ANTHONY MUKWITA, Stockholm
ONE year down the line, it seems like a whirlwind the events that catapulted politician Edgar Lungu into the Office of the President of Africa’s second largest copper producer Zambia.
Eye-witness accounts abound and remain mixed but the popular notion is that the election was neither a soccer season nor a walk through the park—2016 was hard won by the astute lawyer who had to emphatically seal the deal and prove to all his worthiness as a no nonsense political adversary against all odds.
It was an election Lungu needed to show local and international political pundits that they had a made a huge mistake treating him like a political tyro in 2015.
I tap on my tablet key-board a year later as a writer privileged to have taken an interest in professionally documenting the rise and rise of President Edgar Lungu, in a bid to narrow the dearth of written history in Zambia.
A document aimed killing toxic rumours that so often masquerade as truth in our good country’s political discourse.
I saw how shortly after his ‘transitional’ close win in 2015 (807,925 votes against UPND rival Hakainde Hichilema’s780, 168 votes), Edgar Lungu immediately hit the hustings country-wide, touching every neck of the wood like a man on fire to ensure that as many new and old voters knew him as possible.
It was history in motion for some of us with a writing urge; adrenaline was rising.
President Lungu was compelling to watch and study as he ably established himself as the ‘new own man’ in town and regionally ahead of the crucial 2016 polls that would make or break him.
The man Lungu was facing in this battle of hearts and souls (Hichilema) was no push-over having cut his teeth as a seasoned opposition leader over a ten year period. It was going to be a long hot Zambian summer.
By then I had completed the first draft of my book Against all Odds-Zambia’s President Edgar Chagwa Lungu’s Rough Journey to State House but kept it on ice to see how 2016 polls punned out.
On 15th August the influential Electoral Commission of Zambia declared Mr Lungu the duly elected President of Zambia but the opposition disputed the results despite an overwhelming endorsement from the good and great of Africa and beyond.
Nevertheless the wise men and women in robes and wigs returned with a verdict after a two week stand-off, Lungu known for never falling sick at sea was sworn in as sixth President on 13th September 2016.
A new era had begun whose backdrop up to now provides loads of political discussion. President Lungu showed he was as tough as nails.
Challenges in 2016 polls
Page 150 of Against all Odds, Zambia’s President Edgar Chagwa Lungu’s Rough Journey to State House, and a section reads: “Lungu’s re-election in 2016 was achieved against backdrop of economic challenges.”
The challenges in the way of the Lungu presidency according to Against all Odds included, “global slump in commodity prices, resulting in lower earnings for a country’s’ copper dependent economy, soaring inflation as well as declining GDP.”
That is in the past, however, because Edgar Lungu with a first full five year term now has new challenges of putting his own foot print on the Zambian political playground.
Analysts say as he commemorates the first one year in office, President Lungu has ‘equalled himself to the task’ and is chatting an optimistic way forward in most crucial areas.
Analysts point at figures such as inflation which when Lungu assumed office was double digit at about 24 percent but is now single digit and dipping further while GDP growth is expected to continue rising to beyond 5 percent according to the Central bank along with statutory reserve ratios and other economic indicators.
The above in the first one year for an economy that was nothing but bearish at the start of the term in September a year ago provides room for optimism, especially for documentarist like myself looking forward to further volumes of literature that may interrogate Lungu’s reign over Zambia years from here.
Of special note thus far is the fact that President Lungu has shown that he can take decisions that do not make him popular such as:
Removal of subsidies on electricity.
Removal of subsidies on fuel.
Constitutional amendments that did not favour him such as 50 percent plus one.
Including an open and willingness to dialogue with the opposition in order to foster peace through the engagement of international figures such as UN envoy Ibrahim Gambari, Patricia Scotland QC and statesman Olusegun Obasanjo.
It may be too early to judge what President Lungu has achieved in a year but to borrow from my book again on page 151 from a man who says, “I may speak with a soft voice but I carry a Big Stick..:
“It is going to be a long and interesting five years of the Edgar Lungu Presidency.”
Roan member of Parliament Chishimba Kambwili can attest to this according to a section in the book.
This analysis was authored by Anthony Mukwita, a senior Zambian diplomat and author of the top selling political thriller Against all Odds, Zambia’s President Edgar Chagwa Lungu’s Rough Journey to State House. Mukwita penned this article in commemoration of the first year of President Edgar Lungu falling toady.