By Chris Zumani Zimba on April 27, 2018
By advisors, I am talking about men and women President Edgar Lungu consults or talks to on policy and governance matters before making decisions or taking key actions. This could mean his State House aides, Cabinet ministers and some senior party officials – we are not including his personal friends and close family members. In this article, I have identified only five (5) key empirical examples for 2018 that demonstrate that our Head of State and Government has either weak or wrong advisors as follows:
1. Lungu was misled to institutionalise his “ubomba mwibala alila mwibala” policy
When Lungu proclaimed “ubomba mwibala alila mwibala” on February 10, in Ndola, some of us noted that what the President said was official introduction of ‘kletocracy’ (rule by theft or approved theft by public servant) and constitutionally constituted an impeachable offence. We called for President Lungu to apologise and withdraw the statement. But to our rude shock, the President repeated it and ironically, Amos Chanda, Davies Mwila, Sunday Chanda, Bowman Lusambo, Antonio Mwanza and everyone around him were everywhere busy justifying the Bemba phrase with Bible verses and cultural teachings. Today, the same Bemba proverbs constitute one of the key grounds for his impeachment motion and the same people who defended him are now politically terrified and worried for their boss and jobs.
3. Lungu was misled to hurriedly expel the Cuban Ambassador
Although Article 9 of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations of 1961 mandates host states at any time and for any reason to declare a particular member of the diplomatic staff to be ‘persona non grata’, the impulsive expulsion of the Cuban Ambassador to Zambia, Nelson Pages Vilas on 1st April, 2018 was hurriedly and wrongly done, announced by the wrong person at the wrong place and for wrong impulsive reasons. With good expert advisors, the whole political standoff and diplomatic apprehension between Zambia and Cuba could have been avoided as Lungu is now perceived to be a harsh authoritative leader in the region who does not entertain diplomatic engagements but only shows off his political and military might anyhow. This act watered down his democratic and diplomatic credentials regionally and globally.
4. Lungu is being misled about remaining popular by appointing and relying on MMD members
In 2011, Zambians decided to vote out Rupiah Banda and his MMD team. As we speak today, Lungu has succeeded at bringing more than 40% of the MMD team back into top government positions apart from RB (although others argue that he is also in power somewhere or somehow). The worst part of this gesture is that PF is no longer running on its policy of “more money into your pocket and less tax” but on true MMD wheels of “more loans, levies and taxes” on the citizens. While he may justify this political marriage and policy mix, this gesture annoys many true PF members as well as thousands of Zambian voters who rejected RB and his MMD government. Come 2021, this will have a huge negative bearing on Lungu’s vote.
5. Lungu is being misled that his nationality petitioners are mere lunatics or day-dreamers
As Mike Mulongoti and his team are flooding the media with more data on Lungu’s inconsistent records of his nationality and other personal credentials, the best response from himself, his PF and government advisors has been ‘ignore them as they are mere lunatics or dreamers’. But the lunatics are winning some ‘lunatic citizens’ on their side and perforating huge holes of public mistrust in the presidency. When Obama was attacked by some ‘American lunatics’ about his foreign birth and citizenship, he simply set the records straight by giving his accurate details and silenced the ‘lunatics’ once and for more. We now know that ‘lunatics’ have a tendency to win hearts and multiply themselves and thereby weakening and disadvantaging their political target. But for Lungu’s advisors, ‘lunatics’ don’t matter, he is politically safe.
In conclusion, I am sure Lungu’s advisors are already assuring him beforehand about 2021 that ‘there is no way in hell the great leader of this great nation can lose power, even if he was to die a week before the elections, he will still win in the grave’. I personally see President Lungu to be too technically vulnerable in terms of decision making as many of his policy actions seem to be a product of failed expertise, ill advice, uncoordinated public service machinery at his disposal or overzealous political appointees who are interested in making a name for themselves, bypass standard decision making protocols and end up spoiling the functional efficiency and effectiveness of the presidency. In the same vein, it is also possible that President Lungu is either too opinionated and loosely wait for or take expert advice or he has entrusted too much policy powers into the hands of either dull, weak or wrong cadres around him. But there is no way in hell this article can make sense to them, no way.
Chris Zumani Zimba is a Political Scientist, Author, PhD Scholar, Lecturer, Researcher and Consultant.