It’s the year 2011 and the tripartite elections are around the corner once again and once again Zambia and indeed Zambians will have a chance to demonstrate to the whole world how mature a democracy we have become.
Our country has enjoyed peace since independence and this has been so because of the peaceful nature of our people. As a type of governance, democracy has blended in so well with the different cultures of our people because the one common factor among all these cultures is that they are all peace loving by design and its common knowledge that peace is a prerequisite for democracy and not the converse.
We must guard this peace jealously because it is no mean feat to sustain peace this long especially when we look at the wars and uncertainties that other countries in our region and indeed far beyond experience. It is, however, my firm belief that come the tripartite elections we will demonstrate once again that we are a peace loving people and we are able to handle our own affairs.
In the interest of our people, one would also hope that between now and the date of this year’s elections will be enough time for the electorate to digest the different party manifestos. Any party’s plans for the people it hopes to lead one day should be clearly explained in their party manifesto and it’s up to the electorate not to just read but to also read between the lines of all the manifestos of the parties that will field candidates. Reading between the lines and not just reading is so very important because a manifesto if not put together with the passion, vision, conviction and belief of the party leaders and people it represents, is nothing but a worthless collection of pieces of paper. I believe a party manifesto should be a reflection of the thinking of the leaders of that party and its followers and not just a requirement for a party that seeks to stand in the elections.
This year’s elections will be the sixth democratic elections we will have held since attaining multi party democracy in 1991. Since that time the Movement for Multi Party Democracy (MMD) has overseen the affairs of our country, a fairly young democracy, with four different presidents at the helm with His Excellency Rupiah Bwezani Banda as the incumbent. It is the fact that there has been four different presidents since then which is a measure of the maturity of our democracy and not the length of the period the MMD party has been n in power as some of MMD’s critics may wish to fathom.
The twenty years of the MMD in power have been a roller coaster ride for everyone involved. A roller coaster ride in the sense that there has been highs and lows, success and failures in as far as governance of our country is concerned. It’s been a learning curve for everyone involved and as much as a lot of successes have been achieved its only wise to admit that mistakes have been committed in the process as well. Mistakes will always be made as long as people are learning. As long as lessons are learnt from the mistakes made during a process then the endeavor is not a peculiar cause but is what happens when people are trying to make theirs a better life.
From the time the MMD government took to the realms of power in 1991, it has seen checks and balance to their rule mainly offered by two opposition parties and these being the United Party for National Development (UPND) and the Patriotic Front (PF). Under the leadership of Michael Sata, a former member of the MMD.
For all his pitfalls and shortfalls Sata has offered the MMD the sternest opposition since 1991 and since then he has tried to woo people’s sympathy by mainly promising the people that if elected into power, he will turn the fortunes of this country around in ninety days and that he will ensure people will have more money in their pockets by reducing taxes people pay to government. It’s worth mentioning that the majority of our people are poor and it is said that the easiest way to a man’s loyalty is through his belly. It is, therefore, understandable why our people would seem to buy in or indeed succumb to such kind of promises and you can’t fault them because hunger, frustration and desperation takes away the ability from anyone to make informed decisions.
We cannot deny that our people are suffering because this suffering is plain to see. You don’t have to travel more than three kilometers from wherever you are in Zambia to see someone suffering and lacking life’s basics of food, shelter and clean water. However, it’s important to remember that the most critical time at which any person poor or rich, hungry or full, frustrated or happy will need their reasoning and decision making the most is when they are faced with adversity. This is so because its easier to worsen one’s situation by making a bad decision when you are faced with adversity because one’s reasoning in such a situation is naturally impaired.
We need to remember that the successes and progress the world we live in has achieved socially, economically and technologically today have come at a great price in terms of both time(patience) and human knowledge. Technological wizardry, one of the successes in itself, has made it even easier to record such success and progress over time so much so that, today, hundreds of generations after the first civilization, we still have access to the different economic models and governance systems that have been used by different leaders of different countries in different generations to bring the world to where it is today. In fact if any leader wanted a perfect governance system and economic model to apply to their country all they needed to do is to delve into the records and not to reinvent the wheel.
How then can a man who claims to have the ability to turn the fortunes of a poor country like ours with such a fragile economy propose to do so using methods and systems that are undocumented anywhere in the history of civilization and without reference anywhere in the history of mankind? Such kinds of methods if implemented are very dangerous and are a serious threat to the marginal gains this country has achieved economically. I have never doubted Sata when he says he can do what he claims he can do in the so called ninety days because it is possible to do so if your drive is merely to show that it can be done. The question our people should be asking themselves is not whether it is possible to bring about such change but rather what are the ramifications and indeed repercussions of doing so without a well thought out and planned methodology backed by traceable economical models and not just to prove that it is possible to do so?
Sata’s ninety days theory as I chose to refer to it, would not only be detrimental if forced on a modern but fragile economy like ours but is also a sign of a serious thinking lapse and obvious lack of wisdom let alone caution or care in anyone that preaches such a method’s deliverables if not lack of. It’s such kind of reasoning lacking a basis for modern development that brought about the political demise of a once promising, vibrant, young presidential candidate in our country by the name of Brig. General Miyanda when he tried to explain in futility his proposed “Village concept”.
It is in fact my view that our people should not take kindly to anyone who insinuates such methods of developing our fragile country because such methods are very retrogressive. Despite the fact that we are a poor people, we are able to reason and telling us you can change our fortunes around in ninety days is an insult to our intelligence. No prudent and sustainable economic model would turn our economy around in ninety days. If there was such this world would have been developed a long time ago. It’s my prayer to God, therefore, that he gives us the ability to see through such promises and not just look at them on face value.
Our country is big countrymen and women and our problems are many. No one, at least not Rupiah, promised that they will solve all the problems our country faces because they would be lying. What Rupiah has said is that that he will work hard to reduce the poverty levels our country faces and bring hope for a better tomorrow for all Zambians. Building our country is a process and we are on the right track and let no once deceive us.
On many occasions, Sata has shown that he is never short of examples where he proves time and time again that apart from his radical view on many things which many people misconstrue for a sign of “action” he embodies a chronic affinity for poor leadership and common sense. He has on numerous occasions accused Rupiah Banda of having done nothing since he was elected into power but merely finishing off projects started by the late Mwanawasa. Such a claim despite having some element of truth in it, is yet another example of how impaired Sata’s reasoning can be at times and is very worrying for a person who hopes to one day run the affairs of our country. Any logically thinking leader would know that a president who embraces projects or works that were left by his predecessor and endeavors to see them to fruition does not deserve scorn but deserves nothing but praise. How many leaders in Africa have continued on the successes of their predecessors? How can continuing on a good legacy be seen as a bad thing?
Does Sata mean then that everyone who is elected president has to do away with projects left by the previous regime and start from the scratch? It’s this kind of reasoning and thinking that has left Zambia and indeed Africa as a whole way behind in terms of development because we think everyone who takes over has to start from scratch and discard anything they find. There has to be a line drawn between national projects and party projects. National projects continue whoever is in power and this is what Sata needs to understand. Moreover, where is the shame in continuing something good? Maybe if all presidents prior to Rupiah had continued on the good works left by their predecessors this country would be far better than it is today.
Despite his many short comings and pitfalls Sata has one strength which most of his sympathizers are quick to point out and it’s always difficult if not impossible to downplay because even if you don’t like him it would be cheap politics to deny that Sata is a hard worker. I believe you don’t have to like him to accept that he is a hard worker. You just have to be honest and give credit where it’s due because we saw the fruits of his hard work when he served under different ministries when he was in the MMD government.
However, it’s important to look at two things here critically and look beyond the hard work that is credited to Sata. Firstly, is “hard work” what you want to see on a CV of a president you want to employ in this year’s election? Second, is “hard work” the be all and end all of the qualities of a good leader? Because it seems that “hard work” is the only quality that people who sympathize with Sata put forward as to why they would vote for him. A good leader does not necessary have to be a hard worker. No. What he needs is to motivate his people to work hard. In fact as a manger in an institution you will be seen as a failure if you work hard yourself to get the job done instead of motivating your subordinates to work hard because your job as a manager is to get the most out of your subordinates and not to work hard yourself. Your success is measured by how hard the people you lead work. It’s not wrong for Sata to be a hard worker though and this distinction must be made clear. It’s in fact a good thing to be a hard worker. I just think and rightly so that despite being an important element in every human being, “hard work” is not an item I would be looking for on the CV of a president I want to employ. That would be a good CV if am employing a Permanent Secretary or a Minister. There is more to a good leader than hard work. There is wisdom, maturity, vision etc.
In almost similar fashion, Sata’s sympathizers credit him on the way the Ministry of Health was run under his leadership when he was Minister of Health as an example of how his hard work and forcefulness can benefit the whole nation if he was to be president. Again it is important to give credit where its dues. Sata indeed changed the operations and the look of the Ministry of Health and indeed just like his sympathize allude to, hospitals started looking cleaner and cases of non availability of medicines in health centers became a thing of the past. These are facts and its folly to argue them because anyone who was there saw this themselves. But just like in the case of hard work, let’s look at this critically. You will realize that during that time, yes people in the Ministry of Health exhibited hard work but this was for the wrong reasons. People worked hard because they feared Sata and not necessarily because they were inspired by him. You will remember that Sata used to conduct surprise visits in hospitals and he would embarrass you right on camera if he found you wanting. People started fearing for their jobs and started reporting early for work and this was seen as a good development. Now understand this very well. We are not taking away the achievement of Sata during that time. The benefits were there, people coming early for work, constant supply of medicine in health centers, cleaner nurses in clean uniforms etc. All these were positives. What we are saying, however, is that the motivation behind this change was wrong. You might say that the motivation behind doing something is not important and going to such an extent to analyze a leader is just being unfair and irrelevant. I beg to differ and I will tell you why the motivation for doing something is very important. Just look at what happened immediately Sata left the Ministry. Are the workers still as punctual? Is the supply of medicine still as flawless today as when Sata was minister? Are the nurses just as clean today as then? In short how many of those successes Sata boasts of which he scored when he was minister then still remain today? The answer is almost an equivocal NONE. That is what happens when people do good things for the wrong motivations. They did all that because they feared Sata and not because they believed in what he was telling them and immediately he left it was back to square one. A good leader is not supposed to be feared. He should inspire. People should do as he asks because they see good and benefit in what he is trying to achieve not because they fear they will lose their Jobs if they didn’t do what he asks. This again is what makes Rupiah Banda a distant good leader compared to Sata.
It’s important to understand that those of us who are opposed to the rule by Sata do not hate him. No. Far from it. That is why you will never hear us insult him or use derogatory remarks against him. He is an elderly states man who deserves the respect of us all. In fact it’s worth stating here that Sata has been a great benefit to the running of affairs of this country more so when he has been in the opposition. He has given government the necessary checks and balances that no other opposition party has done in the history of our country. He has already offered this country a great service and for that he deserves praise.
It is only that we don’t think he has what it takes to be president and that’s not an insult. It’s simply saying his specialty is to be the one working and not the one to delegate the work and if he could see this in himself he will realize where his strength lies and serve this country more in a different capacity and not necessarily that of president. You don’t need to be a hard worker to be president just like you don’t need to have been a good footballer to be a good football coach or a good football administrator.
In Rupiah Banda we have a president who is wise, mature, laid back, peaceful but firm. He is slow to anger and takes criticism. We need to give this man a second term because he deserves it. Let’s not put to waste the marginal gains we have made so far but let’s build on them and make this country a better place to live in. It’s a difficult task ahead yes but we are on the right track. Let’s not get distracted by frustration or desperation. Soon we will reach.