By Simon Mwale
THE problem with writing the truth is that it’s rarely accepted. In fact, it’s said the truth hurts .especially during election campaigns as those from opposing camps decide to close their eyes and ears to any and all statements about a candidate as mere propaganda.
But far be the thought that this piece is propaganda for anyone. To the contrary, it highlights basic truths and reasons why United Party for National Development (UPND) presidential candidate in the January 20, 2015 presidential by-election Hakainde Hichilema who has made a head start in the campaign, thanks to the massive crowds and overwhelming endorsements from high-profile opposition leaders and citizens, deserves serious consideration for the highest office in the land.
I hear you ask, why? The imperative is to examine a few qualities or characteristics that make a good president. For me, the first is empathy. The Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary defines empathy as: “the ability to understand another person’s feelings, experience etc.”
Indeed, as Robin Hansen observes, “without empathy, how can the …president relate to the melting pot that makes up the country? If the president cannot see the world through my eyes, then how can he/she understand me, and better yet, help me?”
Which reminds me about how the French revolution started. Citizens were rioting on the streets protesting the high price of bread and, when the Queen was informed about it, she is said to have retorted: “if they can’t afford bread, let them eat cake!” The rest, as they say, is history.
Recently, the Patriotic Front (PF) government demolished some 400 houses of its citizens on the Copperbelt on the grounds that they were built on illegal land. To my knowledge, only the UPND and its leader offered relief supplies worth thousands of Kwacha (food, blankets to name a few) to the displaced and distraught families.
Few may know this, but the UPND president is a father of not only his immediate nuclear family, but he shoulders the heavy burden of looking after and paying school fees for some 200 orphans. There is no presidential candidate I know of with this amazing philanthropic record.
A symbol of the new generation of highly successful business leaders, that has made him the envy of many, Hichilema can be trusted with national resources given that he has a remarkable footprint on running businesses and a high degree of financial probity.
In this respect, it would be imprudent for Zambians to vote into State House any candidate whose conduct in financial matters is suspect.
When he was launched as the UPND’s candidate for the forthcoming by election recently, many were surprised with his brutal honesty when he talked about his background. He told his audience that he was a villager from Monze who came to Lusaka for the first time when he was selected to the University of Zambia.
He talked about the free education that he received that made him what he is today, stressing that that was why the UPND government would offer free education up to university to “pay back,” so to speak, to the people of Zambia who afforded him the rare privilege.
Instead of being euphemistic about the state of Zambia, he said our country sucks, why it sucks, and how he’s going to make it suck less. Any wonder that he spoke passionately about the problems faced by the universities whose bursaries are a perennial nightmare which wouldn’t go away unless and until there was better leadership?
Here, I must lean on UPND’s Director of Policy and Research Dr Choolwe Beyani’s views on how free education can be achieved in Zambia. There are two key elements that make free education real and justified.
First, there’s need to reduce government spending. The Movement for Multi-party Democracy (MMD) government of Rupiah Banda spent K 8 billion on the cabinet monthly with his double deputy ministers and he was condemned even by the PF for bloating government.
But the same PF has raised cabinet cost to K17 billion a month. “Our proposal (is a cabinet of 15 whose outline I have) with 30 ministers (no provincial ministers).” This can bring government spending to about 4.5 billion. A whopping 12.5 billion in savings will be made for education and health including student bursaries!
The second point is to do with our copper revenue. Windfall tax and other copper taxes are estimated to bring in about USD360 million a year. This would considerably reduce donor dependency or cut it out completely while eliminating the “silly corrupt Euro bonds.”
That’s enough to offer free education and health services to those who can’t afford. Over the years, 10 per cent projected growth rates should lower inflation and with copper revenue bring the value of the Kwacha to about 3.5 – K4 per dollar.
This will automatically bring down the cost of food and electricity even before other measures weigh in. We expect to bring down interest rates to about 12 per cent and thus foster business growth by lowering the cost of borrowing. These are just some of the measures. The UPND has a clear plan of action.
Cherae Lurbe says the most important quality to look for in a candidate is change – change for the better. Some may say we can only go up from where we stand now. “In my view, the next president is just picking up the slack from the previous president.” Have things really improved in Zambia? It’s not easy to answer “yes” in absolute terms.
The most important thing is that he/she is more interested in the needs of this country than their own self-interests. And the people’s needs are many. From experience, we have seen dirty campaigns by competing candidates with name-calling. But HH talks issues more rather than bashing his competitors. In other words, he is someone who lives a moral life as an example of a good citizen and person.
Why else is Hakainde, a father of three, cut for the presidency? I believe he is someone who is looking out for future generations. There are many people who focus on what is happening now and only fix that. Alanna Davis notes, “Sometimes leaders push off the problem and the younger generation has to face it when they are leaders (eg reckless contraction of foreign debt.)”
Agreed, it’s not easy to find all the qualities in a presidential candidate. Most of them will say things people want to hear, to get into office. Instead of qualities, according to Jason Kang, “I look at what the candidates have done in their political career.”
The most important quality I look for in a candidate is honesty and integrity along with compassion towards the people. So many politicians make false promises during their campaign and once elected, they fail to follow through on their promises. A classic example is the PF’s 90 days theory! From the foregoing, isn’t it easy to see that Hakainde is compassionate towards all citizens?
HH has already pledged that the UPND cabinet will be inclusive and, at the barest minimum, comprise ministers from all the 10 provinces and thus unite the nation. That remains the position come January 2015.
The UPND will remain focused on its national agenda of delivering a better Zambia after the 20th January Presidential election despite detractors peddling tribal hatred against the party and its President Hichilema.
The UPND as a party should be humbled and encouraged by the ground swell of broad-based support and endorsement it and Hichilema is receiving from all sections of society as a most preferred party and candidate for the forthcoming election.
It is clear from the support UPND and HH in particular has from across the political, regional, ethnic, racial and age group divide that there is a national movement and realization that it is now time to vote for a party and a president that will deliver economic benefits to the majority of Zambians.
Accusations that the Bantu Botatwe have re-grouped under the UPND are a baseless, malicious and tired political scheme that have always been used to discriminate HH based on his tribe by political opponents and their cartel cohorts.
Fortunately, such malicious labelling has this time around failed to sway the majority of Zambians who have resolved to deliver the UPND candidate, Hichilema, into state house during the forthcoming elections.
Reports reaching me from the campaign trail in the Matero Constituency led by presidential campaign manager Tom Michelo, suggest a fundamental shift in perceptions of people in the area towards UPND from PF.
Wherever the campaign team went, including those areas which were regarded as PF strongholds or no-go areas for UPND, the message was clear in that when the team said, “Ajanza” the response in unison is said to have been “Ajanza!” and NOT pabwato.
The team was pleasantly shocked to discover that contrary to expectations and fears of being attacked by PF cadres for campaigning long in certain spots, the apprehension was a mere illusion.
The truth is that the time for HH to lead this country has come and no amount of tribal hatred by political opponents and their cartel associates will derail that national resolve for a better Zambia.
I rather like this Zambian adage which says: “when one is destined to succeed, very little effort will be required to make things go well as where the honey is you do not cut many times.” Of course, this is too simplistic and UPND is working night and day to ensure success at the poll.
The support which UPND and HH have continued receiving following the launch of the presidential campaign with a huge rally in Kanyama in Lusaka has overwhelmed political opponents who have resorted to the old and tired story of tribalism even when everyone is able to see the unstoppable growth of UPND and HH’s popularity countrywide.
Zambians should look at the bigger picture of a better Zambia through economic emancipation and vote for HH on 20th January 2015 and, as UPND Chairperson Mutale Nalumango puts it, “leave small minds to continue wasting time on discussing issues aimed at dividing the people of Zambia.”
Our President has already pledged that the UPND Cabinet will be inclusive, and at a bare minimum, comprise ministers from all the 10 provinces and that remains the position come January 2015.
The problems Zambia is experiencing now demonstrate again why Zambia needs to prioritize bringing in the new constitution, Hichilema stressed when he kicked off the Zambia United tour. And he has signed a social contract with the Grand Coalition in which he committs to delivering the constitution if elected president.
If you’re still doubting after reading this article, take a close and serious second look at Hakainde Hichilema, breathe in and out deeply and imagine which candidate truly meets your expectations. If you think clearly and objectively, HH is the man.
The author is a Lusaka-based freelance journalist.