[ By Brig Gen Godfrey Miyanda – 1st July 2014]
I have been asked to express an opinion on the circumstances surrounding the secret departure of our President from Zambia. So far I have been constrained to comment because the topic is neither a joke nor a subject for making political mileage; also I do not have credible facts to make a meaningful assessment other than to speculate. This debacle has exposed the whole country to a serious security danger.
It is operationally highly questionable to suggest that the Secretary to Cabinet is responsible for communicating the movements of the President to the Service Chiefs. Also the failure by those in the Executive to act on the reported incapacity of the President is unacceptable. Although I have been out of the Defence and Security environment, I do not think that operational procedures have changed so much as to give the Secretary to the Cabinet operational responsibilities; he is a mere manager of the Cabinet’s Office or Secretariat; he is the Chief Civil Servant, the Cabinet’s “Chief Clerk” but with powerful administrative functions for the whole Civil Service. However I contend that strictly speaking the Army, Air Force, Police Service and Intelligence communities are not civil servants and do not fall under him for operational control.
To allege that the Secretary to the Cabinet is the custodian of the Instruments of Power is at most a misinterpretation or exaggeration of his administrative functions because this may suggest that as custodian he may refuse to act when called upon. It is not the paper that is kept by the Secretary to the Cabinet that makes the appointment constitutional but the act of the President consciously appointing someone. He can do this even on a piece of un-headed paper which is authenticated by someone else. That is why the Government Gazetteauthenticating the appointment almost always follows the event. When I first acted as President my appointment by President Chiluba was verbal but in the presence of four ministers who included now President Sata and me. There was no civil servant but the Secretary to the Cabinet was later informed and acted on the instructions. He is NOT and must never be “custodian of presidential authority” as this would contradict the Constitution!
Additionally, the powers of the President are not shared with anyone, let alone the Secretary to the Cabinet, unless delegated. The President has and must always have direct access to the Service Chiefs and vice versa. If this were not so the President’s own security would be compromised as well as that of the whole nation. The President is not even one of the Commanders of the Services as is nowadays portrayed. As Commander-In-Chief he or she is really the political head. Operations are the preserve of the Service Chiefs, but under political direction. If the Secretary to the Cabinet becomes the link between the President and the Service Chiefs as alleged then the President would lose one important function of his executive powers, that of being the War Head of the country and nation who is not in touch with the Service Chiefs!
The Constitution of Zambia is clear and predictable in guiding what should happen when the President is incapacitated or is suspected to be incapacitated. However the present inaction is either due to lack of knowledge or stage fright by those who ought to have acted. In this regard the Cabinet must surely take full blame.
The statement by the Minister of Defence that the Secretary to the Cabinet did not communicate to the Army for the sentries to vacate the State House front gate is not the part of the Standing Orders. The Minister’s statement suggests that the Defence and Security Chiefs were not aware of the President’s movements. But more ominously it suggests that there is another group taking care of the President’s security. Who or what is this group? Who is paying them? Are they Zambians or foreigners? Is our President in control of things? If not who is in charge? How did they assume the security of the President?
This sad scenario must make all of us be concerned for President Sata and his close ones and treat it as an emergency, regardless of our political views or disenchantment with the PF’s misrule. Each one of us has an appointment with death, whether we accept it or not, and this appointment with death will never be cancelled but will surely arrive! I appeal to all our consciences in this unpredictable situation to come together, pray for the President and his family, and for the nation to avoid a potential outbreak of lawlessness created by the PF themselves. It is not in our interest to go the Congo or Rwanda way. We are in this situation because many politicians who aspire to high office do so for narrow personal or partisan interests; but there are national concerns of nation-building that must now take centre stage. I believe that it is possible for all of us to unite to confront this situation and rescue our President, who is the fulcrum on which turns the unity, security, survival and advancement of the Sovereign State of Zambia. Let us “cease fire” and somehow cross this bridge and then we can put our boxing gloves back on when this situation (the absence of the President) has panned and petered out.
Although I have other issues with the PF and their party president, this is for another and appropriate occasion. God bless Zambia; God save Zambia.
[1ST JULY 2014]