By Hjoe Moono
‘Kuyamba vintu timayamba bwino manje Poor Finishing [PF]!’ goes Bob Mabege’s song of old. Indeed, Poor Finishing has been the characteristic of most, if not all of our past governments.
On Thursday [10th July 2013], the Post Newspaper carried a poignant article in praise of Uruguayan president, Jose Mujica who lives a humble and simple none-expensive life. Indeed, the Uruguay president has in some circles been called the Poorest President on Earth who lives at his farm house, and the only state security he has is a three legged dog running round his basic farm. Such humility. Such humane leadership. Such empathetic leadership surely deserves admiration, and I would echo the Post’s article’s message.
Listening to the Zambian parliament debate of Thursday, 10th July 2014 however, I got the shock of my life when I heard that K6.5Million (US$1.1 Million) was being spent on ‘renovating’ a ‘Presidential Lodge’ somewhere in Kitwe. The Minister of Works, Yamfwa Mukanga, who the President affectionately called a ‘fool’[Chipuba] over the delay in the renovation of the lodge, heavily defended government’s decision to allocate such an enormous amount of money, more than what has been allocated to the Ministry of Community Development, Mother & Child Health for health promotion for the year.
I have found it hard to fathom the government’s priorities here. Surely, we have mothers dying in child birth due to lack of funding for health care infrastructure. Our mothers and sisters are subjected to the lowest of health services in our hospitals, sleeping on floors in congested hospital wards with poor water and sanitary conditions, and yet, we have a government that justifies spending huge amounts of money, borrowed money for that matter, on prestige presidential lodges? Really? How does a sane person justify such a wasteful expenditure?
Mr. Sata is known not to spend nights out of his official residence at Nkwazi. For all I know, the only time he spends a night out of State House is when he is on Holiday in India, England, and Israel. At all state functions outside Lusaka, the presidential helicopter or the Challenger Jet is on hand to take him back to state house. So why does he need another presidential lodge in Kitwe to be renovated at such a huge cost? Has he run out of rooms at State House? What about the State Lodge in New Kasama in Lusaka, has it become too small for him too? What about the presidential lodge in Ndola? Or has his family grown over the last two years that he needs more rooms built for them using borrowed funds from the Euro bond, which we, the ordinary citizens have to pay through our nose when he has left government?
One of the PF’s early acts in government was to discredit and humiliate Rupiah Banda’s government which was purported to have planned to renovate state house. Mr. Sata was shown on national TV showing images of what would have been the new state house that Rupiah Banda was purportedly planning on building/renovating. But today, the same Mr. Sata and his government are justifying colossal expenditure on a similar venture, not in Lusaka, no, but in Kitwe, at an exorbitant cost. What a shame! What a waste!
Hon. Catherine Namugala correctly and contextually pointed the poor prioritisation of the PF government: How do you set aside K6.5 million to renovate a presidential lodge YET only disburse K4 million for Child Health programmes under the Ministry of Community Development, Mother & Child Health? Is a luxury additional presidential lodge more important than the health and lives of women and children nationwide?
Clearly this is insanity at its peak! Or has Mr. Sata and his government been motivated by South Africa’s Jacob Zuma’s excessiveness on his Inkandla residence that they now wish to compete with him in excessiveness in lifestyle at the expense of national development? Perhaps they would do well to read the Post Newspaper’s editorial, and hopefully appreciate one or two things about humility and empathy in leadership as shown by the life of Uruguayan President Jose Mujica.
The excessiveness and gluttony of the PF is sentencing many of the Zambian citizenry to permanent ill health and death with its poor prioritisation. Just a stone throw away from the presidential lodge, you will see many orphaned children roaming the streets and sleeping under bridges and trenches, without any hope for the future, their livelihoods ignored, and cut off, by the gluttony and prestige lodges prioritisation of our leaders. Just stone throw away from the multi-million PF presidential lodge, many are living in small poorly constructed houses without water and sanitation facilities, yet, through their labour on the streets they have to fund, through heavy taxes, the ‘High Life’ that the PF leadership is living. Vanity!
At the University Teaching Hospital, it’s a poor and sorry sight: Congested Wards. Women and Children sleeping on the floor. People turned away due to lack of adequate bed spaces and medicines. Poor water and sanitary conditions in the wards. I see only misery. I see only sadness when I walk through our hospitals, where our leaders are too healthy & wealthy to get sick in [would rather embark on medical tourism adventures] YET, they are spending K6.5million on renovating a prestige lodge for the president, which he clearly does not even need, owing to the many that are already functional. All Vanity. Such Gluttony is repugnant and disappointing.
Just a few months ago, the Zambia Daily Mail carried a sarcastic attack on former defence Minister, GBM, through an emotionally driven editorial arguing that his purchasing of a car for his wife, using his private funds from his business, is wasteful and that the money would be better spent contributing to the health sector. I found this absurd, silly, and stupid, coming from a public newspaper in a government where K6.5million is being spent on a lodge, when the health sector would improve greatly even with just 10% of what is being wastefully spent on that lodge.
What is clear is that our leaders lack humility. Our leaders are not empathetic. Rather, they have now acquired higher levels of gluttony, new and sophisticated levels of excessiveness at the expense of nation building and development. There is no empathy nor regard for the lives of the many people that had high hopes and expectations in the PF leadership. Indeed, they started well, but now, they are Poor Finishers [PF].
The Post Newspaper’s editorial rightly observes: “What do we see among most of our leaders today? Entitlement. Arrogance. Pretension. Selfishness. Boastfulness. Vanity. Corruption. All these are found in abundance among our politicians today. And all these have contributed to bad policymaking, abuse of taxpayers’ money and all sorts of corrupt behaviour.”
Isn’t it strange that the government gets grants from Britain, Sweden, USA etc to help fund the health sector, YET the Zambian government has enough money, to the tune of K6.5million to renovate a presidential lodge?
This is Zambia, The Real Africa.