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‘Question!’

On Friday, February 15, 2019, Edgar Lungu went to address the National Assembly on the progress made in 2018 in the application of national values and principles.

Lungu was roundly heckled as he listed six aspects that constitute Zambia’s national values and principles.

He listed the national values and principles as morality and ethics, patriotism and national unity, democracy and constitutionalism, human dignity, equity, social justice, equality and non-discrimination, good governance and integrity, and sustainable development.

It was his mention of good governance and integrity that set off a chorus of “question, question, question” and other inaudible shouting, from among opposition lawmakers.

Again, the lawmakers shouted ‘question’ when Edgar recounted the progress made in 2018 under each value and principle, as he talked about political violence and the police service.

Edgar told the House that political violence resulted in injuries and fatalities as well as destruction of property.

“It also robs our people of their right to vote freely. Further, such actions dent the image of our country, which is known as a beacon of peace. I, therefore, wish to once again condemn all forms of political violence in the strongest terms. We need to promote co-existence and accommodate divergent views,” Edgar claimed. “We need to strive to resolve our differences through non-violent means. Let us continue to promote our motto [of] One Zambia, One Nation. Let me remind our citizens that no one is above the law. All perpetrators of political violence should be brought to book regardless of their political affiliation. The Zambia Police Service should therefore deal with all manner of political violence in a professional manner.”

As he was reading about the police dealing fairly with perpetrators of political violence, opposition members of parliament shouted ‘question, question, question.’

But to the lawmakers’ disapproval chant, Edgar said “There are no questions about these things, Mr Speaker.”

Why did the lawmakers show such open disapproval of Edgar’s statements? Are they justified in expressing disapproval? We state that they are.

Any reasonable Zambian would not agree with Edgar’s sentiments on good governance. No fair-minded Zambian can also agree with Edgar’s sentiments on political violence and our law enforcement agencies, specifically the Zambia Police Service.

And this is why the lawmakers disapproved of his statements. Edgar was simply telling the nation about things he appears not to believe in, let alone practice. His words were simply sounding gongs.

The lawmakers and by extension the Zambian masses would have appreciated Edgar’s statements if he told them what his government is doing about the pathetic governance record. They would have appreciated his speech if he went to the house to express remorse over the heavy-handedness with which many Zambians have been treated by state agents.

As it stands, Zambia’s governance record is in question. There are serious questions about transparency and accountability. Zambia’s government has historically struggled with the question corruption and lack of transparency.

And Edgar’s government has performed badly on this score. Last year, the Financial Intelligence Centre issued a report in which Edgar’s own lieutenants were cited for financial crimes. A report was even submitted to him. What has he done to the report? Nothing. Has his government made any progress on this score? No, zero progress. There are other governance issues that this government has faired badly. Talk about administration of the Public Order Act! Has Edgar ever sanctioned the police or directed them to let people gather for political meetings? And Edgar is a lawyer who very much knows the court’s ruling on the question of seeking police permit to hold a public meeting or a procession. All one needs is to notify the police. How many times have the opposition and civil society been stopped from holding public processions and other public engagements by Edgar’s police? Countless times. Some civil society leaders are even in court. On the other hand, Patriotic Front cadres and sympathisers can wake up and in an instant, decide to march, protest and hold public meetings and the police do nothing to stop them like they do the opposition. The police instead even escort the lawbreakers. Is this governance right? Certainly not, it’s questionable.

There are serious questions about separations of powers where Edgar has simply ‘bambad zonke’. He wants to be the Alfa and Omega of the three arms of government.

What about Edgar’s counsel to the police to deal with all perpetrators regardless of their political affiliation; and deal with all manner of political violence in a professional manner?

Does Edgar take Zambians for fools or what? Does he believe in this his counsel? It is merely a month since the Sesheke event where his own violent cadres were beaten by police and the officers in charge have been retired in national interest. Edgar’s statement on the police and political violence simply came from a deceitful mouth. Edgar consented to the retiring of the officers who restored law and order in Sesheke simply because his cadres, his supporters, errand boys were the ones on the receiving end. Edgar’s behaviour over the Sesheke violence and the dismissing of the police officers simply make him the most unworthy character to say anything about that value and principle. They say that silence is golden. Edgar should have kept quiet than showing open hypocrisy in such fashion.

Zambians would have appreciated him if he announced the recalling of those Sesheke police officer retired in the Patriotic Front’s interest, not in national interest. Zambians would have appreciated him more if he pronounced fairness in administration of the public order Act, and if he used the floor of the House to expose those in hiding under his homestead who are involved in corruption.

Instead of being dismissive about the legislators’ questions, Edgar should have taken the constitutional opportunity to make good on the values and principles he went to pontificate about at the National Assembly. As long as he does not change course on these values, questions will continue to be raised.

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