PRESIDENT Edgar Lungu says if the International Monetary Fund thinks he has gone astray by invoking Article 31 of the Constitution to “restore order” in the country, then they “can go”.
And President Lungu says he does not care even if UPND leader Hakainde Hichilema is convicted for treason.
Addressing the press at State House this afternoon to explain the invocation of Article 31 of the Constitution which, upon ratification by Parliament, will lead to enforcement of Cap 112 of the Laws of Zambia, President Lungu said he had no problems letting go of negotiations for aid with the IMF in order to safeguard the peace of the country if the Bretton Woods institution was uncomfortable with the measures his government had taken.
I don’t think the IMF would like to see this country into flames, I don’t think any investor would like to see this country destroyed. The measures we are putting in place are intended to safeguard the IMF programme if it comes to be. But if the IMF say Lungu has gone out of the way, I will refer them to Article 31 of the Constitution which gives me that power. Everything we do, we consult and I want to be remembered for sticking to the law and be with it to the expectations of the people. If the IMF want to go because of this, let them go. If the IMF feels we have gone beyond the norms of good governance and democracy…they are free to go,
President Lungu said in response to a question on whether the measures announced would not jeopardize his government’s negotiation for an over a billion dollar aid package that could help bring the country’s economy back on track.
“But I say it again, if they think we have gone astray, let them go…Fear nothing, the country is in safe hands and we will continue being there for you. We are here to protect you. There is an attempt by countries in Kenya, South Africa, here in Zambia, Zimbabwe…they have hired intellectuals to speak ill of Zambia in international media…Our response has been that come to Zambia and see if indeed this Edgar Lungu is a monster whom they are saying he is. I had a meeting with diplomats from the EU. I asked them to say ‘tell me, what do you see. Am I a dictator?’ One of them said ‘one of your bishops wrote a letter that Zambia is sliding into a dictatorship’.”
He asked the media covering his briefing to tell him if they also thought he was a dictator.
“As media, do you have a dictator in Zambia? Is Zambia sliding into a dictatorship? It is the power of the pen. Falsehood has got speed and truth is trying to tie its laces to join the race,” President Lungu said, dismissing a recent press statement of the three Church mother bodies who stated that Zambia was now a dictatorship.
“May I appeal to Zambians to just be sincere and be true to themselves. Zambia is one of the best democracies in Africa. Let’s be proud of ourselves, otherwise we risk losing it all. In Zambia…we tolerate so much nonsense than any other country. When you say Zambia is a dictatorship, defend your position with facts, not speculation.”
And President Lungu claimed that he was an advocate of media freedom.
This is despite his government a year ago closing down The Post, an independent newspaper, on the pretext of not paying taxes.
I am an advocate of media freedom and I consider the media a friendly force. I am not going to disrupt ordinary life. We will curtail danger to public security. I am tolerant by the way, you can call me names but if you endanger public security, I will come for you,
President Lungu said in response to questions on whether his Wednesday night pronouncement will curtail press freedom.
“The application of these powers has well-meaning intentions. I will ensure I protect the Zambian people against any excesses. We are going to follow case by case…We are human beings. I was in Addis Ababa a few days ago, there is a state of emergency there but people are going about with their businesses. But if you break the law, I will certainly come for you.”
He also said Zambians should be aware of the fact that under the current situation, police could decide to hold suspects longer than necessary without following what the law stipulated.
“Under the law, if you are arrested, the police are mandated to bring you to court within 48 hours, but currently, they can hold you longer. This will last depending on what parliament will decide, if it’s two weeks, three months, six months. We have to move a motion in Parliament by her honor the Vice-President [Inonge Wina] to explain the background. And we will ask those who know to interpret the jargon in the law. The president has power to declare that the current situation is threatened. It is not a state of emergency. But I am saying this is too much,” President Lungu said.
“…Surely you saw what happened after the elections. There was Armageddon coming, and you expected me to sit and say ‘no if I say anything, they will say I am a dictator’, no I can’t. I have to act…It is sad that somebody is incarcerated, I hope they hear the case quickly, either they convict him or free him, I don’t care.”
On the City Market fire that gutted part of the building on Tuesday Morning, President Lungu said he was totally convinced they were acts of economic sabotage by the opposition.
“The City Market fire is sabotage. Zesco have told us that there was no electoral fault at the market. As President, I think it is time we moved in this direction. When people say the president has moved hastily, it is because they don’t know the dynamics of this problem…This is a deliberate strategy by opposition to drive us to the negotiating table. But when you lose an election, you have lost…There is no room for negotiation now, power belongs to us. We have shared power with MMD because MMD helped us,” said President Lungu.