By George Orwell (of Zambia)
The era of Zambian Presidents is highly intriguing to me for at least a couple of reasons: First, at every point in Zambian history voters support candidates so readily and receive so little in return. The Kaunda, Chiluba, Mwanawasa, Banda and now Sata Administrations have imprisoned their own opposition political leaders, for laws that have been taken off the colonial books. Also, college unemployment has rarely enters any meaningful Sate House discussion (note how many college graduates feel misled after being promised jobs year after year). I’m sure they’re rather just wasting away with drinking for lack of employment. Finally, tribal political appointments are apparently no longer worth fighting against, at least at the highest levels – we would demand no such thing from such “busy and lazy” presidents.
The second reason I find the age of Zambian Presidents to be intriguing is that I’ve never seen a time when voting for someone is not enough; people instead expect you to love the president as if he were a relative. Someone asked me why I don’t support Zambian Presidents. I simply replied: “I endorse them before you did, that’s all that any politician should ever get from me. And that makes me a hater?” For some reason, questioning the policies of the administration is defined to be traitorous, which is a problematic violation of our most fundamental Zambian free men/women we stand under the flag, promise to each other.
I’ve stopped discussing the policies of the Zambian Presidents with people who’ve decided before the fact that they either love the president or hate him. In my view, these two groups balance each other out, like the French and the British, fighting for Africa’s territory without spending much time worrying about what’s right for Africans. Many of us read either The Zambian Post or Daily Mail or Times of Zambia, not looking for truth, but instead, seeking out whatever information serves to confirm our chosen obsession with our particular president.
Instead of speaking with cadres or attack dogs, I gain insights from those who can speak highly of the Zambian presidents one week and bash them the next. This is the kind of analysis we need in order to ensure that a) the politicians we support actually get into office, and b) they do their jobs once they get there. Love and hate are powerful emotions, almost like addictions to Kachasu. One thing I know is that the irrational Kachasu addict never has power over the bottle, which is why a politician who has convinced his constituents to value style (Donchi kubeba, The Hour has Come, UNIP mulilo) over substance has little incentive to do anything for the citizens who back him the most.
Here are a few ways to know if someone is in love with a Zambian President:
1) When a person critiques any of the State House’s policies, they are automatically defined to be a “hater” or jealous of the president: I’ve been accused of being jealous on many occasions when I point out problems with the Sate House’s lack of policies policies, even though I’d never want to live in the State House. When someone accuses me of being jealous, I then ask the attacker if they are criticizing me because they are jealous of me (since the logic appears to imply that any critique must be rooted in jealousy). Reducing every critic to a hater is an easy way to keep the subject from addressing the nature of the critique, which might be part of the plan in the first place: If I can convince Zambians that HH or Mumba are idiots who simply hates Sata for no good reason, then I never have to defend the president’s questionable record on poverty eradication.
2) When someone asks you about any of the president’s policy positions or whether he has fulfilled campaign promises, you have no evidence to support your point of view: If you can’t explain exactly why you support a candidate, then you probably shouldn’t be supporting him.
3) If you watch just about every Zambian president we have had, they all marvel in stylish suits. They look adorable and their first ladies tend to be beautiful, but when evaluating the commander-in-chief of Zambia the most stable nation in Southern Africa, we might want to actually pay attention to how they are doing the job. Zambian presidents might have as much “swag” as their colonial counterparts, but Africa has never progressed historically by relying on how rhetoric or stylish the presidents look or sound like.
4) When someone mentions the detention of opposition leaders, you change the subject or don’t want to hear it: If you care for PF politicians but have no tears for MMD, UNDP politicians, then your sympathies are biased, elitist and effectively misguided. All Zambians are God’s children and they matter, even if your political party doesn’t think they do.
5) If you regularly use phrases like “I love my political party,” or blog with titles like “I love waking up in the morning knowing that UNIP and MMD are no longer in power, now PF is in power and may be UNDP will be in power:” presidential elections are a wonderful thing, but it’s not colonialism all over again. The president’s ability to gain the approval of his party may not be the best way to evaluate the achievements of any Zambian president. Runaway freedom fighters rarely met with colonial approval, yet they were the bravest among us; the same can be said about hated men like Simon Mwansa Kapwepwe, who fought for self-sufficiency and the ability to speak freely and stand tall in the face of oppressive opposition. As much as some might love Kaunda, Chiluba, Mwanawasa, Banda and Sata, most of us would agree that their presidency had decided that speaking freely and honestly in favor of developing Zambia for all Zambians was and is still a burden they are not strong enough to bear.
6) If you have a picture of the Zambian President next to Jesus: The tradition of hanging the president’s pictures in public sometimes placed next to the picture of Jesus should come to an end. Jesus worked harder and loved all peoples, but I doubt that Zambian presidents love their own people. Jesus spoke about equality and poverty, two topics that Zambian Presidents almost never chose to address; that, my friends, is a fact.
7) If you’re getting angry while reading this list: One way to cure yourself of incurable political love is to stop getting angry at me for creating this list. If you’re upset with me right now, it’s because deep in your soul, you know that I might be right. Your other option is to write me off as either being jealous or a hater, which fits into the first item on this list. Instead, I suggest that you become familiar with the State House’s policies so that you can defend the president/s the next time someone criticizes them. You might also determine that perhaps it’s possible to support a political leader while still pushing him to do his best on your behalf. Political support should not be a one way street.
8) If you respected Kaunda, Chiluba, Mwanawasa, Banda and Sata in the past and hate their guts today: One huge price paid by Zambians for loving their presidents is that authentic One Zambia One Nation is murdered in exchange for the State House that barely cares for its people. Rather than realizing that we can respect both Kaunda, Banda, Sata, HH and Mumba at the same time, people are replacing one for the other. Let’s be clear: there are things that HH and Mumba would say on our behalf that Sata and Kaunda NEVER say. While Sata and Kaunda are busy enlarging their Bemba influence in the State House, Banda, HH and Mumba are speaking up on unemployment, poverty, corruption and mass political mediocrity, topics that Sata won’t ever make time to address.
When Zambian Presidents leave office, they go to grave yard 1 or retirement to enjoy lavish life styles that are bigger than those for ordinary Zambians. On the other hand, ordinary Zambians will continue fighting for and loving Zambia regardless of whether they end up at Plot1. Not knowing how to love Zambian Presidents is like a woman getting rid of her brother because she has a new boyfriend: One guy has been with you for life and the other could be gone in the blink of an eye. It’s a very risky and unnecessary exchange to say the least.
The point here is not to attack those who support Zambian Presidents. For the most part, I probably agree with you. Instead, it is to simply say that the political game is a negotiating process, not unlike buying a cow for your grandfather from the salesperson manipulators by trade, and the minute they realize you’re in love with the animal, they jack up the price. Don’t let politicians manipulate you, instead, in 2016 demand that they do their jobs.