It would appear, however, that they will not be laughing anymore because the government they cheered on to dictatorship is now stepping up to entrench a rule by emergency decree, with the possible suspension of all citizens’ human rights under a yet to be declared state of emergency.
This was after the Zambian President, Edgar Lungu, publicly told Zambians to ‘bear with him if he now became a dictator’ so that he could stop what he termed as acts of ‘hooliganism’ allegedly being perpetrated by those opposed to his rule.
“If I become a dictator for once, you will bear with me,” President Edgar Lungu declared yesterday on his return from Ethiopia.
Mr. Lungu was reacting to an earlier event in the day which saw goods worth millions of kwacha burnt in an inferno at Zambia’s largest open market in the heart of the capital, which the President and his party stalwarts were quick to declare as an act of sabotage by the leading opposition political party.
Hakainde Hichilema, the leader of the opposition United Party for National Development, UPND, is currently detained over some trumped up treason charge, whose maximum penalty is death under Zambia’s draconian laws, after their respective motorcades clashed in royal Limulunga when the two were guests of the King of Barotseland at the 8th April 2017 Ku-Omboka national pageantry.
While the police have stated that the cause of the fire was yet to be established and that investigations were underway, President Lungu, on his return from the African Union Heads of State summit immediately described the Lusaka fire incident as an act of sabotage which calls for his government’s unprecedented response.
“I do not want to pre-empt the measures we have put in place to up the game and we have done that. But I will wait to be briefed,” President Lungu said.
“If it means taking measures which are unprecedented, we will do just that; some people will have to lose their human rights…in fact forget about human rights, people who have lost their property have lost their livelihoods. So if I become a dictator for once bear with me.”
He then visited City Market to see the extent of damage amidst heavy security, and in the company of his Minister of Home Affairs Stephen Kampyongo, his presidential aides Amos Chanda, and Kaizer Zulu.
The head of state was greeted by hundreds of traders who cried out to him to bring the ‘perpetrators’ to book.
Since the raid of opposition leader Hakainde Hichilema’s residence and his arrest and incarceration three months ago, spates of fires on public buildings such as courts, markets, power installations and schools have been experienced with finger pointing from both the ruling and opposition party supporters as to who is responsible for fires.
While the ruling party has accused the opposition to be responsible for the fires to make the nation ungovernable, the opposition has accused the ruling party to be behind the fires in order to make case for a state of emergency and thereby perpetuate the suspension of citizens’ human rights.
The police are yet to make arrest for this and all other cases of fires in the recent past, but now the president has given the clearest hint that a State of Emergency looms in Zambia.