By Elias Munshya, LLM, MBA, MDIV.
The Senate of the University of Zambia has, in its wisdom, or most appropriately, foolishness decided to confer upon President Edgar Lungu an honorary doctorate. Typically, universities around the world have a specific choice for an honorary degree. Universities usually grant the general “doctor of laws”. Surprisingly, even those without a faculty of law still confer “doctor of laws” as an honorary degree. An honorary Doctor of Laws is general, and you can fit into it whatever you want. Kenneth Kaunda has one from the University of Zambia and other universities around the world. An honorary Doctor of Laws can be conferred on people just for holding certain positions. It would, therefore, not be surprising for the University of Zambia to grant an honorary doctorate of laws to President Lungu, just on the basis that he is President of Zambia, or that he helped enact the 2016 constitution, which by the way, he is now working hard to mutilate.
What the Senate of the University of Zambia has done, however, is to depart from common sense and common practice, to award Mr. Lungu, not with a generally conferred honorary doctorate in laws, but has gone far to award him with a specific degree with a particular message: A doctor of philosophy in good governance. By conferring this doctorate in good governance, the Senate has made a political statement. The Senate has made a choice. The Senate has made a very controversial choice. We were going to perhaps excuse them had they chosen a “doctor of laws”. But now that they have gone for “good governance”, it is incumbent upon Zambians to call the Senate for what it is: this Senate is a political tool, and its choice of this doctorate is so irrational that it defies common sense. We cannot just figure out what the Senate is trying to do here. This honour is controversial and utterly unjustifiable.
The Senate is claiming that Mr Lungu deserves the honour in good governance because he has done good governance. Mr Lungu has not done any good governance in Zambia. Which good governance is the Senate referring to? Appointing a female vice-president is not a measure of good governance. How does it become good governance? Doing things that a constitution mandates you to do should be a measure of good governance. Good governance, in my opinion, has to do with the protection of the weak, and how a government deploys its power to protect the fundamental liberties of our people. Just this week, a battalion of government militants have occupied a house in Shiwang’andu believed to be owned by Socialist Party leader Fred M’membe. These people with guns entered the house and occupied it, just as the Socialist leader was addressing a rally in Kitwe. When police use weapons to intimidate citizens, it is not a sign of good governance. It is a sign of bad governance. Some reports are suggesting that it is a Mr Lewis Mosho, a liquidator of The Post Newspaper that commandeered those officers to occupy the house in Shiwang’andu. How does a private company have so much audacity as to commandeer armed police to occupy a home? Weren’t there civil means to enforce whatever order they obtained?
Good governance means that the Zambia police must not deny citizens the right to protest, or the right to express their grievances peacefully. Just this week alone, the yellow card campaign was stopped. Citizens Laura Miti, Pilato, and Michael Zulu informed the police of their plan to march peacefully and express their grievances – the police initially accepted to provide security. A day before the march was to take place, the police had a change of mind and banned the gathering. This is not good governance. It is a dictatorship. The actions of the police should be attributed to President Lungu, who has led very carelessly without regard for people’s constitutional liberties.
There are so many reasons why we must disagree with the UNZA Senate decision to award a doctorate degree in “good governance”. We will not have enough time and space to express them all. Suffice to say here that the UNZA senate should now be treated as a branch of the Patriotic Front. The Senate lacks even a measure of independence. It is a deeply compromised body, and those of its leaders who brought up this idea of honouring Mr Lungu with a good governance award should be ashamed of themselves for betraying the people of Zambia. UNZA is broke. President Lungu’s government has not been paying salaries to lecturers at this university. Government sponsored students must burn cars across the Great East Road before they are paid their loan allowances. The UNZA library has no books because President Lungu’s government has not given it enough grant money to purchase books to help educate Zambia’s future. And yet, this is precisely the UNZA Senate which in its wisdom, or foolishness decided to award a doctorate in “good governance” to President Lungu. What a senate of jokers!
Munshya, E. (2019). A Senate of Betrayal: Of Doctorates and Good Governance. Elias Munshya Blog (www.eliasmunshya.org). July 27, 2019.