Here is Why I am Questioning President Lungu’s Motives for Declaring an Emergency in Zambia

  E. Munshya, LLB, LLM, MBA, M.DIV.

When a president declares a state of emergency, or as we are now calling it, a state of a situation which, if allowed to continue, “may lead to a state of emergency”, he needs not be second guessed. Our laws and our constitution empower the head of our republic, in good judgment, to assess the security of the republic and declare emergencies as appropriate. However, the recent declaration of the state of emergency (I’m going to use this term, instead of the long title) in Zambia is deeply troubling and concerning. President Lungu has reiterated that Zambians need not be afraid and should go on with their lives even in the presence of this emergency declaration. We doubt the motives behind President Lungu’s initiative and as a people, we are called upon, yet again to ask that this government avoid the excesses of power.

President Lungu’s emergency declaration is betrayed not by anything anyone else has done, but what he himself has done. From the behaviour of the police under his command, in the recent weeks and months, I am led to conclude that the declaration of the state of emergency has not been done in good faith, is not reasonable and could be abused by the police to achieve the ruling Patriotic Front party’s political objectives.

From the time that President Lungu won the August 2016 elections, we have noticed an unusual increase in politically motivated arrests in Zambia. Several opposition leaders have been charged with various crimes and for those that have reached courts of law, these opposition politicians have been acquitted, signalling that the charges are more politically motivated than criminal. If the police have abused their powers before the emergency, what makes President Lungu believe that they will not abuse their power during an emergency?


The arbitrary arrests of opposition leaders reached a climax with the detention of the United Party for National Development (UPND) party leader Hakainde Hichilema who has been charged with a non-bailable offence of treason. Mr. Hichilema’s treason charges arose from an incident in Mongu after a road dispute. The Zambian police do not seem to have any reasonable suspicion or any evidence to support treason charges against Mr. Hichilema. Mr. Hichilema is being held until the court hears his case, which can take months or even years. Holding an opposition leader in police custody on charges that cannot reasonably be supported is an act of profound brutality. If the Zambian police have abused their power by charging Mr. Hichilema for a crime unsupported by evidence, what makes President Lungu believe that the police will behave reasonably during the time of emergency?

The United Party for National Development (UPND) party cannot hold meetings and cannot mobilise politically due to the misunderstanding and misapplication of the Public Order Act by the Zambian police. Recently, the Zambian police banned the UPND from holding a meeting at their own party premises in Mongu. Five citizens were later arrested and charged with a crime of illegal assembly. Elsewhere in Zambia, the police deny the UPND from holding public meetings abusing the law and the constitution. If the Zambian police have continued to misunderstand and misapply the public order act, what assurances do we have that they will not misunderstand and misapply the emergency legislation President Lungu has promulgated? President Lungu’s declaration will not increase security in Zambia, it will only further erode the confidence that Zambians have in the police and other security wings.

President Lungu appears to be giving mixed signals about the security situation in Zambia. Just over two weeks ago, the Catholic Archbishop addressed the nation and encouraged the President to seek a solution to political crisis and tensions that were gripping the country. The President rebuffed the Catholic archbishop and declared quite shockingly that there was no tension in the country and it was all in the Bishop’s head. Unsurprisingly, President Lungu has come back, a few weeks later, to acknowledge that indeed Zambia does have political tension necessitating this emergency declaration. On July 6, 2017, however, Mr. Lungu insisted in another press conference that there was no political tension in the country except for “terrorism” which he hoped to take care of by declaring this “state of a situation that may lead to state of emergency”. He nevertheless tied this terrorism with politicians and political players who are, in his own words, “killing our people” in the Zambezi provinces. (I use the term Zambezi provinces for provinces touched by the Zambezi River where President Lungu is least popular).

The declaration of national emergency must be received with skepticism, not because we do not love peace, but because the price Mr. Lungu wants to pay for his version of peace in the short term, has the potential to defile the long-term peace prospects of a viable democratic state.

President Lungu should encourage peace in Zambia by releasing Mr. Hichilema, by opening talks with the opposition UPND, by firing the current police boss Kanganja, and by ensuring that the police exercise their power reasonably. President Lungu cannot solve political problems by relying on more guns and more bombs. We need him to step up and show that he can bring sides together. That is the role of the President.



  1. Three questions, Reverend:
    1-You have left out some very fundamental events that happened: Court in Kabwe burnt, DEBS offices in Kafue burnt, Luburma Market burnt, ZESCO pylon in Lusaka brought down, ZESCO installations in Ndola burnt, Lusaka City Market burnt and now Daily Nation petrol bombed…negligence or calamities????
    2-Opposition leaders in detention, what were they arrested for?? eg. Mwaliteta and his gang (UPND members) attacked ECZ officials, which law compels citizens to confront Electoral officials on with guns??
    3-Bishop Telesphore Mpundu gave a press conference declaring the nation a dictatorship. Three days later members of his council refuse to be associated with him as there was no board meeting to okay this press conference and labelled his press release his own opinion and not that of catholic bishops. Other church mother bodies have also distanced themselves…malicious personal opinion or the opinion of the “church” (remember, Zambia’s church going population is 75% protestant and 20% catholic…voice of the majority???)

  2. Good article sir. But on the release of HH, does the President have powers to release him?

  3. You’re so interesting! I do not suppose I have read through
    anything like this before. So good to discover someone with a few original thoughts on this subject.
    Seriously.. thank you for starting this up. This site is something that’s needed on the web, someone with a bit of originality!

  4. In his address the president mentioned a saying ” a stitch in time saves many” am hoping that he has now realized that when the Archbishop read out that letter, that is what he meant. He was actually advising the president to look at the issues of polarization in order to avoid these same issues which may or may not be true in the absence of investigations. But what did the bishop get, insults from hired guns who did not even understand what the bishop was saying. T!his is our country now under PF.

    I totally agree that the current police force cannot handle these excessive powers given to them in a prudent manner when they failed to handle the public order act with the powers that they had. I also have doubts on our parliamentarians to do the right thing for two reasons: 1. I listened to one parliamentarian who talked about the Vepee keeping quiet when the country was undergoing such brutal burning of markets 2. The current sitting speaker’ s comments when she responded saying that is being looked into and that the country was going to be advised accordingly.

    listening to these two , clearly gave me an indication that they were already aware of what the outcome would be from the president even before his national address.

    We also had an article from Zambian accurates that warned about one minister ordering his cadres to burn the market. This happened in less than 24 hrs and the market was gutted. What is the explanation of this? Why didn’t the police take heed and put measures to ensure nothing of this sort happened. Why did the fire start immediately after the police opened the gates and left? What about the information from the PF youth leader who indicated that he was around when the fire started , why was this person not used to gather information to ascertain what really happened? Is it because he refuted the allegations of UPND being involved?

  5. The president should emancipate Mr HH for the sake of peace in the nation I know is a listening president but his advisers are full of hate and self .One Zambia one nation one nation one United peace and love .

  6. I totally agree with you sir, while I’m not encouraging what Mr HH did on that road of which it was wrong and not necessary, I strongly believe that the continued detention of HH for a treason charge that’s arguably not there has led to today’s state of affairs in our country. if the president took enough time to listen to the calls of reconciliation by all well meaning Zambian we wouldn’t have been in this mess. Yesterday’s press briefing gave us a glimpse of what the president is thinking, and it is unfortunate to note that the president is under the impression that instead of sitting down with the opposition to address political violence and other issues for the betterment of this beautiful nation, the president has assumed that the opposition will/want to discuss a power sharing deal,which I’m tempted to believe is not the case. Having said all that I think the damaging of public property and gutting of markets is extremely irresponsible and irrelevant, above all such acts should be condemned in its strongest terms because the pattern of events is clearly there to see. But what we should ask ourselves is, “how did we get to this stage,” and “what could we have done to avoid reaching this far.” and what role could the government have played and play to get us on the track? Sometimes in life sitting down with your enemy to discuss amicable progress is not a sign of weakness but an intelligent move that can save you a lot of energy.

    1. I equally agree with Mr Munsha 100%. In a normal functioning and morally upright leadership, the police IG should have been fired for his ineptitude immediately after that mongu-limulunga fiasco. But how can he be fired especially now that the real motive has been achieved? why should ordinary and of course nonpartisan citizens be worried when practically and technically this state of emergency is strictly designed to punish and silence upnd political activists who are pushing for the release of their unlawfully incarcerated leader. Who in his right and sound frame of mind would be so naive to believe that the decision the pf president took is home tailored and only meant to protect public/private property and not to cover up his wicked mission to finish off his political rival once and for all? when did we start hearing about these treason charges against the upnd leader? We heard this from Frank Bwalya, Mumbi phiri and even from Amos Chanda himself way before president HH was brutally arrested. For how long have we been listening to this chorus of a state of emergency from Amos Chanda and his boss? Way back even before the gutting of these public institutions. This can only mean one thing, the pf knows what they are doing and they do not care for what is wrong or right anymore, they will use every means possible and will stop at absolutely nothing to get what they want,in this case, to get HH either out of the game or out of their sight. It is definitely not in the interest of public peace but in his own interest of advancing his Autocratic agenda. If the police have been providing public security all these past 53 years without a state of emergency and Zambia have successfully gone through nine{,1963,1991,1996,2001,2006,2008,2011,2015 and 2016} major democratic elections and peacefully managing two govt transitions,unip handed over power to the mmd and mmd to the pf and we have never in the history of this country had political tension, divisions,ethnicism and political hatred like we are experiencing under this man,never!. What has gone wrong all of a sudden? This country is highly polarized and in its current status,the one zambia one nation motto is but just an empty slogan. You cannot command peace by buying more guns and surpressing the rights of your own people,but you can negotiate peace, you cannot build your reputation by destroying the path of others because sometimes the trap that you lay for others may ensnare you and lead you to your own destruction. real peace will not be achieved by guns and brutality, but by collectively upholding the democratic principles and values which our fore fathers stood for. please sit down together, dialogue and amicably resolve these differences without sacrificing the rights of others for your own selfish interests. Zambia is bigger than lungu or HH.

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