By Anonymous Doctoral Candidate
“Reports that say that something hasn’t happened are always interesting to me, because as we know, there are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns – the ones we don’t know we don’t know”—Donald Rumsfeld.
That quote from George W Bush’s era Secretary of Defence was on the, then, unfolding sorry state of affairs in Saddam’s Iraq following America’s equally failed odyssey at establishing tank democracy in Iraq. Who ever knew that Donald Rumsfeld’s apt quote would find empirical application in Edgar Lungu’s failed experiment at the Zambian presidency and democracy?
For Edgar Lungu not unlike Saddam Hussein, the known knowns are equally easy to identify. They are troubling, doubling and dabbling as befits the head of the unpatriotic front party.
Take, for example, Edgar Lungu’s increasing baffling, outrageous, unfathomable and sometimes plain bizarre conduct at the presidency. It strengthens many Zambians’ opinions and suspicions that his time at law school, and confirms his short-lived attempt at practising law as a gargantuan waste of time and resources. Acuity, reflexivity, razor sharp logic, fidelity to justice—the traits that make one envious of lawyers are missing in one former “lawyer”. That Edgar Lungu is a heedless lawyer, is revealed by a glimpse of his misinterpretation of the constitution regarding the constitutionality of his ministers remaining in office during the parliamentary and presidential campaigns. Once in Kasama, he declared that “under the new Constitution, when it comes I shall sign it with eyes closed because that is what Zambians wanted” (ZNBC News, Dec 15, 2015). Which sorry clone of a lawyer ever signs a document without reading it, except of course Edgar Lungu as self-confessed in Kasama?
The episodes of Edgar Lungu’s cluelessness are now openly public and every occasion he discusses the opposition he displays horrifying meanness unexpected of a stateman. Edgar Lungu, once suspended by the Law Association of Zambia (LAZ, 2010) for professional misconduct involving a client (cause no. 2010/CRMP/688) is a president who advertises, by his own statements, legal deficiency. Which sober lawyer would get into an on-going judicial issue by saying “Those asking me to intervene in a case of police apprehending one lawbreaker are wasting time and please leave alone” (Muzabwera grounds in Mpulungu, Apr 16, 2017)? In the eyes of any judicial system, a suspect (including HH) is not a lawbreaker, is presumed innocent until proven guilty or has pled guilty, and the principle of sub judice is that a legal matter before a judge prohibits public discussion including reckless pronouncements from someone who may be president or masquerading as a “learned friend”.
It is now open to many Zambians that Edgar Lungu is allergic to admitting a mistake let alone diagnosing one even as he manufactures non-existent legal infractions against political opponents. The known known is also that he fails to acknowledge and notice that, as a president, he is a failure. Only a dwindling legion of PF cadres continue to pretend that Edgar Lungu can contextualize issues, is selfless, even as an increasing disenchanted among these PF cadres see that what they followed and bellowed for in support of Edgar Lungu’s presidential campaigns is fake hope and dashed expectations.
Edgar Lungu incites his unteachable and ill-informed cadres http://bit.ly/2bcLShp as seen in Kapiri Mposhi (Jan, 2015), the likes of the Chanda, Chongo, Bwalya, and Phiri sculpt with scripts of political violence that only his mentors Mugabe and Museveni would approve. Many now see a coterie of misinformed cadres and opportunistic shadowy entrepreneurs around the presidency. These tenebrous characters have little democratic investment in the future of Zambia and are thus occupied with directing and empowering Edgar Lungu’s misgovernance compass. These sycophants calculate that their economic profits arise and rise only from fuelling and aiding the missteps of a PF leader ignorant of his governance ignorance.
In Kabwe, during the acrimonious PF convention that saw Edgar Lungu seize the PF “leadership”, Edgar Lungu built his entire reputation on continuing Michael Sata’s vision and as a champion of the ordinary street man and “the people from compounds” because as Lungu self-confessed, he has “no vision of his own’. How then and why did Zambians entrust the presidency to somebody openly lacking in a governance vision—an important trait in these trying social and economic times? Anecdotal evidence now shows that Edgar Lungu’s PF cadres have been economically hurt the most because of absence of ‘a governance vision” in the ruling party.
Another known known is that the future looks ominous for Edgar Lungu, because internationally, his legitimacy is trending to the sewers. Citing various domestic and international accords for which Zambia is party, has ratified or is a signatory and necessary to “ guarantee fundamental rights and the rule of law, including access to justice and the right to a fair trial”, [the European Union] “ instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council, the Commission, the Commission Vice-President / EU High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, the Co‑Presidents of the ACP-EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly, the African Union Commission and the Pan-African Parliament, the Zambian Government and the Secretary-General of the United Nations” (European Parliament, #2017/2681(RSP)) . Some argue that the latest EU position on Zambia is hypocritical because EU Elections Observer teams should have called the August 2016 elections an open political robbery in the first place. A strong decisive EU post elections assessment, would have cut or eliminated the higher “PF thuggery” premiums that Zambians are now paying because of Edgar Lungu’s shameless unstatesman-like conduct.
Against this background of known knowns, Edgar Lungu is continuously building a mountain of legal jeopardy for which he could suffer profound consequences not unlike those of his predecessor FTJ Chiluba, but with Edgar Lungu’s potential justice template, arguably, worse. Though he is constantly destroying himself and ruining the presidency, no one—sadly including the Zambian parliament—seems able to bring him to accountability because of presidential immunity clause—a clause Zambians and many Africans must change if their countries are to progress anywhere. In other words, even the corrective and deterrent levers of the penal code cannot touch, tame, or tamper Edgar Lungu’s chosen path to peril in the interest of Zambia’s posterity and democracy. Perhaps the contemplated, on-going and past trials of errant leaders worldwide may yet give him pause, even as the door seems to be closing on that front, and increasingly on other African strongmen (“weakmen”) of his mold. In short, Edgar Lungu—a dilapidated lawyer through and through—refuses to heed the wisdom of a scriptural admonition that “teachers will be judged more strictly” (James 3:1).
Underneath his supposedly diffident exterior is an allure for petty vindictiveness. He is paranoid and frangible, oscillating between egomania and narcissism. He is as intoxicated with his favourite pastime hobby as he is with the shimmering evanescent bubble of the presidency, both inviting misuse and abuse.
Zambia and the man pretending to lead it are now in sorry states: One, a clueless, desperate and dangerous political animal; the other, a hopeless and futureless country until Edgar Lungu exits or more accurately, until Zambians quickly wake up from slumber to save Edgar Lungu from Edgar Lungu—a once unknown quantity now full of known unknowns.
The known unknowns
With Edgar Lungu, there are things Zambians know they do not know—the known unknowns: such as what next, he will do to damage the country. It now transpires that Edgar Lungu the once unknown unknown was a serious lapse in the democratic and voting judgement of Zambians. Now, Zambians are (temporarily) hostage to Edgar Lungu’s antics. The known unknows is the extent of the pile of wreckage as the country unravels. The known unknown is how much the shadowy characters turbo-charging Edgar Lungu’s troubling imitation of a presidency have plundered, and are yet to plunder. We do not know by how much they have become richer even as most Zambians struggle to quantify how much they have become paupers. Zambians will not know by how much the fiscal deficit will rise to the sky, the depth to which foreign-exchange reserves will fall and how fast, and how far the current economic growth rates will tumble past the sorry growth rates the late 90s (Zambia’s Ministry of Finance, Apr 2017), sentiments suggested by the country’s finance minister, Felix Mutati, in his recent public appearances.
The debt mountain is particularly worrying, at an elevated $6.9 billion (excluding $2.7 billion of domestic debt). Just five years ago (2012), this debt stood at roughly $3b, according to the 2015 report of the African Network on Debt and Development (AFRODAD). In other words, from the independent analysis of Bank of Zambia’s 2016 figures, the years from 2011 to 2016 represent a movement from 1.97 billion dollars to 6.7 billion dollars—an astonishing 240% increase in external debt, with roughly 75% of that debt accounting for the $ 3 billion Eurobonds borrowed under repayment terms and conditions that will burden the shoulders of our children and grandchildren.
As a matter of fact, current and former expert economists knowledgeable about Zambia’s economy after decades of experience are deeply worried about Zambia’s debt sustainability. They pray privately that Zambians remove the PF government even today, because particularly under Edgar Lungu, the external debt is piling up, ostensibly to fund infrastructure development, and fiscal deficit. The finance ministry, for its share of problems, is bowing and genuflecting before the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for yet more debt. Pardon my Africanese, but this is piling more turd upon more unstainable turd. Imagine, just imagine, under Highly Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) initiative and the Multilateral Debt Relief Initiative (MDRI) that the World Bank and the IMF launched in 1996 , Zambia was forgiven most of its foreign debt to the tune of circa $ 4 billion (IMF, 2005), leaving an account balance that would have been well shepherded under a responsible governance regime . Clearly, then, the cure is not more debt. The better cure beyond and aside from IMF is having an alternative fresh and sober leadership with a vision of what a serious presidency entails for a sustainable economic recovery. The leadership that respects the rule of law, constructive criticism, and thirsts for serious business-like governance. Self-confessed visionless governments should have no place in Africa.
The known unknown is how much of this debt mountain the PF has carved and curved into their pockets and those of their accomplices. The audio recording—that surfaced around election time—between former Finance Minister Alexander Chikwanda and PF Secretary General Davies Chama on releasing taxpayers’ money for the PF operations does not augur well for those seeking accountability (Openzambia, July 31, 2016). Moreover, most Zambians—shockingly—have not demanded an independent analysis and accountability, for example, of road infrastructure spending per kilometre, and comparative figures according to international best practise.
Many ordinary Zambians—drained and depressed by Edgar Lungu’s unabated absurdities, perversion of reality and assaults on democratic norms and disregard for constitutionalism—increasingly see an abnormal country lacking civility. Edgar Lungu now carries the dishonour of having drowned the country with adulterated seeds of cluelessness, pettiness, vengeance and reckless egomania. Zambians see that the country of the Eagle that the founding father KK hatched, the unionist FTJ half-nurtured, and sober-minded Mwanawasa democratically strengthened has, under the incompetent Edgar Lungu, lost the democratic pristineness her neighbours once envied, imagined and dreamt of. Ordinary Zambians for years committed to a government under the rule of law, now accept that the damage to Zambia’s democratic system that Edgar Lungu has wrought delegitimizes the country’s hitherto known label as an island of peace in the neighbourhood of chaos and civil strife. Patriotic Zambians already mourn about the pre-Sata-Lungu Zambia. Left unchecked, Edgar Lungu’s antics will lead to (what other observers already believe are) destabilizing multiplier threats to Zambia’s long-term social and political cohesion, arguably, even economic viability once encapsulated with KK’s “One Nation One Zambia” slogan.
Some glimmer of the past and flickers of hope, however, abound and beckon. Edgar Lungu’s debacle on handling UPND/HH has crystallized sentiment about his incompetence and the severity of Edgar Lungu’s governance abnormality. It calls for an urgent need for Zambia to mobilize peacefully before the country enters a no-return zone. Pronouncements from traditional chiefs, faith-based and religious organizations, and other opposition parties are welcome reminders that patriotic Zambians still abound. Perhaps more patriotism resides in Zambian Catholic Bishops, to save Zambia from the pungent ill-effects of the August 11, 2016 polls. They could well borrow and heed the acts of their counterparts, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, who setting off a peaceful People Power Revolution in 1986, put it this way:
“If a government does not of itself freely correct the evil it has inflicted on the people, then it is our serious moral obligation as a people to make it do so. We ask every loyal member of the Church, every community of the faithful, to form their judgment about the February 7 polls. Now is the time to speak up. Now is the time to repair the wrong. The wrong was systematically organised. So must its correction be. But as in the election itself, that depends fully on the people, on what they are willing and ready to do.” (CARDINAL VIDAL, Archbishop of Cebu, February 13, 1986).
The Unknown Unknowns
Zambia is already worse off because of Edgar Lungu’s chance presidency. He rigged himself into the presidency because—the avenue to dispel that assertion—the constitutional court has never pronounced itself on the presidential petition for the rest of us to dispel that assertion. Zambia is now Zimbabwe but with a younger dictator. Zambia is now Uganda but with fewer years of Museveni-type thuggery. Zambia is now Somalia but with one aggressive political warlord. In Zimbabwe, Uganda and Somalia no one knowns what the future under the current presidency will be like, much like it is now in this country of the Eagle. The PF—arguably, one of Africa’s most visionless party—has been openly complicit in permitting a 60-year-old 6-year old kid to run Zambia aground. It shows how PF’s shallow politicians have little moral investment in a Zambian democracy that Levy Mwanawasa once stocked with honesty and dignity.
The sure unknown unknown that most Zambians are living with is the nature of a serious accounting that is in store for PF leadership and their enablers who have worked devotedly to destroy this country. When that most sure political, legal and penal accounting arrives, the future historians of this era will say that the ruinous and outsized appetite for unchecked and reckless power mongering and abuse that marked Edgar Lungu’s PF era at least led to the cleansing of the most sordid sewage of Zambian politics. That ultimately, the people’s aspirations for a just, peaceful and prosperous democratic society crystallized into an independent, competent and a fair judicial system ; which repaired the morally reprehensible known knowns, known unknowns and the potential unknown unknowns that had become personified in Edgar Lungu, and his Unpatriotic Front party.