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I am a democrat, says Lungu

PRESIDENT Edgar Lungu says the police are perfectly within their right to stop anyone from campaigning.

Responding to a question on whether the country was under any threat to national security, President Lungu said parties were not going to be campaigning when the country could do other things.

He said the country should focus on things, which matter like the economy.

“Are you sure we should be campaigning from 2016 to 2021? I tend to think that sometimes it calls for common sense! You can mobilise, yes somehow, as a political party but are we going to have the frenzy that goes with campaigns during the last three months or six months of elections? Don’t we have a season when we can do these things? Let’s focus on things which matter and things which matter now, is the economy, the wellbeing of this country. Once in a while, yes, you can go and hold a public meeting,” President Lungu said.

“But what I’m seeing in Zambia is that we like having fun. It can’t be fun, fun, fun all the time. There are times when you say ‘let’s go and work.’ So for me, is the police not in order to allow these gatherings become a norm? They are perfectly within their right but there is nothing to stop you from holding a public meeting, if you feel like. But speaking for myself, I would rather focus on serious issues by going to out there to do some work as opposed to galvanising political support from 2016 to 2021. When are we going to work?” he wondered.

And President Lungu says he is “game” for the 2021general elections.

He said if the PF wants him to run in 2021, he was ready to play.

He bragged that he was a champion and leading player of democracy.

“Come 2021, am I the sole candidate? I’m just a sponsored candidate of PF and I cannot determine how PF wants to run its race to 2021. The central committee, the general conference are all organs of the PF. So if the PF chooses to go this route or that route, I’m ready to play. I’m game, in short. For me, I’m a democrat! How many times have I been fought by way of contestation? So many! I can say I’m a champion of democracy; I’m a leading player in democracy. So we’ll go to the conference, if that will be the wish of the party. I’m game, in short,” Lungu said as State House officials applauded in approval.

Meanwhile, President Lungu said his ministers who were deemed to have worked illegally while parliament was on recess in 2016 are ready to pay but wondered whether they should pay every penny they got or just allowances.

He also wondered whether the ministers worked for free while their input was to the benefit of the nation.

“I talked to some of my technocrats and ministers and they said they were willing to pay. But they didn’t know whether they should pay the full salary, the allowances, those who were paying rentals – the rentals and so on. They are not sure. And they are saying, ‘besides, we worked’ and that’s a very valid moral argument. I asked the International Labour Organisation to give me some of the conventions we’ve subscribed to as Zambia [and] some of them don’t encourage working for mahala [free] or slave labour.”

He further revealed that some of the ministers had threatened to sue him over the money they worked for during that time.

“So, are you saying those ministers fondokadi (laboured) for nothing? That’s the question. Some of them (ministers) were saying ‘we’ll sue you, Mr President, because you made us work for nothing.’ I said ‘sue me, but I’ll be indemnified by the same State’. My reaction was [that] sue me and you sue the Attorney General because you worked for nothing. You travelled to sign protocols and agreements and negotiated loans, which loans have benefited this country. Are we saying those loans, agreements which were signed are invalid because those people worked illegally?” President Lungu said adding, “We have a lot of questions, as the State, not that we are challenging the courts of law on this particular one. You worked but the courts said you worked illegally. So the ministers asked me ‘so, if we worked illegally, the benefits of our work, who enjoyed them?’ The Zambian people! You mean there’s no principle of law which says we should be paid for the work done? I don’t know! I don’t want to be at loggerheads with the State or the courts of law – I respect them so much because of my background as a lawyer. I know that we should not question some of these decisions but this one is being questioned. We are really thinking hard. As I was coming here this morning, somebody was saying ‘so, those agreements we signed, are they invalid because we were in office?’ And I said that’s a jurisprudence question, it’s a very complicated one, it’s not for me.”

President Lungu added that the delay to pay back the money had been because of the confusion on the modalities of repaying.

“So, it’s something that we want to do and I don’t think we want to go back to court and ask ‘what are we returning.’ So, for me when you ask, you just confuse me because…. I wish we could pay back the money and end this one. But from what I’m seeing…. That’s why the delay has taken place, in terms of consultations,” said President Lungu.

“Right now we are trying to say can we go to court so that the court can tell us which payments will be returned. Is it a full salary, the allowance we got when we went to negotiate for that loan?”

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