Painting of a President Lungu by Caleb Chisha "Eagle One, Oil On Canvas."


[By Mervin Chisanga]

If the absence of war or conflict is an effective definition of peace, then Zambia qualifies as a candidate for peacekeeping missions for other countries because it has been at war, albeit a cold one, for a considerably long time now.

Before someone out there judges and possibly convicts me in the court of public opinion on a count of dragging the President’s name in disrepute by making him the subject of my article, may I ask for a chance to exonerate myself from the would be accusation from, especially those whose pay comes from singing praises for the president. Notwithstanding the daunting legal requirement for one who alleges to prove, I am ready to bite the bullet and elucidate my arguments in accordance with, even just the lowest standard of the burdens of proof: the preponderance of evidence. If I die, I die. I challenge anyone who doesn’t agree with me to a public debate on this matter.

The Zambian political atmosphere has been smouldering with tension for a long time, largely because of lack of political will in the presidency to end it; so much so that no one would not get surprised if this country went ablaze over a very small matter.

In an ideal society, an election is not taken as a single day’s event, as many tend to think, but rather a long and continuous process comprising several activities, whose effective preparation should stretch from one voting event to the next.
Therefore, if the preparedness of a country to have elections is measured by the activities that take place in between these elections, someone should be able to agree with me that this country has not had a credible election for a long time.
Like I have already stated, the president is responsible for this unfortunate status quo. I say so because all the institutions that have a role to play in preparations for elections are led by presidential appointees, who only serve at the pleasure of their appointing authority. Whatever these institutions do, therefore, the buck stops with the President. It is the conduct of these institutions that expose the President as preparing this country for something else other than elections: most likely war.

Take the patronage motivated empowerment of the police and the armed forces for instance. Much as one would argue that our men in uniform have been working under hard conditions, it is a well known fact that they are only but a meagre fraction of the civil service, with the rest pretty much still wallowing in adverse working conditions.
Without sounding like I am against the empowerment of our men in uniform, may I draw someone’s attention to all those trucks and equipment that the government has been importing for both the police and the armed forces. Whilst there is nothing wrong with the whole idea of doing so, from where I stand, there is everything wrong with both the manner and the timing. How about you?

Take the building of housing units for example. Like I have already alluded to, the civil service is so vast that the men in uniform in question do represent, only but a small fraction of it. My question is; what criterion can a president use to determine which department to prioritise, other than identifying those that will help him accomplish his desired agenda?

At a time when some equally important government departments like ZAWA are struggling with lack of transport, how can one explain the massive procurement of vehicles for the ministries of defense and home affairs by the same government, than to smell a rat somewhere? The double standards are clear and the evidence abounds.
Government has sought to justify this biased empowerment using every explanation they could, with that of maintaining law and order, in case of the police making the most sense. Fair enough! But viewing it through the lens of good governance, this kind of empowerment falls short of the equity requirement.

At the same time, there is a very startling irony to this whole situation. After empowering the police with all that equipment for instance, they are not left to carry out their duties freely, much to the increase in the moral decay of this country. The law is being broken by political cadres with brazen impunity in even unimaginable ways in full view of the police. This is not to say the police have no capacity to handle these unruly hooligans, but rather because of the way government has come out to punish those police that have acted to defend the law from being broken by these cadres. Today, you will see them move around clad in military uniforms without anyone questioning them. Even the soldiers, who, back in the days of law and order did not waste time to discipline such characters out rightly, seem to have learnt from the police’s experience that these cadres are untouchables who you can only confront at the risk of your job.

When someone could have expected tribal hate speeches to subside as we draw close to 2021, this is surprisingly when it is apparently rising to a crescendo, with leaders like Dora Siliya and James Kapyanga disappointingly among those propagating it.
Surprisingly, President Lungu has, in apparent agreement with the tribal utterances of his officials, not strongly come out to condemn speeches. Instead, as if this is not inimical enough to the tenets of democracy that we as a country have been trying to nurture for a long time, the President has sought not to be left behind by those escalating the political tension by uttering certain statements insinuating that whether or not he will remain President after 2021 will not be the decision of the people of Zambia, but his. Who does that?

This is why when all is said and done, it gets a bit confusing what Zambia is preparing for. Even the arrogance of the ECZ on issues that are straight forward attests to my observation too. Because of the way he has sought to endear himself with the armed forces and police on one hand, and his lack of political will to build consensus on issues of national interest on another, in this volatile political atmosphere we are in, war may just be what the President is preparing this country for, knowing his safety is guaranteed.


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