By Dr Given Mutinta
May comfort find President Sata’s family to help them through this grim time.
The demise of President Sata has put our integrity, and culture of how we treat the dead under the spotlight.
The torrents of praises Sata is served makes it logical to argue that all dead people are good, honest, selfless, loving, and real sons or daughters of the land.
Shortly after Sata breathed his last people started showering him with unmatched praises. Some praises fall short of deifying him. In some instances divine attributes such as the ‘almighty leader’ and ‘impeccable leader’ are used.
However, to be honest, the eulogies that Sata was a unifier, honest, selfless, peace maker, democratic, and others do not pair with what he was in real life.
In the real world Sata was ruthless; he used the ferocious police to arrest journalists, opposition leaders, and other dissenting voices. Sata was selfish; he increased his basic salary three times within two years and imposed a wage freeze on the poor civil servants. Sata was uncultured; he mocked sick people such as the late Levy Mwanawasa, George Kunda and Anderson Mazoka. Sata was a liar; he lied continually so as to get to the presidency and cling to power even when he was sick to death. Sata was a dictator; he wielded absolute authority. Sata was a tribalist; he appointed more than seventy per cent of ministers and deputies from his region. Sata was wasteful; he created a bloated cabinet and machinated meaningless by-elections. A catalogue of detestable peculiarities entrenched in his leadership style goes endlessly.
The praises given to Sata speak volumes about the shallowness and superficiality of the virtue of honesty in our lives. We seem to be a society not able to differentiate a shovel from a spade.
In spite being a society notorious in reproaching evil actions, we fail to recalibrate our thinking to pair it with reality.
If a man, for example, likes many women and has short sexual relationships with them, we are quick to call him a womaniser. Is it an insult to call such a man a womaniser? Not at all! In fact, that is an appropriate description of his actions or who he is.
Unless we are ready to address this discourse, we will never sanitise the framework which defines acceptable political methods in this country.
It is unarguable that we are not perfect. This explains why we do not know things as they truly are always otherwise we would avoid making blunders. Therefore, we should be open to accounts that truly describe both our actions and inactions.
Sata was the most criticised president we have had. This was largely as a result of his substandard leadership. In spite of this, the minute he died people started singing flamboyant and ear-splitting eulogies about him.
If I may ask, what happened to justify a turnaround such that suddenly Sata we called all kinds of names is now being praised? From nowhere Sata has become a saint.
The exaltations raining down on Sata makes one wonder if we made an awfully poor judgement of him when he was alive. Or our praises are mere figments of the imagination given the shock of the so called sudden death of a president who was in London for medical check-up? Or we are a nation with a short memory to recall who Sata was in real life?
Praises of Sata’s character make me wonder if all people taken aback by praises given to him have mental block conditions because their understanding of Sata’s true colours has not changed.
Is it not Sata people in their restricted spaces of freedom were denouncing as the worst president so far for openly flouting the constitution, creating unmatched lawlessness as cadres brandishing machetes went berserk? Is it not Sata who was violent and fuelled violence and disharmony? Is it not Sata who cramped on people’s freedoms and rights? Is he not the same man today they are exalting who messed up with the cost of living while he doubled his salary?
I am not censuring Sata but the human phenomenon where at all times death transforms black into white snow, desperadoes into heroes, clowns into wise, and despots into democrats.
At the centre of this nauseating common hypocrisy is a huge phobia we have about death. The fear of death and the dead in this country makes us desperate such that we say and do ridiculous things.
Death makes us say all sorts of unthinkable things to hopelessly conceal death’s harsh reality and our imminent deaths. We praise dead people as a way of calming the so called spirits to avoid their wraths. What wraths?
The things we do in the name of death make us hypocrites. What has the dead to do with praises served mostly by insincere, hopeless, and confused individuals and society?
The hypocrisies and futilities we engage in when someone has died serve no good to either the dead or the living.
In fact, the hypocritical flattery we serve the dead damages society by misrepresenting the past of the dead and immortalising their wicked lives.
Our country is abundantly religious. However, we fail to learn from several sources of truth that do not cover up wickedness.
In all honesty, the adulations served to president Sata are not related to his real life. By showering him insincere praises what history are we writing for the next generation? Of course an uncouthly distorted history!
If we were a society flourishing with saints then our ‘impulsive’ praises of the dead would be justified. Besides, our society could not be in ruins caused by poor leadership, corruption, plunder, tribalism, violence, lies, and other vices.
How come we have these vices in this country when all the people we put six feet under are saints, going by the praises we serve them? Who then is messing up our society since we are a nation bursting with saints?
For a second time, no one is perfect. However we can do better as individuals and society if we were resolute to be guided by the common good.
All the solidarity we feel we give to the dead cannot change their condition. If a womaniser or a dictator dies, he dies as a womaniser or a dictator, respectively.
What is more annoying is that people we have high opinion of are the ones in the forefront giving hypocritical praises of the dead. Some of the bizarre and outlandish praises given to Sata came from statesmen and women, and men and women of God.
Insincere praises of the dead show how superficial the virtue of honesty is in our lives and society.
It is not important how one departs this life; what really matters is the level of authentic eternal gain one makes out of the prized opportunity of life.
The harsh reality of death awaits us all who live, and die having injured both ourselves and others.
We should never trust people who make the dead into saints by serving them with false posthumous praises.
Even before praising the dead if the dead lived a life that tormented others, they would be already serving an agonising unending sentence if there is punishment or reward for the type of lives we live on earth.
My appeal is simple; let us serve the dead with sincere praises. This is the only way we can learn to write sincere and better eulogies with our lives.
If we cannot speak the truth about the dead, it is then better to shut up. Insincere praises mock the dead as they grossly misrepresent their lives.