By Field Ruwe
Candidate Michael Sata, the man who promised to decapitate the dragon was an unskilled practitioner of confidence tricks. He had won awed recognition from us for threatening to pull all Chinese investments in Zambia should he be elected.
“Zambia has been mortgaged to China!” he decried. “These Chinese are infesters, not investors.”
We applauded him. He won the election, and wasted no time in summoning the Chinese ambassador Zhou Yuxiao to State House. We called him man of action. Anxiously, we held our breaths and waited for the greatest expulsion after the Idi Amin’s 90-day ultimatum on the Indians back in 1972, for that’s what he had made us believe.
When the State House doors opened, the dragon emerged smiling. Our fiery leader had found its intelligence overpowering and tucked his tail between his legs. That, we now learn is what happed in the office on that Monday, the day of September 26, 2011. Today our leader has eaten his own words and become a pawn on a chessboard upon which the intelligent Yuxiao is spearheading a great game for Chinese dominance in Zambia.
Who was the more intelligent of the two was obvious from the beginning—Zhou Yuxiao. He was not born intelligent, but like the majority of the Chinese, he worked for it. He worked hard and graduated in International Relations from the University of Beijing in 1974 with excellent academic performance. He then pursued his studies in international politics and International Relations at the University of Toronto and University of Regina in Canada. Records are there to prove the fact.
The same cannot be said about our leader. His academic background remains a mystery. No academic institution in Zambia or anywhere in the world has proudly claimed him as theirs. No former classmates have emerged to testify to his academic prowess. I therefore cannot compare his level of intelligence with that of Yuxiao’s. But I can speculate that going by his recent comments on intelligence, he feels intellectually inferior to the Chinese.
Yuxiao knew he was smarter than our leader way before their first meeting. He is a career diplomat. He has been since he left school. Between 1999 and 2003, he was stationed at the Chinese Embassy in Nigeria as Political Counsellor. The political section of the Chinese ministry of foreign affairs is a key component of China’s desire to “invest” in Africa. In Nigeria, Yuxiao’s duties were to study and understand the Nigerians (Africans) and report his findings to Beijing. Prior to that he had, as a young man, come into contact with Africans who were studying in China in the 1970s. In Canada it is possible that he shared classes with some. In both cases he felt more superior over Africans just by virtue of being non-black—even when some African students had better grades than him.
As an International Relations student he studied the Cold War—the political and military tension between the USA and its allies, and USSR and understood the CIA and KGB psychological warfare in Africa. He saw how both the USA and Russia (USSR) wooed desperate African leaders with large amounts of economic aid and kickbacks and understood that the primary motive was to control the vast energy resources of Africa.
Upon graduation, and at the height of IMF and the World Bank in Africa, he served as senior staff and Deputy Director of the Department of Asian and African Affairs and studied Africa’s response to the two lending institutions and paid particular attention to how the “carrot and stick” worked. When he got to Nigeria he saw how the dictator Sani Abacha, who had died the previous year, stripped the country of its finances and deposited billions into his personal account. Yuxiao clearly understood how corrupt and selfish the majority African presidents were. He and other Chinese political strategists concluded that to get the African leader perform any feat at the expense of his people, one must dangle the carrot. That’s all it took on that September day at State House.
“The Chinese are far more intelligent than you, so be careful,” Sata told newly-appointed ambassador to China Gertrude Kasuba Mwape.
When he uttered the above hurtful words, he was implying that Zambians are genetically predisposed to be less intelligent than the Chinese. This ludicrous statement put a smile on Yuxiao and all the Chinese in Zambia and in Beijing, including the ones who sell chickens at Soweto Market. They like to hear such hogwash because they too can be as racist as they come. If only Sata had been to college he would understand how big an insult this is to those Zambians, at home and abroad, who on daily basis are fighting the intellectual inferiority myth that is still taken for granted by whites, Asians, and other non-blacks.
Now, from my understanding Gertrude Kasuba Mwape is a highly qualified psychologist. To have served as a lecturer for 18 years at the University of Zambia means she is highly intelligent, more intelligent than the ordinary Chinese and perhaps at the same level or better than Yuxiao whose known highest qualification is a Master’s Degree. But as far as Sata is concerned she is intellectually incompetent because she is black.
Such absurdity should not be perpetuated by our head of state or any political leader for that matter. We are a very intelligent people who for ages have been victims of scientific racism and are on daily basis suppressed and oppressed by the very people Sata is now glorifying. Those Zambians who have shared classes with Asians and Caucasians will testify to the fact that they are as good as them, and often better. If only Sata knew.
The astounding success of the Asians academically and economically is not because they are naturally intelligent; it is because their leaders have turned them into achievers. They have ingrained in their minds a will and resolve incomparable. Asians who not long ago faced violent, sometime lethal prejudice have turned themselves into paragons of educational success. They have taught themselves to be diligent, competitive, and have become passionate, focused and ambitious. Today they have infiltrated every aspect of Western academic institution and lifted some of the greatest ideas.
Instead of assuming all Zambians are unintelligent, and ridiculing them in public, Sata should be emulating the Chinese. He should be encouraging young Zambians to carry themselves with a “surer step and confidence” as if they were better than the Chinese. He should be telling them that they own full membership to humanity and should show the world they deserve it. He should tell them not to give up on math and the sciences, and should routinely reward academically gifted students and send them to Oxford, Harvard, and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), just like the Chinese are doing.
Sadly, the president would rather be presiding over a disconnected education system that fails to mold the majority of Zambians students into achievers. He is happy with an education system that does not inspire and create optimism. He refuses to accept that Zambians are just as intelligent as the Chinese, and that if they practiced those behaviors of thoroughness that are Chinese, they would enjoy the same fruits.
I am not being disrespectful when I say that this is all Greek to the president. He does not know how to build and ritualize a common, strong culture of achievement that extends to all the children of Zambia. He is not interested in working with the Zambian intelligentsia in creating an education system compatible with modern society; one that provides our children with intellectually challenging curriculums. He cannot devise a well-articulated message about the creation of an intellectually competent Zambia because he thinks all Zambians are naturally dull and therefore unredeemable. What a great shame.
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