The Strange Mystery of President Lungu

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President Lungu

President Lungu

By Dr. Munyonzwe Hamalengwa
President Edgar Chagwa Lungu is a very strange and mysterious President. I am aware that Presidents are not born, they are made by circumstances.
President Fidel Castro of Cuba never ran for election or re-election. But there he was giving press statements and holding press conferences almost every week or so throughout his presidency and he also used to write a weekly column in Granma. He was also giving extensive interviews to foreign journalists and talks with foreign leaders.
The aim of those weekly press conferences or statements, interviews and the newspaper column was to expound economic, political, cultural etc programmes, policies, direction and trajectories of his party and government. Castro would explain why any particular policy was adopted by the Party. He would explain the reasons for the success or failure of any and each significant policy. He would explain in miniature the impact of US and world economies  on the Cuban economy and with statistics and transparency that Cubans could grasp. Castro’s speeches were not a laughing matter. Most were long and Castro never read his speeches. They were from memory. He could string a raft of statistics about tons of sugar production, exchange rates, amounts in millions or billions in foreign exchange, the figures in drops or increases in the price of rice or sugar or tobacco and so on. I once endured a 9 hour non- stop Castro speech at Revolution Square in Havana. I didn’t stay through the whole speech but I continued listening on radio on my way to Varadero, the tourist capital of Cuba. That is one of the reasons why Castro stayed so long in power, his people trusted him. He was transparent. His people’s problems were his problems. His people understood that his dictatorship was different from the dictatorship of apartheid, of General Pinochet in Chile, Mobutu in Zaire, Museveni in Uganda, Duvalier in Haiti and so on. Dictators imposed by American democracy, including the Cuban one albeit performing a contrary role to what the Americans wanted, something that President Obama recognized and reversed American policy. America was the one in the wrong and not Castro.
President Barack Obama joined the American tradition of addressing the American people and setting the economic and other agendas for America for the next year. He also presented numerous  press conferences, many briefings and wrote columns in the papers as well as dealt with specific pressing topics in extended tv-covered speeches. And all American Presidents did that. Obama continues to do that even when he will not run for election ever again.
President Kenneth Kaunda had five year development plans and he used to give extended speeches about where Zambia was going and why. Many presidents in the world do that except in dictatorships where there is no accountability though Joseph Stalin and Mao Tse Tung used to give extended speeches and wrote countless books and monographs explaining the ideological basis of their policies.
The point of all this is to query why President Lungu has so far only given two press conferences since he assumed power on January 20th, 2015, almost a year and half ago, knowing full well that press conferences are one of the major vehicles of leadership and accountability. They are different from budget speeches though this second press conference sounded more like a budget speech. During press conferences, presidents are queried by journalists, unscripted. President Lungu did not also participate in a presidential debate last year, a strange decision in itself. Lungu is a lawyer and knows the importance of communication. Lungu publicly stated that he had no vision. Was the lack of press conferences and a newspaper column a statement to that effect. Was that an imprimatur of the self-confession? Was he content to rely on state-owned media vuvuzelas of ZNBC, Daily Mail and Times of Zambia?
Now to specific economic issues that demanded clear-cut policies and transparency.
Lungu has always known that Zambia has problems in accessing cheap oil. Even when oil prices all over the world dropped, they didn’t drop in Zambia, necessarily. Being landlocked is just one explanation but it doesn’t explain all. Yet Lungu only goes to Saudi Arabia two and a half months before the election and promises that Saudi Arabia would supply cheap oil. Why were Zambians made to endure oil shortages and high prices since Lungu came to power when there was allegedly a cheap source of oil in Saudi Arabia? Lack of vision? It goes the same for borrowing from the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Why were Zambians made to endure all these hardships when loans allegedly to alleviate their problems could be addressed through the assistance of the IMF? Why are we only now being told that load-shading will be resolved in two years, why weren’t we told last year or several months ago, and not two and half months before the election. Why all of a sudden commissioning of a solar energy plant when the whole world is so advanced in solar energy technology? Lack of the self-confessed vision! It is so apparent as to why.
Regarding all the infrastructure that is being undertaken like roads and so on most of whose blue prints were  started under the Movement for Multiparty Democracy government, why is this government pumping its chest and showing off what they have done! That is what governments all over the world do. They develop their countries. It is taxpayers’ money. It is not cause for boasting and showing off as if they have done something  that they are not supposed to do. Something extraordinary. Imagine a father standing outside his home and calling his children to listen to what he has to say to them and to the world and begins to boast that he has bought food for his children and that they have a roof over their heads and so on despite the shortages. The children would just look in amazement and tell their Dad, “Daddy, that is what you are supposed to do, we all contribute to the household but you are squandering most of the money in gambling, traveling and misplaced investments and corruption”. The children would also say, “Daddy, you and other dads before you have neglected to develop where the majority of the people live- in shanty compounds and rural areas. Roads in the rural areas are not tarred as are those in Kanyama, Kalingalinga etc. There is no electricity in rural areas. People still travel distances to access water. Daddy do your job. It is not your money”. What the government is doing is the minimum of what they are supposed to be doing. They couldn’t just be sitting in their offices and do nothing and still get paid. Besides after fifty years, Zambians should have been trained by now to construct their own roads, build solar plants, engineer building their own hotels, have top class medical facilities with Zambian doctors and not have two out of three of our dead presidents dying abroad. We wouldn’t have most of the loans from the IMF and Europe going to benefit the Chinese and Indians and other foreigners who construct our roads and other infrastructure.
If Lungu failed to hold press conferences, write a column and project his vision while he was facing a re-election, can you imagine what will happen after August 11, 2016 when he will no longer be facing a re-election!

Dr. Munyonzwe Hamalengwa teaches law at Zambian Open University.


19 Responses to The Strange Mystery of President Lungu

  1. This is very useless piece of a write-up by somebody seeking visibility. The use of the phrase “state-owned media vuvuzelas of ZNBC, Daily Mail and Times of Zambia”, is childish from somebody who people would want to look to as an educated intellectual – save for the haircut. There is no objectivity but just an article full of childish innuendoes about the president – very sad. I expect such to come from a mere cadre – well, cadreism has no label.

    May 20, 2016 at 12:46 pm

  2. its very rare to see a person with that surname saying about the president – that’s why I will never ever vote for UPND.

    May 20, 2016 at 1:11 pm

  3. its very rare to see a person with that surname saying something good about the president – that’s why I will never ever vote for UPND

    May 20, 2016 at 1:13 pm

  4. Well researched article; I really love it! The truth hurts, chikubabe Raspower. What is “educated intellectual” ba Oberver? The phrase is rather redundant.

    May 20, 2016 at 2:12 pm

  5. This is a well written researched write up! It is beyond PF cadres like dull @ Raspower. He is condemning a nice piece of work without reading its content or if he has read it, he just can’t comprehend what it is all about! Honest truth hurts!

    May 20, 2016 at 3:36 pm

  6. Worthless article.

    May 20, 2016 at 3:49 pm

    • Useless person Ndine, as long as Zambia has still people like you, this country will never develop.

      Wichita Eagle
      May 20, 2016 at 4:07 pm

  7. lungu de money to build roads is not from yo pocket pin point what you did bcoming president

    franklin masyear
    May 20, 2016 at 4:02 pm

  8. lungu de money to build roads is not from yo pocket pin point what you did b4 bcoming president

    franklin masyear
    May 20, 2016 at 4:02 pm

  9. We should appreciate prose. And the article is well researched and points to flaws in our political leadership. I think KK is the only one who really addressed issues, internal and regionally. He never mixed issues, and would tell you in what capacity he was addressing issues. He could go like: NOW I’M SPEAKING AS CHAIRMAN OF THE FRONTLINE STATES or NOW I’M SPEAKING AS PRESIDENT OF UNIP. Not what we have seen from copycats of leaders who mix party and state affairs in one breath. Di you listen to Kabwili doing whY he does best, react to GBM. Copycats

    Muyunda Lindunda
    May 20, 2016 at 5:05 pm

  10. This article is toooo long and tooooo complicated for PF cadres.

    For ordinary but serious level headed Zambians this is an excellent piece of work. Whoever becomes president after 11 August should bear this in mind.

    Leadership is a serious matter
    May 20, 2016 at 5:45 pm

  11. What a crap article, it’s so predictable pathetically analysed with no justification. If it was to be graded
    It would beyond fail.

    May 20, 2016 at 6:50 pm

  12. Good article but rather too long! This is not an assay or dissertation which you academicians are used to.

    Surely as a Doctor and Academician, I would expect a sort concise article without losing the full message. We don’t need 30 minutes to read one article especially when most of the readers are busy and some of them don’t even have their own devices and are fully dependent on pay as you go internet outlets.

    May 21, 2016 at 9:40 am

  13. Message very well received. Any future articles other than those already submitted will adhere to your useful advice and suggestion.

    Munyonzwe Hamalengwa
    May 21, 2016 at 12:01 pm

  14. How can we develop when the so called learned arebiased in articulating issues affecting the nations.There is never a nation in the world with promblems even in developed nations like America people complains and see through the media.Please lets sound like learned people indeed to develop our country.

    May 21, 2016 at 6:36 pm

  15. Is my analysis valid or not? What is your contribution? Nowhere did I say other countries don’t have problems.
    My contribution is aimed at bettering mother Zambia. Silence in the face of adversity doesn’t solve problems. Contributions even in written form if they reach the right ears and eyes can go a long way in finding solutions. Don’t shoot the messenger, grapple with the message would be my suggestion. My message, very extended is simply that President Lungu should be more proactive and must give more press conferences to explain to Zambians how things are and what the proposed solutions would be. He would be more effective and accountable. He is as much your president as mine. Zambians are decent people. We ought to be informed every step of the way like Castro used to do to his people. Don’t leave things to the last minute to secure cheap oil from Saudi Arabia. Things should have been fine sooner. Don’t state that load shading chapwa, or finished just because there is an election around the corner. So Zambians, a decent people should suffer until the next election rolls around. Don’t state that the price of meal mealie will go down. Why was it ever up when there was bumper harvest last year and this year? Be straight, that is all my article us saying. Your contribution if any is to point out point by point where my analysis is faulty.

    Dr. Munyonzwe Hamalengwa
    May 21, 2016 at 10:12 pm

    • Dr. Hamalengwa – at your level, as I mentioned above, if you include phrases like “state-owned media vuvuzelas of ZNBC, Daily Mail and Times of Zambia”, you lose relevance and seriousness and sow bias. You immediately position yourself differently in the eyes of a reader. So, in your response here to claim you objectivity and patriotic is suspicious.

      May 22, 2016 at 12:06 pm

  16. Observer, I watched ZNBC yesterday during the PF launch of their election campaign. The whole proceeding was covered live. But ZNBC never even for a second with their capabilities deviate to cover the other campaign launch in Kitwe. This is supposed to be a free and democratic country. Where else in a democratic country is a national broadcasting system paid for by taxpayers so biased in favour of the ruling party? Who directs ZNBC to ignore simple notions of even handed coverage of news in a democratic country. If you just came out of space yesterday and saw ZNBC coverage, you would think Zambia is a one party dictatorship. Aren’t ZNBC, Daily Mail and Times if Zambia owned by tax payers through government. Granted I may have been carried away by the use of the word Vuvuzela. There may be other suitable word or words to describe why ZNBC, Daily Mail and Times of Zambia do not objectively cover other political parties. The UPND recently had to go to court to seek remedies over ZNBC bias. Right now in my hands, I am holding Times of Zambia and Daily Mail, as well as the Post and Daily Nation. I religiously read these four papers everyday. Today Sunday May 22nd, 2016, only the Post shows both campaign rallies of the PF and UPND on the front page. Times have a small article on page 2, Daily Nation has a small article on Page 4, both with no pictures. The Post has extensive coverage of both. Daily mail has extensive coverage of the PF launch with a photo, but hardly a mention of UPND. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t belong to any political party, I am not a registered voter, I have never belonged to a political life in my entire life. I just fight for the enhancement of democracy, fairness and equal treatment under the law. The media is a critical ingredient in this calculus. Without a free and objective media and independent judiciary, there can be no democracy. But I take your point in not using inflammatory language like “state owned vuvuzela media”. Do you have a perspective on why the ZNBC, Daily Mail and Times of Zambia are averse to principles of fair balance in reporting political news?

    Dr. Munyonzwe Hamalengwa
    May 22, 2016 at 3:31 pm

  17. The article, is quite clear, kudos Doc. This country risks becoming a failed state, if we are not careful with appetite to rule at all cost, there is very little being done to address economic challenges lying ahead, one may celebrate a win, reality will dawn on us the general population, as we have to brace for more hardships, history is repeating itself, where the middle class, bakabomba are slowly being choked, I shudder imagining what IMF will bring on the table, for sure civil servants must forget about any salary increase, imagine with what you are earning, bread – K50, Milie meal K500, electricity 400, per 50 units, cooking oil K250, school fees Govt school K2500, rentals K3500 for a 2 roomed house, fuel K80 per liter such is what we should anticipate can happen if you are not careful, the same violent cadres you see will be in the fore front rioting @ tatwaishibe ati efyo chikaba!! We need to think about post election period more especially fwebama big families, pantu infintu tafili bwino.

    Ngoza rerooted
    May 22, 2016 at 4:30 pm

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