Editor's Note

Will people rise up?

The main opposition UPND party has spent a lot of time this week appealing to the public to stand up for its rights, even suggesting that a hunger strike would be in place. The idea of an uprising is probably appealing to the UPND, as it is running out of legitimate options to overturn President Lungu’s re-election, but utter wishful thinking. Zambia is known for being one of the most peaceful countries in the region for some very good reasons. Zambians have such a gift for patience and forgiveness that the late President Chiluba accused everyone of being docile. Corruption and other criminal offences are continuously forgiven in Zambia in the fluid game of politicians coming and going. And the UPND is clearly forgetting that half of the population, in fact, voted for Edgar Lungu. That half is, therefore, ecstatic right now, while the other half will eventually shrug and move on, hoping for better luck in the next elections.

Camilla Hebo Buus, Editor Zambia Weekly
  • politics

Lungu sworn in for a second term

Re-elected President Edgar Lungu and Vice-President Inonge Wina were sworn in on 13 September in a grand ceremony at the READ MORE...
  • politics

Opposition leader arrested

Nevers Mumba, the anti-government president of the opposition MMD party, was arrested on 10 September for alleged criminal trespass at READ MORE...
  • politics

Lungu in New York

Hardly had he assumed office, before President Lungu jetted off to the United Nations’ General Assembly in New York, USA, READ MORE...
  • justice

UPND displaces families in Kafue?

Several families in Kafue have allegedly lost houses and property, after suspected cadres of the main opposition UPND party set READ MORE...
  • politics

UPND refuses to give up

The main opposition UPND party held a media briefing on 9 September, at which it reiterated its allegation that last READ MORE...
  • environment

Another view of Africa

The British Geological Survey has compiled an online atlas of groundwater in all countries in Africa, with the aim of READ MORE...

This Week’s Exchange

Nic Cheeseman, professor of democracy and international development, Birmingham University, UK, stated:

“Until now, Zambia’s progress under multi-party politics has been quietly impressive. Over the last year, though, things have changed. (…) According to the Conference of Catholic Bishops – one of the most influential bodies in the country – Zambia doesn’t deserve to be called a democracy (…) it has become a dictatorship – or getting there. Many Catholic leaders were seen to be sympathetic to the PF, when it won power under Michael Sata in 2011, so what has changed? This is not the first time that a Zambian president has sought to consolidate his authority by manipulating state institutions. Nor is it the first time that opposition leaders have been arrested, or civil society groups intimidated. In the recent past, these moments of high political tension have often been resolved peacefully, (…) but it’s unlikely that Lungu will cede his quest to remain in office. First, key civil society groups such as the trade unions have been weakened by privatisation, informalisation and unemployment. Second, the Constitutional Court, that’s responsible for interpreting the constitution, was handpicked by Lungu. Third, Lungu’s case is more complicated than Chiluba’s. In 2001, the second president had served two full terms in office and wanted one more. Today, Lungu is arguing that he should be allowed to have a third term because his first period in office did not count, as he was just serving out the final year of Sata’s term. All of this means that Lungu is likely to get his way. (…) Opposition protests are inevitable, as is some civil society criticism. If past form is anything to go by, Lungu’s government will respond with threats and intimidation.”

Ruling PF party deputy secretary general Mumbi Phiri reacted:

Cheeseman is nothing but an attention-seeking professor, who thinks he can lecture us about democracy. The people of Zambia spoke through the vote, and their wishes must be respected by all, including Cheeseman. Cheeseman creates the impression that there was a letter authored by all Catholic bishops, which labelled Zambia as a dictatorship. For the record, that was an opinion expressed by the archbishop. (…) It is irresponsible for Cheeseman to compare ours with late President Frederick Chiluba’s third-term bid. The view that the current constitution allows President Lungu to seek re-election (…) is before the courts of law. (…) the PF will respect the outcome of the court system. President Lungu’s good governance record remains solid. It was President Lungu’s administration that took the referendum on the proposed Bill of Rights to the people. (…) it was UPND leader Hakainde Hichilema who campaigned against it. It is President Lungu’s administration, which allowed for the 50%+1 clause in the constitution, the running mate clause, and reduction of presidential powers. President Lungu believes in an independent judiciary. (…) Today, Zambia has a Constitutional Court, something that was unheard of in the history of our nation. While the opposition petitioned the Constitutional Court, President Lungu remained calm until the matter expired. We wish to correct the view that human rights of politicians in trouble with the law are being violated. Citizens, who are also politicians, and on trial, have appeared in court within a week of being charged, and (…) for continued trial. The due process of the law is clearly being followed to the letter. Professor Cheeseman‘s daydream, that Zambia is falling from grace because of HH’s arrest, is a lie. Zambia remains a shining example of democracy not only on the African continent but world over.”