By Kasuba Mulenga
A stint as a trained military officer at what was then called Miltez in Kabwe has conceivably further molded his unpretentiousness up to the time of entering the political arena.
And it is possibly the rare mix of law and military discipline that nippily set the man in Edgar Chagwa Lungu on a political path that has now seen him elected Zambia’s sixth President in a poll contested by 10 other politicians.
According to ‘Meet Edgar C. Lungu’, a publication by Inzy Media, those who knew him in his university days as a tall easy going bloke say he was always out for action and innovation, including thinking outside the box.
This probably explains why the lawyer in Mr Lungu, while at Miltez, underwent grueling physical and mental training with such personalities as Zambia’s Deputy Ambassador to the United States Joe Chilaizya and other distinguished military officers who are now generals in the Zambia Army.
WHO IS EDGAR CHAGWA LUNGU?
An officer, lawyer, gentleman and politician who was born on November 11, 1956 at Ndola Central Hospital on the Copperbelt, he is married to Esther with whom he has six children.
Mr Lungu did his high school at Mukuba Secondary School before enrolling at the University of Zambia where he studied law and graduated as one of the best law students on October 17, 1981.
He went to the Zambia Institute of Advanced Legal Education (ZIALE) and in 1983 bagged his legal practicing certificate at the first crack.
It is worthwhile to state that Mr Lungu only completed his ZIALE course in 1983 because he had some work stints as a lawyer at the Ministry of Justice, Zambia Consolidated Copper Mines (ZCCM) and Barclays Bank Zambia Limited, among others, before he eventually obtained a law practicing certificate.
Many lawyers have to sit for a law practice certificate examination a dozen times before they get the certificate because it is not a walk-over assessment.
Mr Lungu is an accomplished lawyer who worked for Andre Masiye and Company in Lusaka before he felt that the court room was not big enough to change people’s lives.
He briefly joined the United Party for National Development and later bid farewell and went to the then little known PF. In 2001, he stood as Chawama member of Parliament but lost. He remained in the PF Central Committee and in 2011, contested the Chawama seat and won, this time around.
It is Mr Lungu whom late President Michael Sata in some recorded ‘Let the People Talk’ dialogues on Radio Phoenix was often quoted as saying, “thank you to one of my lawyers, Edgar Lungu, and all well-wishers…”
And maybe there is a natural dynamic that often links lawyers to politics that gelled Mr Lungu to the current career path just as studies in other parts of the world show regarding the relationship between lawyers and politicians.
Studies show that in many democracies like Zambia, it is often lawyers who inundate the political platform. This is largely due to the fact that the law deals with the same sort of interrogations and predicaments as politics constantly does.
Lawyers like Mr Lungu often have to deal with what makes a ‘just society’; the balance between liberty and security.
Another study linking lawyers like President Lungu to power says legal practitioners make natural leaders because of their “obsession process and a tendency to see things hugely in none partisan terms- ‘us or them’ and ‘guilty or not guilty’- but nonetheless always in the spirit of loyalty to a cause that is rare in other professions.
It is perhaps the lawyer in Mr Lungu that saw him stop a sizzling soccer political ordeal when the Football Association of Zambia chided the TP Mazembe trio of Rainford Kalaba, Nathan Sinkala and Stopila Sunzu last year an immigration row that seemingly went out of hand.
The players’ passports had apparently been withheld by the Immigration Department because they had left the country without immigration clearance.
But as Minister of Home Affairs, Mr Lungu ordered the release of the players’ travel documents.
“Just a couple of months ago, these boys united the country and put Zambia on the world map as a great footballing nation. Yet today, someone wants to treat them like criminals…I don’t think it’s right. Give them back their passports, these boys are heroes,” Mr Lungu directed.
As a man with a heart for the helpless, Mr Lungu assisted 30 families of the April 1993 Gabon air disaster victims to recover K16 million (then K16 billion) as compensation from government for the loss of their loved ones.
The case dragged in court for about 11 years until Mr Lungu and fellow lawyer Sakwiba Sikota used their own resources to represent the bereaved families so that they could be compensated.
One-time profiler of President Lungu, Mr Anthony Mukwita, the former Zambia Daily Mail managing director, described the Head of State as “a man of deep rooted intellect, justice and above all sense of loyalty to friends and family.”
He said Zambians backed the right candidate in the January 20 presidential election.
THE RISE OF MR LUNGU
It is common knowledge that Mr Lungu started off at the back of the line in September 2011 after President Sata made history by unseating a serving government.
Within a year under what some analysts have called the fastest rise in office, Mr Sata appointed Mr Lungu as minister of Home Affairs, at a seemingly crucial time when the PF was experiencing intra-party spats.
In less than a year, President Sata again made Mr Lungu minister of Defence, in charge of the armed forces, protecting the territorial sovereignty of the country.
Despite these tasks, Mr Lungu continued his daily routine of going home from the office and later retreating to his constituency, Chawama, where he did everything ranging from settling marital disputes to personal differences among constituents when he was not spearheading construction of road projects, health posts or police post.
One day, a few days before Christmas, a journalist called Mr Lungu and asked him to describe the year 2013 politically.
“A day in a politician’s life is too long…I cannot completely sum up 2013 today before the year ends because we don’t just know, as politicians, what happens the next day.”
When making this statement, Mr Lungu had no slightest idea that he would be minister of defence the following day.
“It is a remarkable honour for me. I feel humbled by the magnitude of the responsibility bestowed upon me to serve the people of Zambia…I am equal to the task,” he said in accepting President Sata’s appointment.
In what seemed the quest to test his leadership potentials, President Sata asked Mr Lungu to stand in for him while he would be away in China to meet that country’s new leader Xi Jinping, a feat that was made repeatedly in a clear show of confidence in Mr Lungu.
Later, Mr Lungu was given additional responsibilities when he became minister of Justice and PF secretary general on top of his defence ministerial position.
Perhaps, it was this weighty load of tasks piled on him which made the general PF membership, and particularly Members of the Central Committee, to believe he could be heir to President Sata when news of the demise of Mr Sata in a London hospital reached government on October 28, 2014.
As is normally the case in political circles, just like in homes, intra PF tiffs took centre stage in the run-up-to the election of the ruling party leader, and eventually candidate in the January 20 presidential poll.
But at the end of the day, the die was cast, and Mr Lungu contested the race for presidency of the country in which he emerged victor.
“Fifty-eight years ago, I was born Edgar Chagwa Lungu at Ndola Central Hospital and grew up in Kitwe’s Chimwemwe township.
“As I stand before you today, as the sixth President of the Great Republic of Zambia, I am overwhelmed with gratitude, and I feel greatly humbled that you have decided to make me your servant – you are my masters, I am your servant,” Mr Lungu said in his inaugural speech amid deafening ovations by the people at the momentous ceremony held at National Heroes Stadium in Lusaka last Sunday.
In an apparent show of commitment to delivering service to the people, Mr Lungu has already started working, and has so far appointed some members of his Cabinet and State House staff.
Perhaps what is most intriguing about the happenings since he assumed office is the selection of former minister of Gender and Child Development Inonge Wina as the first ever Zambia’s female Vice-President.
This action has earned President Lungu continued approbations from the breadth and length of the country.
This story was originally published by the Zambia Daily Mail on 29 January, 2015