Professor PLO Lumumba has emerged as one of Africa’s foremost public intellectuals. He has no nationality. He is just as passionate about social, economic, and political injustice in Nigeria, Zambia, or South Africa as he is about Kenya, his accidental birthplace. Of course, like all mortals, he has flaws. The truth is that he has deservedly earned continental acclaim. As expected of a person of his outspokenness and stature, Lumumba has created plenty of supporters, a horde of opponents and some skeptics in between. The Zambian Patriotic Front government is one of those that do not want to hear Lumumba’s name mentioned. Instead of responding to the substance of Lumumba’s remarks, they have instead attacked him as a plagiarist and poor. Indeed, the PF trademark response to criticism has become dishing out ad hominem and ad baculum fallacies. After being initially expelled from Zambia as a security threat, Lumumba finally had an interview with Diamond TV. He assessed Lungu as ineffective, undemocratic, a demagogue, and paranoid. I agree and will, in this article, substantiate Lumumba’s conclusions about Lungu.
Lungu is ineffective
“Ineffective” means failing to produce any or desired results. What are the desired results? A healthy economic growth. Good services and goods provision such as electricity and water supply. Functional health institutions including for the worst off in society. Good transport networks. A strong and stable Kwacha. Sufficient foreign reserves. A sane inflation. In PF terms, more money in the pockets, lower taxes, cheaper fuel, more jobs.
To attain the itemised goals, we need the means, the tools to get us what we want. Zambia is one of the richest countries in raw resources. So that is not a problem. The missing link is human resource. However, President Lungu has assembled a cabinet that is disheartening to look at. His guiding human resource principles for appointing senior technocrats, cabinet, constitutional office holders, and boards of government and parastatal institutions are mukwasu and mwankoleism. In which other country in the entire universe would you find Given Lubinda in charge of the Ministry of Justice? Aliens would guess that Lungu’s criteria are lean intellectual muscle, low moral fibre and courage, and long fingers. In short, he selects individuals in his own image. Those few who are not can be seen clearly as misfits, uncomfortably on the fringes of the PF inner circle.
Is it any wonder that when it is time to explaining policy issues falling under the various ministries we are presented with cadres and party officials? How many times have we had Antonio, Sunday, and Kaamba school us on higher education, constitutionalism, fiscal and monetary policy? Is it any wonder these party personnel will usually blame all failed promises on God, the climate, COVID-19, and Hakainde? For sure, the PF has many genuinely eminent individuals to take up key roles in government. But Lungu’s desire, ostensibly, is a group of individuals, who, due to their intellectual and ethical inadequacies are best suited to serve his personal, and not the national, interest.
No doubt, only an insane person can deny that the PF have built roads. But was this what was promised? Is this what is desirable? The money is borrowed; the quality is mediocre; the roads are done by foreigners whose profits fly elsewhere; the construction projects are overpriced. Road, roads, roads. Then what? With huge loan repayments looming and country foreign currency reserves perhaps closer to zero than ever before in Zambia’s history, these roads will be economic white elephants awaiting their seasonal potholes and washed away bridges with the first few rains, not to mention some torrential downpours. Just what goods will they be transporting when the coffers have been wrung dry and the loan sharks circling in closer towards the cadaverous prey? Our very sovereignty is at stake. Then those who have been asking whether we will eat roads will not look foolish. Zambians will not eat roads; they will eat one another! The PF have dug us into a poverty hole and their solution is to dig deeper.
Lungu is undemocratic
Democracy is simply rule by the people and for the people. People’s participation and people’s interests. Of course, people’s participation is itself usually also an important interest of theirs. To nurture democracy, there are necessary procedural rules and institutions. Instead of ensuring these rules and protecting the institutions, Lungu has undermined quite seriously the very essence of democracy to the point where, in truth, he is a despot. He finds the rules and institutions for democracy an affront to his subjective personal aims for which unashamed Machiavellianism is a more suitable modus operandi. Below are a few examples of Lungu’s autocratic DNA.
Lungu has in various ways undermined independence of the judiciary. He has issued disparaging comments about the Constitutional Court regarding its judgment against PF ministers who stayed on illegally and abused state resources after expiration of Parliament prior to the 2016 general elections. Lungu has overseen egregious violations of individual rights. Both the police and PF cadres are our gestapo, unleashing political violence against the opposition that has rendered political rights a chimera. As the culprits remain unknown, many citizens believe the arson of markets and the gassing horror that traumatised the nation was perpetrated by the PF regime or their untouchable supporters. In both cases, the PF have accused the opposition UPND before any investigations are carried out.
Lungu has an extreme aversion to public accountability. He chickens out of presidential debates which would afford voters an opportunity to gauge their candidates without the tribalism, music, and senseless sloganeering of rallies. He has hibernated when the nation cried out for him to address the nation in crisis moments. Lungu has dodged every question about how he has become a very rich man while wining with Eastern European conmen. He unleashes excessively armed police on youths wanting to raise concerns of economic mismanagement, grand corruption, and wanton human rights violations. Lungu has privatised the constitutional amendment process, bulldozing everyone to enact his noxious Bill 10 with the help of some shifty non-governmental individuals, pastors, and chiefs.
Democracy means the people decide who leads them. Lungu has usurped people’s powers to vote using legal institutions. He arrested Hakainde for treason over a traffic offence even when Hakainde was not even riding a bicycle at the time. Kambwili of NDC spends most of his life now in court on cases many see as politically motivated while his party and Kalaba’s Democratic Party have faced de-registration. Abusing the British-bequeathed Public Order Act, political parties have been discriminatorily denied political mobilisation. Without competition, there is no democracy. Lungu desires a de facto one party dictatorship. If he had a way, Lungu would have some people thrown into gas chambers. He is the kingpin of tribalism, operating through proxies and embracing tighter those who flagrantly disparage Tonga people.
Lungu is a demagogue and paranoid
In Lumumba’s estimation, Lungu is a demagogue. Indeed. Lungu rarely raises issues about improving the lives of the Zambian people. By his own admission, he has no vision for the country. It is little wonder he focuses on petty issues while evading questions of how he moved from zero to about K2.5 million to about K23 million in the blink of an eye. He cannot tell us who burnt the markets or who gassed us. Lungu is a rabble-rouser. From his rallies what comes are his uncoordinated dance moves as if to mimic his chaotic governance, threats against citizens and opposition leaders, tribalistic speech, and petty accusations. A demagogue dwells on those issues that excite the dark side in the people. He does not galvanise a people or give hope; he thrives on inciting the majority against the minorities.
Paranoia is a ‘mental condition characterised by delusions of persecution, unwarranted jealousy, or exaggerated sense of self-importance’. Lungu is supremely jealous. Other people’s success haunts him because he himself does not have any clean or deserved success to point at. Those who oppose him must pay the price of losing business having broken bones. The Post business built over so many years of hard work and dedication, a proudly Zambian business, razed to the ground in an instant political insanity. Prime TV closed, citing contradictory reasons. Hakainde’s wealth accumulation and political support makes Lungu’s blood boil. Nothing will stop him from abusing state institutions to crush those he envies.
Lungu’s principle motivation is greed and insecurity. Needless accumulation by any means necessary. His debarring from the Law Association of Zambia clearly tells his greed. There is no doubt him and his team have ripped off the people of Zambia borrowing huge loans to enrich themselves. Everything Zambia buys is the most expensive: the roads, ambulances, fire engines, gassing chemicals. Even medicines we must buy expired ones or nearly expired ones to ensure maximum goes into the pockets of Mr Lungu and his PF comrades. The guilty are always afraid.
Lungu suffers from morbid fear of exposure hence his pre-emptive attacks against statutory oversight institutions, FIC and the ACC. He has a morbid fear of prosecution. Hence his arming the police to the tooth against the people. Hence the obsession with Bill 10 which goes against the fundamental tenets of constitution making. He needs to stay in power by hook or crook for him and his suddenly rich cronies to enjoy their loot of Zambia.
Cosmopolitanism means we should care as much about injustices against a stranger as against a compatriot. Lumumba’s cosmopolitanism is highly commendable and well-meaning. Zambians appreciate his raising alarm about our president. Should Lungu manage to get himself on the ballot paper, voting him out is not a matter of life and death; it is more serious than that. Zambia doesn’t need a Kaguta Museveni or a Zimbabwe. Many Zambians appreciate the gravity of the moment and they will rise up as against past corrupt and tyrannical governments. The question is, who will ensure our franchise is not trashed by the PF that has exhibited unapologetic proclivity towards electoral criminality?
Dr Julius Kapembwa
Lecturer in Critical Thinking and Ethics in the Department of Philosophy & Applied Ethics, University of Zambia