FRIENDS AND COMRADES
(EDITORIAL COMMENT FOR MONDAY 1ST SEPTEMBER 2014)
Some people are questioning why we are saying what we are saying about Michael Sata’s dropping of Wynter Kabimba from his government and the Patriotic Front key leadership.
They are saying we are saying what we are saying because Wynter is our friend. We wonder if they would have been satisfied with us totally keeping quiet about this issue, a matter that has attracted so much national and international attention! The truth is they don’t want to hear what we are saying because it is hurting their lies, deceit and propaganda against Wynter.
Our relationship with Wynter is not a secret. Wynter is our friend. He is a comrade of ours. And so is Michael – he is a friend and comrade of ours. And as we have stated publicly, Wynter was introduced to us by Michael. We knew Wynter from a distance and it is Michael who brought him close to us.
And we know, we have been well taught, what it means for one to be your friend, your comrade. When Bill Clinton was in problems, Nelson Mandela said this about him: “President Clinton has been my friend even before he became president. I respect him very much. There is a vow of goodwill between us. I will support my friend even if he has been deserted by the entire world.” There is something to learn from this. And we learn from the wise.
Sirach 22:25 reads: “I will never be afraid to protect a friend, and I will never turn a friend away if he needs me. If I suffer because of him, everyone who learns of it will be on guard against him.”
And on the same score, Proverbs 17:17 teaches: “Friends always show their love. What are brothers for if not to share trouble?”
And in Sirach 7:18, we are advised: “Don’t betray a friend for money. Don’t betray a real friend for all the gold in the world.”
And Sirach 6:8-12 adds: “Some people will be your friends only when it is convenient for them, but they won’t stand by you in trouble. Others will fall out with you over some argument, and then embarrass you by letting everyone know about it. Others will sit at your table as long as things are going well; they will stick to you like your shadow and give orders to your servants, but they will not stand by you in trouble. If your situation takes a turn for the worse, you won’t be able to find them anywhere.”
“When things are going well, it is hard to tell who your real friends are, but in hard times, you recognise your enemies; even your friends will leave you then. But when you are successful, your enemies will act like friends” (Sirach 12:8-9).
Tatuli ba muselela kwakaba. We are not opportunists who as Lenin once defined them, by their very nature, will always evade taking a clear and decisive stand and will always seek a middle course, always wriggle like a snake between two mutually exclusive points of view and try to agree with both.
There are people who always side with the strong, the powerful, the rich. “When a rich man stumbles, his friends will steady him, but if a poor man falls, his friends will have nothing to do with him. When a rich man makes a mistake, there are many people to cover up for him and explain away all the things he never should have said. But let a poor man make a mistake, and he gets nothing but criticism. Even if what he says makes good sense, nobody will listen. When a rich man speaks, everyone is silent, and they praise him to the skies for what he says. But let a poor man speak and everybody says, ‘Who is that?’ They push him down if he so much as tumbles” (Sirach 13:21-23).
We are told “you can lose all your self-respect by being reluctant to speak up in the presence of stupidity” (Sirach 20:22).
The lies that are being peddled about Wynter are not new. We dealt with these same issues last year. We had the opportunity, as friends and comrades, to discuss these issues with Michael in the most honest way. We say in the most honest way because we don’t lie to friends, we don’t attempt to manipulate or mislead friends. We also had the opportunity to discuss this issue with Wynter in a similar manner. Wynter had reached a point where he could no longer take seeing his name on a coffin being paraded on Cairo Road, and he wanted to resign. We advised him against it and he listened. Probably he was right and we were wrong. Our advice to him was that as long as Michael wanted him to stay on and work with him, he should stay – one can’t resign from his comrade and friend’s party and government because that would send a very strong and negative message. And it will amount to a betrayal, a repudiation of friendship.
This is the way we deal with friends. And this is the way we deal with Michael and Wynter.
Wynter’s departure is not a matter of personal interest for us. His stay in government or in the leadership of the Patriotic Front brought no personal benefit to us. We are not favour-seekers. And we challenge anyone to bring up anything, no matter how little it may be, that Wynter used his positions to extend favours to us. Equally, we challenge anyone to bring out any favour, no matter how little it may be, that Michael has extended to us.
For us, our friendship and comradeship with Michael has brought no personal benefit but burdens and duties on us. Even if favours were extended to us by Michael using his office, we would decline to take them. That’s how we operate. For us, it is not friendship of benefits. For us the greatest delight of life is a feeling of being near and necessary to others. Michael has been our friend long before he became President, when no one, including himself and ourselves, ever thought he would ever be President of the Republic or even a leader of a political party. The duties Michael is today performing, necessary and very important as they are, have actually been a fetter on our friendship. We can no longer see or talk to our friend as and when we want to. Put simply, we have lost a friend to the nation, to a bigger cause.
We know there are people who have cashed in, who have become rich or well-to-do, who are today living better than they were before as a result of Michael’s presidency. We are certainly not part of that. Even the Zambian Airways and Development Bank of Zambia issue that some foolish people had been insinuating Michael was trying to help us get away with is utter nonsense. The matter is in court. And the Development Bank of Zambia falls under the Ministry of Finance, which is today under the control of Alexander Chikwanda, a man who views us as his enemies out to destroy him. And Chikwanda is not a distant person to us. He is a relative of the editor-in-chief of this newspaper. But there is no patronage as a result of that relationship. They are, in similar measure, both members of the Bemba royal family. It’s not a matter of nepotism for us. It is a matter of principle. It is not a matter of blood relationship. It is a matter of comradeship.
But this is not to say if our friends or comrades have done wrong things, then they should get away with it. We will not defend the wrong decisions or acts of our friends. If our friends have committed crimes, like all other criminals, they should go to jail. The only thing we will plead for them is to have a fair trial. And when they are in jail, we will take time to visit them, pray for them and take them some food and other things, within our means, that can make their stay in jail a bit more bearable.
As we have stated before, wrong is wrong, no matter who does it or says it. And equally, right is right, even if everyone is against it. We will not wash our hands like Pontius Pilate and let an innocent man be crucified because voicing out will put us in trouble. Wynter has done nothing wrong, in our view. We have listened to the accusations being levelled against him and there is nothing really that stands up against him. He is simply a victim of malice, lies, concoctions, forgeries, manipulation, deceit and so on and so forth. If standing up for Wynter is wrong, then, as they say, we don’t want to be right. “Gossip is so tasty – how we love to swallow it!” (Proverbs 18:8).
It is said that “lying is an ugly blot on a person’s character, but ignorant people do it all the time. A thief is better than a habitual liar, but both are headed for ruin”. And “gifts and bribes make even wise men blind to the truth, and prevent them from being honest”.
We do not claim to be the owners of absolute truth, but we can with all honesty say we are pursuing an honest path.
We need to bring a change in the way we treat each other as citizens of our society. A decent society is not based on rights or powers we hold; it is based on duty, our duty to each other. To all should be given the opportunity, from all responsibility demanded. We have a duty to show respect and tolerance to others. We should be held together by our values and by the strength of our character. There is need for civility in our dealings with each other. What is going on today says nothing about our politics. It speaks volumes about our character. Let us make the good that is in the heart of each of us serve the good of all of us and not just the interests of a corrupt and tribalistic clique that is today seeking hegemony over government and the ruling Patriotic Front. They had no interest in controlling the Patriotic Front when it was in opposition. Some of them were not even interested in taking up positions on its central committee. But look how today they are clamouring for the control of that party. What has changed? There are now visible benefits. At that time, there were no benefits but risks. Let us give our country the gift of our energy, our ideas, our hopes, our talents.
We don’t think Wynter really understood why his genuinely good intentions and efforts were sneered at by some elements in this government and the ruling party, why there appeared to be a permanent quest on their behalf to bring him down.
Our own and only explanation is that genuine goodness is threatening to those at the opposite end of the moral spectrum.
It is possible to have too much of a good thing.
Our lives teach us who we are. We have learned the hard way that when you permit anyone else’s description of reality to supplant your own, then you might as well be dead. Hear things for yourselves. See things for yourselves and make your own judgements. Obviously, a rigid, blinkered, absolutist world-view is the easiest to keep hold of; whereas the fluid, uncertain, metamorphic picture we have always carried about is rather more vulnerable.
Yet we must cling with all our might to that chameleon, that chimera, that shape-shifter, our own soul; must hold on to its mischievous, iconoclastic, out-of-step clown-instincts, no matter how great the storm. And if that plunges us into contradiction and paradox, so be it; we have lived in those messy waters all our lives. We have fished in them.
It gets dark sometimes, but the morning comes. Things like these breed character. And character breeds faith. And in the end, faith will not disappoint. We must never surrender to a high moral challenge. Hold your head high now. We must not lose you to cynicism, pessimism and despair. Even in the lows, dream of the day that you will be upon your feet again. Face reality, yes. But don’t stop with the way things are; dream of things as they ought to be. Face humiliation, but love, hope, faith and dreams will help you rise above that. Dream on the high road of sound values. If we are principled first, our politics will fall in place.
We know it is hard to understand, but sometimes things like these happen. It is all part of the process of life.
We are told that “when some fool starts an argument, he is asking for a beating. When a fool speaks, he is ruining himself; he gets caught in the trap of his own words” (Proverbs 18:6-7). Today, people are claiming all sorts of things against Wynter. Even those who got themselves into trouble with Michael and had to leave are blaming all that on Wynter when the stated reasons for their departure were totally different. This is how liars live. This is how crooks work.