By Sunday Chanda
Reports that thieves broke into the residence of Zambia’s sixth Republican President Dr Edgar Chagwa Lungu and walked away with some household goods must be condemned by all right-thinking citizens and calls for thorough and extensive investigations.
For purposes of this write-up, Zambia has so far had seven Presidents with two of them, Levy Mwanawasa and Michael Sata, dying in office and the first, second and fourth heads of State Dr Kenneth David Kaunda, Dr Frederick Chiluba, Rupiah Banda after leaving the presidency.
Today, Zambia’s only surviving former President is Dr Edgar Lungu.
It is a no brainer that upon leaving Office, former presidents continue to be public figures. Though they may no longer make big decisions, they are, by virtue of having been in State House, still in possession of a lot of confidential information about the country and the government. A former President therefore cannot be separated from that of the incumbent President and Government at any given time on this premise. As such, the need to provide them with adequate security need not be overemphasized.
For purposes of clarity, there is a good reason why there exists the Benefits of Former Presidents Act as amended by Act No 33 of 1994 and No 21 of 1998.
Among the many entitlements accrued to a former President, this Act provides the following:
- “A former President, immediately upon ceasing to hold office, shall be provided housing accommodation as the government considers fit before the executive house is built for him or her.”
- “The State shall provide to a former President, within a period of not more than six months from the date of ceasing to hold office, three drivers, three motor vehicles with free maintenance and entitlement to fuel to the extent determined by Cabinet.”
- “… a former President shall, upon ceasing to hold office, be entitled to a tax-free monthly pension at the rate of 80 percent of the incumbent President’s emoluments, all of which shall be a charge on the general revenues of the republic”.
- Other entitlements include “ one personal secretary, three security persons, one administrative assistant who shall be at the level of deputy permanent secretary, and three house employees, whose number may be increased by Cabinet.”
Let me hasten to mention that the Act applies to all former Presidents, including those that ceased to hold office before the commencement of this Act.
In conclusion, the welfare of any former President, the moment he or she leaves office rests with the state to the extent that it will continue to dictate different aspects of their lives, up to and including their funeral arrangements.