By Dr Given Mutinta
It is nearly a year and seven months from the time President Michael Sata ascended to the stratums of power and he seems to be the most defamed president than any of his predecessors.
As a result, some people have been arrested including Patrick Mubanga, Peter Mweete, and recently Sisiku Akapelwa. Sydney Chisanga, Hakainde Hichilema and Nevers Mumba respectively had their own ordeals for allegedly defaming Sata.
It makes one wonder why Sata is aggressively demanding respect from the public to an extent of arresting those who do not respect him. These kinds of arrests are only common in Zimbabwe. Is Sata patterning himself after the Zimbabwean leader?
The fact is, if Sata is badly in need of respect, the public will give him the respect he wants. However, it will be out of powerlessness and fear not from their hearts.
He seems not to know that the more you demand respect, the less you will get. Conventional wisdom holds that the respect we give others makes them to give us theirs as well. This simply means that respect is earned as well as demanded, and not demanded in the sense of sending people to Chimbokaila or jail but demanded in the sense that we act with respect for ourselves and thus demand it from others.
Just because Sata is president does not entitle him the right to be respected no matter what he does. He needs to show respect for himself in order to receive it from the public. He must earn the respect he expects to receive from the public.
To earn respect, Sata must show the public that he is a good person worthy of trust and integrity. If he is not living a life worthy of trust and integrity he should not waste time thinking people will just give him 100% respect because he is president no matter how ‘indigestible’ his behaviour is.
One can be a president however if he/she clearly does not show respect for him/herself then how can the public give it to him/her even more, expect it from them?
When wise leaders find out that the public is ‘defaming’ them using all sorts of words such as ‘stupid’ or ‘silly’, they create time for introspection; to earnestly examine their lives.
Sata should go back to a ‘safe place’ Sakeni said he had gone to in February this time to reflect on why he is disrespected by the public as compared to his predecessors.
Though they are not insults, people call their leaders ‘stupid’ defined as unintelligent decisions or actions: acting in an unintelligent or careless manner, unreasoned thinking or acting. Others call them ‘silly’ defined as unwise, showing poor judgment or little intelligence’. This is so because leaders are respected by the public based on the way they carry themselves.
Thus, the first question Sata needs to reflect on is whether he is living a life worthy of trust and integrity from others. This may explain why he is defamed.
Let Sata reflect on his decisions and actions to see if he feels he has shown respect for himself by for example forming a cabinet where more than ninety per cent of the ministers are from his region or forming a bloated government with more than seventy five members or causing unnecessary costly by-elections when the agriculture, health, education and other sectors are in a mess. Or donating fuel to Malawi or over-exporting maize causing a shortage of the same commodities. Or joking carelessly or undiplomatically at important occasions or making deceitful campaign promises that he has not only failed to fulfil but has turned against. Are these actions not showing poor judgment or careless/unintelligent actions the Oxford Dictionary calls as ‘silly’ or ‘stupid’?
If leaders’ actions continuously show poor judgment or unintelligent actions how can they demand that they receive respect from people who understand their true sordid characters?
Our poor judgment and unintelligent actions or our ‘stupid’ or ‘silly’ past and present determine how people treat us. Once people have lost their respect for us because of our poor judgments or unintelligent actions, it is very difficult to get it back.
So, Sata and other leaders the likes of Sylvia Masebo, Kennedy Sakeni, Wynter Kabimba and Fred M’membe should ask themselves what they have done or are doing in their lives that have caused people to lose respect for them. What are you doing today that you have become the target of people’s insults? Search the locuses of your consciences!
Sata can arrest people for defaming him but that will not make people genuinely respect him if they believe that he does not deserve to be respected. Commanding respect from people by arresting them shows severe lack of understanding of what one is demanding from people.
If my Latin serves me right, the root word for respect is a Latin word respectus, from past participle of respicere which means ‘to look back at’, ‘to gaze’ or ‘admire’. In this context, respect is a polite behaviour driven by an inner self of regard for somebody. It is a feeling of ‘admiration’ for somebody because of their good capabilities or accomplishments that can be demonstrated in words and bodily.
This simply means that we respect people from the core of our hearts because they deserve it, command it and enjoy it as expected.
Sata can jail people with hard labour for defaming him, however if they do not feel it within their hearts, they will serve their sentences but still not admire or respect him. Respect or admiration cannot be forced on people or bought from Chimbokaila.
If Sata’s life, past and present, is characterized with poor judgment or unintelligent actions, it will be difficult for people to respect him. This is because respect is a quality that a person owns as a reward for one’s virtuous conduct and character. It is wealth one proudly owns and delights in, mutely commands and correctly receives. As one eminent proverb holds, ‘Love begets love, respect begets respect’. Thus, the respect people pay to others, entitles them to get respect in return.
Thus, insults Sata is receiving say a lot about his life. Let him have time for introspection. He may be insulted because he has failed to practice good leadership after coming to power something that may have aptly begotten another failed action of respect.
So, it is mind boggling how a leader can demand for respect, a gift that vaults from the depths of people’s hearts by arresting them. What if they think he does not deserve it?
Sata is president, no doubt about it. But he seems to have failed to make himself respectable in the eyes of the people he is leading. Respecting others does not cost anything at all except some love for all people regardless of their tribe, but it pays much in terms of invaluable reward of respect.
It is not how wealthy like Hakainde, powerful like Sata and influential like M’membe that one is to be treated with respect, but having a sense of self-respect and holding human and moral values high. This maybe an area Sata is lacking because it is in possessing good moral character that makes a person worthy of respect.
If Sata wants to be respected, let him start to be known for the campaign promises he made and values he espoused before ascending to power. There is no doubt, he will command respect and enjoy a sense of true respect without arresting people.
He should also be reminded that it is actions such as exposing Hakainde’s bank details, mocking sick people the way he did to the late Mwanawasa, Mazoka and Kunda that shows Sata’s poor judgment, unintelligent actions and lack of respect for others and that makes respect foreign to him
Government may crack down on social media arguing that it is a duct of abuses against some leaders. But that will not change these leaders’ poor judgments or unintelligent actions that lack sense of respect and make them in default of qualities such as respectability, ladeliness or gentlemanliness. Thus, people will still insult such leaders using different avenues. The way out is to close the door that brings to the fore poor leaders in government and this will without human intervention close the door of foul language against leaders
Roger Ebert once said that people who behave themselves deserve respect of people who feel great about their honourable qualities that invoke admiration and respect in their hearts. If Sata and the likes of Sakeni, Kabimba, Masebo and M’membe want people to respect them, they should be respectable by respecting others and the work they do.
People who have no respect for others should not force others to respect them because it is ‘silly’ to coerce people to admire or respect them when they are not ‘admirable’ or ‘respectable’ to them.
There is totally nothing wrong to call some leaders ‘stupid’ or ‘silly’ for their poor judgment or unintelligent decisions and actions because that is what they are.
However, the way to handle disagreements with leaders is with reasoned arguments and self-controlled speech. Our modes of discussion should show the purity of our intentions, the strengths of our intellect and the decency of our characters. If we happen to insult, let it be an unintentional slip-up.