Wherever fourth Republican president Rupiah Banda is today, he looks back and obviously prides in the respect with which he held the Office of President for Zambia.
There is no doubt that what happened in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia where President Michael Sata was booed, and several other international instances, are not only leaving a bitter pill in the mouth of any objective and genuine Zambian but tearing our glorious image apart.
That image of fledging democracy, a beacon of peace, a key liberator whose young democracy of less than three decades has given birth to four different presidents is slowly melting out.
After first Republican president Kenneth Kaunda came that flamboyant and eloquent ex-trade unionist Frederick J.T Chiluba then that astute and respected lawyer Levy Patrick Mwanawasa and on to the diplomat and think-tank Rupiah.
In the three years Rupiah served Zambia, no single Zambian, international journalists, not even those that have raped the profession at The Post, can point to a single incident of immeasurable disgrace.
Rupiah attended several international conferences, interacted with Zambians in the diaspora and met several Heads of State. There are those Heads of State he agreed with, and there are those he never agreed with.
Yet in all his interactions at home and abroad, Rupiah never reduced Zambia’s prestigious Number One office to the ridicule Sata has successfully managed to do just under two years in office. What will it become of by 2016? The answer can be traced in what is happening at the moment.
A journalist on the sidelines of the African Union, Idriss Ali Nassah, did not hide his shock. He came across a President who was behaving like a boy heading cattle. At that point you can be ashamed to identify yourself as Zambian but the reality at home is very much reflecting on the international stage. Zambia has a President who’s got no regard for the Office of the President or the people that gave him the mandate.
If it only happened in Ethiopia, one would forgive President Sata as first offender. This has happened in Botswana, London, Zimbabwe, Angola and the United States. On the local front, the list of these embarrassing incidents is endless. Even in church like the case was recently at the Cathedral, Sata is a shambolic figure in public. This explains why the man who once befriended every radio talk-show can nolonger face the same people he courageous addressed as opposition leader through a formal press conference now that he is head of state.
There is certainly an extent to which anyone can joke, better still, a Head of State because some jokes are expired. And this is what is happening with our dear Sata. His handlers know that bringing Sata before the press to answer questions will be a total disaster. He can’t explain a thing, he is blank, his only strength are insults.
As much as Zambians are tolerating this nonsensical behaviour, the international stage has no time for a clown posturing as Head of State.
That young journalists was short of insulting our intellect. How did ‘smart’ Zambians end up with a thug for President? He should have wondered when he tweeted; “Zambians are some of the smartest people I know. How they came to be led by such truly baffles the mind. “My God, Michael Sata is an embarrassment each time he is opening his mouth!!”
This is a journalist with only a minimum of 24 hours interaction with Sata but purely knows that his mouth is worse than that of crocodile such that when its open, only flies will think it is a safe haven.
The engagement in a hostile exchange with the audience, behaving erratically with jokes and mocking other ‘bald-headed’ heads of state, and mistaking the African Union with Organisation for African Unity (OAU), the precursor institution which is now extinct, is not a minor incident that the country should gloss over.
The Patriotic Front (PF) government of Zambia has had a number of conflicts with other nations, including a gaffe by Vice President Guy Scott against the people of South Africa. President Sata has drawn boos from crowds during his public appearances in the past as well, including at the Lusaka fairgrounds. And this should raise enough alarms.
Like Dr Canisus Banda has noted, “It was NOT Michael Sata that was booed. It was Zambia, us as a people! He is our mirror, a reminder of our need to urgently change, to seriously improve our image. The booing of our head of state by non-Zambians is vital feedback for which we ought to be grateful! The message is that Zambia in its current state is offensive to the rest of Africa!”
This is true and the situation is getting worse by the day. Not a single Head of State outside the rank and file of Robert Mugabe has made an attempt to visit Zambia. It is that bad.
It is illogical to think Zambia does not need its neigbhours. We are a landlocked country and this makes use heavily reliant of good neigbourliness. This is why Rupiah made it a point Zambia’s neigbhours were comfortable with him and the country. Ever wondered why the Zambian economy was booming under Rupiah? His ability to foster unity and treat those around him as human as possible made him a beacon of investment. He created a fertile environment for bilateral relationships and his fellow Heads of State trickled in with ease. No single President will have the pleasure to accept an invitation to Zambia if on foreign soil, its President behaves like a Nyau dancer.
If etiquette can be observed in a pit latrine what more in the Office of President where diplomacy and respect for oneself and its people is of utmost importance? Now, instead of being known for the good that we offer, our image as a country is that of thugs, thanks to a carefree Sata. How we miss that diplomacy endowed Rupiah, ever respectful of this country.