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Thursday, October 7, 2021

The Lungu Presidency – an epoch of flawed leadership?

Columns The Lungu Presidency - an epoch of flawed leadership?

By Chimwemwe Mwanza

A week can be a long time in politics precisely why writing a legacy of an active politician is a tough ask. It is akin to writing an obituary for a living person.

Shortly before the recent elections, Edgar Lungu boldly declared that he would remain in active politics till 2026 – off course assuming he won a second term. It was not to be. His opponent handed him a humiliating defeat and one that will resonate in Zambian history for years to come. His loss was shocking enough that it took him barely a week after elections to announce his looming retirement from active politics.

This climb down is remarkable for a politician of notable bravado. While kicking the crestfallen might be of little consequence, Lungu’s propensity to contradict himself does warrant an interrogation of both his reign and character. In essence, the underlying message in the sudden resignation from active politics exposed his sence of entitlement to the Presidency. This is troubling. At best, this entitlement explains his somewhat weird protestation of a rigged election – this happening amid vote counting.

This was a President that seemed too eager to sacrifice peace so that the Electoral Commission of Zambia could halt vote counting just to massage his bruised ego. In any case, how does one move from denouncing an electoral process to acknowledging its legitimacy only after persuasion – all this happening within 72 hours? His petulance was nothing more than a gambit to throw the country into chaos. Even more astonishing, why should he be praised for conceding defeat?
Accepting an electoral outcome whether in or against your favour is a gesture of common decency and therefore no amount of praise should be heaped on a politician for acknowledging the obvious. Granted he is of unpredictable character, is there a likelihood that he might rescind his decision to retire from active politics? The less written about his legacy at this stage the better suffice to add that there is a banal link to his chaotic rise to the Presidency and his subsequent fall from his perch.

It is well documented that Micheal Sata’s death prompted a bitter succession struggle for the PF Presidency. History cut short; it was a shambolic show of hands at the PF’s Mulungushi University conference that ushered in his Presidency. Lacking in legitimacy, he was beholden to his backers who were determined to exploit their proximity to his Presidency.
Thus in 2015, he ascended to the highest political office of the land. Since he assumed office, several charges of corruption levelled against his government went unchecked creating a perception that he may either have been complicit to or at least abated these crimes.

In fairness, there is hardly any evidence that directly fingers him in acts of criminality. However, deny as he will continue to, this perception will continue to linger in the psyche of many Zambians; and the trouble with perception is that it equates to reality in the court of public opinion. What is on record though is the unbridled collusion by state investigating agencies to perpetuate corruption during the PF’s tenure in office.

They dished nolles and acquittals after another even in cases in which the state seemed to have credible evidence against perpetrators of corruption and other crimes. The absence of political will in the fight against corruption became all too naked in the eyes of the electorate and this in part explains the PF’s defeat.

A flawed Presidency?

Against the temptation to further interrogate this Presidency, one is reminded of this screaming editorial, ‘A thief for a President’ published in the defunct Post Newspaper on 17th August 2001. This editorial not only defined Frederick Chiluba’s legacy but marked the beginning of the late second Republican President’s fall from grace.

For all his contributions to strengthening the labour movement as well as helping to dismantle the one-party regime, he was hung out to dry. With his immunity lifted at the behest of his anointed successor, President Levy Mwanawasa – Chiluba the man who fondly referred to himself as a ‘master dribbler’ cut a forlorn figure. Revelations after another including abuse of an intelligence slush fund – the Zamtrop account, the fraudulent acquisition of properties, among a litany of other charges began to fill newspaper pages. He spent the latter part of his life shuttling between Lusaka’s Magistrate and High Courts.

And it is important to note that despite the millions spent on investigating him, the state failed to secure a conviction. Sadly though, he took truth with him to his grave – by all accounts he may well have been innocent. It is this trial by the media that awaits Lungu. While he won’t be in in the dork, headlines such as ‘Findlay’s Accounts frozen and PF cadre Andrew Lubusha on the run’ – just to mention a few, are by extention an indictment on Lungu’s leadership. A fish rots from its head – so goes an axiom.

And this is just the beginning. There is still the small matter of the fraudulent but costly fire tender, the unresolved ownership of the 48 houses, the Mukula trees scandal, a fraudulent FISP procurement process and many others that are likely to come up. Watch this space, there will be enough news to distract us from our financial hardships. Unfortunately, none of these issues awaiting ventilation in our courts of law will uplift our economic and social status. This is just our reality.

All that the news cycle will do, will be to give us a glimpse into a wasted 10 years and the recklessness of the Lungu Presidency. That might just be the right time then for many a Journalist looking to write Lungu’s legacy to sharpen their pencils. Indeed, we live in interesting times. Buckle up, there is a bumpy ride ahead of us.

The author is an avid scholar of political history and philosophy. He has since stopped eating game meat and become a vegetarian. He remains a lifelong fan of Kabwe Warriors and Liverpool. For feedback, contact [email protected]


  1. Lungu was not fit to be president. Period.

    And his supporters need mental medication. I mean those who were not eating with the PF but supported lungu.

    Lungu was only good at fixing opposition and critics …….nothing else.

  2. The we’re is scattered in his writing I’m wondering what he really wanted to communicate. He succeeded in filing up space writing a broad and subject scattered essay.

  3. 3 flag John September 6, 2021 At 7:25 am
    The writer is scattered in his writing I’m wondering what he really wanted to communicate. He only succeeded in filing up space writing a broad and subject scattered essay.

  4. Rallying up vengeful supporters to grab their pitchforks, shovels and picks in the middle of the night in readiness for a witch hunt….useless article!!!

  5. The problem is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. Neoliberalism will never bring prosperity to the majority of people, it is not intended to do so. Any talk of ‘bringing jobs’ is pie in the sky. Technology is moving away from employing large numbers of people. All that matters is who owns what. And keeping the mines in the hands of foreign corporations means profits are lost. And without taxes, even the damage they do has to be paid by the local taxpayers. However, it is safe to do whatever the IMF/WB tells you to do. Neoliberalims is class warfare.

  6. PF & ECL was a criminal enterprise. There is no perception on the thievery & gangsterizim which took place. The fire tenders, gassing, PF controlled revenue collection from markets & bus stops is all a reality among many more litany of cases. ECL will forever have to live with a tag of shame having been the worst president Zambia has ever had.

  7. Ba Mwanza, Emmanuel Mwamba has tried washing Chilubas legacy to no avail not sure you will manage. This was the nature of FTJ, If you left him in the same as a corpse, come back later the corpse is pregnant. You are better off attacking the new leadership without certain comparisons

  8. What saved Chiluba from going to jail was Mwanawasa’s death. We all know that the court granted Chiluba a very questionable acquittal during the Rupiah Banda administration. We also know that Chiluba was convicted by a London court and the Rupiah Banda regime refused to register that judgment in the Zambian courts and that stopped Chiluba from being sent to jail. If our Judiciary was truly independent these politicians would not be plundering the nation’s resources

  9. We must be such a moribund People. I mean we have gone through this same idiocy during Chiluba’s time and no sitting President there after has
    made an attempt to fix the loopholes of thieving and thuggery behaviour. Lungu was an Incompetent President to say the least.

    The simple equation is to reduce Presidential Powers and strengthen governance Institutions.

  10. This guy says he has stopped eating game meat and now he is vegetarian…really laughable…how was he eating game meat every week is he a poacher in Kafue National Park.

  11. We need to limit powers of the president and strengthen institutions. This will protect both the country and the presidency from abuse and state capture. Can you imagine if someone like the violent cadres that were made ministers in the PF government became President. It will be finito for Zambia

  12. @11 Noble-you are wrong. What led to FTJs acquittal was the incompetence of the prosecutors. It was Levy himself who fired the original chairman of the task force, Mark Chona not RB due to the mounting acquittals in related cases. Chona was replaced by Max Nkole. As RB put it, Levy use to complain about the incompetence of the task force and by 2008, it gobbled $20m and recovered only $1m properties.

  13. Lungu’s leadership failed because Lungu is not a leader, he doesn’t know how to communicate. In all those years in power, he NEVER held a press conference. Only press briefings, the difference being that you couldn’t ask him any questions. Plus he was and still is a very dishonest man. I truly hope that at some point in the not too distant future he will be brought to court.

  14. FTJ was actually convicted by a London court and only required for the judgement to be registered in zambia which RB refused.

  15. Unscholarly article. Indeed an article from the p.sychopath. You claim you are a scholar and yet your name could not populate in google scholar. utushimi ati am avid scholar!!

  16. Lungu’s presidential memoirs,when written, will be just like Donald Trump’s presidential library – full of MAGA rallies videos,Fox News live calls,golfing outings and 000’s of his senseless Twitter feeds. Both were wasteful corrupt presidencies.

  17. @Mzambia wa Zamani. Your ideologies are extreme left, Black Americans are extremely lazy. Always you shoot at Billionaire President Trump with empires. When you go missing in Manhattan, remember that Manhattan was built by the then younger DJ Trump. Why do poor people hate Billionaires who were born to billionaire families?? I guess you love Obama and Sleepy Joe who during their reign unleashed NATO on Africa, killed Gadhafi and destroyed Libya.

  18. @Abena Ng’umbo stereotyping 47m very disparate/dissimilar African Americans = hatred .Tis like saying all Bembas are thieves.

  19. @Mzambia wa Zamani. Show me the validation model. Go help the lazy brothers in the hoods of Chicago.

  20. The London court case against FTJ Chiluba and others was a CIVIL case. A civil case is easy to prosecute because one does not need to prove ‘BEYOND REASNABLE DOUBT.’ Furthermore, Chiluba did not take the stand to defend himself in that case. Chiluba was NEVER criminally convicted by any court of law. The registration of the London court judgement (passed by a judge who was later disgraced by the way), the registration in Zambia was meant to enable the Zambian government to seize Chiluba and others’ assets IN ZAMBIA. Some of the assets abroad were recovered. Chiluba may have been a thief but we do not have any court conviction to that end. So, he remains innocent and let us move on.

  21. silly article intended to arouse hate against ECL . as things stand now zambians are looking on HH to steer development not the foolish stories about former presdo
    kindly read the mood of zambians , we have had this root before where were directed to that drama of a crusade of corruption only ending up spending huge sums to recover nothing and eventually the life of a president was lost due heart brakes
    do not use your skills to champion stereotyping former heads of states as thieves,

  22. Lazy Lungu? Really? How many of us on this fora will ever occupy state house? How many will build so much infrastructure for this nation? Don’t run to borrowing. You who are not lazy, how much have you borrowed? Do you think HH is a saint? Sorry, he has feet of clay like all of us.

    Running a country is not like running a business. For example, check the debate on BOZ reserves; others equate them to company reserves which cannot be drawn. Clearly they have no idea what the functions of a reserve bank like BoZ are.

    Barry this, Barry that is simply hot air. What will you for your country, let alone for your family? That is what will make a difference at the end of the next 5 years.

  23. Yes Infrastructure is important and good but not at the cost it was done, it was unsustainable and a corruption conduit by your Lungu and his criminal Pf. One huge deduction or lesson from this election is that at the end of the day it is food and other basic needs that people yearn for, if it was your so called Infrastructure, he would have been in State House today. By the way no Government will ever beat U.N.I.P in terms of infrastructure development, don’t argue you were not there.

  24. Infrastructure built on debt is nothing to be proud of. These so called “infrastructure” projects are white elephants which will fall apart ( next 3 years) long before these Chinese solutions transplanted into sub Saharan reality actually provide a net return. The PF are thieving street thugs and failures. Zambia debt will not be paid off for decades. In short infrastructure does not mean automatic and magical development as PF ate the Chinese lies hook line and sinker.

  25. Iwe ka author, go screw your self. Leka ukubika ECL mufimalyashi fyabupuba (ifyabuloshi) we chinangwa we.
    Leave my president alone. He is the only president I’ve got.
    KK is gone. Michael is gone. I have only reconized 3 presidents. Ababambi nshibamona nakalya iyo. Ndekeleni president mwefipubamwe.


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