Partson Phiri Special Correspondent
THE life of Edgar Chagwa Lungu has had many ups and downs, but perhaps the time for his rise to the peak is right here. A few days ago, he was inaugurated as the sixth republican president of Zambia after winning elections that were occasioned by the death of Michael Sata late last year.
Edgar has acted several times before in that position and made landmark decisions such as releasing the draft Constitution to the National Assembly.
But his beginnings are very humble for a man who now leads the copper-rich Southern African nation.
Born on November 11, 1956 at Ndola Hospital, on the Copperbelt Province in the North of the Copper-rich southern African country, Lungu presents a unique figure defined by a mix of lack and personal determination.
He went to three primary schools on the Copperbelt province for very laughable reasons — he was being beaten by street boys on either his way to school or on his way back.
Within a period of four years, he went to Mutende, Chimwemwe ‘A,’ Ishuko and back to Mutende primary schools in Kwacha Township.
The beatings, he said, were not enough to stop him from going to school even though he occasionally entertained the idea of stepping aside for his safety.
Lungu’s parents hailed from Mukwama Village in chief Kalindawalo in Petauke in the Eastern Province.
Two things make up Lungu: hard work and humility to both the citizens and people in authority.
“These are the things which have made me to be what I am today,” he said. Having completed his primary education, Edgar enrolled at Mukuba Secondary School where he did his Grade 12. He then proceeded to Kasama for a stint at Zambia National Service.
In 1977, he went to the University of Zambia to pursue his Bachelor’s Degree in Law.
Lungu was in the same class with his predecessor Winter Kabimba and High Court Judge Mr Justice Katenekwa, among others. He was admitted to the bar at the then Law Practice Institute (LPI) before he joined the Ministry of Justice as Legal Aid Counsel. At that time, Chief Justice Ireen Mambilima was the Director of Legal Aid.
In the year 1983, Lungu was seconded to the Zambia Army Legal Department but another opportunity arose.
He was asked to train as an Officer Cadet which he gradually accepted.
He trained alongside Zambia’s Ambassador to China Joe Chilaizya and the late Post Newspaper News Editor, Goodson Machona.
Lungu also holds a rich history of working for the corporate world. When he left the Ministry of Legal Affairs, he joined the Zambia State Insurance Corporation (ZSIC) but in 1988, he left again to join Barclays Bank.
After that, he worked for Mulungushi Investments Holdings, a subsidiary of the Zambia Consolidated Copper Mines where information emerged in the 1990s that the outfit would undergo restructuring. He left in fear of losing his job to join Andrea Masiye, a Lusaka-based legal firm where he eventually became a partner.
Mr Lungu left the corporate world in 1996 to join politics by challenging late republican vice president General Christon Tembo in Chawama constituency as an independent candidate.
Soon after, he joined the United Party for National Development (UPND) after he was invited by his friend and colleague, Lusaka lawyer Sakwiba Sikota, who at the time was UPND vice president.
He left UPND to join the Patriotic Front just when it was formed 2001.
“There are speculations that I joined the party late but that is not true. I was among the first few people who were invited by President Sata when he formed PF in 2001,” Edgar narrates.
Trust would grow between the two men.
“The President had too much confidence in me. I saw this coming because one day I was in the Democratic Republic of Congo with former Minister of Defence, Geoffrey Bwalya Mwamba.
“Just as we checked into the hotel, I received word that the President wanted me back to Zambia. When I arrived he handed over the instruments of power to me,” Lungu said.
The nation may also wish to know that when the President planned to travel to London, where he died, Lungu was in Angola with Minister of Foreign Affairs Harry Kalaba. “As soon as the plane touched down the Ambassador informed me that I was required back home immediately.
“Fortunately, we were using a Zambia Air Force (ZAF) plane. I just greeted the people and came back with the same plane. The late President, despite the presence of several cabinet ministers in Lusaka, he waited until I came back.
“When I arrived, I was told the President said I must be found wherever I was. As soon as I reached State House, the President handed over instruments of power to me and then left the country,” Lungu said.
“Leadership comes from God. I am not excited about it because this is a service to the people I love so much,” said Edgar in an interview at his residence.
When President Sata arrived in London, Lungu called him to report on a number of things but the President refused to pay attention to his details.
“He called me your excellency. He said to me that Your Excellency just work I know things are going on well with you. You do not need to report to me every time. I trust you,” says Lungu.
His vision will revolve around President Sata’s work of culture, vision and leadership style.
Governance will be anchored on the fight against corruption while delivering a strong ground for social-economic development. He has also set eyes on finalising the constitution-making process and leading a government tolerant to divergent views while consulting stakeholders without prejudice.
Lungu has a strong background in working with the media, having represented the Post Newspapers when they were sued by President Michael Sata when he was in the opposition.
“The Post lost the case. They were supposed to pay a lot of money but because of my bargaining skills they only paid about K8 million, at that time.
“So I have reached where I am because of being humble and having good leadership skills,” Edgar explains.
Before his election he pledged: “I will be focused. Zambia is bigger than all of us but it is for all of us,” said Edgar when asked how he will deal with people who were attacking his credentials ahead of the adoption.
Edgar Lungu’s critics allege that he drinks his beer slightly above his capacity, which he dismisses as malicious.
“I drink but that does not affect my performance. I work very hard and I have never suffered disciplinary processes as a result of beer. People making such allegations have more weaknesses than me. But I will not respond because that is not my style of doing things,” he said.
- The writer is a Zambian journalist.