‘…whether voters like it or not, he would still end up being re-elected
By Prof Michelo Hansungule
Why should president Edgar Lungu make such a daringly intriguing statement ‘whether voters like it or not I will still end up being re-elected? This is bewildering to say the least. He said:
‘…..whether Hakainde Hichilema Likes it or not, he will be re-elected for a third succession time as Republican President in next year’s general election …….’.
Really? A president can say this about an election which is months away? Why would he so boldly say that? How does he know today that he will be re-elected during the 2021 presidential elections?
Article 46 of the constitution clearly states that a citizen who is qualified to vote shall do so by means of a ‘secret ballot’ (sic), how does president Lungu know today what will be in the secret ballot of a Zambian voter in 2021?
A friend of mine asked me ‘so he thinks he owns the country?’ I said ‘yes he thinks he owns us Zambians’ because how else would one explain that results of an election yet to take place are actually common knowledge to the president months before?
And where does this leave those elections in terms of their legitimacy? This is a very serious indictment of the legitimacy of our electoral system. President Lungu’s statement at Lukasha by-election makes it clear what some of us have been saying all the time that since PF came to power, there in fact has been no presidential election in Zambia. Through his own mouth, president Lungu has confirmed that he is an illegal president who has never won an election in terms of our electoral rules and his statement is eloquent testimony that he is in power illegally.
That he could publicly say ‘no matter what voters say, he will still be re-elected president’, president Lungu thinks he owns each one of us. By virtue of him being president, only him and probably his cronies matter, none of us, not voters, certainly not the constitution.
In his mind, president Lungu entertains weird ideas that because he is president he owns Hansungule, he owns Zambia, voters don’t matter when it comes to ‘choosing’ let me not even use the word ‘electing’ the president. Was he in his right mind? What exactly went wrong at the time he made this declaration that he has already won the 2021 presidential elections? Isn’t it a crime under the Electoral Commission Act for a candidate to declare themselves winner of an election yet to be held?
In his submission to the Electoral Commission of Zambia which appeared in the Zambian Observer in which he demanded president Lungu be barred from contesting the forthcoming elections, fellow academic Dr. Munyonzwe Hamalengwa has taken issue with this very statement but appropriately subjected it to a claw back clause as follows ‘’if what is quoted in the News Diggers paper of September……accurately quotes the words and aims of President Lungu…..’.
It is true that not all that appears in the media is correct. Sometimes, media like any other person gets it wrong or quotes a person out of context. Some of the mistakes are purely such (mistakes) others are deliberate. In most cases, however, media is right. People cry foul not because they have been misquoted but rather because they were reported in the first place or quoted rightly.
President Lungu was quoted rightly by the News Diggers. Reasons for this include the fact that first he did not personally refute the story in the News Diggers. What he did is to instruct his media team to refute the story which they did when he could have done so himself and easily. In the European Court of Human Rights case of Lingens versus Austria (Lingens v Austria (1986) 8 EHRR 407), the Court underlined obiter dicta that the Chancellor or Austrian Prime Minister who cried defamation following an article criticising his handling of Nazis in his government which offended him had no basis for crying foul because he could easily have called a press conference and due to his office the media would have come at which he could easily have corrected the complained defamation. That president Lungu did not personally sought to deny the statement speaks volumes that he was correctly quoted.
Second, he has not seen it necessary to take News Diggers to court over falsely reporting against him on an important issue such as this. Normally we expect a person who feels aggrieved by the damage done to his reputation to seize the jurisdiction of the courts to seek appropriate remedies from the defamers. Unlike most ordinary Zambians without the means to seize the courts, president Lungu has adequate capacity to do so without feeling it.
Third, the detail in the News Diggers report leaves no doubt they could not manufacture the president’s statement. For example, how could they refer to HH if this did not come out of president Lungu’s mouth? It was not a generalised statement but one with specific details that the media whatever agenda they may have simply could not manufacture it with all the specifics.
Fourth, despite president Lungu’s media team purportedly challenging it, News Diggers have not retracted it and neither were they asked to do so. News Diggers have no obligation moral or legal to retract a report or statement which accurately quotes the author.
President Lungu does not care about voters, he will still be president come 2021? Voters don’t matter and the ballot paper is useless. So this thing about Zambia being a democracy where the president is elected by the people in a popular vote that is secret is all rubbish, empty rhetoric for the idle mind like mine?
It reminds me, an African president once said to me when I and my colleagues visited him during an election observer mission ‘ professor, welcome to our country…..thank you your Excellence, I said’, so you came to observe how we vote, yes sir, thank you for inviting us’, ‘so professor you seriously think you can remove me from this chair with a piece of paper’? Everyone in the room burst out laughing and I decided I would not venture answer the question because he had already answered it rhetorically, instead I joined them in laughing too.
And now here we are in Lukasha during the last by-election president Lungu says exactly the same thing this African president said to us ‘he does not care whether voters like it or not he will still be re-elected…….’. What makes president Lungu make such a statement? Where does he get the courage from? Another friend on reading this asked ‘is he mad’? I ask again, what makes president Lungu to so boldly and publicly make such statements?
If you listen to Pastor Nevers Mumba, president of the Multiparty Democracy’s video on what transpired in Lukasha during the by election you get the full story behind president Lungu’s exceptionally intriguing statement. Mr. Mumba details at length how the Lukasha vote was rigged by president Lungu’s ruling Patriotic Front. The whole thing becomes clear what president Lungu meant by the statement above.
Pastor Mumba’s MMD candidate, a pastor was said to have got 2, only 2 votes, at the polling station at which he and his wife, family and Church members and friends voted. Opposition United Party for National Development which demonstrated a strong showing during campaigns got zero at some polling stations. Pastor Mumba recounts that a PF cadre was caught taking a picture of his ballot paper before he dropped it in the ballot box. When he was challenged why he did so against rules which ban use of cell phones in the polling station, he confessed that his senior party (PF) officials needed to see evidence that he voted for their candidate otherwise he would not receive the promised payment.
There were serious reports of an illegal polling station set up in the constituency at which unqualified people allegedly voted for the PF candidate. This is similar to the evidence averred by the petitioner Dr. Col. Besigye (Besigye v Museveni & Anor ( ELECTION PETITION NO.1 OF 2001)  UGSC 4 (6 July 2001);), losing presidential candidate in the 2001 Uganda elections. In this case, Besigye versus Yoweri Museveni and the Uganda Electoral Commission, the petitioner adduced evidence which was not disputed by the respondents that several gazetted polling stations were surrounded by soldiers a night before the elections and new illegal ones heavily regulated by soldiers opened overnight. Access to these illegal polling stations was restricted by soldiers to only authorised voters. Despite this, however, Uganda Supreme Court held the 2001 presidential election results ‘substantially free and fair’.
The Lukasha pattern is certainly not new. We saw what happened in 2016. The 2016 Hakainde Hichilema election petition against president Lungu which was banned by the Constitutional Court was set to prove without an iota of doubt that those elections were heavily rigged. As a reminder, just think of the fiasco with the Kanyama presidential election results. Dr Maureen Mwanawasa uncovered a discrepancy of 14,000 votes in the Kanyama presidential vote, across a total of 20 polling streams. Informed by her agent that numbers were not adding up she went to the totalling centre to find the missing results literally thrown in a dust bin. Once retrieved Hakainde Hichilema’s vote share went from 17,985 earlier announced by the ECZ to 32,024. This is just in one constituency.
Is it any wonder why G12 forms were withheld from UPND polling agents after the initial release, which rendered them unable to verify the results. The totalling process cannot be legitimately completed without these forms. Again, is it any wonder why the Constitutional Court banned the case before it was heard?
Even more, is it any wonder why president Lungu has declared himself winner of a yet to be held election?
Given the seriousness of this declaration by president Edgar Lungu, the only question now is what next? Dr. Hamalengwa has suggested petitioning the Electoral Commission of Zambia to ban president Lungu from contesting next year’s election. I asked Dr. Hamalengwa whether he got a response from ECZ and expectedly he said:
No Sir. No response. Very arrogant institutions and government under which they serve……….
Of course they can’t respond. Is it even reasonable to expect Judge Chulu, the Chairperson of the Commission and members like Emily Sikazwe that they could consider a petition against president Lungu?
In any case, the Constitution article 59 which defines the functions of the ECZ only allocates it the duty to preside over ‘minor disputes’. All other disputes are responsibility of the High and Constitutional Courts whose records we are all familiar with.
The answer to the question what should be done lies squarely in the hands of Zambians. President Lungu is serious that he has already been elected to the third term and that voters are not important in this process. If you know president Lungu and there are very few people who know him, he is serious with this declaration. The ball is in the hands of Zambians.