01:46 am
26 May 2017

Is Zambia’s new President Edgar Lungu a drunkard?

Having had two sick presidents die in office within a space of eight years, Zambians pay special attention to Lungu’s health. During the campaigns there were loud calls for medical examinations for all candidates. This is to stem the high public costs for presidential health care and resultant state funerals.

In 2012, Lungu collapsed at State House during a swearing in ceremony. Speculation has remained since that he is diabetic and has kidney problems. He has publicly denied this.

What he has failed to ‘kill’ are suggestions that he may have a drinking problem. Photographs have been published on the internet showing him in stupor or various states of inebriation. In a published secret recording of Sata’s uncle Finance Minister Alexander Chikwanda, the minister is heard complaining that Lungu “made decisions when drunk.”

A Zambian journalist rejoined: “I hope we have not put a Boris Yeltsin into State House.” This was in reference to the Russian leader who was at the helm of the superpower from 1991 and 1999. Yeltsin was known to have a drinking problem.

Lungu does not have any conceivable oratory or people skills. He is accused of having no vision of his own for Zambia. These accusations were compounded when Lungu boycotted two consecutive television presidential candidates’ debates. His handlers claimed he was “too busy campaigning” on both occasions. Critics argue that that he cannot articulate issues unaided.

However at his inauguration, Lungu promised to improve his engagement with the public. As president, he would be the “man of the people’’, regularly holding “ Katwambas,” or weekly meetings, with the media  and government officials.

The media in particular are quite expectant of these regular meetings as Sata never held any press conference or meeting in three years, up to his death.

Feminist and political activist Sara Longwe doubts whether Lungu could minimally deliver on his promises. She says however, that he would be forgiven somewhat  if he can deliver on just the  constitution.