Edgar Lungu wants it both ways – invincible leader and victim-in-chief
The United States Supreme Court justice David Davis warned in an 1866 ruling that the nation has “no right to expect that it will always have wise and humane rulers, sincerely attached to the principles of the Constitution. Wicked men, ambitious of power, with contempt of law, may fill the place once occupied by [George] Washington and [Abraham] Lincoln”. So, it has come to pass. We got Edgar.
Bad leadership, corruption and mismanagement are the root causes of poverty and underdevelopment in Africa. Edgar has created more fear than hope. For hope is an essential element of presidential leadership. Edgar came into top leadership of PF through violence, intimidation, and threats at the PF convention in Kabwe. Edgar came to high office warped by self-absorption, conceit, and a narcissistic conviction that he is always right while the rest of Zambians, unless busy flattering him, are wrong, even hostile. Without historical context, without humility, without empathy, Edgar is what the author of the book of Proverbs had in mind when he warned that “pride goeth before a fall”.
To illustrate the enduring incompetence and naivety of Edgar, we look at two of his recent remarks.
Recently, when reshuffling his Cabinet, Edgar said he wanted to “rejuvenate the performance” of his ministers because “overstaying in one position can ultimately affect their performance”.
On the political front, Edgar himself must accept that overstaying as he has in his job as President can ultimately affect his performance, and not only of the ministers, and he still wants a third term! The notion that a leader is indispensable is an indication of poor leadership because a leader must be able to nurture talent and promote potential successors.
On the economic front whilst in Solwezi, Edgar said “government has put several development projects on hold because the resource envelope has depleted” and further went to say “my duty is to develop Zambia across its breadth and width. You know we were very ambitious when we started but we are playing 90 minutes. The first 15 minutes you play full blast but you can run out of steam and half way, you just hold on in the game until you have enough energy. So, we are restricting some of the projects so that we are able to meet them”.
By the way Mr. Lungu, it’s not breadth and width, it’s length and breadth.
His football analogy is ridiculous and to say the least senseless. He does not admit his own government’s mismanagement of the economy that has led to a debt crisis. He does not admit that he has authorised unaffordable luxurious expenditure, like his personal use of the G6 jet and hiring of private jets to fly to New York and other destinations, which no other president has ever done. He does not accept that very bad and misinformed decisions were made in selecting the non-economic development projects. He does not explain where the money raised from Eurobonds was used and whether it was of any economic benefit. He does not take responsibility for the economic and governance chaos he has created in Zambia.
He takes no responsibility, nothing at all. Take corruption. Just a few examples: Edgar’s contempt of the Financial Intelligence Centre report, the 42 fire tenders at US$42 million and procurement of fertilisers in 2015 that were overpriced by about $40 million. He takes no responsibility to explain how his own wealth has exponentially grown from the days in Chawama and after he lost his law practicing licence for having stolen clients’ money. It would be good for Edgar to remember the words of Oscar Wilde who said, “No man is rich enough to buy back his past”. He takes no responsibility for the economic chaos under his leadership, yet he says the buck stops with him. Worse yet, unlike other presidents, he doesn’t seem to care about winning majority support and is under the illusion that it already exists. Edgar seems to have talked to himself into believing he will make Zambia great again. The world of Edgar and his ministers is a world in which the ferocious scramble, in which greed and cunning reap the largest rewards. Edgar has no sense of sin. He has an over developed sense of self-preservation, mired in incompetence and sleaze. Moral blindness of this scale is unprecedented. Edgar, remember that when you have a vision, you create a landmark, but when you have the trust of your citizens, you create history. Who was it that said, “The truth is the greatest enemy of the state”? Ah, yes – Goebbels.
Successful resolution of any crisis is rooted in two things that, to put it charitably, are not notable in Edgar’s traits: humility and history. The historical reality goes like this: Under UNIP from 1964-1991 the economy was in serious trouble and we had a US$7.5 billion debt. From 1991-2011, under MMD, the UNIP debt was wiped off by the international community and the economy was stable and growing and by 2011 the debt was under a manageable US$2 billion. In comes the PF in 2011: by 2019 we are faced with a US$12 billion debt and growing debt crisis and the economy is in a total mess. The debt crisis is only the tip of the mess underneath the mess. Debt and corruption, that’s the PF legacy. Instead of providing leadership, the spendthrift Edgar offers a masterclass in how not to be President. Edgar has deepened scepticism about his suitability for the highest office by raging at opponents, calling independent press fake news and dismissing as disloyal those who are in any way critical, and offers distorted versions of reality on almost every subject. Edgar is a draughts player not a chess player. This President still can’t answer a single question on how and why the economy is in serious trouble without lame excuses and ridiculous football analogies.
It’s simple: Edgar you have a government that spends over 50 per cent of its revenue on government payroll. The balance you use to pay for your luxury, and for education, health, military and over-priced government tenders etc. When you run out of money, you borrow. When you can’t pay the debts, you borrow more to pay the interest. And when you can’t pay the principal debt, you borrow again and it goes on and on. And during a debt crisis you still spend money on frivolous things! Meanwhile, under your three ministers of finance, Felix Mutati, Margaret Mwanakatwe and now Dr Bwalya Ng’andu, they announced austerity measures. By the way, all three announced austerity measures are the same ones. You thought by changing the messenger, the message would change. It has not. You have shown no capability to implement austerity, as we have seen from your football analogy. Zambia under your leadership is and will remain in deep economic crisis.
On governance issues, the International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute, the Commonwealth Lawyers Association, the Commonwealth Magistrates and Judges Association, the International Commission of Jurists, Judges for Judges, Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada and the Southern African Litigation Centre) have issued a joint statement warning that the adoption of the Constitution Amendment Bill in Zambia may threaten the independence of the judiciary and have spoken on the potential impact of the proposed Constitution Amendment Bill on the judiciary and have called on your government to respect the independence of the judiciary and the democratic principle of the separation of powers. And Edgar calls himself a damn good lawyer!
In February 2018, former Ghanaian president John Agyekum Kufuor said, “What I came to realise during the very long public service, which took me to all the five continents in the world, and also enabled me to know our continent Africa quite well, I came to a conclusion that the real bane of Africans under development, if I may use that word, is poor leadership.”
Sometimes it’s the most powerful among us that needs the most help. We will only learn of the full horror of the PF government and Edgar’s presidency when he finally leaves the presidency!