FLASHBACK: Against all Odds, Zambia’s President Edgar Lungu’s Rough Journey to State House
EXCEPT Chapter: Lungu’s old aunt harassed
LUNGU’S OLD AUNT HARASSED
Leadership in Africa often come at a cost. Sometimes, the cost is life – a jail sentence if you are lucky. Take Nelson Mandela, for instance. He spent twenty-seven years-nearly a third of his life- in prison before emerging to become South Africa’s first black president after the end of apartheid. The are often few, or no boundaries at all, that desperate adversaries are prepared to respect in their quest to get what they want or to stop rivals from enjoying their democratic rights and freedoms.
For all his troubles in helping to free Zambia of colonial rule in 1964, Kenneth Kaunda found himself down a dead end street when his bete noire, Frederick Chiluba, altered the constitution in order to stop him from recontesting the presidency in 1996. Why, when K.K. wouldn’t go away, Chiluba simply has him locked up for a while on some convenient charges, giving the old man enough time to transmogrify into some sort of guru, complete with a long, white beard when he finally stepped out his cell.
It may be that Chiluba was only cashing in some long outstanding IOUs, given the treatment h had often suffered at the hands of K.K. in the days when he was a feisty, pesky trade unionist consistently getting under Kaunda’s skin.
Mwanawasa suffered much verbal abuse from his knockers, of whom Michael Sata was chief, but it was water off a duck’s back or ‘cabbage’, and he did go on to make a very decent president-the best of the lot by many Zambians’reckoning.
Sata, no shrinking violet, was gassed on more than a couple of occasions (not a good thing even for a chain smocker), roughed up from radio stations as he gave live interviews, and even served his own stint in goal- courtesy of Mwanawasa-before achieving his own presidential ambitions in 2011.
Lungu has been running his own gaunder of a highly critical media that has called him all sorts of names, and an equally mean conglomeration of political rivals. Accusations bordering on his personal character and integrity have been particularly hard to stomach for Lungu.
“What have I done to these friends of yours (private media masthead)? Why do they insult me like this? I am a husband, I am father, I have grown-up children. They read these hurtful insults of me every day. What do these people want from me? Lungu is reported to have agonized before some of his inner circle as the internal jousting kicked off for the nomination to decide a PF candidate to the contest the 2015 elections.
As painful as these insults are, Lungu has experienced worse- worse than going to prison. He woke up one Sunday on November 2014 to news that an old aunt of his had been picked up by state operatives in Eastern Province for interrogation.
Milia[Mainess] Lungu, in her early nineties and barely able to walk on her two’s was picked up on 7 November 2014 by immigration officials in Nyamphande area of his village, Petauke. Confirmed media reports said that Milia was picked up by a horde of officers, as though she were some dangerous criminal. The old woman, scared out of her geriatric bones, was questioned for several hours after being detained by officers that had taken sudden interest in knowing whether she hailed from neighbouring Mozambique or Malawi, which both border Eastern Province of Zambia.
Any other day, this could have been ignored as an isolated incident, but it just so happened that on this particular Sunday, the old woman happened to be the oldest surviving relative of Edgar Chagwa Lungu, the Minister of Defence, Minister of Justice, and Secretary General of the ruling PF. The front runner in a high-stakes political game.
‘I am very surprised at this totally unnecessary and unacceptable action that has gravely traumatized my aunt,’ a devastated Lungu told the media later that day. ‘In Zambian or African tradition, that old woman is really my mother, and I care for her dearly.’ But quickly, he pulled himself together and dared his adversaries saying, ‘If you want to fight me, focus on me and not on an old, innocent woman who does knows nothing about the naked political ambitions some people harbor.’
Lungu named no names, but it was clear to many that if state agents had been sent to harass an old woman who happened to be relation of his, there could be no prizes for guessing who might have nodded them in that direction. The die was cast. ‘I have said before, and I am saying now that I do not want to disrespect President Sata by engaging in divisive politics before we can even lay our beloved leader to rest. This is un-African,’ Lungu told the press.
It appeared the idea behind old Milia’s detention was to try to find some grounds for disqualifying Lungu from contesting the presidential race. Under the parental clause of the Zambian constitution, persons whose parents were born outside Zambia cannot contest the presidency.
*Against all odds by Anthony Mukwita* mhsrip.