It has been another day of shocking political incompetence in PF. We woke up to news that Nixon Chilangwa MP had naively taken on the most unwanted job in the country. He had accepted the job of PF Secretary General after Davies Mwila MP turned it down. Mwila's resignation brought much embarrassment to VP Guy Scott. As Chilangwa was accepting the appointment, riots from overnight were still continuing by students and PF cadres.
Edgar Lungu MP finally spoke through a lengthy statement. He refused to step down and accused Scott of acting treasonous: "I am aware that there is an attempt to usurp state and party powers to a group now commonly known as the ‘’cartel”. The action by Dr. Guy Scott to illegally assume the office of party president and to pretend to perform such functions therein in the absence of the harmonization of this constitutional conflict, is promoting disharmony".
Finance Minister Alexander Chikwanda MP quickly followed observing that the decision to remove Lungu "may cause a massive cultural shock among mourners countrywide, fracture the smooth preparations for burial and impair the image of the ruling PF Party". Speaking for the family, he suggested that Scott's action are compounding [the First Lady's] anguish and that of the children and the rest of the family".
Then what followed was a complete outpouring of anger and ridicule at Scott and his supporters. PF National Youth Chairman Chishimba Kambwili led the way saying he had warned Scott during a phone call in front of seven ministers at his house in "no uncertain terms" that his decision may send Zambia into flames. Even the traditional leaders joined in. Chief Madzimawe said Scott was behaving "unZambian and unAfrican because we don’t share property of the deceased when the body is still in the house".
Wave after wave of attacks followed against Scott. It did not take long before Scott was hunted at his farm and forced to reinstate Edgar Lungu. The VP appears to have miscalculated. It is obvious that he was trying to eliminate a key rival, but for what reason it is not clear. There are unverified reports that police even tried to arrest Edgar Lungu on unknown pretext.
Scott's actions have certainly left Lungu in a much stronger position than before. However, it's not obvious Lungu will necessary stand or even be able to win. There are still many contenders. Lungu is also not in the top physical shape. Most importantly if Lungu stands and loses the PF nomination he will no longer be the PF Secretary General. For the simple reason that the "agreed deal" requires a person to step down if they stand for PF presidency.
What makes it even more interesting is that in a normal general election, when the election period is announced, all ministers immediately step down. The only person usually left in charge of the country is the president and permanent secretaries. This usually means ministers hand back all their resources and vacate the houses. The situation during a presidential by-election is unclear since no one can dissolve the cabinet untila new president comes in. However, it is possible that Scott may still insist that ministers resign before the transition begins.
Where this puts PF's campaign for re-election is still not clear. If it is going to win it will not only need a popular candidate but also rely on the corrupt government machinery that usually flouts the electoral laws. There's certainly more drama to come. In the mean time there are pressing economic challenges facing Zambia. We shall speak to these in due course.
Economist | Researcher
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