from ARNOLD MULENGA in Lusaka, Zambia
LUSAKA, (CAJ News) – THE withdrawal of state security from the residence of former president, Edgar Lungu, has Zambia on the edge of a precipice as the fallout between the ex-head of state and the new government escalates.
This latest twist in a series of upheaval has left the formerly stable Southern African country apprehensive.
A week after police besieged the Lusaka residence of the former leader, apparently to conduct a search after two women opened a case of theft against the former First Lady, Esther Nyawa Lungu, the property is again the epicentre.
The withdrawal of the police officers guarding the home of the Lungus, which is a perk he enjoys as former president, is viewed by critics and the main opposition as an expanding ploy to harass Lungu.
Thursday was another edgy day in the increasingly toxic Zambian political landscape when it emerged the officers guarding the Lungu home in the Ibex area had been removed from their posts the previous evening.
It led to speculation the former president had been stripped of this privilege.
This fed on the long running hearsay that the administration of President Haikande Hichilema is planning to strip Lungu of immunity from prosecution, which would pave the way for charges against corruption to be laid against him.
As was the case last week when supporters of the Patriotic Front (PF) thronged the Lungu home when it was reported police had besieged it, youths made a vigil outside, claiming they were there to offer security after the police guarding the home were “redeployed.”
“Our duty is very clear. We have a duty to safeguard our party and the Sixth Republican president,” a PF youth leader at the house said.
Danny Mwale, Deputy Police Public Relations Officer, said, “The officers appearing on the message circulating on social media platforms have been withdrawn and deployed to perform other duties elsewhere.”
It is alleged the seven officers are victimised for defying their fellow law enforcers during last week’s siege of the Lungu home. They reportedly denied entry to their colleagues but instead consulted with Lungu to allow them in.
“The redeployed officers are accused of having sided with Lungu,” said PF presidential aspirant, Emmanuel Mwamba.
He is one of the politicians that were in Lungu’s home early Thursday.
There was a dramatic turn of events later on the day when it emerged Lungu declined to accept a new team of officers that had been deployed at his house.
He was not consulted.
“The former president has found no genuine justification for the sudden change in security detail,” a PF official confided.
Mwamba described this as a coordinated harassment against the former president.
“I have seen the (PF) president and the former First Lady,” he assured party supporters.
“They are fine but of course apprehensive about these developments,” Mwamba added as he spoke outside the Lungu home.
Lungu is immune from prosecution under Constitution’s Article 98 and is entitled to perks and security under the Former Presidents Benefits Act (1993). This includes 24-hour security.
But some in government are advocating for these privileges to be stripped, claiming he is still active in politics.
“The entitlements to the (PF) president are constitutional. They (government) are not doing him a favour,” Mwamba insisted.
Prince Chanda, outspoken cadre of the PF, described the withdrawal of security staff from the ex-president’s office as “an act of recklessness.”
“President Hichilema is naked and extremely vulnerable in his office as president, going by the decisions his government is making,” Chanda charged.
Hichilema was in France at the time of the upheaval, having also attended the coronation of King Charles III of Zambia’s former colonizer, the United Kingdom.
His United Party for National Development (UPND) is accused of dictatorial tendencies since he came to power in 2021 after defeating Lungu.
Critics argue a campaign against corruption is a veiled clampdown on members of the former ruling party.
His wife is under investigation after complainants accused her of dispossessing them of three vehicles and a house.
Mrs Lungu’s version is that the complainants bought the assets from money they had illegitimately gotten from a family member she had entrusted with the funds.
Lungu led the minerals-rich country from 2015 until his electoral defeat by Hichilema, his longtime rival who spent four months in prison in 2017 for alleged treason after his motorcade allegedly refused to give way to the one transporting Lungu.
– CAJ News