By Field Ruwe
I would like to start my article with a question, if I may: what makes president Sata to snap and cut his rivals in shreds with his tongue? I know some of you adore and worship him, and for many in the PF he is a lifeline—savior and beacon of hope. But does it worry you one second that there are often times when he shows flickers of darkness.
I am prompted to pose this question after Sata, in his usual moment of impaired self-control, publicly and sadistically flouted and mocked Hakainde Hichilema and Father Frank Bwalya’s parentage. How many of you sincere and judicious PF aficionados and ideological allies think there is nothing wrong with what he said? What say you Dr. Kenneth Kaunda, Alexander Chikwanda? You cannot comment, I clearly understand.
Let me categorically state that the words uttered by Sata at a Chipata rally, before men, women, and children, did not come out the mouth of a loving and caring father; they did not come from the vanguard of our nation, but from a desperate, inconsiderate, coldblooded, pathetic sadist.
The word “sadism” needs to be clarified. It is “a behavioral disorder characterized by a callous, vicious, manipulative, and degrading behavior expressed towards other people.” Now, see if the statement “Hichilema and Father Bwalya bana bamu…(I can’t complete it, it’s too painful) is sadistic.
It is not the first time Sata has senselessly poured scorn on his opponents and sent them into a depression. It bears remembering that he is the same person who encouraged his supporters, some as young as sixteen, to carry cabbages on sticks and kick them while chanting “No more Mwanawasa!” When Sata causes psychological injury to people, he has no sense of regret; he does not feel guilty or apologetic. If anything he enjoys such moments immensely, just like a sadist.
President Sata is the father of the nation. What kind of parent is he? Is he a loving, inspiring, motivating, caring, sensible father, or an insensible, heartless, selfish, dangerous, sly, devious one? Is he simply insane? Is he our Idi Amin—our Bokassa? Is Douglas Siakalima right when he hints that Sata could be a leader with a mental malady worth examining by the medical board as enshrined in our constitution, or are PF cadres right when they say he is a sound-minded, hard-working, wise and caring president worth dying for?
Worried for my country and our children, I showed up at some well served psychologist and showed him some of Sata’s eruptions and gusts. Here is what he said:
“People who hurt others with extremities crave cruelty. It is possible that in their lives they have found themselves in the dark corner—humiliated and degraded, that when they were young they experienced pain and hardship. When they come out, they find the act of hurting their opponents pleasurable. Their arsenal for defeat is extreme injurious rhetoric.”
“How much do you know this man?” he asked.
“Very little,” I said.
“Do you know how he grew up?”
He laughed. “You mean you don’t know your president?”
“Hardly,” I replied.
“Well, when you find out more about him come back. It’s only then I will be able to provide you with a full picture because sadistic behavior is laid down in early childhood.”
When I left his office I was ashamed that I did not know how and where my president grew up. I drove to one of the well-stocked libraries in the world in search of any information that might provide a full biography of Zambia’s fifth president. It was while in the library that I came across an article titled “‘Humiliating’ work as Victoria station porter helped Michael Sata become Zambia’s president,” by Aislinn Laing, a Johannesburg-based Southern Africa Correspondent for The Telegraph. In 2012, Laing traveled to Lusaka for a one-on-one interview with Sata at State House.
In journalism one of the first ideal interview questions; one often used to break the ice and establish a rapport with the interviewee is “first tell me about yourself, where were you born and where did you go to school?” I was hoping Laing had kicked off in such a traditional manner and that Sata had provided the childhood details that have for years eluded many a journalist.
As I read, it occurred to me that there was no such information. What popped out though was Sata’s experience in England. It helped me peek into his personal nature and begin to piece together the interlocking and tessellating pieces of the jigsaw puzzle.
In the interview, Sata told Laing that he travelled to England before Zambia’s independence and worked first in a laundry in Bromley, before moving to Vauxhall plant in Luton. He then moved to British Rail where he worked at Victoria Station then London Bridge first as a porter, then a shunter, then conductor and eventually driver.”
Sata narrates his traumatizing experience as a manual worker. According to him, he was humiliated and degraded.
“But every hour I spent on manual work, every hour I was humiliated in England or degraded has helped me because that’s the same way other people feel in the townships here. People are still walking long distances and are working long hours.”
I remembered the psychologist’s words: “humiliated and degraded.” He had said people who have experienced extreme humiliation and degradation are insecure and therefore on the lookout for what they might perceive as a threat. They experience emotional insensitivity as well as estrangement. Many become apprehensive, vindictive, and intolerable to criticism. When they find themselves in a position of responsibility or leadership, they become sadists and turn the same humiliation and degradation on their opponents.
Could humiliation and degradation have occurred earlier in Sata’s young life? We don’t know because his infant, teenage, and early adult life is not known. It is possible that humiliation and degradation happened when he worked as a constable. According to FTJ, Sata’s career did not end well. FTJ intimates that Sata served some time in prison and falls short of mentioning the crime he committed. If this is true, then it perhaps explains why Sata has intense outbursts that are often embarrassing, unacceptable or unpredictable?
How about humiliation and degradation later in life? I dug into the archives and the first one that came to my attention occurred in 1992. This was perhaps the first time an editor of a newspaper had attacked Sata. At the height of his fame as Minister of Local Government, he was called a political prostitute by Fred Mmembe.
In his scathing editorial, Mmembe accused Sata of corruption and riotous behavior. Sata dashed to court and sued him and his newspaper. In 1995, Chief Justice Matthew Ngulube ruled in Sata’s favor. But it was too late; Sata’s ego was bleeding profusely. Throughout the three-year trial he had lived with the label of a deceitful and immoral cabinet minister who awarded houses to his relatives and contracts to associates.
“When sadists are wounded they seek revenge,” the psychologist said. “Like a lion they retreat in a corner and without warning spring at their attacker.”
“Like a snake, you mean,” I said with the cobra in mind.
“Like any beast,” he said. “Sadists are an emotional wreck,” he continued. “While they enjoy inflicting pain on others they crave impregnability. They do not like to be exposed. They do not have a strong stomach for criticism. At the same time their defense mechanism is strong. When they choke their attackers, they do so determinedly. In the event they fail. They resort to harsher measures.”
“Like legal action,” I said.
“Yes, they want their tormentors severely punished.
Again I agreed. See why—Sata v Simwaka and others; Sata v Chimba and others; also see 1998: Sata threatens to sue The Post for calling him a liar; 2007: Sata threatens to sue the state media for reporting that he was deported from Malawi; 2011: Sata threatens to sue Zambia Daily Mail. May 2012, president Sata sues Hichilema, The Daily Nation, Hot FM, and UNZA lecturer for defamation and character assassination, and many more.
You are asking why I am so obsessed with president Sata. Why am I spending so much time trying to understand his mind? It is because the future of our children is in his hands. They are badly in need of a role model. Like him, they want to succeed in life and make more of their future. Even for those who do not aspire to be president, Sata casts a ray of inspiration.
Unfortunately, Sata is a danger to our children. If he is going to sow seeds of discord, our children will emulate him. They too will become obnoxious and hateful. If he is going to condone violence, they will think it is okay to beat up an opponent. If he is going to disrespect our chiefs and cabinet ministers and castigate them in public, they will lose respect for them. In the end Zambia will be a nation of violent and insolent sadists.
So, how are we, a peace-loving people, going to arrest Sata’s antithetical and outrageous conduct? Are we going to allow him to ridicule and insult us because he is our leader? Are we going to allow him to harass our chiefs and demean and silence our MPs and cabinet ministers? Are we going to allow our children to listen to his pathetic and ruthless outpourings? How are we going to ensure that our traditional rulers and our intelligentsia are protected from his wrath?
Here is how. We must defuse his authoritarian rule. In my articles I have often referred to President Michael Sata as an authoritarian leader. That is who he is. In his interview with Laing, he admits it. When asked to comment on assertions by his critics that he was authoritarian, he replied:
“To be a parent, you must be authoritarian. If Zambians want to succeed they must learn to work hard and they should not expect to be treated with kid gloves.”
Authoritarians are sadistic dictators. They treat their people like children. We are not Sata’s children. We do not want a father-son relationship with a ruthless leader. We refuse to go back to the KK days. In a democracy like ours, we are his employers. His stay at State House is based on the vote of us, the ruled. We hold him accountable for his past, his policies, and conduct in office. His power flows from us to him and not the other way round. This is what Zimbabweans failed to pump into Mugabe’s head. We don’t need a Mugabe—an authoritarian; a dictator. We don’t need a demi-god or a heartless and senseless opportunist.
Also, in a democracy the media checks on the president and ensures he upholds his oath of office. The president accommodates those with dissenting opinions and tolerates criticism. He regularly holds press conferences and addresses tough questions like “Mr. President, is it true that you were once imprisoned, and if so doesn’t past criminal conduct disqualify you to be president?” or “Is it true that you are personally benefiting financially from the Zambia-Chinese relationship?” or “Mr. President why have you ordered the arrest of journalists you deem defamatory when you have embraced your worst defamer, Fred Mmembe?” or “Mr. President, what has happened to the money former president Chiluba left in the Zamtrop account?”
In other words, we must not allow president Sata to abuse his discretion. We need logical governing; it is our fundamental right. We need governing that is way above ridicule, insults, disrespect, and buffoonery. President Sata must not hide in his inequities and abuse his authority. We must not fear him, but confront him and exorcise the demons in him so he can serve us with love and respect. That’s all we demand of him.
Field Ruwe is a US-based Zambian media practitioner, historian, and author. He is a PhD candidate at George Fox University and serves as an adjunct professor (lecturer) in Boston. ©Ruwe2012