So what does Edgar Lungu hope to achieve by his latest folly of declaring a state of emergency, if at all that is what he has declared? And yes, Lungu has left the country more confused and polarised after showing his sick and sickening face on TV. Lungu said he is invoking Article 31 of the constitution. But that he will ask parliament to approve it. This part of the constitution deals with emergence issues or situations.
‘Emergence situations’ is a broad term and includes natural as well as man made disasters. It states that: “(1) The President may at any time by the Proclamation published in the Gazette declare that a situation exists which, if it is allowed to continue may lead to a state of public emergency. (2) A declaration made under clause (1) of this Article shall cease to have effect on the expiration of a period of seven days commencing with the day on which the declaration is made unless, before the expiration of such period, it has been approved by a resolution of the National Assembly supported by a majority of all the members thereof not counting the Speaker.’
Common sense here suggests that when this article is invoked, it takes effect immediately. Parliamentary approval comes later but within seven days. When you look at the purpose of this article, you can actually see that it needs to take effect immediately because it is supposed to tackle an emergency. Imagine if the ‘emergency’ is an earthquake or military mutiny? Should that wait for parliamentary approval which might come after three days?
As things stand, despite what Lungu said, there is no state of emergency because he said he is waiting for MPs to rise to the occasion and approve the state of emergency. Perhaps this is proof that there is no emergence situation at hand but political machinations. But then we do understand. Lungu has no reputation of being very intelligent. Even simple things elude him. Remember his interpretation of the law relating to ministers after dissolution of parliament. And yes, the law says ‘ALL’ members of the National Assembly. But then, how Lungu declares a state is neither here nor there.
The question is what does he hope to achieve? By giving soldiers and police untrammelled power to do as they wish to citizens who do not agree with him is hardly an achievement. It is sadism. Lungu must be ashamed of himself that under his watch, the country has descended into anarchy. He can not pass the blame. Lungu is to blame for everything that is happening. Lungu rigged the 2016 elections and through his mistaken belief, he thought Zambians easily forget and will move on. He was wrong. This time its different.
The 2016 flawed elections will forever haunt Lungu. No matter how much one tries to pretend or look the other side, the genesis of what is happening in Zambia today is the rigged polls of 2016. Lungu might declare a state of emergence and lock up half the country, but as long as the issue of rigged elections remain unresolved, Zambia will never be the same.
Lungu arrested Hakainde Hichilema and up to now Hichilema is still in jail. What did Lungu achieve by that? Did that heal the tension in the country? Did Lungu win new followers by arresting HH? Did people who do not recognise Lungu as president recant and pledge allegiance to Lungu after HH was arrested? The answer to all these and similar questions is ‘no’. Instead, the situation has worsened. We are not aware of anyone from the opposition who started recognising Lungu after arresting HH.
Instead we are seeing markets burn. That is not to say HH’s supporters are the ones torching those markets. But since that is what Lungu and his supporters are saying, we can by that analogue, also say the burning of markets is linked to the political tension. A state of emergence will only hurt the already fragile economy. It will not persuade or force opposition supporters to fall in love with Lungu or to recognize him as president. It will just harden their resolve. That is what happens everywhere.
The state of emergence will just reinforce the already strong perception that Lungu is a dictator. Moreover, as some people have argued, the state of emergency will actually affect PF members. Members of the opposition have been living in a state of emergency since Lungu came on the political scene.