Friday, July 12, 2024

Zambia: Ex-President Lungu loses benefits amid his re-election bid

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Elvis Adjetey
Elvis Adjetey
Elvis Adjetey is an experienced African journalist who has worked with top media brands in Ghana where he is based.

The Zambian government has withdrawn retirement benefits and privileges from former President Edgar Lungu.

It follows his decision to return to active politics after leaving the country as the most indebted on the African continent.

In 2001, Mr. Lungu announced his retirement from active politics after losing the presidential elections to Hakainde Hichilema. But he is set to return to politics in the 2026 presidential elections.

Government spokesman Cornelius Mweetwa said the former president has already been notified about the immediate withdrawal of his retirement benefits and privileges.

This he said is in compliance with the country’s laws which stipulate that a former president who returns to politics would such benefits.

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As a retired president, Mr Lungu was entitled to three security officers, a diplomatic passport, three state cars, a furnished house, medical insurance and funeral expenses on his death. He also enjoyed immunity from prosecution.

At a press conference on Wednesday, Mr Mweetwa said the former leader would now be treated with “equality of the law”, just like any other senior citizen of the country.

Latest political ambition

While announcing his political comeback last week, Mr Lungu said he was returning to fight for and defend democracy in the country.

He also pledged to save his factionalised ex-ruling Patriotic Front party from collapse. The government has threatened to de-registrar the party over leadership wrangles.

Mr Lungu is aiming to capitalise on growing dissatisfaction with the continued economic hardships in the country under his successor.

Civil society groups have also expressed concern over what they described as the “shrinking” human rights freedoms in the country.

Government’s response

The government spokesman denied Mr Lungu’s recent statement that supporters of the ruling United Party for National Development (UPND) were targeting him.

He described Mr Lungu’s remarks that his life had been threatened as a “mere false alarm”, saying the former leader was as secure “as any other citizen”.

Mr Lungu was, however, warned against confrontational politics against President Hichilema’s government.

Last month, Mr Lungu was warned against jogging in public, with police describing his weekly workouts as “political activism”.

It is not clear whether his immunity from prosecution will be removed.

Zambia’s parliament has revoked the right to immunity for two former presidents – Frederick Chiluba in 2002 and Rupiah Banda in 2013.



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