Sata needs basic integrity

By Given Mutinta

Whether a politician or a soldier or a police officer people will judge your integrity to the degree to which you live your life consistent with the highest values that you espouse.

To be trusted one has to show evidence of integrity; the quality of having high moral principles, being reliable, trustworthy, able to harmonize one’s actions and words.

In the presidential election campaigns last year, President Michael Sata made a litany of promises coherent with national highest values and virtues. On this basis people gave him their vote that scooped him into power.

Within a year of his rule he has succeeded in underwhelming and disappointing many people who voted eagerly for him. He has failed to deliver on his promises.

It now makes sense when people say that promises are like babies: very easy to make with pleasure but very hard to deliver!

Sata promised to rein-in the Chinese in the Zambian industry. He accused their firms of discriminating against Zambian workers on the mines. He denounced them for operating mines with sub-standard safety measures and for housing Zambian workers in ‘ghetto’ compounds. Sata further condemned them that they refused to employ Zambians instead were transporting workers from China even for manual labour jobs.  These problems are still there even today!

Hardly a month in office he did a U-turn on his opposition to the snobbish role of Chinese business operatives in the Zambian industry. He now argues that he was oblivious of the full range of Chinese activities in Zambia.

Does Sata’s U-turn mean that he did not know before he was sworn in as president what many Zambians knew that China is too important to our country’s prosperity to annoy?

Immediately after his election he dispatched high-level emissaries to Beijing to silky-smooth relations. Later he went to ‘Peking’ himself.

Sata’s political talk and U-turn makes one wonder if integrity exists in his vocabulary. You do not need to be a philosopher for moral principles and problems to know that integrity is an extremely absolute personal and cultural value.

Its assumption is the basis for ethical action and foundation upon which other measures of integrity are based.

For Sata to be respected and taken serious he should have basic integrity to live according to the values he espouses. In the wise words of Paul Wellstone, ‘Never separate the life you live from the words you speak’.

Time after time he condemned the Chinese firms but unable to sign his name to his position. Does integrity mean anything to Sata? Winning elections is nice if one does not lose his integrity in the process.

A president should be credible and truthful. Promises leader makes are clouds; fulfilment is rain people are yet to receive from Sata!

He vowed to run a government that would uphold democracy where all citizens have an equal say in the decisions that affect their lives.

Today he has succeeded in transforming our country into a police state. He is exercising rigid and repressive controls over the social, economic, and political life of the people.

He has banned political rallies and meetings. People are now restricted on their freedoms of association, expression, which are subject to police monitoring or enforcement.

His political control exerted by the police operates outside the boundaries imposed by our constitution.

He is exhibiting elements of totalitarianism and there is no distinction between the law and the exercise of political power by the executive. Is this the kind of democracy he promised? Don Galer once said, ‘Integrity is what we say, what we do, and what we say we do.’

Sata should learn to follow through on what he promised to do. His credibility will only be built over time, and it will be built from the history of his words and actions.

He promised to re-introduce the windfall tax. A few days in office he ‘about-turned’ on his promise arguing that it could harm mining operations and negatively impact the economy.

Sata’s specialism in U-turns is dispiriting! He was the fastest in making policy pronouncements and the most unfaithful in honouring them.

Integrity does not mean that Sata should never make blunders. A leader with integrity accepts responsibility for his blunders or deceitful promises because he knows that true power is actualized only when ‘word’ and ‘deed’ have not parted company.

He protested in Livingstone and refused to use the safer government transport assigned to him opting for a blue commuter’s minibus – as a way of ‘realigning’ himself with the poor!

However, after being squeezed into economy class when he travelled to Brazil for the Rio +20 United Nations Conference, he wants government to establish an Executive Travel Unit.

What has happened to the poor that he now wants executive treatment he turned down in Livingstone? We no longer have the poor among us? This is an abhorrent form of hypocrisy and mockery to the poor!

You cannot fake virtues you do not have. Soon or later people will know your true colours. Mahatma Gandhi said, ‘true leaders have courage to face their true colours’.

Sincere leaders do the right thing not to make an impression but because it is right. Integrity is doing the right thing, even if nobody is observing. This is the magic key to living your life with integrity – not Sata’s deleterious Pharisaism!

He promised to de-politicize the public civil service criticizing Rupiya Banda that governmental service was ridden with party cadres. He pledged to run a civil service based on professional merit as proven by competitive examinations.

It is just last week he appointed a Patriotic Front (PF) senior party cadre Willie Nsanda as Board Chairman of the Roads Development Agency (RDA). Not long ago he appointed a losing candidate in the Livingstone Central bye election Joseph Akafumba as Ministry of Justice Permanent Secretary.

Ambassadorial missions are also inundated with party cadres. He has done a U-turn to the promise to ensure professionalism in the civil service.

Countrymen and women, truth has no special time of its own. It must be lived now and always. If you want to know what a good leader is like, take a good look at how he treats his policies and promises!

Sata promised the restoration of the Barotseland agreement, to clean up Lusaka city, have a small cabinet, enact the freedom of information bill, repeal the Public Order Act, and other promises he has ‘U-turned’ on.

His U-turn on his positions casts serious doubt on his integrity. It says nothing but one thing; that integrity is Sata’s archenemy.

How do you trust a leader who makes promises for the pleasure of breaking them? A national leader with integrity will not make a promise today and tomorrow behave as if he did not know the promise he made.

Sata’s track record of U-turns makes it very difficult to trust him. This is one of the reasons he should not be allowed to transfer the RDA to State House to be under his supervision in addition to it being illegal and unconstitutional.

His promise that the RDA funds will be spent conscientiously as intended should not be bought by any well-intentioned citizens.

His track record of U-turns is confounding enough not to be trusted. How will Sata stop corrupt activities in awarding road contracts when he has challenges with integrity the virtue he is espousing?

Whoever is insensitive with the truth in small matters such as campaign promises cannot be trusted with important matters such as the K27 trillion roads project. Scripture says, ‘….…If you are dishonest in little things, you will not be honest with greater responsibilities’ (Luke 16:10)

I am not saying Sata’s U-turns are essentially damaging. In the words of Tony Blair, ‘to listen and to learn’ shows a readiness to be flexible and sensitive to public opinion. But when such U-turns become all too frequent people are forced to wonder whether Sata’s government has indeed a coherent plan for the country.

As leaders we must be honest and true to our society and more importantly to ourselves. Abraham Lincoln declared when he was president: ‘I desire so to conduct the affairs of this administration that if at the end, when I come to lay down the reins of power, I have lost every other friend on earth, I shall at least have one friend left, and that friend shall be down inside me – integrity.’

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