It is my opinion that there are dangerous similarities between America’s Trump (Trump’s America) and Zambia’s Lungu (Lungu’s Zambia) and that these similarities that have poisoned the respective countries’ politics stem from the personal similar characteristics of these presidents.
Both presidents are accidental presidents who would never have ascended to the Presidency under normal conditions. I have previously written about what an accidental President is so I won’t go into it here. There are also significant differences, which I wont, go into, as it will be the subject of another column. The differences are not of great moment; it is the similarities that are scary and dangerous. Both presidents have presided over unprecedented levels of violence since the 1960s in both countries and the violence is related to the personal characteristics of governance by both presidents. Both presidents thrive on tension, division and violence. Zambia and America have never been as divided since the 1960s as they are now. These regimes are clearly divide and conquer regimes. You divide on race or tribe, them and us, then you conquer. There was once a book written about President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa entitled “Unfit to Govern”. Could this be written about both presidents under discussion? There was also a book written about President Zuma of South that Zuma was maintained in power by and through criminality or by and through criminal cartels. Could the same be said or written about the two presidents in issue here? I have surveyed secondary Literature in both countries as well as official reports of both countries and a case can be made that these two regimes can be said to be either organised criminal states or have surrendered their sovereignty to criminal cartels (see Mueller Report, Articles of Impeachment, numerous court cases in New York State against Donald Trump, New York Times Investigations about Trump Tax manipulations and evasions, Trump’ s pardoning of friendly criminals etc.; Financial Intelligence Centre Reports, Auditor Generals Reports, misuse of the Public Procurement Act by the Government, criminal charges against sitting ministers, Mukula trading, Fire Tenders, inflation of road construction tenders, unexplained massive wealth by the President, his family, his ministers and their families, unrefuted revelations by people in the know like Hon. Kambwili and Hon. Kalaba, reports in the Mast and Diggers newspapers and the list goes on). The White House and the State House are value chains in the transmission of private wealth accumulation. This has never been the case in the history of these two nations until now. I am sure a PhD student in political science somewhere will pick up this subject matter and give us a well-researched Dissertation on these issues. Any one can also embark on refuting my Thesis and opinion stated herein by deploying alternative analysis and data as well as Thesis and opinion. The personal similar characteristics of the two presidents have extended to the utter disregard of the constitution and the rule of law by behaving as if the constitution and the rule of law flow from them as presidents and not from the Constitution itself and the independent architecture of the rule of law hitherto existing. Wole Soyinka of Nigeria called it “executive lawlessness”. It is worsened by the accompanying “legislative lawlessness” and “judicial lawlessness”.
The institutions of the rule of law have been strained to breaking point in both countries, with differences here and there. The Attorney General in the United States has been rendered impotent and a mere lackey of the President. In Zambia the advice of the Attorney General is ignored, decisions of the courts are ignored and the Minister of Justice is forced under the gun to pursue unconstitutional, illegal and divisive legislation like Bill 10 of 2019. In both countries, law enforcement agencies are now mere appendages of the presidents. These agencies have absconded from their independent exercise of unbiased policing but are at the service of the Presidents in the two countries. The Public Order Act in Zambia has become simply an Opposition Party Order Act as it is used to police and repress only the opposition movements. In the US, the Attorney General is now being used to intervene in court in criminal cases to withdraw charges against the President’s friends and in Zambia ministers who are charged under the Anti-corruption Act are not suspended even though the ACC Act states that public officials must be suspended under the circumstances, but because the President of Zambia misapplies the constitutional norm of “presumption of innocence”. This President is oblivious to the fact that despite the existence of the principle of presumption of innocence, we still have non-baillable provisions in our laws whereby a presumptively innocent person is not granted bail merely because of a charge and some spend several years in custody and some end up being acquitted. This President and the US President say nothing about these anomalies. Both are simply tunnel-visioned on their political and economic allies. These presidents have both intimidated or tried to intimidate their judiciaries, with varying degrees of success in Zambia than in the US but the overall trajectory of both regimes is to tame the Judiciary to be at the beck and call of the Presidents’ propensities. Both presidents are surrounded and dependent on overzealous political cadres to enforce the presidents misguided sentiments. These cadres are a blind force of fury which if not checked will lead to Armageddon. Both presidents have mindless media tabloid vuvuzelas that project without criticism the overall perceived wishes and straitjackets of the presidents. In the US, the Vuvuzelas include Fox News and Wall Street Journal. In Zambia you know them. In Zambia there is a certain tabloid that could induce genocide because of its bellicosity against certain people and tribes and its uncritical and blind support of the status quo. Both regimes are intent on winning the next elections using, in the United States, what is called the Southern Strategy (race card) and in Zambia I have called it the Northern Strategy (tribal card/tribalism). Southern Strategy is aimed at dividing the US on race, setting white Americans against Black Americans and re-calling back the so-called glory days of the old white supremacy, the joys of the days of confederacy ascendancy and white power where and when Blacks “knew” their place. This was a period of pure violence against Blacks and their allies. According to a recent New York Times article, this strategy has served the Republican Party whenever they felt they were threatened electorally. The NYT concludes that that strategy will not work this time. I can’t go into the complex reasons in this article. In Zambia, the Northern Strategy of the tribal card is simply to use tribalism to divide Zambians against Zambians by promoting base tribal instincts, especially amongst the majority or less educated citizens in the rural areas and urban shanty compounds and street markets. In Zambia the Government leaders have gone out to foment tribalism in the Bemba tribe against the Tongas without any reprimand from the President who circumstantially can be called the Chief Tribalist just like Trump is regarded as the Chief Racist. This is my reasoned and studied opinion.
In the US, racism is also encouraged through state governors, especially in Southern states. In Zambia, Tribalism is also channeled through Paramount chiefs and other chiefs in Northern and Eastern provinces. In the US, the NYT concludes that racism will not work under Trump. On another occasion, I will pronounce that tribalism will also not work under Lungu for reasons that I will give at that time, most important is that this regime has failed to deliver on its most important promises and have destroyed this country politically, economically and legally.
The electoral systems have both been debased in both systems. There is voter suppression in both systems. In Zambia the Electoral Commission in order to favour the ruling regime wants to embark on a system of voter registration that is not provided for in the governing Act or in the constitution. This is usurpation of illegal power in violation of the Electoral Act in order to prop up the ruling government. The issuance of national registration cards is being abused by relevant ministries and institutions in order to enhance the electability of the ruling party. Rigging is under way using the excuses of COVID-19, the Public Order Act, the illegal possession and registration of NRCs, the Electoral Commission of Zambia, the Zambia Police Service and other agencies, and massive corruption, all in the service of the President and the ruling party. Similar efforts are under way in the US under Trump. Those who have eyes to see will see and those who have ears to hear will hear and those who can read will read. Never say you were not told that Trump and Lungu have similar characteristics that imperil democracy. Do something about it. We are not about to surrender our hard won democracy.
Dr. Munyonzwe Hamalengwa teaches Research Methodologies and Writing in Law, Law of Evidence and Criminal Law.