The Zambian Presidency Teachable Moments

1. Introduction

I have had this article prepared for a while and was just waiting for the right time to submit. I had stopped submitting articles to online platforms because I was not getting published and I am not mad at that. I understand the climate online newspapers were operating in.

As we prepare to have yet another transition of power in Zambia of which very few countries in Africa can be proud of, let me take this opportunity to congratulate the victors as well as the losers of this election of 2021 for accepting the will of the people. The last ten years of the Patriotic Front Government have been, for lack of a better word, ‘the dark age’ for Zambia. To start with, the Patriotic Front Government came into the government scene with deception. Why do I say so? Their campaign slogan of ‘DONCHI KUBEBA’ was a clear signal of what kind of government we would have, and they didn’t prove me wrong. From the populist campaign of ‘MORE MONEY IN YOUR POCKETS’ to becoming a government that didn’t tolerate divergent views of people and labeling people who did as ‘unpatriotic’ , the mighty PF regime came crushing down much to the shock of their ordained sole candidate, one Edgar Chagwa Lungu. For someone like Edgar Chagwa Lungu who had brought so much unprecedented development to Zambia, he did not understand why Zambians voted against him. Here are a couple and not exhaustive aspects of what went wrong and the lessons we should take from the rise and fall of the Patriotic Front.

2. Transparency is a key factor for good governance

As I have alluded to, the last ten years in Zambia have been if I could sum it up in one word DECEPTIVE. Not to sound unappreciative, the administration did some things right but there are so many things that the Patriotic Front fell short of. For one, its character of being a government that always denied anything from the most obvious things to what they thought people were oblivious to. The list on the point is long but let me just make a few mentions. The ritual killings and gassing incidents that rocked Zambia in 2018 and 2019 (forgive me if I have the years mixed up). When events of that nature happen in a country, leadership voice is needed because in the absence of such, people will listen to anyone and anything that pops up as a voice. This is why there was a very strong suspicion of government involvement. Instead of the leader of the government coming out to speak on issues, he kept quiet all in the name of being ‘humble’. Leadership was needed at that point and the lesson learnt there is that, never take a back seat as a leader. If you do you not supposed to lead people. Another aspect PF failed on in terms of transparency was the issue of the 48 houses. How can government with its intelligence fail to know the owner of the houses surely. That is taking people for granted. The other issue on transparency has been on the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. A lot of issues have gone wrong there. Political cadres got good deals from that. Again, PF failed the transparency aspect. Money has gone only to the benefit of PF cadres. The HONEYBEE pharmaceutical saga……peoples’ health were put on the line and we never got an official apology from government for that and all we got was the firing of Dr. Chilufya who in my opinion would have resurfaced in maybe a missions’ abroad had Edgar Chagwa Lungu won the 2021 elections. Lesson learnt, when you do wrong as a government, admit. People respect that but instead what we got from government was pure arrogance and impunity…that my friends, added to the anger of Zambians and they voted against Edgar Chagwa Lungu.

3. Fiddling with institutions

As a lawyer, Edgar Chagwa Lungu thought he could manipulate the system. Firstly, by instructing ministers to stay in office after having dissolved parliament prior to the 2016 elections. This came back to bite him badly as the ministers were instructed to pay back the allowances earned. Lesson learnt, the law is what it is and not what it ought to be. As a lawyer Edgar Chagwa Lungu should have known that you cannot fiddle with institutions that are constitutionally established. As if that was not enough, Edgar Chagwa Lungu proceeded to abrogate the law by the introduction of the now infamous BILL 10 of 2019. As humans we unfortunately never learn from history and as a reference point, We have Dr. Fredrick Titus Jacob Chiluba as a reference who tried to go for a third term in the early 2000s. What was so unsettling about Bill 10 was that it was going change the trajectory and course of Zambian politics forever had it passed. If it did and Edgar Chagwa Lungu proceeded to secure what supporters termed a second term, he would have served more than 10 years in office which would have opened room for him or another future candidate to extend beyond the constitutional mandate by changing the constitution. Lesson learnt, do not think you are above the law and abrogate the law, people are watching. It may take them 5 years to vote but one thing about the Zambian voters, once they make up their minds, its done. Ask Rupiah Banda who was judged in 3 years and despite running the most expensive elections campaigns, ended up crying on national television.

The preparation of the 2021 general elections was interesting, Edgar Chagwa Lungu through his manipulative ways decided to do away with the old voter’s roll. The Electoral Commission of Zambia gave flimsy reasons for that. Surely, in 2021 when technology is there, an update is made more logical and cost effective. Well, not according to them, and so they set out to register voters. What was interesting was that, perceived Patriotic Front strongholds had higher registered numbers than perceived opposition strongholds. That move now has proved lethal and backfired as those perceived Patriotic Front strongholds overwhelmingly voted for the opposition and so in actual fact, Edgar Chagwa Lungu helped the opposition garner more votes than him. Lesson learnt, to quote Abraham Lincoln, “you can fool all the people some of time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time.”

The current point is tied to the point of having one ordained candidate for a party is illustrated in point number 5 of this article later which the Patriotic Front I am convinced regrets because Edgar Chagwa Lungu surely lost them this election. The other issue of the creation of a Ministry of Religious Affairs with Rev. Sumaili at the helm as a tactic to make people think one is God fearing was really political suicide. Religion is really a personal thing and through your deeds people should be able to see the good in you. You do not need to stand on a mountain and shout you are religious. I would have agreed with the creation of this Ministry if it served its purpose, but its sole purpose was for political gain. Lesson learnt, do not create useless ministries in name whereas people can see that the creation is merely job creation for your buddies.

4. The friends you keep as a leader

A defining point that Zambians were looking at was the issue of who their president or leader associates himself with. I respect other countries and I do not want to cause a diplomatic row with other countries but Edgar Chagwa Lungu made it clear who his friends were, and this unsettled a lot of citizens who know what his friends stand for. For example, Yoweri Museveni of Uganda who has been in office 6 times already. That unsettled Zambians who saw the tactics employed by Edgar Chagwa Lungu similar to that of Museveni. For example, the enactment of a Cyber Bill in Zambia very similar to that of the Computer Misuse Act of 2011 in Uganda. Edgar Chagwa Lungu’s friendship with Emmerson Mnangagwa of Zimbabwe also sent shivers down Zambians’ spines. Lesson learnt, as a leader, associate yourself with positive friends. Also taking a leaf from the Americans who have image branders for the presidency. Americans are so savvy when it comes to branding and the people behind presidents can make the most unlikeable person into a person is proud to call their president. Case in point, George W. Bush was not the sharpest president, but Americans branded him. Understanding that the presidency is not ‘I’, but ‘WE’ is what makes Americans advanced. Listening to Edgar Chagwa Lungu’s speeches, one can see and hear the emphasis on ‘I’ or ‘MY’ and never the ‘We.’ People who understand semantics can tell from a conversation or by listening to someone on how he/she thinks and attribute certain qualities to them like, empathy, selfishness, self-centeredness etc.

The welcoming back of Chishimba Kambwili and Geofrey Bwalya Mwamba was also poison as those guys went on a tribal campaign which decampaigned Edgar Chagwa Lungu. They actually spent time campaigning for Hakainde Hichilema with the whole tribal talk. This has no place in Zambia as many of us are products of mixed marriages, myself included. Lesson learnt, Edgar Chagwa Lungu in his ‘humble’ way should have welcomed those two back but he should have never given them front row seats to his campaigns. On the eve of elections, in his rather arrogant and bizarre speech, where he said he would hand over power to himself, the president now addressed issues of tribalism, which was way too late. This goes back to point number one of transparency. Edgar Chagwa Lungu was never transparent when it came to issues. If the opposition made errors, he was quick to talk but if it was his own, all of a sudden, he is mute and ‘humble’.

5. Ordaining one candidate for a party

After unsuccessfully failing to abrogate the law through Bill 10 but successfully enacting the cyber law which has sent Zambians into a sense of paranoia, Edgar Chagwa Lungu set out to make sure he consolidates his place as candidate for the PF. He made sure his cronies sang his praises and made him sole unopposed candidate. For a person who had come into the presidency and explicitly stated he had no vision for the country, he had done so well. This decision by PF has what has cost them the 2021 elections. A lesson learnt here is that, never as a party think one person is indispensable. Let other people contest and be a truly democratic party you claim to be, another deception the PF had put in peoples minds. The second mistake that Edgar Chagwa Lungu made was choosing Prof. Nkandu Luo as running mate. In the name of women empowerment, she was still a wrong running mate for him as she is a highly divisive figure. The Professor has fought with the Bemba Royal Establishment and under her watch as Minister of Higher Education, the meal allowances of University of Zambia students were taken away. Lesson learnt, people didn’t forget what the professor had done and have thus, repaid her in kind by not giving her a vote of confidence.

6. The impunity of government officials, cadres and underestimating the power of the youth

The Patriotic Front is a party full of arrogant people who lost touch with reality and with money and power came pride. The list is endless here from Bowman Lusambo (chief bootlicker of Edgar Chagwa Lungu) who called the youth disgruntled to defending Tasila Lungu’s fencing of a protected forest 70 commonly known as Chimutengo forest in Sinda Eastern Province of Zambia as well as telling Zambians that 1 million Kwacha is nothing as he uses that money for shopping. Having said and done all these things, the anger in Zambians was building up and the idea that Zambians are peaceful docile people that wouldn’t do anything, clouded Bowman’s mind. Additionally, as leader, Edgar Chagwa Lungu prior to the run up of the 2021 elections warned opposition to say they should not use violence as a rout to power telling them that the ‘Malawi fiasco’ would not work in Zambia (Refer to Malawi 24 on the story of ‘This is not Malawi, dated June 14, 2021). Any well-meaning leader would applaud what happened in Malawi, but because Edgar Chagwa Lungu is proud and had the audacity to think he is sharper than Zambians, he didn’t learn from what happened in Malawi. He underestimated the power of the youth.

The power and impunity of cadres affiliated to the Patriotic Front left a sour taste in peoples’ mouths. The luxurious houses built and cars by those people as millions of Zambians struggle to put food on the table was causing anguish and unfortunately as they say, ‘pride comes before a great fall.’ The examples of people like Max Choongo flaunting money and cars was to the chagrin of Zambians. An expensive brand-new Toyota Landcruiser straight from the showroom at Toyota Zambia ® had become like a common Toyota Corolla to these cadres.

Cadres storming police offices and government offices and threatening workers constituted lawlessness in Zambia, but our ‘humble’ president was mute. He had created monsters and was happy as long as they did damage to ‘enemies of the state.’

The violence of pangas and axes is very alien to Zambia politics and this what the Patriotic Front brought to Zambia. A Head of State who only condemned violence by others other than his own is something that should never happen in Zambia because it showed that Zambia was an ‘Animal Farm’ to put in in the words of author George Orwell who stated that, “some animals are greater than others.”

The use by government of the Police Service was also a sad reality in Zambia. The lesson here is that the Zambian people have no faith in that service and to be used like that for example, Police Inspector General Kanganja made for sad reading. The police service now has the task of rebuilding the trust it has lost amongst the citizens.

The lesson learnt here is violence made normal by Patriotic Front is what has come to haunt them and as they say, “live by the sword and die by the sword.” The law of life is simple, and most humans do not understand, when you create anything in term of feelings, actions or emotions etc. whether good of bad, the energy knows you as the creator and will follow you because you created it. Another lesson we can take from physics, is that “for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.” The actions that evoked various emotions in Zambians of ‘humble’ Edgar Chagwa Lungu and the Patriotic Front is what led to their great fall.

At election time, the authorities shut down internet, but the millennials showed that they are the true owners of technology by using the Virtual Private Network (VPN). African leaders do not understand technology and the information age we are in. The closure of internet really angered people because technology is our way of life now. First, as government you instill fear in the people through the cyber law now secondly as government you take away our internet. That was the last straw for Edgar Chagwa Lungu, and I hope other countries are watching. Internet was shut down in Uganda, Zimbabwe and Malawi during their elections, and as Edgar Chagwa Lungu rightly said, ‘This is not Malawi’, Zambians proved him right on that one.

The governments’ belief that to continue with development, voters must vote for the Patriotic Front was also an argument that defiled logic. Development does not start and end with the Patriotic Front. Even some successes the Patriotic Front had scored can be attributed to the previous administration.

7. The use of warnings and retirement in national interest

For the first time in politics in Zambia we were faced with threats and warnings by government. This contradicted with the very fundamentals on which our Zambian constitution stands on. For every action that was deemed divergent, citizens received warnings. The use of semantics and language are important as a leader. When you use threats, humans by their very nature will likely rebel and as a leader you will never get humans to be in line once you patronize them. Lesson learnt, be a listening government and hear a side of the other party and that way you truly are a listening government.

For the first time in Zambia, we had people relived of their duties in the name of ‘national interest.’ When you speak for the right things, you are relieved in ‘national interest’. These unfortunately where the traits of a dictatorial government and people could see that. Underestimating people in this case, Zambians to say they do not read was a big mistake on the part of government. Unfortunately for the Patriotic Front in the information age, information flows and there is information that keeps people updated and kudus to those of us that still pick up a book or two to read. People are enlightened to be duped and unfortunately the deception by the government on most issues was seen a mile away.

Individuals like Stephen Kampyongo, Kaizer Zulu, Davis Mwila, Jean Kapata, Antonio Mwanza, Given Lubinda, Dora Siliya, Edify Hamukale, Isaac Chipampe, Prof Nkandu Luo, Rev. Godfridah Sumaili and hired guns like Edith Nawakwi on countless times showed the kinds of leaders they were through threats, insults and warnings. In the Patriotic Front , there was never protocol on who would comment on civil society issues. Anyone would wake up on morning and issue, statements, insults, threats and warnings. This aspect they failed badly, and I hope newer government will take a leaf from developed countries who have political spin doctors and image branders. Lesson learnt; certain people should never again be allowed near the corridors of power and as a leader choose people who are not only qualified but also have peoples’ interests at heart. As I come to the end of this article, there are many other issues that one should reflect on as a leader in the Patriotic Front and the legacy you leave behind.

Is the Patriotic Front going to be remembered as:

  • The party that was founded by Michael Sata?
  • The party that inherited healthy government reserves from the previous administration of the Movement for Multi-party Democracy (MMD)?
  • The party that contracted unsustainable debt?
  • The party that almost destroyed the ‘One Zambia, One Nation’ motto through tribal politics?
  • The party that saw a new normal of corruption?
  • The party that sold Zambia to the Chinese?
  • The party with the first female vice president?
  • The party that hounded out Guy Scott?
  • The party that wanted to change Zambia’s Constitution through Bill 10?
  • The party that politicized institutions?
  • The party that bankrupted the county and left the economy dead?
  • The party that devalued the Kwacha?
  • The party that gassed its own citizens?
  • The party that could not understand global economics control inflation?
  • The party that blamed their failures on global forces by proclaiming, ‘it’s global’?
  • The party that saw and compared the sufferings of its citizens as fine on account and comparison that it was happening in the world elsewhere.
  • The party which fielded a candidate who was deemed eligible by the courts despite everybody knowing he was standing for a third term?
  • The party that used policing instruments to instill fear in its citizens?
  • The party that built infrastructure at inflated costs?
  • The party that built bridges, the new Kenneth Kaunda and Simon Mwanasa Kapwepwe Airports?
  • The party that enacted the cyber law?
  • The party with a president that weaponized the Zambian police?
  • The party that produced instant millionaires affiliated to them?
  • The party that brought caderism, ‘Amelicans’ and military commanders to Zambian politics?
  • The party that ruled during the COVID-19 pandemic?
  • The party with a ‘humble’ president?
  • The party that compromised institutions like the judiciary and Electoral Commission of Zambia?
  • The party that bought secondhand fire trucks at $ 1 million?
  • The party which spent huge sums of money on a presidential jet at the expense of Zambians?
  • The party that could not pay retirees their benefits?
  • The party that shut down Prime Television Network and The Post Newspaper?
  • The party with contradictory policies?
  • The party that used caderism, terror, violence and impunity to yield its power?
  • The party that didn’t listen to divergent views and labelled anyone opposing as an enemy of the state or belonging to an opposition party?
  • The party that retired citizens in the name of ‘national interest’?
  • The party that had a president with no vision?
  • The party that had a president who kept mute when his party members did wrong but quick to talk when opposition members do wrong?
  • The party that arrested Hakainde Hichilema on trumped up charges?
  • The party that promised debt swap without really explaining the implications?
  • The party that removed the fuel levy months before elections?
  • The party that used the COVID-19 pandemic to disadvantage its opponents from campaigning while their party president was inspecting development projects, commissioning projects across the nation and campaigning at the same time?
  • The party that commemorated National Defense Force Day on June 13th , 2021 when it is commemorated in December in what many saw as an intimidation tactic?
  • The party that told its citizens to substitute bread for kandolo (Sweet potatoes) when they cried about the high cost of living not acknowledging that even if the citizens did that, kandolo is a seasonal commodity?
  • The party that dished out money in the name of empowerment funds?
  • The party that bought some church organisations all in the name of silencing divergent views?
  • The party with no clear protocol of who could comment on governance issues?
  • The party who had a party president and not a president of the Republic of Zambia?
  • The party that had a president who defiantly refused to concede defeat in a general election dubbing him the ‘Zambian Donald Trump’?
  • The party that could not differentiate between State and Government?

Just by sitting and reflecting on the Patriotic Front regime, I am able to come up with 50 issues that make their history in Zambian. Maybe someone should write a book about it. I hope people reflect on these issues and lessons are taken from this. Unfortunately, as I stated earlier, humans never learn from history. In some years to come, another person will try to do what Edgar Chagwa Lungu did and tried to do despite having two reference points to look at in the form of F.T.J Chiluba and Edgar Chagwa Lungu. The choices and decisions one makes set a tone for the future.

8. Campaign strategies allowed by leaders

As a leader of a political party as well as the nation, you have a mandate to be a president of a nation first before you are a party president. The kind of strategies you employ or allow can come and haunt you badly. This is seen with Edgar Chagwa Lungu who condoned tribal campaigning by Kambwili and Geofrey Bwalya Mwamba. It is a pity this was allowed to continue in the year we had lost our founding father Dr. Kenneth Kaunda who worked so hard for ‘One Zambia, One Nation.’ There is no place for tribal politics in Zambia and this should never be allowed ever in Zambia. What the Patriotic Front did not realise is, each time they campaigned and spoke against Hakainde Hichilema in a bad as well as a tribal light, they actually made Zambians curious and thus campaigned for him. The lesson learnt is, let us as Zambians learn to debate real issues and avoid character assassination. Hakainde Hichilema should actually thank these two former allies Kambwili and Geofrey Bwalya Mwamba for campaigning for him when Edgar Chagwa Lungu was the only one freely moving around the country and stifling opposition by using COVID-19 as restrictions. If as a government you work and deliver good things for the 5 years you are in office, you have campaigned and you have an excellent message for the people. When the official campaign time comes, the electorate already know you have delivered. It was clear that the Patriotic Front had no campaign message for the people and hence resorted to dirty mud slinging politics. A hard lesson they learnt from Zambians.

9. Choosing your words as a leader

This last point is very important as it is a skill that every leader should master. I start off with the utterances by Bowman Lusambo who infamously uttered the ‘Disgruntled youths’ statement. It is nice to learn a new vocabulary which obviously the (Dis) Honorable Minister of Lusaka Province Lusambo had just picked up and continues to pick up as I have seen from his social media postings. He ruffled a lot of feathers with that statement and a lack of emotional intelligence was exhibited by him by not apologizing and not being aware that he had hurt the youths’ emotions. Emotional intelligence simply put, means having empathy as well as being aware of other peoples’ emotions. Bowman Lusambo should have followed the events during the elections as it happened the so-called disgruntled youths posted memes all social media such as, ‘Imagine voting for a Government that called you disgruntled.’ An awareness of peoples’ emotions is very important, and this was a clear indication he had hurt the youths and they never forgot.

From the political screams of Bowman Lusambo and Tutwa Ngulube of ‘We are in government and we are in charge’ to Tasila Lungu’s defense of her old man, Edgar Lungu by saying her father has not time to debate a small political entity such as Hakainde Hichilema, she can take him on (A sure sign of pure disrespect). Now coming to Edgar Chagwa Lungu who in his last address to the nation on the eve of the elections proclaimed that he would win the elections and ‘Hand over the instruments of power to himself.’ Another typical example of not choosing the right words and emotional intelligence awareness of an audience. That speech was an arrogant speech and it further angered a lot of Zambians who eagerly waited for the following day to cast their votes. The president failed to read the situation due to arrogance and it left a lot of Zambians confirming what they had known all the time, Edgar Chagwa Lungu is not the ‘humble’ person we had been told he was.

To me, that speech is what broke the camel’s back and was a last straw for the Patriotic Front. Lesson learnt is that, as a leader, choose your words carefully, the electorate in Zambia are very patient, they will wait for 5 years and vote against you. The in-coming leaders will also be judged on what they do as Rupiah Banda famously cried as he conceded defeat to Michael Sata. Remain humble and be emotionally intelligent by treating people well and not hurting them through your words and deeds. Be humble as a leader and do not grow arrogant, it is painful to lose elections the way Patriotic Front lost and let this be a lesson to future and current leaders. What frustrates Lungu is that he had built roads, bridges, hospitals etc., but still Zambians voted against him. The reflection should be, at what expense did I build all these things? Debt? The kind of debt Zambians has contracted we do not know because linking this to the first point, this Patriotic Front lacked transparency. These are the issues that needed to be debated, not ‘Hakainde Hichilema is Tonga, do not vote for him.’ We have already defaulted on one Eurobond payment and another is due next year in 2022. A discussion or debate on how this will be paid is essential but as usual, the Patriotic Front with their ‘humble’ ways was silent and I am certain we were going to default had they retained power in this election.

10. Conclusion

As Zambia goes in to try a new administration, I wish to state that I am happy that Zambians exercised their constitutional right to vote and their will has prevailed. To the new administration, you have a huge task ahead of you and as you say, ‘BALLY WILL FIX IT.” We will wait and see and Remember, 5 years is just in 2026 and you too, will be judged on what you do from now til then. As you assume office, remember, you will also leave office at one time. That thought should keep you humble. What legacy are you going to be remembered by once you are gone? As a leader, always strive to do good and be of service to the people who put you there. If you as a leader decides to do wrong things through abuse of power and state institutions, when the time comes for you to leave, you will give the electorate a nightmare as you will scramble and not want to leave office for fear of prosecution.

For the Patriotic Front, as you leave office, it is time for reflection as humans, what legacy have you left behind and how will history remember you by? Did Edgar Chagwa Lungu really represent a president for all Zambians? If he did, it did not logical sense for a president who is commissioning a government project brandishing the party symbol which was the hand fist. Lesson learnt from this is, a leader should differentiate between government and party duties. It is fine to yield the hand fist at a Patriotic Party function but not advisable to do so at a public government occasion. It alienates the citizens who do not belong or affiliate to a party that has the opportunity of leading them. In the final analysis, the Patriotic Front had a grand plan of creating political dynasties of having close affiliates as well as their own children form part of the government machinery and in that vain securing their safe passage into retirement after installing their children in seats of power. An unsettling thing that I could see a mile away is the political ambition of the former president’s daughter Tasila Lungu.

I can bet my life that, had Edgar Chagwa Lungu retained power by force in the 2021 General Elections, he would have increasingly become paranoid and a full-fledged dictator who would only trust his daughter and it would not have come as a surprise for all us if he ordained his own daughter to be president all in the name of women empowerment. Do not get me wrong, I support women and my research is focused mainly on women but the trajectory we were moving towards was very scary in Zambia. Lesson to be taken, as leaders do not ever think you are a demi-god and take people for granted. Another lesson to be taken from this is, as a leader and government learn to read and understand geopolitics.

What happened in Malawi in 2020 was an indication of a shift in politics in Southern Africa. I cannot speak for other regions as I am not from there. Any leader should see the tide shifting and read the politics. The civil unrest in Eswatini currently is another example. That is a clear indication and a measuring yard stick to ask yourself as a leader, am I doing the right thing? That could happen here? I am not indispensable? Instead, what we saw in Zambia is arrogance from Edgar Chagwa Lungu stating that what happened in Malawi cannot happen in Zambia. Sentiments that are not politically sound and could cause a rift between Zambia and her sister country Malawi. How do you think the current president of Malawi Dr. Chakwera feels about that statement? By stating that, Edgar Chagwa Lungu is already showing the president of Malawi that he is not his friend and does not agree on the way he assumed office. Diplomacy is very important especially as a leader. Be careful with your words and actions as you have followers. I am hopeful that we have all learnt from this and I, sincerely hope that history judges the Patriotic Front and it’s people on a score that they deserve. I rest my case.

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