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President Lungu: One year on after August 2016

LIFE: What a journey with CHARLES CHiSALA
IT IS now one year after the Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ) declared Edgar Chagwa Lungu President of Zambia following the August 11, 2016 presidential and general elections.

Today, ‘Life what a journey’ reflects on August 15, 2016, the day the lawyer-turned-politician was declared winner of the nail-biting contest.
I think no one brings that day back to life in pin-point context like Sweden-based veteran editor-turned-diplomat and documentarist Anthony Mukwita.
Instead of re-inventing the will I, with his permission, extracted something from his wide selling book ‘Against All Odds – Zambia’s President Edgar Chagwa Lungu’s Rough Journey to State House’, which I reproduce below with minimal editing:
“Presidential elections were held on 11th August, 2016 in Zambia for the second time in 20 months, and after the ensuing post-election drama, Edgar Lungu had emerged the winner declared so by the ECZ on 15th August, 2016 proving to the country and sub-region at large that he was not the political lightweight some might have thought him to be.
There were many who had attributed his triumph in (January) 2015 to a sympathy vote, having stood to replace the popular and charismatic Michael Sata who had died just three years into his first term in office after several attempts.
No such doubts about the 2016 victory. Edgar Lungu stood and won as his own man. His inauguration was attended by the good and the great of African politics.
Among them were Botswana’s General Ian Khama, Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe and Tanzania’s first female vice-president, Samia Suluhu Hassan, to represent His Excellency John Pombe Magufuli.
President Uhuru Kenyatta was represented by vice president William Ruto.
Shortly after his swearing in on 13th September, 2016 President Lungu got on with the arduous task of putting together his cabinet.
He began by shortlisting heads of some key ministries needed to hold the government together while he headed for the United Nations General Assembly in New York, United States.
With Vice President Inonge Wina to stand in as acting President, President Lungu had only to put in place a few more appointments to ensure the country remained governable in his absence.
His first batch of ministers came as a surprise to many. The influential Ministry of Finance position went to Felix Mutati, putative leader of Zambia’s third largest party, the MMD.
Further surprises were in the offing as he handed the Ministry of National Development Planning to Lucky Mulusa and the Ministry of Agriculture to Dora Siliya, both from the MM – the latter having served as a minister under former President Rupiah Banda.
With this surprise appointments, President Lungu had once again proved himself hard to anticipate. Both friends and foes were left wondering what game the President was playing.
No doubt these were competent appointees, but was there more to it? Was President Lungu trying to out-fox the opposition by bringing his friends close and his enemies even closer?
Further, was there a message being sent out other than the President having openly stated that new comers were welcome to the PF (Patriotic Front) as the party metamorphosed into a party for all Zambians.
What impact would his actions have on his rank and file in the PF (Patriotic Front)?
Quite a few of these faithful members would have believed themselves well-qualified and more deserving of the plum jobs being given to ‘outsiders’.
Would they desert the party on ground of having been slighted? Or would they retain the confidence in their general, trusting his judgement as to which soldier could best handle what weapon for the greater good of the nation?
President Lungu’s re-election in 2016 was achieved against a backdrop of economic challenges, including a global slump in commodity prices resulting in lower earnings for the country’s copper export-dependent economy, soaring national inflation as well as a declining GDP (gross domestic product).
To compound issues, the country had for the past three years been experiencing a climate change induced power deficit resulting in highly inconvenient rationing (load shedding), affecting both households and the wheels of the economy.
Clearly, the Edgar Lungu of 2016, with a full first five-year term ahead of him and not the transitional one year and eight months of his previous mandate would be an interesting man to watch.
The 2016 election was significant in the sense that President Lungu was able to finally put to rest the looming shadow of his predecessor and prove his own competence.
Meanwhile, the world was watching to see what sort of President the humble lawyer from Chimwemwe and Chawama would prove to be, to see what legacy he would carve for himself.
‘One Zambia One Nation!’ was the opening statement in his first address to the crowds that thronged State House to congratulate him immediately after he was declared winner.
It seems bringing unity to the nation was priority number one in President Lungu’s mind.
Needless to say that if anyone was in any doubt that he could take tough decisions even if they affected those in his inner circle, the so called untouchable, they were wrong.
He had once said, “I may speak with a soft voice but I carry a big stick.”
President Lungu proved his stick was huge indeed when, at a spur of a moment, he sacked Chishimba Kambwili, the gang ho minister of Information and chief government spokesman amidst accusations of graft.
A new Lungu was now in charge.
It was going to be a long and interesting five years of the Edgar Lungu Presidency.
According to the ECZ he won the election after bagging 1860,877 votes while (United Party for National Development president) Hakainde Hichilema trailed him with 1,760,347.
SOURCE: Page 149: Against all Odds-Zambia’s President Edgar Chagwa Lungu’s Rough Journey to State House by Anthony Mukwita.


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