By Given Mutinta
The veil of secrecy surrounding President Michael Sata’s health status is begetting all sorts of speculations that are creating an atmosphere of anxiety and fuelling fights for power among his sycophants.
Zambians have a right to know the health status of their leader. By the virtue of being president, Sata is akin to ‘public property’ owned by all Zambians and not only by Dr. Christine Kaseba and family. This is a ‘statute’ on how a president is looked at and neither Sata nor his power hungry supporters can change it.
When Hugo Chavez was diagnosed with cancer his subjects were informed about his ordeal. In 2001 when South African icon Nelson Mandela was diagnosed with prostate cancer South Africans were informed about his sicknesses. When Fidel Castro became sick due to intestinal hitches and the world’s speculation mill went into overdrive with rumours that he was too ill to govern, he arranged to be filmed in his ailing condition for his subjects to know what he was going through. Through this act Cubans were comforted that their leader, though sick, was still able to rule.
Castro, a communist authoritarian understood the significance of being transparent to his subjects about his health. He was clever to understand that creating a sense of power vacuum was dangerous for his country.
Unlike Sata, Castro was not answerable to a constitution or cabinet or parliament but he decided to be open about his health. Why can’t Sata, who was democratically elected, lift the veil of secrecy surrounding his health?
It is flummoxing whose idea it is for Sata to conceal his health from his subjects. Regardless of whose strategy it is, the scheme is imprudent, injudicious and misguided. It will put an interminable dent on Sata’s legacy.
The aides or political machinists advising Sata to continue hiding his health status are only doing so for their selfish interests. If Sata is too sick to govern then let him step down! We cannot paint a dead goat with white paint in order to prevent the bad smell. Remove the goat from the street and the bad smell will die out!
The scheme of total secrecy is generated by a small coterie appealing more to their emotions than to their intellect and national interest. Sata or his sycophants in this health issue have been deceitful and are acting as if Zambia is their personal property. Thus, Zambia must be protected from Sata’s ‘enemies’ by keeping his sickness a secret. This is wrong! Zambia is a sovereign nation; not Sata’s personal property.
Sata or whoever is in charge should rise above self-interest and make right decisions. If Sata is unable to govern, then he should resign and let his deputy finish the term of office.
Due to lack of openness, it is purported that Sata’s Indian Medical Team is in the country. This is already causing great fear in the minds of many people to the extent of generating speculations that their leader is very sick.
Sata’s purported ill-health brings into light the ‘defectiveness’ of the electoral process that brought him into power. If Sata had an acute chronic disease even before the 2011 elections why was he allowed to run for presidential elections?
I have always argued that presidential aspirants must as a matter of requirement undergo thorough medical examinations to assess their state of health and see whether they could cope with the high demand of the office they are seeking.
In unfeigned democratic countries, Sata as presidential candidate would have not survived the rigorous medical assessments. But here in Zambia we live in a country of farcicalities, irrationalities and absurdities where the medical records of the presidential candidates are not made available to the citizens before election and that of a sitting President is treated with frivolity.
Like it or not, Zambia desperately needs a leader who is medically fit to march his fitness with the political will required to run an effective government and move this nation forward.
The office of the President is very demanding and as such requires physical energy and mental fitness.
Undeniably, productivity can be debilitated by an illness of a leader. Medical practitioners can bear out to the fact that sicknesses can affect patients’ well-being therefore reducing their productivity.
The enormous task of leading a government can surely affect the state of health of a healthy individual worse still an ailing man.
I took a closer look at President Barack Obama during his 2013 Inauguration and noticed that he has more grey hair, and looked older than he was when elected to the U.S. presidency in 2008. This development is linked to offices of Presidents worldwide. The mental and physical pressure the office wields is heavy.
If Sata is very sick, why should he continue working in a demanding office? It is unfair for a nation to use a man who is sick to lead us.
One does not need to be a physicist to see that Sata’s health has continued to pose the greatest challenge to his ability to lead Zambia.
It is alleged that Sata has been represented in over 65% of all his invitations both local and abroad while he recoils from some completely. He shunned an important event on the continent, the 19th annual African Union Summit that was in Ethiopia in spite of having earlier confirmed his attendance. He missed the fifth Ministerial Conference of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) held in Beijing, an event to which he had also confirmed his presence. Much nearer to home, he failed to attend the 2012 Cable News Network (CNN) Multichoice Africa Journalist of the year awards in Lusaka.
Besides, he has not been able to visit his subjects like he used to do when he was in the opposition and during the election campaign time. How will he understand the cries of his subjects if he is unable to visit them? The praise singers and bootlickers around him can never give him a true state of the nation. Sata needs to see things for himself so as to have a mental picture when making decisions.
If Sata is very sick, how much is his health care costing taxpayers’ money? If the nation was registering economic development, we would be sluggish to pose this question because we would take comfort in the fact that he is delivering. But the nation is on the downhill skate and taxpayers do not know his medical bills.
I wish Sata good health-‘to be fit as a fiddle’ if he is very sick. But when his alleged ill-health becomes an obstacle to national development and fails to recognize it and be open about it, then the country is in big trouble!
Leaders should consider the option of resigning the moment they become too sick to govern. What is the justification of clinging to power when one has become a liability to the nation? National not individual interests should always be sacrosanct.
A lot of Zambians are very disappointed with Sata’s fifteen months administration. His first year did to achieve anything, except unfulfilled promises riddled with confused undemocratic leadership.
As human beings we are all susceptible to the whims of ill-health. However, all human beings who happen to be leaders have a moral duty not to mislead their subjects. Good leaders must show rectitude and transparency to those they lead, especially if rumours teem that their leader is very sick and unable to govern.
Sata’s enemy is not Nevers Mumba or Hakainde Hichilema he is trying to incarcerate. It is his own minions who are not able to advise him to step down and take care of his health. What can it profit a man to purse political leadership to the detriment of his priceless gift of life? Sata’s cronies are heartless and will soon push him beyond his limits. The day the calabash from which they are drinking from will be broken they will turn their backs!
As, president and father of the nation, Sata should lift the veil of secrecy surrounding his health. His lack of openness is indecorous, unjust to the public, and grinding the wheels of government.