By Given Mutinta
On one occasion, Winston Churchill said, ‘Criticism may not be agreeable, but it is necessary. It fulfils the same function as pain in the human body. It calls attention to an unhealthy state of things.’
From this backdrop, it is discombobulating to see how President Michael Sata and his ministers react to criticism. They label everyone who criticizes their policies and leadership style as being ‘bitter’ and ‘jealous’ of their 2011 election victory.
Responding with harsh and scornful statements to people who criticize government is a dim-witted way of dealing with criticism. In fact, it is morally treasonable to the sound public.
The sitting government seems would want to be ruined by worthless praises than saved by criticism. To be a national leader is to be on the firing line; you stand in the forefront of public scrutiny.
Thus, Sata’s government should learn to respond to criticism with nobility and detachment, a very important leadership life skill.
As a veteran politician one would expect Sata to provide well thought-out leadership. Sadly, the opposite is true. Now we know that experience alone is not enough to guarantee good leadership.
Not long ago, at different times, Hakainde Hichilema (HH) and Mike Mulongoti pointed out why the transfer of the Road Development Agency (RDA) to State House by Sata was illegal and unconstitutional and how it would encumber issues of accountability. Predictably, they were labelled as ‘bitter’ and ‘angry’.
General Godfrey Miyanda gave Sata sturdy advice on the governance and economic direction of the country. In an immature and disdainful way he was pigeon-holed as ‘bitter’, ‘loser’ and ‘envious’.
Recently, HH presented an incandescent analysis of the 2013 National Budget pointing out clearly the major areas confronting our people that have been overlooked in the budget. As expected, he was branded as ‘bitter’ and ‘chocking’ with envy after the 2011 electoral defeat!
These crude responses are conclusive indications of government’s lack of careful consideration in dealing with criticism. Is this the best political engagement government can offer on national issues? Surely, we deserve better!
It is a tragedy to have a loud-mouthed government with no clue on how to deal with criticism. Any organization where its leaders react like a pack of pekingese dogs, that cannot decipher any intentions from a stranger; let alone good ones, is a sign of failed leadership.
Government’s disgraceful reaction to criticism reveals high levels of illiteracy and lack of sagacity. It is perturbing that our leaders lack basic insight on how to correctly decrypt criticism.
As a result, one of the testimonies of the Patriotic Front (PF’s) weak leadership lies in not being able to endure criticism without resentment; pigeon-holing others as ‘bitter’.
Judiciously speaking, most of the criticisms for example on Sata’s leadership are based on truths. Is not true that, Sata;
Has u-turned on most of his campaign promises?
Has illegally transferred the Road Development Agency (RDA) to State House?
Is illegally building his retirement house when the second, third and fourth former republican Presidents are not completed?
Is a barefaced tribalist that the majority of ministers in his cabinet are from his region?
Is politicizing the public service by infesting it with cadres and people from his region?
Is selfish and egotistical by increasing his salary by 100%?
Is despotic by banning political rallies and meetings restricting on people’s freedoms of association and expression?
Has failed to exercise decisive leadership by not suspending Justice Minister Wynter Kabimba and Defence Minister Geoffrey Bwalya Mwamba (GBM) for their alleged corrupt activities to pave way for scrupulous investigations?
Honestly, labelling as ‘bitter’ people raising these critical issues is an indubitable sign of moral bankruptcy. By being volatile to criticism, Sata is missing an opportunity to learn and improve his leadership style from people’s criticisms.
We want leaders who can respond to criticism not to the source or tone of the criticism. It is disheartening to see government disgracefully fail to engage in prized dialogue with those criticizing it.
Even when people criticize in a tone of ‘bitterness’ – the new word in the PF lexicon, a wise leader is able to detach emotions from the useful views which lie underneath.
Southerners in Zambia have an adage that goes, ‘Mulonga watakazyolwa, wakabula makoba’ – if you are not open to criticism you will get into trouble.
The chaos this country is being plunged into because of substandard and intractable leadership style will affect us all, worse still the ordinary Zambians.
Morgan Forster once said that there are two cheers for Democracy; ‘one because it admits variety, and two because it permits criticism.’ If Sata does not want to be criticised let him step down from the echelons of power. If you cannot stand the heat, get out of the kitchen!
It is clear that the current government only values praises. Regrettably, there is nothing yet one can proudly write home about. Only black propaganda media houses have something to sing about.
It is senseless to shower insincere praise and false flattery to a government that is indecisive with uninspiring leadership characterized by tribalism and corruption.
How would we ever develop with leaders who are dyspeptic and hypersensitive to criticism? If government wishes to improve and develop this country, it should be open to criticism and appreciate diverse views.
Sata and his minions should desist from taking it personally when criticised. If someone criticizes your driving, you should not feel personally offended. It is your driving skills that have been found lacking. Criticism by its very nature implies that something is missing or lacking.
Therefore, people do not criticize Sata and his ministers as ‘persons’ but their mediocre governance and leadership skills.
Responding wisely to criticism can give leaders dignity that our people will come to respect. It is pointless to respond with feelings of anger lest people fail to tell who is really ‘bitter’ between the ‘loser’ and the ‘winner’ who has disappointingly failed to deliver on his promises.
We ache for leaders who are able to reflect in a calmer and intelligent way, and deal with criticism with a more positive vibration that is able to galvanize our country.
As an old-timer politician, Sata should know better that knowing how to handle criticism is a means to achieve development and gain unity among people. Regrettably, he is as clueless as his ‘untrained’ ministers.
Criticism is a valuable route of growth by which government can learn from its mistakes, enhance the well-being of the nation, and bond the hearts of people in serving our great nation.
However, as we criticize, let us be like good rain, gentle enough to nourish people’s growth without destroying each other.