worry people that his speeches are being read by other government officials. He says as far as State House is concerned, the Secretary to the Cabinet Dr Simon Miti and the Permanent Secretary at Ministry of Information, Mr Amos Malupenga have been doing a great job in running national affairs and telling the people what they need to do.
CHIPAMPE: “The Secretary to the Cabinet is within his right to make such announcements and there was nothing absolutely wrong. And you know the Secretary to the Cabinet has made several other announcements of interest to the nation. There is nothing wrong with him making that announcement. The following day, actually the President addressed the media at the funeral house, the President went to State Lodge and through the media obviously it means he is addressing the nation. The Permanent Secretary, Amos Malupenga) has been doing a good job updating people and advising them on what to do. But indeed when it is necessary, the President will speak to his people. When the Secretary to the cabinet speaks, it is the President speaking.”
We understand that Mr Chipampe has a very difficult job working for a media-shy Head of State, and this is why his predecessor Mr Amos Chanda took it upon himself to stand in the gap for the absentee President. We sympathise with Mr Chipampe, but we also know that he is a very intelligent man, and he knows that when he speaks like that, he is merely earning a salary and not making sense. We don’t think he believes what he is talking about.
There is a very big difference between taking a few questions from journalists after bumping into the press at an event, and holding a formal national address. Journalists don’t know what is going on inside the President’s head, they don’t know what is happening in State House, they don’t know what is taking place in all corners of the country. It is only the President who is privy to that information. He is the one who has access to State intelligence. So when a President is addressing the nation, he is painting a picture of the state of affairs for the whole country. That cannot be done by talking to a Smart Eagles reporter at a funeral.
President Lungu owes the people of Zambia a duty to speak to them. This is not a matter of his wish or will, it is a matter of obligation. The people of Zambia have the right to demand to hear from their president, and if he is well and fit, he cannot refuse to do that. Unless of course he is telling the people that they don’t matter to him. Citizens cannot be begging for their president to address them, that is an anomaly.
The people of Zambia did not elect the Secretary to the Cabinet, or the Permanent Secretary in some Ministry, they elected the Republican President. How can State House say he will address his people when it is necessary? What is the definition of “necessary”? Over 700 people have died within a month from a deadly pandemic, and millions are dismissing the virus and the vaccine with myths. Is that not a necessary period for the president to show up and provide leadership through a national address?
Look at the cost of living. People who are battling Covid-19 need commodities such as fruits including lemons and ginger. Forget Lusaka, fresh ginger at a market like Petauke is selling for K25 and K35 each, lemons are K5 and oranges are K15 each. How many people can afford to buy these commodities under the prevailing economic conditions? Why would a person who has no mealie meal at home spend K100 on ginger for a patient? Is this not a necessary time for the president to address the nation?
Mr Chipampe should go and tell President Lungu that when a President does not want to address his people in times like these, there is only one interpretation that the people make. They consider that as negligence and the consequences of that is a revolt. When you look at the sentiments from the people in the so-called PF strongholds, you should understand that people are angry and hungry and the president’s absence is only making things worse. Look at the official social media pages for the President and the ruling party. It is as though someone deletes the nice comments and leaves only those that are attacking the government leadership.
If State House cannot see that as a sign that it is now necessary for the President to address his people, then we don’t know what calamity they are waiting for.