[By Alfred Chioza]
The difference between Edgar Chagwa Lungu’s presidency and that of Hakainde Hichilema is like night and day in many respects.
To do justice to this important matter and for the reader to have serious appreciation of these two, is to start from their backgrounds. Lungu’s upbringing is, for unknown reason, very guarded! We are told that he was brought up in Kitwe – I didn’t want to consult Mr Fresher Siwale, lest I lose objectivity. He attended School in Kitwe and later found himself at the University of Zambia where he studied law; whereas Hichilema attended school in rural Southern Province at Kalomo Secondary School. At least I have had an opportunity to relate with one of his female teachers. He was a herd boy. He had a poor background and also ended up at UNZA where he pursued a degree in Economics. He later went to the United Kingdom and obtained a prestigious Master of Business Administration. They both worked for the private sector after graduating. Whereas HH is a teetotaler, ECL is said to enjoy the bottle and even earned the name, Jameson! HH works smart and hard; he is thus a self-made man. ECL has been known to have been a hustler. He trekked to Lusaka and settled in Chawama shanty compound, of all places. He etched his life by practicing law at Masiye Law Firm. He came into prominence for all the bad reasons after he embezzled the client’s (widow’s) mony – K40,000 plus, for which his law-practicing license was suspended by the Law Association of Zambia (LAZ). It’s still unknown whether he settled the debt to the poor woman…
On the other hand, HH joined Grant Thornton, a reputable global accounting firm in his 20s. Since joining that that firm, he became a rising star until he became a managing partner. His name came to prominence during the post-UNIP era when MMD started the privatisation programme of the non-performing parastatals. He was hired from Grant Thornton as a consultant to carry out valuation of the parastatal companies which were to be sold to the private sector.
Interestingly, ECL’s and HH’s lives crossed paths once more since UNZA days. ECL provided legal services in the same privatisation exercise. Both young men then were handsomely remunerated. Each one went his own way, thereafter, to spend the monies which were paid to them. The rest is history.
As fate or destiny may have had it, both joined politics. Interestingly, ECL joined UPND first and contested the Chawama parliamentary seat which he miserably lost. He later joined PF under the late populist president Michael Sata where he met his like-minded characters and bonded well! His character disarmed president Sata: he looked humble and never spoke unless called upon. This humble looking man was a trained lawyer. This was Sata’s man! When Sata passed on, there was a power struggle and yet there was a white vice-president Dr Guy Scott. High ranking and hot-headed PF leaders routed for ECL and didn’t want the muzungu (white man) to take over the presidency. In fact, the constitution that time disqualified Dr Scott on account of his parentage. Perhaps they feared a white man wouldn’t defeat HH. There was generally the air of skepticism countrywide to have a white man become Zambia’s President. It would invoke pre-colonial era memories. Generally, and even in many African countries, many wouldn’t buy the idea of an African country having a White President. Memories of Colonialism were still very fresh in many people’s minds. They thus fought Guy Scott, they ganged and hounded him out. The convention in Kabwe was by acclamation by those that had made it to the Rock of Authority. Before Guy’s team which was holed up in a Kabwe Lodge, ECL and his team had ‘stollen’ the PF presidency – ECL was a defacto PF president through underhand methods, by acclamation!
How on earth can anyone who wins a presidential jackpot fail to manage it? ECL didn’t go to jail like Sata. American Blacks would have said that he’s “a lucky Nigger”. But, like his older brother RB, they both inherited offices of dead presidents: beneficiaries of the deaths of presidents Levy Mwanawasa and Michael Sata respectively. Their Bemba cousins have jokingly vowed never to give the presidency to Easterners anymore: they have twice failed to acquit themselves well! The last seven years of PF in government was the start and end of the party: it was marked by gangsterism. The list of corrupt acts committed by PF leaders would fill 20 A4 pages. Inflated procurement of goods and services e.g fire tenders; over-priced infrastructure development e.g roads, toll gate buildings. Gassing of Zambian nationals, overborrowing, etc. Divisive tribal attacks on Tongas by PF were alarming. The word ‘austere’ wasn’t in the PF’s dictionary. To appreciate this extent of PF failures, one has to read through the Auditor’s and FIC reports. The sad part of ECL’s presidency was to incorporate his children into corruption unlimited, even if the end justifies the means. But the wealth corruptly amassed whilst the majority of Zambians are languishing in abject poverty is, to say the least, unethical and criminal. Just why shouldn’t ECL lose his immunity and stand trial for bankrupting Zambia and presiding over the cabal of known thieves, looters, drug barons and violent cadres? The mediocre friends whom he preferred to surround him were something else. Look at ECL’s cabinet, what would we make of it? In ordinary day to day life, who would employ some of them even as garden boys? They were complete square pegs in round holes! Unemployable!
Now, compare to HH’s cabinet, look at the difference. Most are young, well educated, articulate and with diverse backgrounds. Their combined synergy that they bring on the table is admirable and is the envy of everyone who means well in this country.
ECL’s mentors were Uganda’s strongman, President Yoweri Museveni (M7) and near home here, was the late president Robert Mugabe who ran down his country, Zimbabwe. How does anyone patronise these? Old, washed out, senile and ruthless octogenarians, some even reduce their ages to continue contesting rigged elections and continue looting their respective treasuries with their families. They are good for nothing and unenviable! These ruthless dictators have only brought shame and scorn to Africa. ECL is reported to have entangled himself with Rwanda’s politics by allegedly funding rebels to destabilise President Paul Kagame of Rwanda. Mind you, the latter has an elephant’s memory and pays back his enemies in their own currency. I don’t think HH would consciously involve himself into any of these destabilisations of other sovereign states. HH wants peace and prosperity in Zambia and in the region. HH’s friends are the young and progressive turks in the region such as Tendai Biti of Zimbabwe, Mmusi Maimane of South Africa, Uganda’s Bobi Wine, Zimbabwe’s Nelson Chamisa – all are fighting to democratise and bring political sanity in their respective countries.
Today, HH and ECL are diametrically rich. One through corporate business and the other (ECL) through unexplained trajectory. Zambians are expecting answers, or else if found wanting, the consequences are obvious. This goes to his corrupt lieutenants too. Late president Frederick Jacob Titus Chiluba had his property forfeited to the State. What’s good for the goose MUST be good for the gander! Zambians are not UTUPUBA (stupid) they have information about the property owned/where by each of the so-called former PF leaders. What was difficult with PF was to rattle and dislodge them from power: Property recovery by the new dawn government will be the easier part – no matter how long it will take. Some looters are even fearing to take occupation of their fully furnished mansions. Even the properties in the hands of proxies are known. Never underestimate UPND: the delay in removing some thieves from strategic positions is tactical and not a weakness. All corrupt characters who looted Zambia‘s wealth are under surveillance 24/7.
Despite being subjected to persecution and dragged to courts several times on tramped up charges, HH always got cleared. If ECL’s immunity was lifted and taken to court today on any of the alleged corruption charges, would he survive? The answer is an emphatic NO! Secondly, if Lungu won the recent elections, where would he confine HH? HH was/is an anathema to ECL: he (ECL) hated HH with passion. Today, although ECL may be having sleepless nights, it’s because he fears his own shadow or because the guilty are always afraid. Aren’t these real contrasts between the two presidents?