Dr Kenneth Kaunda took the Zambian presidency to very high heights and Edgar Lungu has brought it down to the lowest levels.
Edgar has been President of our Republic for just a little over three years, but many of us who pay close attention to the governance of this country feel like the government of Edgar and his minions has aged us a full decade. Imagine Edgar being at the helm of this country for 27 years as Dr Kaunda did!
As he has done since coming to power in 2015, Edgar has continued to attack anyone or any institution that dares to disagree with him or attempts to expose the corruption and other abuses of his league. The list is long but notably includes Hakainde Hichilema; Chishimba Kambwili; Harry Kalaba, the critical media; and, on occasion, Catholic bishops and other religious leaders.
For all Zambians, regardless of partisanship or political outlook, Edgar’s conduct and abuses of power should be of grave concern because they cheapen the dignity of the office. Whether by design or accident, Edgar’s behaviour undermines the nation’s democratic ideals and fosters a creeping sense of nihilism about the institutions that serve public interests.
For opposition, critical civil society and media, this is downright dangerous because of their specific reliance on these all-important instruments of democracy to leverage their position in society.
But Edgar’s job, as President of the Republic, is more than settling scores with real and imagined enemies, and certainly such disputes shouldn’t be settled on the backs of our civic officials and organisations. Indeed, it’s never a good sign when Zambians lose faith in the institutions that are linked to our shared fate and uplift in the nation.
The role of the presidency is our most important trust. It is the faith in an individual to lead us, morally and courageously, with dignity and obedience to the Constitution, and with respect for all Zambians. With Edgar as President, we have entered a new era in Zambian democracy, one in which a respect for facts and precedent, as well as those in opposition, is being ignored.
A unifier, Edgar is not.
Edgar has not used his presidency to even pretend that he is a unifier of the diverse groups and beliefs in this country. Instead, what we have witnessed has been a steady stream of crooked elements being elevated to positions of power as a reward for their loyalty instead of their expertise in governing.
And today, we are witnessing the ascendancy of a kleptocracy – members of the government, including Edgar and his family members, using their positions to extend their wealth and political power.
The presidency in Zambia has really been cheapened by Edgar. It no longer commands the respect it used to before Edgar became president. Today, businessmen of all types have turned State House into a play area. This is a place where all sorts of questionable deals are made without regard for the welfare of the citizens of this country and Zambia itself. They are giving each other land; they’re giving each other contracts, and so on and so forth.
They are freely allowing their corrupt friends from all over the place to do as they please – in short, Zambia has been auctioned to the highest bidder.
The unrestrained hunger for wealth by our presidency is embarrassing. There are all sorts of projects going on in different countries – Kenya, Swaziland, Uganda and so on and so forth.
Where is the money coming from? Their incomes cannot support the amount of investments we are seeing here in Zambia and those we know are being undertaken in other countries.
To make things worse, you have the most crooked businessmen of Uganda receiving Edgar Lungu at airports whenever he travels to that country.
Imagine the President of Botswana being received at the airport by our businessmen here who are well known for corrupt deals! What message will that President be sending to his people and others around?