Narrow-minded leadership

“Poor people are helpless against a wicked ruler; he is as dangerous as a growling lion or a prowling bear. A ruler without good sense will be a cruel tyranny…” (Proverbs 28:15-16). This is what we see in Rupiah Banda and his conduct.

The way Rupiah has gone for Fr Frank Bwalya clearly shows a case of “a ruler without good sense” and one who is bound to be a cruel tyrant.

Briefing the press in Kitwe on Tuesday, Rupiah had this to say about Fr Bwalya: “There is that other man who has no children and is called a father and he is not even a Catholic father anymore, he must be told that his red nonsense will take him nowhere and will not be allowed. I’m happy that the people of the Copperbelt have refused to join his madness, the so-called Fr Bwalya.”

Firstly, it is a lie – a very big one for that matter – for Rupiah to say that Fr Bwalya “is not even a Catholic father anymore”. It is a fact that Fr Bwalya is still a Catholic priest and has not been excommunicated in any way. Contrary to Rupiah’s claims, Fr Bwalya is still a “Catholic father” under the Ndola Diocese. And this is something Rupiah could easily check and confirm. Rupiah is telling a lie and does not care about it because defaming ordinary citizens is not an issue for him. As it is said, “you have to hate someone to want to hurt him with lies. Insincere talk brings nothing but ruin” (Proverbs 26:28).

But this is what Rupiah likes doing. He’s not able to take his critics on the basis of the truth and facts. Rupiah’s preferred method is defamation, distortion and fabrication of information. He knows that as President, he cannot be sued for defamation and he uses that as a licence to abuse and defame others. It’s not long ago that Rupiah told lies about us, claiming we have pocketed US$ 30 million from state institutions using Zambian Airways.

To this very day, Rupiah has failed to back his lies. But because Rupiah doesn’t care about other citizens, he has not bothered to clear his lie. Instead he has attempted to cover his original lie with more lies. But as Nelson Mandela once observed, “no matter how hard its adversary – falsehood – may try to overwhelm it, truth refuses to yield”.

Rupiah is free to wage his own fights and attack people if that’s what he wants. That does not bother us. It is telling lies about people that is not acceptable from the person holding the office that Rupiah holds. That kind of carelessness will destroy him and has the potential of destroying the nation.

The desperation that Rupiah is showing in his eyes when he addresses his cadres and tries to whip up support can be a danger to our individual and collective security as citizens of this country.

That sort of desperation can send a signal to lawless elements among his supporters to do things that Rupiah will live to regret. We say this because his incendiary addresses seem to have a subtext which calls people to hatred and violence. Even when he pretends to talk against violence, it is clear he does not mean it. This is the danger that Rupiah is putting the nation in. His language is that of the devil and stinks of sulphur in every aspect.

It is this desperation that makes him lose control whenever he tries to address a meeting without a speech crafted for him by his handlers. Rupiah’s attacks on Fr Bwalya were a senseless, childish and shameful attempt to divert attention from the many very real issues that Fr Bwalya has been raising.

In his desperation to defame Fr Bwalya, Rupiah so lost it that, in what has become characteristic of his government’s behaviour, he launched an unprovoked attack on the whole Catholic Church clergy and its beliefs, especially the celibacy of its priests. What was the purpose of attacking Fr Bwalya’s religious persuasion by referring to him as “a father who has no children”?

Rupiah knows very well that all Catholic priests, including the Holy Father – the Pope, are called fathers. He also knows that this is not referring to them having biological children. But Rupiah chose to poke fun and mock the Catholic Church and its beliefs and practices. This is where his desperation took him. We all know that Rupiah has issues with the Catholic Church and its leadership in this country, but does that call for such a callous and unnecessary frontal attack on innocent people and the core values of this oldest Christian church? This is why we say Rupiah is “a ruler without good sense”.

Rupiah’s desperation even took him to the extent of mocking Fr Bwalya’s physical appearance: “kuyipa pa menso.” Truly, is this what the President should concern himself with? Is he the creator? If Fr Bwalya is ugly as Rupiah claims, is that his issue? Why doesn’t he take God the Creator to task over that? Even truthfully speaking, who is ugly between Rupiah and Fr Bwalya? We ask Rupiah to look at himself in the mirror and compare what he sees with the image of Fr Bwalya. Rupiah not liking Fr Bwalya cannot make this priest ugly. But this is what preoccupies Rupiah’s mind – pettiness, senselessness, narrow-mindedness.

We’ve always been saying that Rupiah has no time to think about deep things and occupy himself with what is important for the future of our people and our country. He’s a superficial fellow, a nyamasoya – not the real thing.

Rupiah does not care about the rights of fellow citizens. We say this because the only reason Fr Bwalya is being insulted and despised is because he has chosen to exercise rights of expression and assembly that are supposed to be protected by our Constitution – a constitution Rupiah has sworn to uphold. Clearly, Rupiah has no respect, not only for his fellow citizens that he was elected to serve, but also for the Constitution which gave him the office he holds.

It is quite true that respect for the rights, the human rights of others implies the highest respect for the human ideal, and that its denial suggests a conscious or unconscious lack of humanity on our part. This type of intolerance that Rupiah is everyday exhibiting must surely rank as one of the worst forms of immorality in human affairs.

What is distinctly lacking in Rupiah’s conduct is a culture of tolerance and humility which places the humanity of others before self and accepting that all citizens, not only those who support him, have a right to participate in shaping their destiny, the destiny of their country directly without fear of reprisal.

To Rupiah, it would seem, meaningful participation in the affairs of this country is only possible if one supports him, exalts him and daily sings praises of him. What Fr Bwalya is doing is totally in tune with the human rights guaranteed him under our Constitution – the freedom of expression and of assembly. Again, as Mandela aptly put it, “to deny any person their human rights is to challenge their very humanity”.

Tolerance and respect for our fellow citizens makes us respect the human rights, their rights of expression and assembly without inhibition, whether what they are saying or doing seems unfavourable or unacceptable to us. This is not something we achieve instinctively.

Rather, we develop it consciously and respectfully. For, our very instinct would drive us to throttling those who are not with us, those who oppose us in argument, or better still, smack them with a deadly blow. This is familiar to all who have seen the manner in which Rupiah has been attacking, despising and denouncing Fr Bwalya and the way he has gone for us.

We should not encourage or condone this narrow-mindedness among our leaders, for no nation can overcome its problems and make progress whose leaders are petty-minded, arrogant, dishonest, corrupt and narrow in thought or action.

As for Rupiah, we can only refer him to the wisdom of the Holy Bible: “if you get more stubborn every time you are corrected, one day you will be crushed and never recover” (Proverbs 29:1); and “the righteous hate the wicked, and the wicked hate the righteous” (Proverbs 29:27).
POST EDITORIAL Sat 24 Apr. 2010

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