POSITIVE VIBRATIONS NO 157: A general commentary on the Presidency

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THE Presidency is the pinnacle, or power centre; Apex/Summit of our Republican decision-making process. I am here referring to the Presidency and not necessarily the President, who directs and manages the entire Presidency.

If Zambia was a “military operation,” State House, or Plot No1, to the chagrin of “haters,” would be the command centre. It is from State House that Presidents Dr. Kaunda, Dr Chiluba, Dr. Mwanawasa, RB, MC Sata and now HE Edgar Lungu, command and govern from. In their day to day work, they were/are assisted by a cadre of professional staff at different levels.

For avoidance of doubt, the President is the Chief Executive Officer of Zambia and delegates to his Staff, Cabinet Ministers, Secretary to the Cabinet, all Permanent Secretaries and generally, all members of the Executive branch of government. He is the Head of State, making him the supreme authority of all government wings.

I can tell you that the President caries a “big stick” and disparaging his authority, is dangerous, illegitimate and neither advisable nor encouraged. As I have said before, there is a difference between the person of HE Edgar Chagwa Lungu and his representation of Zambia, as President and Head of State.

For this reason and probably many others, I will not agree with anyone, (but willing to debate) who attributes our collective shortcomings as Zambians, on the core Presidency. For instance, policy crafting and implementation is passed on to technocrats, who have a duty to provide policy makers, with credible and good information.

How do we then turn around and accuse the Presidency for poor formulation of policies supervised by technocrats? The immediate supervisor of Directors, are Permanent Secretaries, who are delegates of the President!

I agree, official trappings, are attractive! But we need to get to a point where looking at such trappings of enjoyment and profit are secondary from accepting imperatives of process and delivery accountability; wrapped in merit.

We cannot collectively remain responsible while blaming the Presidency on a remote but important undertaking. We can also talk about the rule of law:  The four corners of the Law.

With Order 53 or Judicial review in place, we are really being so unfair by acting in a way suggesting that wrong with the Presidency. With our menu, I would understand the throw; to embody the political wilderness of propaganda. When logic, is at play though, propaganda, falls off.

Making a conclusion or decision based on rumour, conjecture and prejudice or even strong opinions, is very unhelpful. Equally, usurping the powers of the Head of State is a treasonable and a serious offence, sanctioned by law.

Since Government, just like business, operates on the principles of trust and need to know, issues of integrity, truthfulness and dedication to duty, are imperative.

Last week, I discussed the issue of patriotism, unity and peace among others. There have been several reactions, mostly opinions, which I respect.  I really respect informed and legitimate opinions that respect the law as it is.

The President, who is at the top of the Presidency, is a President for ALL, whether short, tall, fat, thin and irrespective of colour, creed or origin. Government is for all citizens without exception. It is our power and national pride. Our duty is to build and support the Presidency, as an institution.

When I talked about the importance of patriotism and touched on unity and peace; aspects of perceived discrimination, have been raised. I will not respond to the specific comments expressing opinions. My view is that all Zambians have a duty to participate in national affairs of the country, without fear or favour. Our guiding campus is neither what I think nor what you think, but the law as it is.

I do not agree, but respect the school of thought that advances participation using negative invectives. I prefer and recommend constructive engagement over any other method, such as withdrawal or boycotts.

Why? Constructive engagement is as objective as you make your case. It provides the public an opportunity to make a judgment on issues, brought to the fore.

Subjective methods of slander are problematic

Subjective methods of slander are problematic, just like it is extremely difficult, if not impossible to make a useful judgment on concealed issues/concerns.

Zambia has had six Presidents. Twice, Governments have changed. The first change of 1991 was quite traumatic. It was a real shift that affected economic fundamentals, and my view is that we did not consolidate the gains of 1991, to cement benefits for all.

Zambia had another change of government in 2011.  Comparatively the transition was much smoother and had a human face. The work that President Banda begun of fully rehabilitating Dr. Kaunda’s harangued stature as Zambia’s founding President, gained momentum and firmed.

President Banda never lost his clout, although grave efforts were made to dent his image by some irresponsible citizens.

That is a bygone and I can only hope and pray that President Banda has forgiven his persecutors. The Holy Bible says, “Forget the former” – meaning the past is gone and indeed, gone. The focus is and should be on what is good for Zambia and not other petty schemes of meaningless consequence.

Zambians harassed President Kaunda

Zambians harassed President Kaunda. The same vicious venom was unleashed on President Chiluba. It eventually sent him to his early grave and I do not know how those who had a hand in his “death” feel.

President Mwanawasa, who was so unpopular in some circles and betrayed in death was served by the fact of demise. His tormentors had no opportunity of getting back at him. What remained was between Dr Mwanawasa and his God – our God.

The same fate visited President MC Sata.  “King Cobra” (as he was fondly known), only escaped “stone throwing” because of the cold hand of death.

Enter President Lungu, who is current. All that is bad, all the negatives, hate, anger and innuendos; have been heaped on his doorsteps.

Zambian Presidents have been ridiculed

My point and issue is not so much that Presidents are beyond criticism. Not at all! It is about the fact that Zambian Presidents have been ridiculed, harassed and humiliated, establishing a worrisome trend/pattern. As far as the trend goes, it represents a national disaster fertile for ridicule, by foreigners/others.

Let’s go to basics. If a child/person, who may be in his or her 50s or more, does not respect his or her parents, how can other children/people be “persuaded” to respect such parents?

In my view, given the dynamics in Zambia, this is a central and relevant example.  There could be many and probably better examples!

Political party leaders, particularly those in opposition have tended to behave as though they are not Zambians. Their opposition and choice of words to certain policy measures and national decisions is extremely disturbing.  Look at the raging debates on Taxation and others?

As I said last time, I am not an Economist but a seasoned political analyst/observer with a credible Legal and development backgrounds/mind.

The issue around Tax and Taxation re Value Added Tax (VAT) has never been that VAT is bad and must be replaced. In my view, the issue has been that; in its current form and operation, it is “creating havoc” to the Treasury, and cannot serve Zambia (given the several challenges it presents).

One of the challenges revolves around truthfulness and compromising the Treasury because of inherent gaps in the system.

Precedents exist as part of the operation of the common law system

If you find the VAT example inappropriate, then I invite you to look at the legal machinery, in the context of lacunas. Again it is never the intention of the Judiciary to replace Parliament and make laws. Precedents exist as part of the operation of the common law system. Second, Laws do not all the time address all possible challenges. A Judge may through legal and legitimate interpretation(s) fill a lacuna. In doing so, no Judge is expected to be reckless and entertain chaos.

How do this relate to the Presidency? Plain! The buck stops with the Presidency. The Presidency, (Politicians – The President and his Ministers, including Civil Servants performing political functions) are the ones who explain policies to the public.

We appear to have developed a “Zambian social science” or propensity to look at some officials in the broader Presidency as unproductive, yet reality has to do with the efficacy of supporting technocrats, who are expected to think outside the box.

For purposes of clarity, the entire Executive from general workers up to Secretary to the Cabinet could qualify as forming the expanded Presidency, beyond State House and Cabinet Office.

Like it or not the Civil Service can either make or break the Presidency/country. Take the directive of giving out 20 percent of all contract jobs in the construction sector to Zambians. What has been the problem with implementation?

Various ministries have Monitoring & Evaluation experts. If I may ask, what are these experts and departments doing? Have they abdicated their constitutional responsibility by taking unnecessary considerations into account?

The other, which is about to be implemented through a Statutory Instrument, is about reserving certain businesses for Zambians. Should it take the core Presidency to ensure that such is the case?

That may be “the only way out” to secure process and delivery accountability, for Zambia.

See You next week.

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