By Professor Biemba Maliti
“ Zambia is for all of us, it is bigger than any individual Zambian, it cannot be owned by any individual since it is too big but it can only be made better by ALL of us”
Since the disintegration of the MMD started with the failed third-term bid by Frederick Chiluba, a worrying trend has been slowly but surely developing in our country’s political arena which has culminated into the unfortunate arrest of HH and his being charged with treason at Easter time when Jesus was killed. This is really the anti-climax and the lowest point in Zambian politics, unfortunately for all well-meaning Zambians. Arrests of high-profile Zambians have always been there, epitomized by the arrests and charging with treason of Chiluba by Kenneth Kaunda and then Kaunda by Chiluba at Christmas time when Jesus was born. But the arrest of HH and similar charging is being roundly condemned due to the manner in which it was conducted and the reasons given. The police initially admitted that they were the ones who had made a mistake in Mongu, not HH and his entourage, now why did they arrest him after that public admission? This is the bone of contention now and the starting point for my discourse here.
Leadership is there to ensure that there is peace, harmony, cooperation, happiness, development, etc. among the group that is led. Anything that threatens these aspirations should be handled in such a manner as not to jeopardize them as that amounts to “throwing away the baby with the bath water” which inevitably leads to a lose-lose situation for everybody. Thus leadership’s preoccupation should be the attainment of a win-win situation for the group so that the above aspirations are not endangered. Any group, from the smallest one like a family, to the largest like a country, is made up of varying levels of divergence and variety which inevitably result into conflicts, and the major challenge for leadership is to manage such diversity so that it is exploited for the greater good of the whole group. Any group will be composed of men and women, the young and old, the rich and the poor, tall and short, talented and not talented, intellectuals and non-intellectuals, thieves and saints, the good and the bad, etc. The acid test for any leader is to embrace even those members whom he doesn’t like or can’t stand since any obvious indication of distaste by the leader for such elements can prove disastrous for the whole group, including the leader. Hence tolerance of divergent views is cardinal for a leader.
But the recent reported statements by some PF leaders (online and The Mast, April 22) are definitely not ones that can lead to the attainment of a win-win situation and the attainment of a peaceful environment in Zambia. What was the purpose of making such insulting and inflammatory statements in this volatile and highly charged environment like our country is currently going through where many people are greatly distressed by the arrest of HH? Do these statements consider the feelings of the members and sympathizers of the UPND who are many in this country and they form part of this group we call Zambia? Whether we like it or not, it is always better to acknowledge that Zambia moved from being a one-party dictatorship to a multi-party democracy in 1992 which ushered in a pluralist political dispensation. For this change to be beneficial to the country as whole, it requires that tolerance of diversity in all walks of life becomes the hallmark of the new Zambia and intolerance in all its forms is thrown into the dustbin of history and relegated to the past where it so rightly belongs. And thus statements like these definitely belong to that era which most Zambians rejected and relegated to the dustbin of political history. A good leader is one who despite the situation that he finds himself in has to keep his cool including what he says, especially in public.
A good leader is also one who accepts the adage that “the only thing in life that is constant is change”. No matter how long it takes, nothing goes on forever, it has to come to an end in one way or another as change is as inevitable as death itself. Hence today’s ruling party was yesterday’s and tomorrow’s opposition party. UNIP and MMD used to be in the opposition and then became ruling parties but what are they today? Opposition parties again! This is true all over the world – Democratic Party in the USA, Labour Party in the UK, France, Japan, etc. We should therefore not think that the PF is going to be the ruling party forever and ever since it was in the opposition before and it shall go back to the opposition again. The UPND shall not remain in the opposition forever but shall also become the ruling party whether we like it or not. Then how will the PF like to be treated in the same way that they are treating the UPND, its president and members today? They say that “violence begets more violence”, hence where there is violence like that which was used in the arrest of HH then it breeds more violence, it’s that simple. We are witnessing increased levels, not less, of violence in this country now. This is the major issue that should form the core of a functioning multi-party system and shape its core values anywhere in the world today.
Hence we can turn to the issue of whether the incarceration of HH was meant to cure the current unfavorable situation in the country –politically, economically, socially and developmentally. Definitely this arrest cannot be a cure for these ills but just an aggravation of them, no matter how much we would like to employ the services of the best spin doctors in the world to portray it in the best light possible. This is for the simple reason that it is addressing the symptoms of the disease and not the disease itself which we seem to be unable and uncomfortable to acknowledge and decisively deal with. Many of us have repeatedly warned that the recent phenomenon of destroying the rule of law in Zambia with impunity shall in its wake lead to bigger problems that shall one day overwhelm all of us in this country. Unfortunately for us that day is now here and for sure everything is now on the line including the international standing of this once great southern African nation that served as a beacon of peace and stability in this troubled world. That reputation is now in tatters as Zambia today is being said to be worse than the worst countries in this part of the world in terms of governance! What a shame and a tragedy for us! We were not listened to and even dismissed as rubble-rousers or doomsayers but we foresaw this! Just one example: It is reported that the IMF has just turned down our request for a financial bailout while the major economic indicators in the country are getting worse by the day. The rule of law is the bedrock of all modern societies, the foundation upon which any country lies if it is to achieve meaningful economic development. Destroy that foundation and you destroy the whole society as the saying goes that “short-term solutions lead to long-term problems”! These are the long-term problems which the destruction of the judiciary, the Concourt, the ECZ, the police, and other governance bodies has brought on us as a country. The police now are terrorizing the same citizens whom they are mandated to protect! What kind of development can occur in that type of environment? None. This is what we urgently need to address with sober minds as Zambians, not to focus on HH, the UPND or the opposition as a whole. That unfortunately won’t save us as a country.
The other unfortunate development in Zambia is the silencing of all dissenting views including those of intellectuals through various threats and intimidations and replacing them with those of party cadres most of whom may not really fully understand the intricacies of modern governance and economics and their consequences. They say that “things go horribly wrong when those who know say and do nothing”. Informed decision-making is very critical to the normal functioning of a country in this very complex global environment in which we are living today. Such valuable information is provided by the intellectuals who are experts in their fields but when they are excluded from the political and economic arenas by those who are less qualified to offer such guidance then a myriad of problems inevitably descend on the country. This is what has been happening in this country and the results are there for all to see today regardless of party affiliation or inclination.
This is the bitter truth which as they say can hurt (the truth hurts) but the sooner we started acknowledging this reality the better for all of us and all future generations of Zambians. Thus, please let HH be released so that the country gets back to normal and the current tension in the country is reduced.
Biemba Maliti, professor of business strategy and management (CBU)