By Michael Chishala
Did you know that former President Edgar Chagwa Lungu is not in active politics? I know it sounds totally ridiculous and silly, but it is true. Sort of, provided that he actually truthfully resigned as PF President in August 2021.
Most Zambians seem to be unclear on what being in “active politics” means. The Benefits of Former Presidents Act (BOFPA) is very clear and unequivocal that holding office (or the express intention to do so) in a political party is what constitutes being in “active politics”. So let us ask this question:
Is Mr Lungu right now holding any position or office in PF that we are publicly aware of?
The answer is no. As things stand, he officially resigned in writing as PF president in 2021 and that is how he got his benefits. There is no way Cabinet Office would have given him his benefits if he was still the PF President according to the BOFPA. Why is all this important? Well, since Mr Lungu is not holding any position in PF as far as we know, nor has he stated an intention to contest for the PF Presidency, then he is NOT in active politics! That is what the BOFPA says in black and white. This of course raises some very interesting consequences.
Mr Lungu right now can write to Cabinet Office demanding for a restoration of his benefits as per BOFPA. Cabinet Office will have their hands tied because if they refuse, he can simply state the obvious; that he resigned as PF president in 2021 and the status quo remains. If they say “But you announced that you are in active politics”, he will simply refer them to the definition of “active politics” in the BOFPA.
Now, suppose Mr Lungu is adopted as PF candidate for 2026 while retaining the existing leadership structure in PF? He gets to do a “double tobela” by continuing to get his benefits whilst holding no position in PF and thus being able to run as Republican President at taxpayer expense. This was the “Bwezani Formula” established in 2015 by late president Rupiah Bwezani Banda. It may possibly require an amendment to the PF consitution, depending on what it says about who can be candidate for Republican president.
Every time he goes out to campaign, ECL can be getting 80% of what the current president gets paid every month, free fuel, workers, a nice fat rented house and other benefits while he is biting the hand that feeds him. He may possibly become president again to finish off his promise to arrest certain individuals and throw the keys away.
However, there is a chink in the armour of Mr Lungu. Did he actually really resign in 2021? This is where the waters get murky. The official records say so, but his public statements are facing the opposite direction. He recently boasted at a graveyard somewhere in Lusaka that “alebwelelapo” pali PF Presidency. He said it amidst loud cheers that he shall “continue” as PF president because his “mandate” runs until 2026.
There is debate in the public domain to suggest he made party appointments like party SG and Vice-President after he supposedly resigned as PF President in 2021. But wait a minute! How could he be making appointments if he resigned as PF President? How could he be getting a nice fat monthly pay and get a nice fat house built for him if he is still the Puppet Master in PF? Therein lies the rub.
Team Red seem not to realise that Mr Lungu still has aces up his sleeves. If he wants to get very antagonistic and spiteful, he can demand for his benefits and laugh in their faces whilst campaigning to remove them from power. If they try to squeeze him using the law on something, anything, they will play right into his hands as he will be made a martyr, increasing in popularity every day. Just ask Donald Trump. Never under-estimate the power of playing the victim.
As respected lawyer John Sangwa already noted, it is too late to go after Mr Lungu for any alleged crimes he did as president. That ship has sailed because of people sleeping at the wheel and playing with kid gloves by giving blanket immunity and publicly announcing that they have no intention of lifting his immunity. Well, let us see just how much Mr Kasaka ka Ndalama pokes the giant in the eye.
Michael Chishala is a Zambian analyst, blogger, and ICT Specialist. He has interests in Philosophy, Economics, Politics and Art. Email: michael [at] zambia [dot] co [dot] zm.