Was Lungu a maestro in ventriloquism?
Published On April 4, 2023 » 1473 Views» By Times Reporter » Features
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THE other day, I was listening to President Hakainde Hichilema speak when he shared the podium with United States Vice-President Kamala Harris as he eloquently navigated those piercing questions from local and international Press corps.

I had never been so impressed with the manner, poise and body language.
I smiled and mused, “Yes, this is my president, my man!” Even those Americans were in awe and, in my imagination, they must have been checking their
GPS to confirm their location to ascertain that they were truly in Zambia, on African soil.
President Hichilema has never shied away from the Press and if you were one of those weak interviewers, he will simply take over your show.
He has everything on his finger-tips.
He is just amazing!
And then, we once had a president called Edgar Chagwa Lungu.
His style and disposition were in total contrast with his successor. His idea of a good leader did not, in any simple way, lie in engagement with the people, a strategy that alienated him further from the reality on the ground.
Mr Lungu did not have to be a good orator to be president, but with a full-fledged press unit with very experienced staff, he could have done better.
And he did have experienced staff, but what was really his strategy?
Was President Lungu a maestro in ventriloquism?
Ventriloquism is the art of stagecraft in which a person creates the illusion that their voice is coming from elsewhere, usually a puppeteer’s prop called a dummy”
If there was ever a Zambian president who mastered the art of ventriloquism with such ease, eloquence and precision, it was Edgar Chagwa Lungu.
A connoisseur of sorts.
Eat your heart out, Jeff Dunham, President Lungu just knocked you off your pole position.
He is the latest maestro on the block.
Puppeteer Jim Henson (MHSRIP) and his Muppet Show only comes in distant third, even with all the shenanigans of Kermit the frog and Miss Piggy.
Now, you can just imagine that for the nearly-seven years of his reign at the helm of this country,
President Lungu barely held a press conference more than the count of the five fingers on your one hand!
Yet with an over-reaching iron fist, the man presided over the affairs of this nation holding the gaze of 18 million people at his whim.
Rarely did he sit down in a dialogue to formally engage his “subjects” over matters afflicting them or the intricacies of statecraft.
Even just a monologue would have done.
He ruled and spoke through his surrogates and systems of government, and on one occasion or two, justifying his mute stance as a custom-made mode of governance.
He once quipped that there was no reason for him to speak as his works and communication could be done through his ministers and aides.
I mean, you have got to give it to the man, he plied his trade with such diligence and poise.
This posture, of course, a matter of conjecture and herein, we may discuss.
Was it utopian on his part as president or, to the contrary, dystopian in the minds of Zambians and, therefore, consequently, the emphatic decision they made on August 12, 2021?
Inadvertently, he may have just broken the record for the most camera-shy president that ever reigned in modern times.
No, that is no mean achievement and President Lungu, in that regard, deserves a standing ovation because that is the kind of stuff you only get immortalised for in the Guinness book of records.
The Hollywood Walk of Fame and all those over-achievers in the various disciplines of art whose stars are entombed on that world-acclaimed concrete cast can only await with envy, the latest entrant with bated breath.
For how in the living daylights was the “boss” able to pull such a feat that I can state as surely as the brimstone and fire of hell exists no other president in the world, past or present, has attained? Deception, magic, pure illusion!
Just to contextualise the matter in simple terms, if you multiply 365 days in a year by seven years, it gives you a whopping 2,555 days.
Subtract the number of times he could have engaged through a press conference.
Your president, my president, our president only spoke to us five times in 2550 days.
To bring it closer to home, phantom a father in a home who, for his own strategic reasons, only engages his household through his wife, never facing his children and servants.
Not only when he leaves home, travelling out of town, does he pour his aspirations, frustrations and threats.
That was so true about President Lungu.
He made just about the most important policy statements and diabolical pronouncements ever when just about to board a flight or alighting from one.
Rarely so at a structured Press conference.
Remember the “mfwiti, mfwiti” statement he made when quizzed by reporters about the insistent reports of corruption allegations over his ministers?
But maybe in all fairness, let us not be too harsh and give it to him.
He, a maestro of the art of ventriloquism, one who performed to the best of his abilities.
He spoke but we did not hear his voice.
He gesticulated but our eyes were too

blind to see. For a leader who not in the distant past sought the endorsements of the voting public to propel
him into the office, he was now seemingly barricading himself in.
Self-banished to solitary confinement like a monk in a monastery under some kind of oath of silence?
And if ventriloquism was, indeed, at play, did President Lungu communicate the right messages and pull the right strings through his dummies or puppets?
In the New Dawn administration, will President Hichilema emulate his predecessor in an art that disillusioned and alienated many, churning out a toxic environment too virulent to engage?
The eloquence in speech and engagement of citizens so far displayed by President Hichilema is commendable.
And if, by any stroke of misfortune, ventriloquism again holds sway in the way Zambians are presided over, lessons to learn from are abound.
It will be ventriloquism at owner’s risk!

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