Lungu’s two weeks and beyond

By Munshya Wa Munshya

PRESIDENT Lungu’s ascension to power comes at a very difficult time in the history of our country.

It comes after the death of President Michael Sata, the second leader to die in office. It also comes after protracted infighting within the Patriotic Front ruling party. As if that was not enough, the election itself did seem to be quite contentious enough, almost dividing the country between east and west. Now that the election is over and the dust seems to have settled there are several areas the new President might need to work on as he endeavours to restore the country to what it ought to be.

President Lungu should work on the country’s unity. As stated by VJ Mwaanga, all elections have the potential to breed divisions and misunderstandings. However, after they are over, the country needs to come together as one and heal all those divisions. President Lungu has been elected as President, as such, he owes a duty to each and every citizen of our country to bring healing where there was pain. It is in the interest of unity that Lungu should now be more tolerant and more forgiving towards all those that might have mistreated him in the past. Leadership is not an opportunity for revenge, but rather, it is the time for grace and healing. We all get the point: Lungu is president. He must now stop showing off and get to the real business of love for all and forgiveness for the least deserving.

President Lungu should quickly work on appointing a full Cabinet soon. There are many reasons why the President might find it more convenient to wait until everything is in place before he appoints a Cabinet. However, the business of Government must continue. That being the case, it is in the best interest of our republic that he completes the process of appointing a Cabinet. As at Thursday, we had about seven Cabinet members. This is unacceptable. It has been close to two weeks now ever since Lungu was elected. He must quickly act to have a functioning cabinet in place. Having a full cabinet in place sooner rather than later is important for several reasons. First, President Lungu does not have the luxury of time. He needs to hit the ground running as quickly as possible. The more he delays in finalizing a cabinet the more difficult it will be for him to begin implementing his development agenda. Second, appointing a Cabinet sooner rather than later, helps to bring finality and closure for those that he will eventually fire. The more time he takes to put cabinet in place, the more instability it breeds within the ranks of an already fractured Patriotic Front.

The PF has suffered enough instability; it is not in its best interest for its senior leaders to continue second-guessing themselves over a matter as mundane as Cabinet. If President Lungu doesn’t want to retain some PF stalwarts, he had better say it quickly so that people can move on with their lives. For his part, Fackson Shamenda says he has already gone back to growing tomatoes and cabbages. It is surprising how these cabbages could get so much attention in so little time. Chishimba Kambwili has been spending a lot of time in his constituency visiting the constituents and helping out in any way he can. I believe several other former ministers are trying to make sense of this suspense. It is only President Lungu who can bring closure to this issue, and I advise him to settle this matter quickly. I think all former ministers clearly understand that President Lungu is the boss. This boss however, should garner enough courage to appoint and disappoint some of them.

If nothing drastic is done to this economy we are likely to regress on the progress we have made so far as a country. It is good that Mr Lungu has appointed Margaret Mwanakatwe as Minister of Commerce. But that is not enough by itself. Ms. Mwanakatwe should now prioritize attraction of foreign direct investment. She should also work on encouraging the emergence of local entrepreneurship. It is clear that her experience has been in banking. I wonder though the relevance of banking experience to entrepreneurship considering that the Zambian banks have been a huge hindrance to the growth of local industries due to their prohibitive lending practices. Ms. Mwanakatwe should be made to realise that she is in that position not as an extension of banking profiteering, but rather as a service to the entrepreneurial spirit of the Zambian people. What Zambia needs are common sense solutions to the development of local industries. I just hope that this is what Ms. Mwanakatwe brings.

Zambia has never lacked brainy people. The greatest crisis, the worst brain drain in Zambia, happens to intelligent and smart people after they acquire political power. People with the education and the experience as Ms. Mwanakatwe should not let politics change them, but rather they should change the politics and bring real change to the way we do business in Zambia. I wish her very well in her new role.

President Lungu should also pay attention to those trappings of office that lead to nepotism and irrational patronage. He, himself, has now got the responsibility to try and undo the nepotism damage caused by the late Sata and the former first lady. Almost all of the diplomatic positions went to relatives of either. That ought not to be continued in the new Government. President Lungu should endeavor to appoint diplomats on some kind of merit and not just on familial merit.

We Zambians do not like nepotism and tribalism. If President Lungu continues number five’s legacy of nepotism, he will find himself abandoned by the Zambian people in preference for number seven in 2016. President Lungu has a great chance to lead our nation during this time. But he has to pay attention and not be overtaken by the trappings and temptations of power. There isn’t too much time left between now and the next elections, and this imposes a huge burden on President  Lungu to do the right thing and lead our country in the most equitable fashion. I believe that as President, he probably has many great people advising him. I just hope that the little I have written here will add to that conversation.

Ultimately though, Lungu does have the prerogative to rule in any way he wants. However, we shall be there to provide the checks and balances and provide the critique needed for national development. Obviously, we all want him to succeed and to this end, we offer our prayers and our best wishes.

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