By Laura Miti*
Amos, Sunday Chanda have failed
Since we are in reshuffle season, I thought I would suggest to President Lungu some changes that would be very good for him. It is my view that, apart from his personal failures as President, EL’s biggest problem right now is that he has a media team that highlights those failures. By being abrasive, confrontational and overly defensive, his proxies call attention to the president’s foot-in-the-puddle moments rather than mitigate them. Simply, the people currently speaking for the President are reducing what popularity he still holds by being counterproductive in their duties. So, me thinks he needs to change them. Here are my suggestions:
1. First, I would like to say that Dora Siliya is very good pick for Information Minister. She is not every body’s choice for a best friend, but few would argue against the assertion that she is intelligent, eloquent and confident. She is also quite well informed and should do a good job of spinning soya pieces into rump steak.
2. Replace Amos Chanda with Emmanuel Mwamba
Here is my reasoning: Amos, who started off as a breath of fresh air after the obnoxiousness of both Dickson Jere and George Chellah, is now worse than the two combined in his failure to know his place. Quite simply, Amos comes across as seeing himself as the President’s alternate. He does not speak for the President, he speaks as him. Now that would not be so problematic if he were not so emotional. The president’s spokesperson’s job is not to take personal offence and get into emotional brawls with his principle’s detractors. He certainly should not add fuel to controversies. Rather, a good spokesperson convinces the public, even when they are very angry, that they may have misunderstood the president. Contrary to that, what Amos does is, at best, to talk down at the public like they are annoying children or, at worst, use insulting language. Because he has conflated his position with that of the president’s he is personal in his engagement. In that way, he fails in his duty to build the president as a separate entity from himself. For goodness sake, Amos is a junior official. A mouthpiece. He should not suggest he is the president’s double, even if the president privately treats him as such. In short, Amos’ misplaced understanding of his office is not helping a president who, right now, needs to hold on to flagging popularity.
3. Why Emmanuel?
Well, let us start by admitting that Emmanuel is many times very annoying in the tall tales he smoothly tells. But that is what makes him a very good spin doctor. He rarely gets emotional and thinks way ahead of matters. He uses more than just words to manage situations. An example is trying to meet Pilato and Amnesty International at the Zambian Embassy in SA. He was trying to take control of the negative narrative of a citizen who has run away from threats on his life made by ruling party thugs. The plan failed, but it was smart. I think too that Emmanuel is astute enough to never overshadow the President. He would be very good at building the image of a President in trouble, without competing for the limelight.
4. Replace Sunday Chanda with Antonio Mwanza.
Quite a few members of the public were very disappointed, lost respect for him really, when Antonio joined a ruling party that he had been very critical of. It did not help that he immediately proceeded to unsay everything he had stood for, for years. But, hey, that damaged reputation is his to live with.
The post-joining-PF problem I have noticed is that rather than bring the intellectual approach to spin that he displayed while in the FDD, Antonio has completely immersed himself in the quarrelsome, bully-the-public-into-unthinking-submission ways his new boss, Sunday Chanda, seems to prefer. Sunday generally makes very loud but unconvincing arguments and so comes across as lost for explanations. To now have two people constantly eliciting a “hmmmm koma kaya” response from the public, does the PF and the president no good. Me thinks that if Antonio was made boss of PF media, and Sunday taken into the diplomatic service somewhere as a consolation, a Dora, Emmanuel and Antonio team would bring some much-needed skill to spinning the presidency.
Simply, a president like Lungu, who even at the best of times is apt to make some very problematic pronouncements, needs intellect, not emotion, to sell him to the public when the waters are rough.