Today, I wish to write about tribal appointments of senior government officials by President Edgar Lungu.
Many patriotic and progressive Zambians have complained over the tribal manner the Patriotic Front (PF) government and President Lungu are appointing senior civil servants. The appointments are being done in a partisan and tribal manner. It is common to hear President Lungu’s appointees either being his tribesmen or his tribal cousins (us the Bemba speaking people). I am extremely worried that this practice is gaining momentum as the country draws near to the 2021 tripartite elections. President Lungu has accelerated the appointment of his tribesmen and tribal cousins to senior government positions much to the exclusion of other tribes.
Our founding fathers, Dr Kenneth Kaunda and his contemporaries fought hard to suppress tribalism in government, and KK’s appointments to senior government positions largely reflected the motto of One Zambia, One Nation. It is however disappointing that the PF government, led by His Excellency President Edgar Chagwa Lungu, the humble President, has yielded to tribal appointments at the exclusion of many other Zambians who are well qualified to serve this nation.
Under the humble President, appointments lack national character; they depict regionalism and tribalism which are at variance with national values and the Constitution. As Dr Guy Scott observed on page 250 of his book (Adventures in Zambian Politics: A Story in Black and White), there are systems at play, behind the throne, some of which have endured since KK’s days. There are family systems, tribal systems, systems of obligation and of government and, of course, vested interest. President Lungu’s government has succumbed to these retrogressive systems and a tribal system has taken a stronghold on his government.
Many appointments at permanent secretary (PS) level are given to President Lungu’s tribesmen and his tribal cousins; only a handful of permanent secretaries are from other tribal groupings which include madam Kakulubelwa Mulalelo (PS, Ministry of Health in charge of administration) and Mr Amos Malupenga (PS Ministry of Information and Broadcasting Services). Even when Dr Chileshe Mulenga (PS, Ministry of Home Affairs) died, instead of beginning to balance appointments at that level, President Lungu rushed to replace the late with his tribesman, a Mr Masiye Banda.
Further, almost all senior positions in our security wings (Zambia Army, Zambia Air Force, Zambia National Services, State Intelligence Services, Zambia Police Service, and the Zambia Correctional Services are held by President Lungu’s tribesmen and tribal cousins. This is also the situation with the Anti-Corruption Commission and Drug Enforcement Commission. In these security wings, there has been a purge of senior officers from other regions on the pretext that they support the United Party for National Development (UPND), an opposition party. A case in point is the recent firing of Zambia National Service (ZNS) deputy commandant, Major General Alick Kamiji and replaced with President Lungu’s tribesman, Brigadier General Benson Miti. Does it mean that only officers from Bembaland and their tribal cousins qualify to lead ZNS?
Even the appointments of district commissioners (DCs) are being done on tribal lines across the country. I am surprised to see Easterners and their Bemba cousins being appointed to head districts in other regions such as Mpongwe and Masaiti. The natives of these areas are being displaced and when they complain, President Lungu and his government pay a blind eye to that.
I am perplexed also to observe that some Zambians from the Eastern and Northern provinces of Zambia seem to support President Lungu’s tribal appointments. They claim that it was their time to enjoy because when someone from other regions becomes a President of Zambia, they will begin favouring their own tribesmen. This is shameful and unacceptable; it is unprecedented in the history of this country.
I have been wondering why President Lungu’s appointments do not reflect all regions. My guess, which is probably your guess, is that the PF and President Lungu think that putting their own people in strategic government departments will help them tighten grip on power. There is strong belief that Mr Lungu’s tribesmen and tribal cousins will support him even when he loses the 2021 poll; his appointees will help him to fight against the people of Zambia’s wish to change government. If this is the motivation, President Lungu and his PF will be surprised. They may face what former Malawian president Professor Peter Mutharika experienced; his tribesmen in the Army refused to carry out his unlawful orders to help him stay in power after losing the poll.
The consequences of President Lungu appointing people to senior government positions from only two regions are many. The first thing is that his appointments alienate other tribes; these tribes will begin thinking that they are not part of Zambia. This could be a serious recipe for civil strife.
Further, President Lungu’s appointments deny Zambia a chance to benefit from the intellectual endowments from other groupings in the country. As a result, we see some ill-qualified Lungu’s tribesmen and tribal cousins appointed to senior government positions. This results in inefficiency and poor service delivery in government departments.
As I conclude, I wish to remind President Lungu that he is not a President for his tribesmen and his tribal cousins only. He is a Republican President; therefore, his appointments should reflect all regions. It is wrong for him to continue sideling other tribes in his appointments. His tribal appointments are not helping uniting this country but further tearing the bridges of One Zambia, One Nation built by our forefathers.
The author is a lecturer at the University of Zambia, department of Library and Information Science. Send comment to: [email protected]