Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe was over the past weekend heavily criticised for arriving in Zambia for the presidential inauguration while elections were ongoing and results had not been announced.
Commentators said Mugabe, who arrived in Zambia on Friday while the inauguration was on Sunday, showed no dignity by his early arrival.
The same debate ensued locally regarding Prime Minister Sibusiso Barnabas Dlamini having left early for the Zambia presidential inauguration, in which Edgar Lungu was sworn-in as Zambia’s sixth president.
The PM travelled to Zambia with his wife Joy and they are expected to proceed to Ethiopia to attend the African Union Summit
Sparking the discussion on Facebook was OSISA Director Muzi Masuku, who asked those who are diplomatically savvy whether it was appropriate for one country’s leader to travel to another country for an inauguration while the winner of the election was yet to be declared.
“Our PM is in Zambia ostensibly for the inauguration of a leader who is yet to be declared. What if there is political turmoil there?” Masuku queried.
Swazi diplomat Vulindlela Kunene, who works at the country’s offices in New York, USA, was first with a response and asked Masuku if he was certain that the PM was in Zambia for the inauguration.
“It would be an unusual occurrence if the invitations for that function had already been sent, given that the announcement of the winner is yet to be made and whatever other outstanding processes satisfied,” Kunene, the former Premier League of Swaziland Chief Operations Officer, said. Masuku told Kunene that he heard in the news that the PM was going to Zambia on invitation from the acting President Guy Scott.
“This invitation was extended on the understanding that election results would have been declared by now in readiness for an inauguration tomorrow (Sunday),” he said.
Dewa Mavhinga jumped in and brought to the attention of all who cared that Mugabe had also gone to Zambia.
“I think Zambia has invited countries for inauguration. Hopefully, their security is guaranteed,” said Emmanuel Ndlangamandla, the Director of the Coordinating Assembly for Non-Governmental Organisation (CANGO).
Kunene came back to the discussion and hoped that nothing untoward happened whilst the PM was in Zambia.
He then praised Zambia for trusting their system such that they invited guests for the inauguration even before the results were announced, saying this was either a sign of maturity and/or great faith in their security arrangements.
“I guess the Zambians have their ducks in a row. Positive signs for the region,” Kunene said.
Sam Shongwe, the Head of Mobile Money at Swazi MTN, alerted everyone that the Zambia president is inaugurated 24hrs after the announcement of the winner.
“I assume that invitations were sent out based on that and I assume it is on that premise that SD was invited. It, therefore, is not the invitee’s prerogative to honour the invitation based on the knowledge of who the winner is. Ours is to honour the invite. I may be wrong, but in my humble opinion that is the basis of the PM’s trip there,” Shongwe said, an explanation that Kunene was grateful for.
Masuku, the initiator of the debate, said his concern was in fact that the winner had not yet been declared and that even though Lungu was leading the vote count, Hakainde Hichilema could still challenge the results.
Comfort Mabuza, the HURISWA coordinator, said it was wrong for the PM to travel to Zambia early as he should have waited for the results first.
There had been concerns that Hichilema’s supporters were going to cause chaos if he lost the election, but calm prevailed after Lungu was declared winner.
According to the country’s election commission, 58-year old Lungu won about 48.3 percent of the ballot in Zambia’s 150 constituencies.
Lungu, who headed both the justice and defence ministries in the previous government, will serve out the remainder of President Michael Sata’s term until new elections in the fall of 2016.
Hakainde Hichilema, a wealthy businessman and economist who leads the United Party for National Development, received about 46.7 percent of the vote.