By Field Ruwe
My last story was “hijacked” by two non de plume bloggers, “Panda Mushinso Wa Ngona” and “Flaw.” They engaged in a battle over VJ. Like the Arthurian knights, each tried to joust the other off the saddle. They jabbed back and forth and when neither could fall, they left it at that. That’s what great minds do; they engage in a debate without resorting to profanity or deprecating tactics. You both deserve kudos.
I didn’t think VJ would eclipse the main objective of the story, that is, to make King Cobra the last of the septuagenarian (70 to 79) rulers of our country. I was trying to reach and encourage progressive quadragenarians (40 to 50) and quinquagenarians (50 to 60) like HH, Mulupi, Tilyenji, Chipimo, and Mutesa, and other visionaries like Clive Chirwa, Chibamba Kanyama, Fackson Banda, and Abraham Mwenda to succeed the incumbent in 2016 or 2021.
I used VJ as a curtain-raiser because he is headliner. He is as intriguing as they make them. “Flaw” is right. VJ’s moral improbity is inexcusable. His ephemeral matrimonial contracts have taken a chunk of his worthiness. When he was labeled a drug trafficker, we, his protégés, were devastated. We felt the same way when Bill Clinton confessed he had a sexual relationship with Monica Lewinsky, or when Jimmy Swaggart was caught with his pants down, and when infidelity got the best of golf maestro Tiger Woods.
Worse, still, we were flabbergasted with FTJ for being linked to the plundering of our wealth. Like “Flaw” we gave up on them and called them names. We called FTJ a thief, and VJ a drug dealer and a thief for stealing a towel from his hotel room (read An Extraordinary Life). We called VJ, Clinton, Swaggart, and Woods nymphomaniacs, because they duped us. They were prophets of doom. Rightly so, “Flaw” and those who seek good morals should deride VJ.
“Panda Mushinso Wa Ngona” is right. All those who know VJ agree that he was an outstanding civil servant who handled his official duties with vivre. He was a refined diplomat who wowed us with his charm. In my days he was equated with the likes of Njoroge Mungai of Kenya, Salim Ahmed Salim of Tanzania, Aleke Banda of Malawi, Basil Bataringaya of Uganda, and Charles Cecil Dennis of Liberia.
In his article “Hard Times for the Africa Bureau 1974-1976,” renowned American diplomat Donald Easum, describes VJ as “Zambia’s energetic young foreign minister to count on.” Even KK, the martinet who looked for the best in his team, counted on VJ so much he ignored his turpitude. Not at one time did he call him a “stupid idiot.”
FTJ, fully aware of VJ’s alleged Mandrax dealings appointed him Minister of Foreign Affairs. His successor, top jurist and purist LM, a man who had vowed to stamp the country of its evil vices, made him his Minister of Information and Broadcasting and Government Chief Spokesman, and RB maintained him as his Chief Whip. You can’t beat that.
And now VJ will attempt to demolish the very party he helped to create and pave way for the ruling party. Before dawn, he will be playing the flute and the cobra will be dancing. I tell you, if VJ was cloned without his “unsavory” life, he would be the undisputed venerated martyr. Similarly, Clinton would be the best president in American history, Swaggart, the best Evangelist after Bill Graham, and Tiger Woods the best golfer on earth. If we all were cloned without our flaws, we would be a virtuous nation. But, unfortunately, we all have fallen short of the glory of God.
Since we cannot mutually accept VJ as a luminous moral maven let us accommodate his workmanship; his aptitude; creativity, adroitness, flair, and knack to inspire. Inspiring others is one of the most important qualities of the 2016 or 2012 young leader…make sure this is high on your list of skills. Obama inspired us with his speeches and almost destroyed the Republican Party, singlehandedly.
Our dexterous candidates, HH, Mulupi, Chipimo, Tilyenji, Nawakwi, and Mutesa put up a valorous battle, but did not inspire us enough. They discovered that the way to Plot One is full of dragons. That said we cannot take away anything from these courageous torchbearers who know how it feels to lose an election. It is a demoralizing experience, especially if you gave it your all on the campaign trail.
HH came close. Now, some bloggers have expressed indignation at the way I portrayed him. I am sorry if I hurt your feelings in any way. I am not tribal. Tribalism is portentous and calamitous. No one in our country should embrace it, not in these modern times. While tribalism is the African’s burden, we in Zambia, the fountain of democracy, should continue with our “One Zambia, One Nation” spirit. If there is a strong feeling in the country that some tribes are dominating senior positions in our government, King Cobra must be informed and reminded that he reigns over all the tribes. He must reach out to all. He must be the first to denounce tribalism and make it enemy number one because it is a recipe for disaster.
People who have followed King Cobra’s political career will tell you that he does not practice tribalism. When, in 1985, he worked as governor and later held different ministerial posts, no one accused him of tribalism or nepotism. Why now? He may appear rough and strict outside, inside is a soft heart. Like any other leader in a democracy he welcomes opposition, but he also has to find ways to serve his two terms…by all means necessary.
HH is providing formidable opposition. He is inching closer to the presidency. We should not ditch him because he indulges in “tribal” politics. We should persuade him to change his technique. In these five years, he must break with tradition and adopt an avante garde to ratchet up his campaign. He must strongly denounce tribalism and castigate those in his party who practice it.
Here is my advice to HH: Devise a strong slogan of unity that bashes tribalism, wear it on your chest, and sell it around the country. Abandon your suits and ties and wrap yourself in traditional chitenge that reads something like “I AM YOUR SON” translated in Bemba, Nyanja, Tonga, Lozi, and Kaonde, and go to Chipata, Kasama, Mansa, Senanga, and Solwezi. Forget the south, you can win it with your eyes closed. Caution: Don’t just speed through, pelt villagers with pebbles, cover them in dust, or mud, and rush back to Lusaka. Spend time and make common ground with them. Shake their hands, drink their brewed beer. Join in their dance, and promise them a better life.
This goes for Mulupi and the lot, retool your campaign. You all performed poorly because you failed to make yourselves popular. You urgently need to establish your own voter familiarity through repetitive communication with the likely voters. Start now! Create a “War Room.” Just in case I am misunderstood, a War Room is a place in which strategic campaign decisions are made. The title is taken from a 1993 American documentary film about Bill Clinton’s campaign for President of the United States during the 1992 presidential elections.
In the first year make yourself the strongest opponent of some of King Cobra’s policies. Put together an aggressive fundraising campaign and use some of the money to print T-shirts (500-1000) with a simple message: “Vote (Name) 2016” with logo, back and front. Don’t put the name of your party, not yet. You would have begun your campaign.
Remember, in 1992, forty-six-year old Clinton’s victory exemplified the shift of the United States and many other countries from the old guard to young leaders. In 2016 or 2021 it is your turn Kenneth Mwenda, Godwin Lewanika, Dambisa Moyo, Robert Sakulanda, Trevor Mwamba, Moses Banda, Mulenga Chibiliti, Killion Munyama, George Samiselo, Chuma Himonga, Charles Banda, Maurice Mubila Mubila, Kaluba Chitumbo, Oswald Mutale …more names, please.
Field Ruwe is a US-based Zambian media practitioner and author. He is a PhD candidate with a B.A. in Mass Communication and Journalism, and an M.A. in History.