By Sean E. Tembo – PeP President
1. The ability to feel ashamed is what actually differentiates human beings from other animals. Well, perhaps l need to qualify that a little further: the ability to feel ashamed is what differentiates NORMAL human beings from other animals. The presumption that all human beings adhere to the same standards of humanity is actually a great fallacy, so whenever one talks about the wider class of human beings, it is always pertinent to differentiate the normal from the rest of everyone else. Getting back to the topic at hand, the Bembas say “insoni ebuntu”.
2. This morning, the President of the Republic of Zambia, His Excellency Mr. Edgar Chagwa Lungu went to address Parliament. To the best of my recollection, the last time that the Republican President seriously addressed the citizens of this Republic, either through Parliament or indeed through any other fora, was more than six months ago! In the interim period, a lot has happened, especially economic-wise, which has brought about great consternation and anxiety in the lives of the majority of the citizens of this Republic.
3. In the foregoing period, President Lungu’s Government decided to withdraw meal allowances from university students, despite the fact that the reason why Mr. Lungu himself ended up being a lawyer and consequently a Republican President, is because the Government of that time invested in his education including meal allowances. In the foregoing period, President Lungu’s Government has failed to pay salaries for civil servants, local government workers and parastatal workers on time. It first started with local government workers, who by average are currently 4 to 6 months in salary arrears across various local authorities. Then the failure to pay salaries became extended to parastatal such as ZAMPOST, PACRA, RATSA, ZICTA, ZDA etc. And now, even central government employees are not getting their salaries on time. Additionally, Government is failing to remit loan deductions made on civil servants at source, to various private sector companies such as Bayport. Very recently, we were told that the Kazungula bridge, which is a joint project between Zambia and Botswana, has stalled because Zambia has failed to remit a paltry $18 million outstanding. In daily newspapers, we read about how private sector companies in various economic sectors ranging from mining, agriculture, financial services, retail etc., are closing up shop and downscaling their operations, thereby resulting in significant job losses.
4. Given these and various other economic challenges that are facing this country, the citizens will naturally look up to their leader; the Republican President, to hear what plan he has in mind to get the country out of its current doldrums. The citizens expected to be addressed on matters that are pertinent to them. Matters to do with the ever deteriorating business environment. Matters to do with the lack of jobs. Matters to do with harassment and assault of elderly women simply for selling merchandise in the streets so that they can buy food for their children back home. I mean, we all love clean streets, but if am going to have to choose between a dirty street and and a dead child who will die from hunger if the mother does not sell merchandise in the street, l will definitely choose a dirty street without thinking twice about it. It’s a pity that President Lungu and his Government would rather have streets clean of all poor people so that he doesn’t feel guilty as he is driving in his top of the range Maybach Mercedes along Addis Ababa Avenue on the way to the airport to ride his top of the range K900 million Gulfstream G650 private jet.
5. So when the citizens heard that their President was finally going to address the nation through Parliament this morning, they were hopeful that he will outline some kind of plan for his Government to address the current economic malaise. But alas, the President of the Republic decided to dodge talking about bread and butter issues that have been giving the majority of our citizens sleepless nights, but instead decided to talk about matters to do with national values and principles. We are not saying that national values and principles are not important, as a matter of fact, they are important but they are definitely not a priority at the moment given that bread and butter issues have not been addressed at all. The majority of our citizens, especially in urban areas, only eat one meal a day, others only eat once in two days, while yet others do not know where their next meal will come from, or if at all it will come.
6. All these hopeless and hungry citizens have been waiting for the number one citizen; the President of the Republic of Zambia, to give them guidance, assurance and hope that his Government is implementing tangible plans to turnaround the economy, create jobs and unlock the business environment. From where l stand, l think the expectations of the citizens for their President to give them a tangible plan of action, is not unreasonable. And any reasonable President would have addressed the citizens on these issues, but our President Lungu decided to use the opportunity to crack jokes in Parliament about only taking two shots of whiskey! Like really Mr. President? When you look at the hungry faces of the majority of our citizens, do you think they are interested in your jokes about shots of whiskey?
7. This brings me to a somewhat awkward question which has been lingering on my mind for quite a while now; is President Lungu normal? I mean, politics aside, are his mental faculties functioning in the desired manner? What if the President is mentally ill and the whole 17 million of us are now hostages of his mental sickness? I mean, who goes to buy a brand new private jet for a cash price of K900 million, when you’re struggling and failing to pay monthly salaries to your employees? Who sends their wife on a meaningless two weeks trip to the United States with an exaggerated entourage of 26 staff, including cleaners, as if hotels in the US cannot clean? All at the expense of taxpayers? And yet, hospitals have no medicines? What President allows their Spokesperson to insult people through their teeth, the way Amos does, and yet still retain them? What President runs away from being asked questions by the press or addressing the nation on serious matters, but only feels comfortable dancing fwenku fwenku at evening functions? What President tells his citizens that they are lazy and should work hard, and yet his Government owes the same citizens more than K15 billion in domestic arrears for unpaid goods and services, for several years, and has no plan to pay them? What President is only commuted to jogging in the morning but not to providing medicine to sick children in hospitals?
8. In all sincerity, it is my humble submission that the Republican President, His Excellency Mr. Edgar Chagwa Lungu is mentally unwell, and as a consequence, the 17 million of us bonafide citizens of this Republic, have consequently been held hostage by his suspected mental illness. This is not a trivial matter, it is a serious matter. The President actually requires the support and well wishes of each one of us as he attends to his mental illness, but the entire nation must not be dragged into the abyss simply because one individual has mental problems. In this regard, we the citizens of this Republic, who are the largest stakeholders in the mental health of the President, need to consider activating the relevant provisions of the Republican Constitution, which deal with the handling of a situation whereby the mental health of the President is in question.