By Field Ruwe EdD
Edgar Chagwa Lungu President of Zambia and Leader of the Patriotic Front
Who really is Edgar Chagwa Lungu? Who is this man Zambians have entrusted with leadership beyond question? Are we a better people under his leadership? What creative ideas has he provided to better our economy? Why is he at the center of the most devastating scandals—authoritarianism, bribery, corruption, gassing, trafficking, and money laundering? What marks him a success or failure? Does he deserve another five years? Good questions addressed here in a nutshell. When you are done reading, use the comments provision to answer some of the above questions.
It’s the Economy Stupid
Hold on a minute Kanganja. Let me explain what I mean lest I am accused of defaming the president. The above phrase was coined in 1992 by Bill Clinton’s lead strategist James Carville at the height of the Clinton vs. Bush Sr. campaign to emphasize the near-recession state of the U.S. economy. The cliché urges voters to treat the economy as a priority. I employ the cliché to address perhaps the most important question: What creative ideas has Lungu provided to better our economy?
Back in 2017, Ghanaian President Nana Akufo-Addo said: “We’ve to get away from this mindset of dependency.” The words were directed at Africans in the presence of French President Emmanuel Macron. “Our concern should be what do we need to do in the 21st century to move Africa away from being cap in hand and begging for aid, for charity, for handouts? The African continent when you look at its resources, should be giving monies to other places…we need to have a mindset that says we can do it.”
The word “resources” hit home. Mineral resources are Zambia’s biggest asset, accounting for 77% of its exports. I said to myself what if Lungu ingeniously flipped ownership of Kantanshi copper-gold mines to 20% First Quantum Minerals (FQM) and 80% Zambia? It would mean out of the 340,000 tonnes of copper, Zambia would be entitled to 272,000 and FQM 68,000 per year. Just this one move would lift a good number of Zambians into the middle class.
The adverb “ingeniously” is a key factor here. Five years in his reign, President Roch Kaboré of Burkina Faso has “ingeniously” salvaged Africa’s poorest country by creating a new market for gold exploration and exportation. Nineteen years after the Rwanda genocide President Paul Kagame has turned his country into “Africa’s Singapore” by “ingeniously” stabilizing the country’s economy, curbing tribalism, and bettering education, healthcare and housing.
As for Akufo-Addo, he has since assumed the title of “Ghana’s number one worker.” Since assuming office on January 7, 2017, Akufo-Addo has fought corruption, and created about a million job opportunities. Rightfully, a series of Africa’s Best Presidents polls published between 2016 and 2020 place Akufo-Addo at the top, and Lungu at the bottom of the totem pole.
Why is Lungu at the bottom?
Here, I provide my findings. Almost every modern scholar’s survey, polling, and rating, gives the abiding sense that Lungu is an inconsequential president. Some describe him as an obtuse, incoherent, slothful, lackluster leader with no idea how to steer Zambia to prosperity. Many intimate that although he has some intellectual force, and radiates a good nature, he is not a thinker, casuist, sophist, or mastermind—he is not a mover and shaker.
It is true. Lungu’s country is in a calamitous recession. He has recklessly borrowed about $3 billion from Chinese entities, and is still borrowing. Worse still, Lungu has brought Zambia to the brink of defaulting on unsustainable $12 billion external debt load. Debt default has paved the way for the Chinese and international creditors to impose modus operandi on the country’s copper, gold, uranium, cobalt, land resources and major parastatals.
Consequently, the majority of Zambians are still living in abject poverty, 68% living on $1.7 a day, and 28% on less than 30 cents. And with Covid-19 still looming, the economy is headed for a catastrophic crash what with serious macroeconomic challenges, such as double digit inflation, reaching 22.2% last February.
Why can’t Lungu emulate President João Lourenco of Angola, who upon taking office in 2018, exposed corruption and nepotism and recovered millions of dollars from his predecessor and daughter; or soccer legend now President of Liberia George Weah who has made education free up to university, so that he can surround himself not with a coterie of lawless semi-literate advisors but intellectuals who can do battles with marauders of African resources, and read the fine print in Chinese infrastructure contracts.
Records show that even before he entered politics Lungu was not a person who maps a successful path of his own and does things out of the ordinary—an outlier, a gamesman, maverick, innovator or nonconformist. He was not among the crème de la crème of Zambia’s lawyers. Upon graduating from law school Lungu dashed to Andrea Masiye and Company while some of his creative peers figured out how to run their own law firms.
It is said Lungu spent the chunk of his legal practice by simply showing up in court on behalf of his employer, and laying the law by the book with no wit, eloquence, and creative strategy of salvaging a client at his most urgent need. In fact, Lungu is not known to have successfully defended a high-profile client.
Documents further reveal that in 2010, the Law Association of Zambia found Lungu guilty of professional misconduct and suspended his license. It is alleged that Lungu misappropriated client’s money. If true, then we have a Commander-in-Thief at State House. “Once a thief always a thief,” so the saying goes. With this in mind, the PF party should have disqualified Lungu at the 2014 General Conference. A president’s ethics and uprightness should be beyond doubt.
Lungu emerged a winner and entered State House as an interregnum president on November 30, 2014. He sat on the throne woefully under-qualified with no usable experience, vision, skill, or mission. The quality of his leadership was revealed when he announced he was going to rely on Sata’s vision and took his oath of office upon that. Six years later, Lungu has led Zambians into the valley of debt in which we are grappling with the worst recession since 1998. That’s what China was hoping, to bring Lungu to his knees.
Imagine for a moment if Lungu was like the late Tanzanian President John Magufuli who in 2020 cancelled the loan worth $10 billion offered by China, stating “Only a drunkard will accept the terms” of the loan agreement. I am not implying that he was referring to Lungu, which might be the case since the incumbent is known to like the bottle. Unlike Lungu, the Great Magufuli knew the dire consequences of reckless borrowing.
Give credit to Magufuli (RIP), he was fully aware of the millions of dollars that would go into his personal account if he appended his signature, yet chose not to. Why? Because he knew corruption was hindering economic, political and social development.
How Lungu Sowed the Seed of Corruption
Joshua Meservey writes in “The Heritage” that African leaders deal with Chinese government mainly out of self-interest. Meservey also reports that Lungu and other African leaders enjoy perks from a warm relationship with Beijing. Every handshake with Xi Jinping, every deal struck, agreement or contract signed, is a hefty check [cheque] in the personal account of the signatory. This shameful and unethical gesture is one of the reasons political corruption has become the biggest challenge in Zambia. Does this then mean money is at the heart of Lungu’s reign?
Shall we then assume that President Edgar Lungu is the same unscrupulous lawyer discussed in this article—one that put money before justice. Could greed be the reason Lungu has been signing contract after contract with no regard for the Zambian economy? Should this help to explain why PF officials are bribing voters with cash?
Shock and Awe
Just the other day, shock and awe reverberated around the country at seeing Vice President Inonge Wina engage in the egregious act of bribery. She has since denied any wrongdoing. That’s well understood. But if the viral video was used in court, it would be as undisputable as that of George Floyd. The judge would find the VP guilty of offering a gratification for the advantage or benefit of the ruling party, and send her to jail.
Freedom fighter Inonge Wina, a woman of integrity, wife of Zambia’s first Finance Minister buckled, and joined the likes of Bowman Lusambo, thanks to Edgar Lungu. If former President Kaunda, who exhibited inflexibility to corruption saw the video he would be flabbergasted. In his hay days he would have ordered a dawn raid and arrest of not only her but also Bowman Lusambo and all those involved in the dishing out of money in an election year.
The video shows how President Edgar Lungu, his VP, and the Patriotic Front Party capitalizes on the vulnerability of poor Zambians, upping the levels of moral decay and allowing corruption to rear its ugliest head. Corruption is the most disgraceful achievement of the Patriotic Front party.
Caution: Edgar Chagwa Lungu Might Win the Election
The verb “might” is important here.” One of the most enchanting gifts the Chinese “Palace Diplomacy” offers is maintenance of power and support of the ruling party in a presidential election. Since Lungu’s last visit to China, Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has found him and the PF party best positioned to protect Chinese settlers, investment and assets in Zambia. Lungu offers gullibility on which to strategically execute future transfer of power from Zambia to China.
Currently, Chinese Communist Party (CCP) maintains particularly strong ties with the Patriotic Front Party (PF) and its leader Edgar Lungu. Corruption is one of the reasons Edgar Lungu might win in August. The cash dished out to voters by PF candidates leaves a Chinese trail. The other reason is China’s meddling in Zambian politics. At the top of China’s agenda is to kill democratic governance because of its negative impact on China’s covert neo-colonialism program in Africa.
CCP operatives are working around the clock to ensure Lungu is re-elected president in August. Unless the opposition finds a way to intercept “Digital Silk Road”—a subset of BRI through which Chinese operatives can deploy interference efforts and rig the election beyond the Zambian eye, Huawei, ZTE and Hikvision will deliver victory to Lungu come August.