29 Jul 2017
I am writing you from the future, we have not met.
The year is 2017, and I sit at my window – on the second of a building two floors high, overlooking a road and some flora. It is a beautiful view.
To my right is a book – The Long Sunset. You may be very familiar with its author – Vernon. Not only is the sun setting right now, the 9 years you have been gone feel like a long sunset too – part nostalgia; a dollop of melancholy too. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
You see Levy, I write a fair amount. Politics for the most part, a bit of social commentary, and a whole lot other gibberish in between. I just don’t write letters like this very often. Which is why this feels special and strange at the same time.
I realize you are reading this from 2008. The economy is doing relatively well, you are optimistic about the future. You have done a bit of belt-tightening over the last 7 and half years, and now the ship appears to be stabilizing. Ng’andu is at Finance, the two of you have established a fairly good working relationship. But then you take ill, and stop reading this.
2017. You are gone – as is your fiercest critic – Michael Sata. His Patriotic Front finally swept to power. Your Vice President at the time, Rupiah Banda, took brief control after your demise. 3 years later, he was ousted. In a way, this was inevitable. You may or may not remember the name, but a certain Edgar Lungu is President now. Hakainde Hichilema, about whom you held a certain view, is now the country’s preeminent opposition voice. His UPND is the country’s largest opposition party with 59 members of parliament. He is also incarcerated as I write this – but we will get back to this later.
Your party – the Movement for Multiparty Democracy, is now defunct; at least for all intents and purposes. Its ouster in 2011 precipitated a mass exodus. Many of those you wined and dined with found their way to the PF, including, oddly, your son Patrick. Nevers Mumba, the man you appointed Vice President and later fired, was elected MMD President after Rupiah Banda. If he tried to keep the party together, his efforts were not apparent. For every public show of solidarity within the party, there was a court battle or the other among its senior members. Levy, I hate to have to break this to you, but the MMD eventually split – with 2 Presidents. Felix Mutati, with whom you may remember working too, heads the one faction, while Nevers heads the other. The courts seem disinterested in the entire issue altogether now. Geoffrey Bwalya Mwamba is Vice-President of the UPND now. He was also Hakainde’s running mate – which brings me to the next point.
The constitution was amended. We now have running mates, as opposed to Presidents appointing Vice-Presidents on election. Running mates may not be fired by the President now. Also, we no longer require a simple electoral majority to win the Presidency. Had you run for President now, you would be required to poll at least 50% of the vote, plus 1.
I told you about Hakainde earlier. I also mentioned he is incarcerated. He has been, 3 months going on 4 now. This may catch you by surprise, as it would anyone in 2008. You see Levy, Zambia has changed a whole lot since you have been gone. Most of it not good. If I told you why that is, you would probably start kicking. I might write you another letter soon; maybe I go into the circumstances leading to his incarceration then. I will tell you, however, that efforts are being made at having him released.
You may remember braving accusations of tribalism and nepotism in your cabinet appointments. I was too young to understand the merits, if any, to said allegations at the time. I hate to be the bearer of bad news here again, but tribal strife has grown tenfold the last near decade. I could state a few things about why this is, but I cannot tell you with a straight eye, Levy, that I do not have a sense of trepidation about where this may lead us.
You left reserves in our coffers, didn’t you? Aye, you did. Well, we are back in debt now, Levy. It keeps mounting. The efforts you made at freeing us from colossal debt obligations have all been undone. As I pen this, we are negotiating with the IMF for a bailout. Your guess as to what this will mean for us will no doubt be more informed than mine. You have seen this before.
Your significant other seems to have re-invented herself. She has since carved out a political career of her own. You may be surprised at her choice of vehicle, however – the UPND. The more things change, the more they stay the same. Yes? She’s an advocate too, if I should be completely honest. Human and civil rights. She may also be seen championing women’s rights and advancement.
Levy, this could go on ad infinitum. Allow me one more detail, however. Your sternest critic after Michael, Fred M’membe, has seen a few dark days of his own. His Post Newspapers were forcibly shut down and liquidated. The reason advanced was tax arrears. Oddly, numerous other competing publications operate still – some with 10 times as much owed to the taxman. My guess, again, as good as yours. A certain name may make your consideration here too; Edgar Lungu. A new publication has taken its place however. It is called The Mast. If intimidation of its its predecessor’s critically venomous editorial policy was intended, its pages now reveal no success. It is irreverent, partial and unrelenting as ever.
I have talked a lot I think, perhaps it is time I gave it a rest. I do hope you rest satisfied in the knowledge that your efforts at serving your country – though not always well-informed and executed, have been brought into sharper relief, at least in my eyes, by the passing of time. You may have made many errors, didn’t have the best of tempers, and could be rash in your choice of words sometimes, but I would like to think you made honest mistakes. Those I can forgive.
I sit at my window still. The sun long set now. I’m not sure you are able to see any rays over there; and that should help you understand my expectations going forward. We are admonished not to despair, to stay focused in our darkest days and see the light, but sometimes it gets weary, dear Levy. It is getting weary for me.
Yours was a life well lived.
Rest in power.