By E. Munshya wa Munshya
Michael Chilufya Sata has a lot going for him politically. In fact, his political skills are unparalleled in Zambia. I have in a number of articles pointed out the fact that Michael Sata is a down-to-earth individual who easily connects with the people. He is also an opportunist who does not shy from using any event to his political advantage. Any serious contender to the presidency this year will ignore Sata only to his or her disadvantage. Sata is an enormous political force and he has been so for several decades.
However, some tendencies within the Michael Sata phenomenon are genuinely worrisome. Perhaps the most ridiculous of the Sata phenomenon is the promise he keeps making to Zambians that he would restore Zambian dignity (whatever that term means) within ninety days of assuming office. Principally, he keeps promising that he would change and transform the country within that period. In 90-days, Sata has promised to bring changes in fields stemming from the price of Coca-Cola, to gay rights, to the Barotseland Agreement of 1964. By promising so much change in so little time, Sata is putting himself up for failure and setting us for serious disappointment.
The 90-day promise is a messianic deception. Sata feels that he is the saviour of Zambian problems. This messianic complex is the last thing Zambians need. In fact, no serious leader who wants to bring genuine change to a country as needy as Zambia can trivialize the kind of change that is needed for our decaying nation. And for Sata to say that he can bring change, all the changes in three months is despicable and smacks mockery of the highest kind.
Sata speaks to Zambians as one would speak to “under-fives”. When Kaunda was fighting for Independence in the 1950’s he knew very well the challenge that lay ahead of the new nation. He humbly took up the challenge to lead Zambia. He was humble before God and before Man to realise that the challenge to lead a country is no small feat. He asked the people of Zambia to persevere through the difficulties that lay ahead. He did not trivialize the challenge of leadership. When Frederick Chiluba, proclaimed with his MMD cohorts that the hour had come for democratic change, Chiluba kept asking people at mammoth rallies whether they would persevere with him to change Zambia for the better. Chiluba understood very well the challenges of leadership and he was humble enough not to take leadership lightly. It was at those rallies in 1991 that Zambians agreed in unison that they were willing to walk the tough path of national healing with Chiluba as Head of State. Zambians liked the idea that a leader had told them the kind of challenges that lay ahead.
But in 2011, Sata is telling us that he has the magic wand to bring change to Zambia in 90 days. Sata is speaking as if he is speaking to kindergarteners. He is the one that has accused Hakainde Hichilema of being childish. But from what I have heard from Hichilema, he has taken the challenge of leadership more seriously. Hichilema is promising to work as hard as he can to bring change to Zambia. For Michael, Zambia does not need a long time to heal—in 90 days all the rot will be healed. It seems, Sata lives on Mars and not Earth.
Sata in promising change within 90 days does not take into account the dynamics of government. To his credit, Sata has had lots of experience in government. This is what really is shocking. You would expect that a person with so much experience in government would be wiser to know the complex apparatus that government is. In spite of Sata’s many years of service to our country, it seems there are many lessons he still needs to learn. Government is not like a private home along Omelo Mumba Road. As president, you cannot just command dignity into existence. It takes lots of courage, time and effort. Economic development change cannot be done in 90 days. Sata may be having a genuine vision to bring change. But this vision is very misplaced and is being inspired by his own pride and personal ego. He needs to shed off this messianic complex.
Old and experienced men like Michael Sata, are good for the country. But when these men do things or say things that do not make political or economic sense, it is even a greater disaster. I think Zambia should consider voting for a high school pupil to lead our country. It looks like 35-plus individuals have not done us any good. There is no need to have an experienced driver in State House, it these experienced individuals begin having 90-day hallucinations.
In 90-days, Sata has promised that he will stamp out corruption. He cannot certainly stamp out corruption in 90-days that took fifty-years to make. In fact, I seriously doubt Sata’s commitment to fighting corruption. He has a team of PF members who yesterday where running the very government that he is today accusing of corruption. PF’s Sata is today accusing the MMD of corruption when in fact; Sata was the kingpin of Chiluba’s leadership at a time that Chiluba was busy purchasing designers underwear. Sata did not leave Chiluba’s government due to corruption; he stayed on in government until it was becoming clear that Chiluba had dribbled him out of presidential succession. It is this political dribbling that we must credit Sata’s manic 90-day mantra.
Then of course, Sata is daily receiving new members into his party. These new members are a litany of the people that are corrupt. And in the next few weeks before the elections, Sata is likely to receive even more corrupt defectors from the MMD. These people are not genuinely looking for ways to serve the Zambian people; they are looking for genuine ways to serve their own stomachs. As such, Sata cannot fight corruption when corrupt people surround him! In 9 days and not 90-days, they will show him how to steal, and by the 90-day mark, Sata may start stealing with them.
What Sata should do, if he wants to be taken seriously, is to become a little bit more thoughtful with the challenges Zambia is facing. They are challenges of democracy, and economic development. They are challenges of corruption and education. They are challenges of media independence and national sovereignty. We like Sata because we know that when we attend his rallies we will be treated to free comedy. And comedy goes a long way in assuring votes. But beyond the oath of office, is the call to serve the nation and bring change in a difficult and sometimes painful manner.
The 90-day mantra is a lie which should be abandoned. Sata must use his popularity as the opportunity to speak to Zambians on ways he is going to fight corruption when his PF is full of corrupt MMD. He should be speaking to us about how he will respect press freedom when he banned government media from covering him at Mulungushi in Kabwe. He should be explaining to us how he would chase the Chinese only to receive the Taiwanese and recently the Afghans. He should explain to us, how he would promote democratic elections in Zambia when his party the PF conducted a national convention where no ballot was cast. He needs to explain to Zambians why he would not go to Chiluba’s funeral home to console the Chiluba family when he served Chiluba for so long. He needs to explain to us why we should not vote for an “under-five” Hichilema when his 90-day sweet change does seem childish. He needs to explain to us how he would implement the BA64 when he has on several times wanted to disband the Lozi monarch. He needs to explain to us why intellectuals within the PF cannot speak. He needs to explain to us how as a Catholic he would want to do away with the Declaration of Zambia as a Christian nation.
Finally, he should explain why Zambians should not go “Nafuti, Nafuti” for Rupiah Bwezani Banda. The 90-day nonsense is adequately insufficient.