FOR some time now, we have been raising questions regarding President Hakainde Hichilema’s decision to maintain the Edgar Lungu-appointed heads of strategic government institutions in their positions. Some people have wondered why we are raising this issue, others have accused us of encouraging people to be impatient. There are many reasons why the approach that the President has taken is dangerous to him his party and the country.
Today we would like to start by sharing what the Patriotic Front constitutions states regarding the people whom president Hichilema has maintained in charge of specific government institutions. Article 3 of the PF constitution states as follows under public institutions: “The party shall ensure that all the public institutions, state owned enterprises and popular mass and similar organisations are led by persons who are members of the party and who are uncompromisingly committed to the achievements of the party.”
This excerpt from the former ruling party’s constitution speaks volumes about how dangerous it is for the President to ignore calls for him to usher in a new team of government leaders, beyond just Cabinet ministers. The PF is very specific and categorial about the criteria that was used to appoint the people who are currently running government institutions. When we say the President is running his new dawn government using the PF machinery, we are not being malicious.
There are people who played key roles in ensuring that President Hichilema wins the August 12 general elections. A good number of these people did not need jobs in the UPND government, they simply wanted a stable government to be in place.
Our concern is that taking this approach with all the people who helped and campaigned for the UPND is not a wise thing for a politician to do. This may be called a new dawn government, but politics are politics, and the UPND got into power with a support base comprising cadres, informers, and well-wishers. Those are his own people, they are part of his team. He cannot distance himself from those people and expect to have their continued support. Usually when a politician does that, discontent follows and an internal uprising ensues.
You may say “I don’t care because I was elected by the people”, but that kind of confidence is very dangerous. There are people in government who sacrificed their lives and jobs trying to help the UPND win. These are the people who were passing intel to the UPND leadership and they are still in government working under the supervision of the same oppressors whose illegal deeds they tried to expose. When you keep the oppressor in charge of government departments where those informers work, you are exposing them to danger. The President has now created a situation where the oppressors have more access to him than the foot soldiers who protected him. That is dangerous.
The sentiments we are hearing from those people who are complaining about the President’s newly found friends in PF is that they wish to simply leave and focus on their private lives. This is worrying and it’s a sign that people feel frustrated because their leader is showing stubbornness. But you cannot be this stubborn to the people who toiled with you, unless you don’t plan to run another campaign in the near future. Yes, the president cannot be held to ransom, but the operation that took PF out involved a lot of people, some unknown to the President, you can’t just abandon them and expect future support from them.
If the President didn’t fully understand what happened for him to get the numbers he got and he doesn’t want to listen to people who know, then at least he must do the most obvious things, and one of the most obvious things he needs to do is to remove certain characters from government. Mr Lungu appointed his own relatives and the most loyal allies into government positions, and those people cannot be expected to be more loyal to Mr Hichilema. It’s not possible.
Where is the sense in saying you will govern according to the will of the people, and yet you are ignoring the very first wish of the people? Is that not betrayal? If there is one demand that the Zambians people have unanimously made it’s that the PF government structure must be disbanded. The Zambian cry was we want change! We are at pains to understand why this is a complicated thing for the President to do.