In 2024, President HH should seek to be forthright and stop bluffing
By Aaron Ng’ambi
The President has been quoted in the tabloids as having said that his trips abroad have now started paying off for everyone to see.
As much as we respect the opinions of the Head of State, it is also clear that potentially the man may be living in denial concerning the harsh economic realities of our time. What is the President talking about, which have come out of his so many trips abroad? Because all the economic indicators show us that we are worse off now than we were a year or two years ago. The cost of living is skyrocketing, the Kwacha is performing terribly, and fuel prices including basic commodities keep rising. Hence, we encourage this President to get real with our people and stop bluffing.
The weakness of this President is that the man cannot live up to his word. He sees everything in terms of politics, even at the expense of national development. Surely, no serious independent minded person can trust a man who cannot honour his promises. After winning the August 12, 2021, elections, this President came in power and told us that everything he said he will do were not promises but assurances. Unfortunately, the assurances of fuel prices coming down to K12 per litre, or mealie-meal prices coming down to K50 for a 25kg bag fails short of what an assurance looks like. If anything, such promises, and many others which the President willingly made to the Zambian people can only be classified as fake promises. Otherwise, we are left with no option but to ask this fundamental question, has President Hakainde Hichilema been bluffing or to use the words of Barrack Obama, is Mr Hichilema just popping off?
Evidently, the President forgets easily what he says. Those around him should help the man remember his words, before he begins to look like a flip flopper. At the beginning of last year, the President and his commerce minister were on record of having said that the government will solve the issues of Mopani and Konkola Copper Mines (KCM) by end of first quarter in 2023. This was to no avail. In fact, the country waited and waited, until almost the fourth quarter; that’s when we were told that Vedanta was officially back at KCM and with that comeback many flowery things were promised to the employees of KCM, including but not limited to 20 per cent salary increments. Sadly, the last few weeks we have seen KCM employees and even the Mine Workers Union protesting about the yet to be fulfilled pledges at KCM.
For all the good and the bad, President HH will be remembered by many writers of history as a man who takes pride in self-praise at any given opportunity. The phrase “we are doing this, or we have done this for the first” is part of his daily vocabulary, regardless of whether such a statement is factual, exaggerated or even a misrepresentation of facts. Accordingly, to the persona the President portrays to the general public, he is the best man to have walked the face of Mother Zambia. He sometimes, says something knowing full well that it’s not true but absolutely believes it himself and wants others to do likewise. For example, we all remember vividly the incident when the Head of State lied to the people with a straight face. He publicly said he had never met the KCM liquidator Mr Milingo Lungu. When asked about meeting the latter he answered in the negative while looking into the eyes of the citizens. But later on, the court affidavit proved otherwise, and caused great embarrassment on the part of the President. This was a clear case of President HH caught bluffing.
The Cyber Security Act, which was enacted under the previous administration used to be on the lips of Hakainde Hichilema (then opposition leader) with a promise that he would repeal this law once elected President. Nonetheless, we have to be fair and mention that President HH has failed to repeal this particular law for whatever reasons. But he has gone further to use the same law to jail opposition leaders such as Sean Tembo. The same can be said about the Public Order Act. As an opposition leader, Mr Hichilema said many things about how he would not make it any better but completely get rid of it from our law books. Now that, the Public Order Act favours him and his administration by virtual of him being in power, the President wants to sweet talk his way out of the promise he made but talking of making amendments to the Public Order Act and not getting rid of it. This is another bluff by the current Head of State.
Lastly, the fight against corruption has been a dismal failure. There are many rumours of corruption under this administration, especially with single sourcing in procurement processes. The President has been doing nothing but continues to give empty speeches on this matter; to the point that when a certain minister then was caught with a briefcase at a Chinese business premise, the President defended his minister that ‘I called him and spoke to him’. As fate would have it, the same minister brought another scandal at the doorstep of his boss with so much overwhelming evidence on social media that the President was left with no option but to ask this minister to step aside. Therefore, we ask; is this a serious regime that is committed to fighting corruption? Is it only corruption if or when it involves the opposition political players? Where is the good will to genuinely fight corruption in all of its ugly forms? We hope that President HH will stop bluffing in 2024 and provide serious leadership. It is in the interest of our country, that we have a President who will meaningfully eradicate corruption, be humble, be truthful, be forthright, be teachable, and above all be consistent.
The author is a political scientist with keen interest in domestic and global issues. Email: email@example.com