By Stephen Haakaca Milimo
In many Zambian cultures a person makes a promise by giving of his word that, if and when a particular situation comes about, one will undertake to act in a manner defined by the terms of the promise one has given. Promising is not only a volitional, moral and social transaction issue but a gauge for a person’s integrity.
Thus, making a promise especially among the Tongas, Lozis, Luvale and Ngonis implies a willingness to keep it. Keeping a promise is a volitional, moral and social transaction.
In his campaign for presidency, Michael Sata promised the people of Barotseland that if they gave him their vote he would honour the Barotseland Agreement (BA) within 90 days. The people of Barotseland gave Sata their vote and today he is the President of the Republic of Zambia.
In spite of this, Sata has been sluggish in honouring his promise. In many Zambian cultures promising is perceived as accountability. Thus, when a person breaks a promise it is perceived as manipulation and being disrespectful to others, not only to their expectations.
Sata’s failure to honour the BA has not only broken his promise but he has overtly attacked our value of honesty. Our Zambian cultures require us to honour our promises as a way of sharing our humanity ‘ubuntu’ and helping each to excel in life.
Our cultures’ expectations view understands a promise as reciprocal recognition in which we acknowledge one another’s ‘ubuntu’ or humanity moved by reason. This is why we believe that we are because they are and the other way round. Tongas say, ‘munwe omwe tupwayi njina’, one finger cannot crush a louse. Meaning, you need others’ support to achieve your goals. This is the moral fiber Kaunda promoted because he knew that Zambians regardless of their region needed each other to develop as a nation. Thus, in our cultures, promising is grounded in respect for persons as ends and not means as we are seeing it under Sata’s politics.
In the light of our cultures, when we make promises we are agreeing to be held accountable for our promises. In other words, the promises we make tell the recipient that we will deliver on our promises. Meaning, we recognize recipients as human beings who have reasons for wanting the promises to happen. Then, we take on the burden of making the ends served by promising ends of our own. This is another way of saying to each other in a promise that we hope we will grant each other the same recognition.
As a result, in promising, we manifest an attitude of respect for other people. It is offensive, and even disrespectful, for instance among the Tongas and Lozis not to hold people accountable when they do not fulfil their promise. Not to hold a person accountable is to deny him or her capacity to make our ends his or hers, thus, encouraging deceitfulness. With a promise, we reciprocally recognize one another as cognizant of the force of being one people, rational and moral beings.
By not honoring his promise Sata has failed to fulfil his moral transaction to the people of Barotseland. He is refusing to be accountable, a virtue we cherish. By failing to deliver on his promise Sata is refusing to show his respect to the people of Barotseland as a person able to incorporate his ends into the ends of other people. Today Sata sees no need to incorporate his ends into the ends of the people of Barotseland because he achieved his goal, to become a president. He used the people of Barotseland for his person gain, he is corrupt. The wise say, you cannot use your friends and have them too. Sata is a pathological liar!
By breaking his promise Sata has failed his duty of fidelity to the people of Barotseland. For his lies people will always hold him up to moral scrutiny. Not out envy but as a sign of their respect for him as an moral and rational being. The Tongas have an adage that says, ‘mucenge n’gombe mucete atakooni’. The plain mean is that if you promise to give a poor man a cow he will not go to sleep until he has the promised cow. The profound meaning is that if you make promises to people on things that they need they will be restless until you deliver on the promises. Thus, keep your promises.
The people of Barotseland will never trust Sata again because he is deceitful in his dealings. It is partially due to insincerity in the manner people deal with other that tribalism is rife in Zambia.
Imagine the BA was an issue in the Northern region where Sata comes from. Would he be sluggish in honoring his promise? Or if Sata was from Barotseland, how long would it have taken him to honour his promise? We are asking these questions because of Sata’s two-faced promises.
In our cultures, for instance among the Tongas, Lozis, Luvale, Ngonis promising involves taking on, or bringing to the surface, a moral attitude of mutual respect and reciprocity. Thus, in holding ourselves and others accountable, we do not simply adopt beliefs about what others will do or would want us to do. The promises we make are agreements to act in concert. They are moral and show our ‘ubuntu’ rather than cognitive or epistemic transactions.
By breaking his promises what messages is Sata transmitting to our communities? Our craving for power should not override our values as a nation. The value of treating promises as a way of respecting others by making ourselves accountable to others should be cherished. I know a lot of people from the Northern region who are absolutely honest, truthful and sincere. But Sata’s insincerity leaves much to be desired.
We should resist forms of leadership that attack values that make us a unique country. Leaders come and go. Thus, let us not allow them to go with our values.
Our country should be a place where our moral relations to others constitute a relation of mutual recognition and respect. We know that power is sweet in itself and worth seeking for its own sake. But let us seek it with dignity. What does it pay to have power without dignity?
Our leaders should be beacons of morality and refrain from lying to their people, cheating, harming and exploiting them because this vice attacks who we are, our ‘ubuntu’; free and rationale human beings.
To all our leaders, sincerity (not lying) to your people is a requirement and not just a formal imperative in leaders Zambia needs. It is an aspect of the positive value of a way of living with each other whether from North or South or East or West part of our country.