Zambia’s new president Edward Lungu settles scores Featured

Zambia’s new president Edward Lungu settles scores

A new broom – Newly elected head of state Edward Lungu is busily settling scores with his detractors. By Benedict Tembo, Lusako

FROM A DISTANCE, he strikes you as a somewhat reserved figure. But it does not take long to discover that President Edgar Chagwa Lungu is a sociable and likeable politician. They called him all sorts of names in the run-up to the 2015 presidential election but he defied the odds to become Zambia’s sixth head of state.

However, he presides over a minority government following his slender win over Hakainde Hichilema of the United Party for National Development (UPND) in the January poll. For now, Lungu is turning his attention to asserting his authority over a party, which was split by acrimonious infighting in the run-up to the election.

The poll was sparked by the death in office of Michael Sata in October and more than one person believed they should be presidential flagbearer on behalf of the ruling Patriotic Front. In naming his cabinet, Lungu has left out those he believes did not show sufficient loyalty towards him.

They include former vice-president Guy Scott, who served as acting head of state during the country’s 90-day transition. Scott, born in Zambia but of Scottish descent, has also been relieved of the vice-presidency. Other casualties are former ministers Wylbur Simuusa (formerly mines minister), who was among the contenders for the PF candidacy, Bob Sichinga, one-time commerce, trade and industry minister, and Emmanuel Chanda, who held the local government and housing portfolio.

At deputy minister level, Nicholas Chil­angwa, who was at home affairs, has been sidelined. Lungu has also dropped Michael Gondwe as Bank of Zambia governor and Cyprian Chitundu as chief executive officer of the state power utility company, Zesco.

But he has brought in former minister of gender affairs, Inonge Wina, to become Zambia’s vice-president. Former Barclays Bank managing director Margaret Mwana­katwe has been appointed minister of commerce, while Elizabeth Ngimbu has been appointed minister of lands.

Ireen Mambilima, chairperson of the Nc’wala ceremony of the Ngoni people in Chipata, has been appointed Chief Justice. Mambilima was deputy chief justice prior to being appointed to the commission in 2011.

In a surprise move, Lungu has also appointed two members of the opposition Movement for Multi-Party Democracy to the cabinet. They are Vincent Mwale (minister of youth and sport) and Michael Kaingu (minister of education).

At the party level, Lungu has made it clear that he wants to get rid of those people who campaigned against him during the elections.

He has expelled Sylvia Masebo, who was the party’s chairperson for elections, and wealthy politician Geoffrey Bwalya Mwamba who openly supported his rival, Hichilema, in the campaign.

Both Bwalya, who is former defence minister, and Masebo, a former tourism minister, have challenged their expulsions in courts.

Lungu has also dropped attorney-general Musa Mwenya Lungu, who is also defence minister, is expected to complete the set-up of his government soon with the appointment of permanent secretaries and district commissioners.

With Zambia’s image thought to have taken a knocking under the abrasive Sata, Lungu has been visiting neighbouring countries, and also attended an African Union Heads of State summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, two weeks after being sworn in.

Lungu has also been to Zimbabwe to see President Robert Mugabe, visited Angolan leader, Eduardo Dos Santos, and South African President Jacob Zuma. The Angolan trip saw Lungu witness the launch of the refurbished Benguela railway, connecting to Angola’s Atlantic port of Lobito.

The ceremony in Luau on February 14 officially marked the completion of a $1.9bn Chinese-backed project to rehabilitate the 1,344km railway between Lobito and the DR Congo border. 
The Benguela railway will be connected to Zambia’s North-Western Province, to help the country access the port of Lobito.

Currently, Zambia is over-dependent on Dar es Salaam port and also uses Durban in South Africa and the Namibian port of Walvis Bay. Meanwhile, President Jakaya Kikwete of Tanzania flew into Lusaka to hold talks with Lungu about plans to revamp Tazara and Tazama pipelines as well as the problems concerning the clearance of goods crossing between the Tunduma/Nakonde border.

Malawia’s President Peter Mutharika was also one of the guests during this year’s Nc’wala ceremony of the Ngoni people in Chipata, the provincial capital of Eastern Province.

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