By Field Ruwe
With the above title I go where no one dares. As I begin to write on a topic too accursed for me to undertake, I am cognizant of the countless taboos that exist amongst us, some which are the reason for our stagnation. I know religious clerics will cry foul and banish me to Gehenna for discussing the president’s health at the height of prayers for his quick recovery. Elders will question my moral campus and express total discontent at my lack of commiseration for the head of state. That’s how they have wired our brains and consciousness. Muteness is our imprint.
Since I belong to a culture that prohibits the disparaging of a leader in a condition such as the one our president is in, I shall be careful not to break any taboos and appear like a stubborn dolt deserving supernatural imprecation. Also, since Zambia is a Christian nation with the majority of the people devoted to the word of God, I shall be careful how I quote the Holy Bible.
The cardinal question is; “Is God sending a message?” This question can be relayed in various ways; “Why is this happening to President Sata at this point in time?” “Is this some kind of punishment for something we don’t know?”
These are off-limits questions in Zambia, and yet they are looming in the president’s echo chamber as he finds himself in the vale of infirmity. They are on our minds too. When we see president Sata looking physically weary and emotionally drained to the extent of failing to execute his daily duties, we are bombarded by the same questions. We worry because of the person he is. He is our leader—the chosen one; our “dealer in hope.”
We must not also forget that he is an ordinary man, of flesh and of character, who, like the rest of us has his own demons. But, unlike us, his demons are special because God chose him to lead us and therefore it is on his headship and character we depend.
On September 23, 2011, Sata became our president. It was in God’s glorious name that he swore not only to lead, but to love, and nurture us, his people. On this historic day, looking fuller and vivacious, he held the Holy Bible and pronounced the sacred words “so help me God,” and God’s will was done. The only thing Sata’s rivals could do was to succumb and leave everything in God’s hands.
Two days later, Sata, indebted to God for his victory, attended a church service at St. Ignatius Catholic Church. It was on these sacred grounds that he pledged to rule the country in accordance with the Ten Commandments, which include “Thou shalt not steal,” “Do onto others as you would like them to do unto you,” “Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor,” and “Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain.”
When he made this pledge some of us knew he was driven by ecstatic gratitude. He did not understand the magnitude of God’s laws. As simple as they may sound, the Ten Commandments are hard laws. Breaking them is asking for unquenchable pain in hell. As soon as his reign burgeoned he began to break the very laws he promised and imposed rules of retaliation—an eye for an eye, tooth for tooth, foot for foot, and discarded the moral imperative “Thou shalt not bear false witness.”
It would be inappropriate of me to claim the afore-stated is the reason Sata is going through trials and tribulations. But surely things have happened pretty fast for him not to imagine so. In less than three years he is unable to diligently conduct his duties as republican president.
On May 21, 2014, we could not believe what we saw; a president so frail. Pictures showed a pallid, whey-faced, and emaciated Sata. His sight was such a shocker it prompted one blogger to veer from the topic and write “don’t mess na ba shilubemba.” This was in reference to Sata’s rejection of the Bemba Traditional Council’s choice of Henry Sosala as Paramount Chief Chitimukulu, a man Sata referred to as a “fake chief.”
Of all the comments I read that day, the one above struck me most. I was afraid there were a lot of people out there stooping as low as the blogger. To these highly superstitious people it is more than a coincidence that the president’s physicality should puncture at the height of the Chitimukulu impasse. Let me spend a bit more time on this topic so I am not misunderstood or accused of a heinous crime.
It is common knowledge that all tribes in Zambia believe there exists mystical powers that spirits and ancestors use to control, punish deviants, misfits, and pariahs in their environs. Millions of villagers, illiterates, many culturists, and the learned like the blogger, are in a diabolical pact with supernatural powers. In as far as they are concerned tampering with the Bemba chiefdom is playing with fire. People such as the blogger are likely to misconstrue the president’s health issues as a punishment meted by the spirits of the ancestors.
Other bloggers, the antipathetic ones, see the president’s prostration as chastisement by God for his iniquities; for the way he insulted, ridiculed, scorned, and derided his foes in his fight for ultimate power. Many bloggers and columnists are now reminding him of the dreadful way he treated the late Levy Mwanawasa, reaping a cabbage before a crowd of his supporters as a demonstration of Mwanawasa’s mental status and inability to rule. This one act alone is seen by many as the wickedest and most heartless deed worth catastrophic karma.
Also, the president is known for his belligerent and antagonistic style of politics. It is such a reputation that earned him the nickname King Cobra—the serpent of Zambian politics. Not a very good title since the serpent is portrayed in the Holy Bible as a symbol of evil power and chaos. And yet Sata embraced it.
Zambians imposed the name on him not in praise, but because he was vengeful and vindictive. This stemmed from the way he delivered defensive bites to his unwitting foes. They included Kenneth Kaunda, late Frederick Chiluba, late Mwanawasa, Rupiah Banda, late George Kunda, Edward Mumbi, Sebastian Zulu, and countless others who dare stand in his way or cross his path.
He even went after the clergy. In April this year, he threatened to “sort out” Chipata Catholic Diocese Bishop George Lungu for staging prayers for the release of the constitution. Two years prior, he had ordered the deportation of a Rwandese Catholic priest based in Lundazi. Many people in the Christian circles are inclined to think God is holding him accountable for his actions just like He does with all of us.
So, is God sending a message? This question was astutely addressed by one blogger who wrote: “God is worried Sata is leading us in the wrong direction. He is abusing the powers He has given him. He is perpetuating violence and anarchy. He is causing divisions by promoting tribalism among a united people. He is using his position to enrich himself and his family. God has weakened him so that he does not cause further destruction. He is better the way he is because when he is strong he is havoc.” There are worse comments.
But say what you may, the onus is on the president himself. There is no better person to answer this question than him. One thing he must know is it is God who is making it difficult for him to rule. God who has entrusted him with 14 million peace-loving people is trying to tell him something. Maybe redemption will come when the president tells us what we want to hear—the truth, nothing but the truth. Maybe there is something beyond this, a need for restitution for the wrong; perhaps a radical turn from one part of life to another; or unconditional surrender to God as Sovereign. We don’t know.
Thank God we have been assured by the president’s wife that he is fine. This is perhaps the best time for him, not his wife, to address us, his people, on television, and if indeed he is ill, be transparent about it. Let me quote from the Proverbs 6:16-19: “There are six things that the LORD strongly dislikes, seven that are an abomination to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil, a false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among brothers.”
I shall stop here. How I wish I could replace my name so the article reads “written by Evangelist Bill Graham, or Bishop T.D. Jakes, T.B. Joshua, or Pope Francis, that way it may carry more weight and become food for thought for president Sata. Unfortunately, I am just a writer who throws words around in the hope some stick.
Field Ruwe is a US-based Zambian media practitioner, historian, author, and a doctoral candidate. Learn more about him on his website www.aruwebooks.com. On it you shall access his autobiography, articles, and books. Contact him, blog, or join in the debate. ©Ruwe2012.