Zambia’s government has decided to withdraw the retirement benefits and privileges of former President Edgar Lungu after his decision to re-enter active politics.
Mr. Lungu, who lost the presidency to Hakainde Hichilema in 2021, had initially announced his retirement after serving a six-year term marked by substantial economic challenges that left Zambia as Africa’s most indebted nation.
Mr. Lungu’s return to the political arena sets the stage for a highly anticipated 2026 presidential race. The government’s response to his decision has been swift, with the immediate withdrawal of his retirement benefits and privileges.
According to government spokesman Cornelius Mweetwa, this move is in accordance with the law, which explicitly states that former presidents returning to politics forfeit these benefits.
As a retired president, Mr. Lungu had enjoyed a range of privileges, including three security officers, a diplomatic passport, three state cars, a furnished house, medical insurance, and funeral expenses upon his death.
He also benefited from immunity from prosecution. However, these privileges have now been rescinded, and he will be treated in accordance with the equality of the law, just like any other senior citizen of the country.
Mr. Lungu’s return to politics is motivated by a desire to address the ongoing economic challenges in Zambia and defend democracy in the nation. Additionally, he has pledged to salvage his factionalized ex-ruling Patriotic Front party, which faces potential deregistration by the government due to leadership disputes.
Despite Mr. Lungu’s claims of being targeted by supporters of the ruling United Party for National Development (UPND), the government spokesman, Cornelius Mweetwa, has dismissed these allegations as baseless.
He emphasized that Mr. Lungu’s safety is as secure as that of any other citizen. However, Mr. Lungu has been cautioned against adopting a confrontational approach towards President Hichilema’s government.
It remains uncertain whether Mr. Lungu’s immunity from prosecution will be revoked. Zambia’s parliament has previously removed immunity from two former presidents: Frederick Chiluba in 2002 and Rupiah Banda in 2013.
Some members of the ruling UPND have called for the removal of Mr. Lungu’s immunity and prosecution on allegations of corruption during his presidency, which Mr. Lungu contends are politically motivated. The situation surrounding his immunity remains a subject of ongoing debate and scrutiny.