WHEN President Lungu finally leaves office, one thing that we are going to remember him for, apart from his knack for declaring holidays and creating off days, is the fact that he has no respect for governance rules. President Lungu’s idea of being a Head of State is that he can do whatever he wants, when he wants and however he wants. No one should stop him. His respect for rule of law, even under our courts is also questionable, especially because he seems to get whatever he wants from our courts.
When we look at the way campaigns are being conducted under these bizarre times, it is clear that State institutions are being tilted to impede the activities of the opposition while opening the door for President Lungu. Anyone who has been observing what is happening can tell that, in Zambia, Covid-19 is no longer just a pandemic or a disease, but a tool for the party in power.
As far as the Covid regulations are concerned, there is one set of rules for President Lungu and the PF, and another set for the opposition. This is unfortunate. It is clear to all who care to observe that those in government can do whatever they like. They can even use a State Funeral to campaign without any regard for their own Covid-19 regulations. The State Funeral for president Kaunda raised so many questions but that is a matter for another day.
But for today, look at what Mr Lungu did last week. He basically went on a roadshow in Lusaka’s Bauleni compound and Mtendere. The ECZ has banned all road shows and political rallies because of the Covid-19 pandemic. Further to that, the Commission has announced that the PF and the UPND remain banned from any door to door or physical campaigns in the Capital City. But President Lungu is clearly not bound by these rules.
This is unfair. If ECZ is going to allow President Edgar Lungu to do what he did last week in Mtendere and Bauleni townships, they are making a mockery of their role as a referee in this political contest. It is very clear that President Lungu has no respect for the ECZ’s role in this election. And this raises the question, why should anyone respect them? Even the lightning speed with which they dealt with the Kambwili ban sends a message that they are a scared outfit that is not serious about their rules. If you ban someone from campaigning for preaching tribalism, and the person refuses to apologise, what reason do you have for lifting that ban? Can this kind of courtesy be shown to someone in the opposition?
No one should have any illusions about how serious the challenge facing the opposition going into this election. One thing is certain, to win this election, the opposition will not only have to defeat President Lungu, but they will have to defeat the ECZ, the Police, the Judiciary and all other State Institutions that are being used to frustrated their efforts at forming government.
At a time when deaths from Covid have reached an alarming level, the President is comfortable to go to densely populated compounds to expose our poor brothers and sisters to Covid, using the Presidential privilege. Is that not abuse of office? What can we really say the President went to do in those townships rather than to force a narrative that he is still popular.
And the government’s justification of the president’s actions is just as weird and annoying. According to the government, President Lungu was not in Bauleni and Mutendere to campaign, but to sensitise the people about Covid. We sympathise with the President’s spin doctors. It is very difficult to give a reasonable explanation for something that is so clearly wrong. There are pictures and videos, all over social media, showing what the president was doing in those places which he toured. President Lungu did a roadshow, we suspect, in attempt to outdo his rival from UPND, who before the ban had big roadshows there. Now, that is simply a desperate move.
The president, as a candidate in the next election, is entitled to campaign. But he is also required to follow rules and ECZ needs to see to this. The suggestion that the President was moving about to educate people about Covid-19 is li making a mockery of those who are suffering from this disease. There are many of our compatriots who are today battling for their lives due to Covid-19. This is not a joking matter.
If the President was serious about educating people, he would have been using his position to push for vaccination. He could have even gone in front of the camera and taken the vaccine himself. His message, should have been: vaccinate, vaccinate, vaccinate! As we stand today, no one know if the President is vaccinated, or if his Vice-President is vaccinated. We also don’t know if his running mate madam Nkandu Luo is vaccinated.
On the problem of Covid, President Lungu has failed, and he has failed lamentably to provide any credible leadership. The only way they know how to control Covid is to stop their political opponents from campaigning. ECZ needs to level the playing field. If President Lungu is going to be allowed to conduct himself like this, the opposition should also be allowed. If President Lungu can go to sensitise people about Covid, opposition leaders must also be allowed to do that because they also have their followers. President Lungu’s lawlessness should be a concern to all.
[9:29 AM, 7/18/2021] Joseph Mwenda: When you fall into a ditch, digging is not the wise way to get out
If you have fallen into a deep ditch and you are trying to get out, digging is not a very wise solution to the problem. Someone needs to tell our friends in the PF that they are in a ditch at the moment and they should stop digging if they want to rescue themselves. The manner in which they are communicating with the voting public and the solutions that they are offering the starving population shows that they are digging themselves into deeper problems.
It should not surprise anyone that PF officials are mocking the people who voted them into office,. One thing that is characteristic about President Lungu’s version of the Patriotic Front is that it does not really care about the people. For this PF, which is very different from Michael Sata’s PF, the people are nothing but tools to help them get what they want and where they want to be. What they want is to stay in power, comfortable and wealthy using state resources. President Lungu’s Patriotic Front is about sharing government contracts and other benefits.
Anyone who disagrees with this fact should be reminded that President Lungu endorsed corruption with his own mouth by stating that “ubomba mwibala, alya mwibala”. When translated and applied to a public official, this roughly means those who have access to state coffers are entitled to take public funds and help themselves. We have never had such a clearer and blatant endorsement of corruption and theft of public resources by a President.
This is what we are dealing with. We have a government that has no regard for the people it leads. A good politician must have heathy respect for public opinion. But this is not the case with this new PF. This should not surprise us because when president Sata died, Presdient Lungu was pushed to succeed him because many of the people that held positions at that time believed that it was their best chance to eat; and about that, they were right. They have eaten so much and become so full and forgotten who the real owners of power are.
If this new PF respected the people, they would be so ashamed by the comments made by Mr Mukupa that they would either apologise or keep quiet and hope that the story dies. But this is not what we are seeing. On Tuesday, it was Mr Mukupa, the national chairman of the new PF mocking the people about kandolo, and now it is the PF provincial chairman for Lusaka, Mr Kennedy Kamba who has chosen to escalate the mockery.
We are surprised that Mr Kamba saw it fit to publicise a picture of himself eating kandolo, in a very clean, polished and airconditioned office, where everyone can see that eating kandolo was not because he could not afford bread. Clearly, these friends are not getting the message. They are so detached from reality that they don’t understand the struggles of an ordinary person. For them, kandolo is a treat, or better still a healthy option when they are tired of eating bacon and baked beans.
The PF don’t understand that many people can’t even afford Kandolo when they are eating sausage, beacon and beans. They forget that when that kandolo is bought, it has to be cooked and cooking requires malasha or electricity. Mr Kamba and Mr Mukupa are rich people now and they have forgotten about the struggles of a common man.
These people remind us of that story which is told about the French queen, Marie-Antoinette, the wife to French King Louis XVI, who when told that the people had no bread, responded, “let them eat cake”. This remark is believed to have made her a hate symbol in the detached monarch and led to a revolution that saw her and her husband deposed.
Our friends in the new PF who have become very rich are behaving like the despicable Marie-Antoinette. Mr Kamba even has the audacity of saying “we are encouraging people to eat kandolo because this is in line with the pro-poor policy of the party”. Really?
Anyway, it is shocking that PF who are in a ditch are still digging. But this is what happens when people take power to serve themselves.