SOUTHERN chiefs are dejected with President Lungu’s utterances, discloses Cornelius Mweetwa.
He also says, “President Lungu lied to the nation and therefore I qualify to call President Lungu a liar, because there is nowhere in this [Southern] Province or anywhere in Zambia where UPND people went to harass officers from National Registration Office. That kind of lies is not befitting the Presidency, it is demeaning the integrity and decorum of that high office”.
The Choma Central UPND member of parliament and deputy party spokesperson said chiefs in the Province have been calling MPs urging them to speak to President Edgar Lungu that whenever he visits the area he should “remove partisan glasses” and speak as Head of State.
Last Saturday when President Lungu met village headmen in Mazabuka said one cannot be boasting in town that they are very rich, a rich Tonga, a Tonga bull, yet unable to help their chief to build a palace and to buy a car.
He said building of palaces for traditional leaders was not the responsibility of the government alone.
“We’ve also talked about issues such as palaces… [Building of] palaces is not the responsibility of the government alone. [But] it’s our responsibility as subjects of these chiefdoms,” President Lungu said. “So, you are coming from chief Mweenda, you should help government to finish that structure together. If you are coming from chief Mwanachingwala, it’s your responsibility to help us. You cannot be boasting in town that you are very rich, you are a rich Tonga, you are Tonga bull, you have so much money.”
He continued: “but why can’t you spare a few to help your chief build a palace, to buy a car?”
“That’s how we used to do it in the past. What has happened [now]? So, I think the challenge is upon all of us to work together to ensure that our leaders are living in comfortable situations and their welfares are being taken [care] of, not necessarily [by] the government alone. That’s a challenge I would pose to all of you,” said President Lungu.
But Mweetwa said while it’s generally acceptable that citizens must pay tribute to traditional leaders, building of palaces has been a government programme for some time.
He felt President Lungu’s approach in Mazabuka shouldn’t have come from the presidency especially that elsewhere in Zambia he’s been boasting of PF government infrastructure development including building of palaces.
“We would like to thank President Edgar Lungu for visitation and tour of Southern Province. It’s given him an opportunity to understand problems prevalent in the province. Not all is well in Zambia as he’s enjoying alone at State House,” Mweetwa said.
He said President Lungu’s visit to Southern Province last week was a lost opportunity to promote unity, peace and development in the country, having come out of a very divisive by-election in Chilubi Island where PF leaders engaged in tribal politics and hate speech.
Mweetwa said the people expected President Lungu to assure chiefs in Southern Province of unity and peace given that his own people had openly declared in Chilubi that no one from Southern Province was required in the area to campaign or contest elections there.
“What we saw President Lungu do, like he has done before, is to come to this province and in his mindset, number one agenda is just to talk about HH [Hakainde Hichilema] and UPND instead of the challenges the people are faced with. He failed the test once more,” Mweetwa said. “He came here to say nothing other than to continue on a trajectory that is worrisome.”
Mweetwa said President Lungu used the trip to exemplify how the PF wants to continue to malign the people of the province.
“Take for instance, President Lungu telling the nation, through traditional leaders, that ‘while you traditional leaders are crying for national registration cards, the problem actually is UPND because it is UPND who are beating NRC officers, stopping them from giving NRCs’. I couldn’t believe that was coming from the Head of State,” he said. “Whether he was misinformed or it was a cheap political ploy, no one can really understand this type of politics. This is not just lies but a clear absurdity.”
He said MPs from Southern Province have on end been urging the government to commence a routine registration of voters.
Mweetwa wondered how they could in one breath ask the executive to expedite issuance of NRCs and in another allow their members to harass NRC officers.
“President Lungu lied to the nation and therefore I qualify to call President Lungu a liar, because there is nowhere in this province or anywhere in Zambia where UPND people went to harass officers from National Registration Office. That kind of lies is not befitting the Presidency, it is demeaning the integrity and decorum of that high office. This shouldn’t come from the President. He’s simply cheapening that high office,” he said. “When President Lungu is on a working tour like he did in Southern Province, we expect him to leave partisan politics and begin to address the people as President of Zambia, not as president of PF.”
Mweetwa noted that in Mazabuka, when traditional leaders requested him to complete construction of palaces, President Lungu rudely told them to ask a “Tonga Bull” to construct palaces for them.
He said wherever he had been in the country, President Lungu has been boasting about infrastructure development projects under his administration, including construction of chiefs’ palaces.
“It is shocking that when he comes here, instead of talking about his government’s intention to construct chiefs’ palaces because it is a government policy and programme, he says ask a Tonga Bull to construct a palace for yourselves!” said Mweetwa. “We find this level of discrimination unacceptable and intolerable, coming from a Head of State! But this was a good slap. We must also learn to appreciate President Lungu instead of blaming him all the time. Where he has done something good we must recognise it. It was a good slap in the face of some of these traditional leaders who have been saying that they want President Lungu and PF to continue like wamuyaya. And chiefs are dejected. They feel President Lungu should have done better. They feel slapped on the face and that now they should look elsewhere, to a ‘Tonga Bull’ to look into their welfare…They’re asking us as MPs to speak to President Lungu. To tell him that when he is on a working visit to Southern Province, he should remove his partisan glasses and speak as President of Zambia. Let him speak as PF president when it’s time for electoral campaigns.”