I read with interest the Lusaka times 7/2/2017 article titled “People insult me to just gain some media coverage-President Lungu.” I wanted to offer my thoughts and an essay helpful to the current discourse on governance in our Republic.
The President scoffed that people who are speaking against the manner in which he is leading the country are only trying to get media attention to promote themselves. In particular, the President is quoted to have referred to comments that he is a dictator, as an insult. Then he went on to ridicule his detractors by bragging that he is President and therefore disinterested in rebuttals. This perhaps a copy cut jibe from one issued by U.S President Donald Trump in his on-going feud with the U.S mainstream media who 48 hours earlier Tweeted that, “I am President, they are not.” Then Mr. Lungu concluded that: “A dictator does not consult, a dictator does not take criticism. I have taken so much; I have been punched so much but I have not hit back. Obviously I can hit back and all fairness I am a human being.”
Perhaps it’s prudent to define a few terms to ensure clarity. The terms of interest here are: “insult,” “Dictatorship,” and “Dictator.” The word “insult” means either an intransitive verb in archaic usage that means “to behave with pride or arrogance” or as a transitive verb in which case it means “to treat with insolence, indignity, or contempt.”
Without the need for a Presidential interview, it can be deduced that the President of Zambia is receiving non-flattering terms of describing his approach to governing our country intransitively as pride or arrogance of those voicing their concerns and transitively as them channeling insolence, indignity or contempt of him and his position.
Further, it is judicious to look at one of the insults. Those voicing concerns over his leadership have characterized his government as a “dictatorship” and therefore him as a head of State as a “dictator.”
First, according to the Encyclopedia Britannica:
“Dictatorship is a form of government in which one person or a small group possesses absolute power without effective constitutional limitations. Dictators usually resort to force or fraud to gain despotic political power, which they maintain through the use of intimidation, terror, and the suppression of basic civil liberties. They may also employ techniques of mass propaganda in order to sustain their public support. A dictatorship is a type of authoritarianism, in which politicians regulate nearly every aspect of the public and private behavior of citizens. Dictatorship and totalitarian societies generally employ political propaganda in order to decrease the influence of proponents of alternative governing systems. In the past, different religious tactics were used by dictators in order to maintain their rule, such as the monarchical system in the west.”
Second, according to the Oxford Encyclopedia of Women in World History:
“By Definition, dictatorships exercise extreme and extensive control over people’s lives and actions. They exert their authority through the diverse mechanisms of repression, fear, co-optation, acceptance, and approval.” (p.54)
A dictatorship is a type of authoritarianism, in which those in power regulate nearly every aspect of the public and private behavior of citizens. Such societies generally employ political propaganda in order to decrease the influence of proponents of alternate governing ideas.
Is there some merit to the descriptions of the current administration as a “dictatorship”?
In my mother’s village in Samfya District, they taught us that: “Ichikwanka bachimwena kumapmalanya” (literary means “that which catches you as you fall can be recognized by what it has done to others”). The implication is that we can compare what has happened to others or relate similar treatments in order to recognize the nature of something. Therefore, in determining whether the current administration is a dictatorship, we may take one or two approaches.
First, compare to other well-known dictatorships and isolate similarities. Second, we may read widely supported definitions of the nature of a dictatorship and compare them with the specific actions of the government to determine whether they fit together or are analogous.
In either case the Leaders of the Church Mother bodies did an excellent job in describing their misgivings about specific actions of the Edgar Lungu Administration in the Zambia and let me relate a few to the stated definitions. I cite the Bishops’ credible observations as examples and then relate each one to standard definitions of a dictatorship captioned above.
Example 1: “How can one explain the failure of the Constitutional Court to hear and exhaustively conclude a presidential petition?”
[see Encyclopedia Britannica definition of a dictatorship above: “a small group possesses absolute power without effective constitutional limitations.”]
Example 2: “The political environment in Zambia, today, is characterized by manipulation, patronage, and intimidation of perceived government opponents. We urge the government to stop using state security institutions to intimidate its own nationals. The police service, in particular, must be professional and impartial in carrying out their duties of maintaining law and order. Too many of the nation’s resources and time are wasted on politicking at the expense of real development. This culture must change for the better.” [see Oxford Encyclopedia definition of a dictatorship above: “they exert their authority through the diverse mechanisms of repression, fear, co-optation, acceptance, and approval.”]
Example 3: “The selective application of the Public Order Act by the Police.”
[see Oxford Encyclopedia definition of a dictatorship above: “By Definition, dictatorships exercise extreme and extensive control over people’s lives and actions.”]
Examples 4 (a) “The plans to kill LAZ are discreditable.”
(b) “the police being used and acting like political party cadres. Police officers are supposed to and must be exemplary in following the rule of law since they are in- charge of keeping law and order.”
(c) “Our political leaders in the ruling party often issue intimidating statements that frighten people and make us fear for the immediate and future.”
(d) “Furthermore, we are witnesses to what transpired during the run-up to the August 2016 general elections when several media houses were harassed and finally closed. The recent happenings were not reported by several media houses because of the heavy presence of the Police.”
[For examples 4 (a)-(d) See Oxford Encyclopedia definition of a dictatorship above: “Dictators usually resort to force or fraud to gain despotic political power, which they maintain through the use of intimidation, terror, and the suppression of basic civil liberties.]
Example 5. “Our democratic credentials which have not been much to go by at best of times have all but vanished in this nation that loudly claims to be “God-fearing,” “peace-loving” and “Christian.”
dictators are human beings, they thrive on retaliating and they also consult. They just don’t consult wise people.
Historically, dictatorships have used different religious tactics in order to maintain their rule, such as hoodwinking believers into the notion of the “Christian Nation.” In the Bible there are no elections, there are only selections of the chosen ones. If we transposed that to a government in a democratic dispensation, it will not fit and will constitute a dictatorship as defined above. Most importantly, can a nation or state government be a Christian nation? If this is Mr. Lungu PF government is what a Christian Nation is, then Christ surely died in vain. Truth be told, salvation in Christ is PERSONAL and never NATIONAL in nature. So “Zambia a Christian” is a utopian, unbiblical, and suck religious concept that all thinking Christians should be dismissive of as a political gimmick to hoodwink the faithful into political patronage on account of faith.
Mr. Lungu said: “A dictator does not consult; a dictator does not take criticism. I have taken so much; I have been punched so much but I have not hit back. Obviously I can hit back and all fairness I am a human being.”
This is NOT true dictators are human beings, they thrive on retaliating and they also consult. They just don’t consult wise people. They consult likeminded counselors, intellectual lightweights, and “Yes” men, mediums, diviners, and sorcerers. Aren’t we beginning to see our country becoming like our First and second Republic, or Southern Uganda or Northern Zimbabwe? There must be some consulting going on. Even Idi Amini would carry a rooster and enter a witchdoctor’s hut to consult. A dictator does consult especially in self-interest, not national interest. If Mr. Lungu does consult where are the research institutions to create and tender counsel to back public policy with empirical evidence, like all progressive governments, to improve the welfare of our people. Photo opts with the political ambassador of the Vatican to Zambia and Malawi is tantamount to political propaganda, the mainstay of dictatorships. Why not go and address the issues raised by the people who directly work will the citizens? Aren’t those the Bishops he has been hiding from for fear of the truth?
In a nutshell, His Excellence, the President of Zambia Mr. Edgar Lungu should look in the mirror and soberly reflect on the impact of this government’s actions on the people. When we call his government a dictatorship, we are not seeking to behave with pride or arrogance or describe genitals in public or insult our government. We are not trying to treat our President with insolence, indignity, or contempt. We just see, feel and recognize the type of government we have. Our desire, however, is to have our country do better. Our President is a lawyer who surely can read and write. If even us with half a brain can chronicle the deficits of hope in our country and other pertinent governing issues, what more the eminent lawyer of our Nation. If our own Leader cannot see this as a cry for better government, it is either one of three issues at play:
a) The President is insincere
b) The President is not sober when making such comments
c) it can be a case of psychological ineptitude.
In which case let me be the first Zambian to humbly ask Mr. Lungu for his resignation from the positions of President of our party the PF, and our country Zambia on account of lack of fitness for the job. It would be better to have someone up to the job than what is currently obtaining in our country. Zambia we can do better!
By Jones K. Kasonso, Ph.D., CPA, CGMA, MBA, BSc., NATech
The author is a Zambian, An Accounting Professor in Washington DC and Dubai.