By Field Ruwe
As the minute and hour hands make their way around the clock in tick-tock sound, the waiting is long. It feels seemingly endless—hours become days and minutes hours. Still, all eyes are unblinkingly fixed on September 19, the day of reckoning. Every nation has consequential times. For Zambia 919 is one of them. Mkushi and Solwezi aside, on this day President Michael Sata will officially come out of a state of inactivity and metabolic despair, and prove to both “devotees” and “skeptics” that he is able to fully executive the duties bequeathed on him as head of state.
It is not the pomp and splendor that goes with the opening of parliament nor is it the accompanying speeches and the “nays” and “yeas” from backbenchers, but the “revivification” of the head of state, his incarnation, what George Mpombo calls a “dramatic come back.” His performance on this day is what is keeping the eyes of many on the clock as it ticks tick-tock.
“Devotees” and “Skeptics” have been at daggers drawn for three months. “Devotees” here refer to PF cadres, followers, adherents, supporters, family members, enthusiasts, fans, lovers, aficionados, zealots, and fanatics who believe the president is not ill and that he has been on a working holiday. They find nothing wrong with him going into hibernation for three months. In as far as they are concerned he will show up on 919, put up a stellar performance, and shame skeptics.
“Skeptics,” on the other hand, are Doubting Thomases, rivals, opponents, antagonists, cynics, doubters, truth seekers, and victims of the Sata regime who think the president is off-color and could expire any time. They believe he has made a covert pact with his confidants to keep his illness a secret. As a result, some of them speculate he has cancer, others think his heart problem is getting worse, while others are saying he just received a kidney transplant and is clinging to power in the hope he recovers. Even though he has been to Mkushi and Solwezi, they doubt he will show up on 919. If he does it will brief because he is still a patient.
As things stand, devotees are a notch ahead. Sata’s recent trips to Mkushi and Solwezi have vindicated them. They are relishing in the pictures showing their beloved leader clad in a charcoal Mao suit, disembarking from a chopper unaided, and greeting his supporters.
“We’ve been telling you the president is as fit as a fiddle,” they exclaim in unison. “You’ve seen and heard him, what else do you want?”
The devotees’ gratitude goes to Guy Scott, Joseph Katema, Mwansa Kapeya and other cabinet ministers who repeatedly informed the nation that there was absolutely nothing wrong with the president. They hail them as prudent and honorable men of candor and messengers of truth, and regard them as concierges of Zambia’s moral compass.
“You must listen to what our leaders are telling you,” Devotees are saying. “PF believes in nothing but the truth. President Sata is back and PF will be stronger than ever.”
Skeptics are shaking their heads. They too have seen the pictures. They see a president looking a little worse for wear. To them he still appears emaciated, frail and pale, in suits trimmed to petit size. They see flabby cheeks associated with illness and fleshless match-stick fingers. Some describe him as a “dead man walking.” Many are infuriated that devotees can’t see what they are seeing. They accuse them of being myopic and label them as “Sata’s indoctrinated sheep.”
One skeptic writes: “It is outrageous how when a ruler becomes accustomed to power he begins to treat his people like livestock. And like sheep they follow him to the slaughterhouse. Along the way he gouges their eyes out so they don’t see his naked acts. He sears their ears so they don’t hear him when he sneaks out into the darkness. He blindfolds them so they don’t see him when he is caught with his pants down.”
He continues: “President Michael Sata is the uncouth herdsman who in his usual selfish and demagogic style is trying to blind the entire nation and rob it of its evolution. And his vice Guy Scott is perpetuating it and so are Joseph Katema, Mwansa Kapeya, and other hollow cabinet ministers who barefacedly continue to feed 14 million people with blatant lies.”
He adds: “Yes, “lying” is the new culture. The PF men and women who are our leaders and role models of our children are lying through their teeth and betraying their very own oath. The games they are playing to safeguard their personal interests are paving way to the slaughterhouse. Our children are the sacrificial lambs here. They are beginning to think it is alright to lie. If the president, his vice, and cabinet ministers can so publicly mug the truth then there is absolutely nothing wrong with lying.”
“What nonsense!” Devotees respond. “What are you talking about you loser. What incapacitated person can walk around like the president did in Mkushi and Solwezi? You call that a lie? Just eat your humble pie. Sata is well, he is fit, and he is ready to take us into the second term. If you think he is going to perish, you are out of your mind. On September 19, we shall again prove you wrong. On that day, you will see a vibrant leader address his people. Again, you will tuck your silly tail between your legs, this time for good.”
As the clock ticks tick-tock devotees can’t wait for 919, the day of reckoning. On this day, their leader Michael Sata will wake up as energetic and enthusiastic as ever. Regally dressed, both him and his wife will step out of State House into their bulletproof Mercedes Benz and begin the colorful trooping ceremony to Parliament Building. They will be sandwiched between a cavalry of horse mounted escorts moving at trot-pace. People lined up along Independence Avenue, Addis Ababa, and Great East Road will hardly see him through the tinted window. At best, they will only be able to see his hand as he flashes the PF fist. That is if he cares to lower the window.
At parliament gates, a curious charged crowd will be jostling to catch a glimpse of a president they have not seen in months. Cheers, song, dance, ululation, drumming and chants of “shemula, shame!” by devotees and PF men and women cadres in their Sata togas will greet him as his procession passes through the gates. Skeptics will be there as well, mingling in the crowd trying to see how pallid and ashen Sata has become.
The swarmed convoy will finally stop at the entrance to the building. There will be more commotion as journalists, local and foreign, fight for vantage spots to get a close-up of Sata as he steps out. It is here the dissection of the president will begin. Pro-government media will portray him as an immaculately dressed healthy-looking president waving fervently at the crowd “in total contrast to rumors of him looking haggard.” Private media, including online outlets will describe him as a deadbeat “ne’er-do-well” ailing president forced out of bed for fear of being dethroned. Foreign media will paint him as “an exhausted dictator of a brutal African state who has been absent at international meetings.”
All the while the nation will be glued to television or radio. Devotees and skeptics will be watching or listening from their homes, offices, and community halls. For those watching by television pay particular attention to his physical appearance. Compare the Sata image on the clothes of the PF dancing troop and his present features. Look at him closely—his hair, face, and stature. As he inspects the guard of honor, watch his step. See if he is foot-dragging, snail-paced, and wearisome.
Inside parliament, capture the moment of truth. The Speaker will introduce him and utter something like: “Your Excellency President Michael Chilufya Sata, you may now address honorable Members of Parliament and through them the people of Zambia.”
Sata’s microphone will be on and he will speak: Mr. Speaker, it is with pleasure that I join you today and the rest of the honorable Members of Parliament…”
Pay attention to his voice. It will be an important determining factor. Vocal cords are often affected by a serious illness. Voice quality problems, such as inappropriate pitch or harsh voice are related to various illnesses, and are evident even in a recuperating person. As Sata speaks see if the sound of his voice has changed. Also, pay attention to quality, pitch, and intonation. If he is indeed ill or is recovering from an illness you will be able to tell. Another thing; time his speech and see how long he lasts. If he goes beyond an hour, then he is indeed headed for full recovery. In this case, skeptics must yield and lick their wounds. They have lost, at least for now.
Questions: What if he does not show up and delegates the task to Guy Scott? What if he gets off the traditional tangent and cuts the speech short? Worse still, what if he runs out of breath and collapses?
All the above questions have only one answer; it means we have an ailing president on our hands. It then means that all this about the president being fit is the biggest lie, the worst subterfuge concocted by Guy Scott, Mwansa Kapeya, and Joseph Katema. These three men must then be labeled prevaricators of the worst kind and stripped of any honor. Skeptics should demand the three men be prosecuted for ravaging our intellectual ability, lying under oath, and taking Zambian moral standards to their lowest level. As for the president, skeptics should demand for his impeachment or retirement. They should forever hold him at the nadir and describe him as the Zambian shepherd who was a fraud, liar, perjurer, and deceiver.
But as the minute and hour hands make their way around the clock in tick-tock sound, we can only fix our eyes on the clock and wait for 919, the day of reckoning. Which Sata will show up?
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.