Wednesday, April 28, 2010

A mambala for a leader

A mambala for a leader
By The Post Editor
Wed 28 Apr. 2010, 04:00 CAT

TO begin with, we would like to refer to a saying of Nelson Mandela, that “when leaders have the honesty to criticise their own mistakes and their own organisation, then they can criticise others”.

Katele Kalumba has in one breath tried to do this but in another negated it. Katele advises that “…at the end of the day, we all must stop and use civility in our language. I keep saying this every day and I’m becoming like a broken record.

But we need politics of good against politics of evil, of violence, of insults...on both sides. I have said that. We need politics of respect for each other, a selective use of language in a way that gives politics a face of humble, civil, noble occupation or profession.

But of late, we have been treated, both in the print media as well as public pronouncements by politicians using very strong language, and they don’t apologise for that. That, I think, is very unfortunate. I’m appealing to all Zambians to stand up and defend civility in politics, demand civility in politics from their leaders.”
No one can disagree with what Katele is saying. And the demand he is making deserves the support of all. Give it to him, for all his shortcomings and other weaknesses, Katele is not one of those politicians who insult or resort to vulgar and abusive language.

Unlike Rupiah Banda, Katele is very cultured; he is a very well mannered human being. And, therefore, his concern over the bad language being used by Rupiah and others is understandable. But there’s a problem with Katele. He is a coward who seriously lacks the courage of conviction.

And to demonstrate what we are saying, listen to what follows Katele’s very wise observation and very legitimate demand for decency in politics: “I have tried to study this relationship between President Banda and PF president Michael Sata. Sometimes I think even as media you should treat their interaction a little more culturally. There are times they use very harsh language to each other but they don’t mean that level which we would understand to be insults because they do play cultural cousinship.

And I have met both of them and I have sometimes queried whether they are not in the mode that people might misunderstand. But Sata and Banda do talk to each other and perhaps when you people take their jokes to mean more than what they intend, then it becomes a problem. The ordinary listener thinks there’s war going on between them when they don’t mean it that way.”

This is clearly intellectual and political dishonesty on Katele’s part. Katele knows very well that Rupiah’s insults, baseness and abusive language cannot be justified under the banner of cousinship. Rupiah means what he says and that is why he uses the same bad and abusive language against Hakainde Hichilema, ourselves and many other citizens that he sees as enemies.

Moreover, to suggest that Rupiah’s insults and abusive language can be excused or condoned under the cover of cousinship is a dangerous form of paternalism fundamentally in conflict with the possibility of democracy in a modern political system.

Katele’s application of ‘cousinship’ is anachronistic and false and yet it has been part of the cover under which abuses and other injustices have been committed. This is clearly a failure to appreciate that the price of modern political order is calculated on the basis of citizen rights, of human rights, dignity and honour and not obscure cousinship of convenience.

And to suggest that the vulgar language that may be acceptable between Rupiah and Sata should be imposed on all Zambians who don’t share their cousinship is tantamount to saying that what is good for Rupiah and Sata is good for every Zambian, a suggestion which is patently false as far as what is known about the tribal diversity of the Zambian people goes. Without this context, it becomes misleading to suggest that there’s something inherently sacrosanct about this cousinship that should make us allow Rupiah to use abusive language even to people who don’t fall under this cousinship nonsense. What is at stake here is national politics and leadership and not Bemba or Ngoni tribal relationships and their Bantustan-like politics.

The truth is simply that Katele doesn’t have the courage to openly criticise Rupiah for his unacceptable and repugnant language, insults and abuses. And as Mandela aptly put it, Katele and others like him should only criticise others when they have the honesty to engage in self-criticism and criticise Rupiah for his insults on others.

There is nothing about cousinship here. The truth is simply that insulting and abusing others is part of Rupiah’s character. Neither Rupiah nor Sata can be said to be a tribal leader; they are national leaders. And Hakainde, whom Rupiah insults every day, is not his tribal cousin but a Zambian citizen who is trying to fulfil his duty to his country by exercising his legitimate right to participate in the politics of his country in the manner he deems fit.

And Rupiah is not relenting on his insults. Yesterday he was calling Hakainde “a son of a dog”. Today he is accusing him of accumulating his money through dubious ways. A head of State cannot be so careless with the reputations, integrity and honour of fellow citizens.

If his is truly a government of laws, why is he prosecuting and convicting Hakainde of dubious money dealings at political rallies instead of subjecting him to the due process of the law so that he can defend himself?

Of course, to Rupiah, only his reputation and standing matter, other citizens have no integrity or honour to defend. We shouldn’t forget that Rupiah did the same thing to us. Ranting like a man possessed by demons at a State House press conference, Rupiah accused us of having stolen US$ 30 million from state institutions. Again, Rupiah convicted us of theft without the due process of the law.

These are serious insults on our integrity and honour. And Rupiah, as President of the Republic, has no right to take away our dignity, our honour without subjecting us to the due process of the law. But for this abusive, man the dignity of others means nothing, what matters to him is only his own standing.

Clearly, Rupiah is abusing his presidential powers and immunities. It is said that the highest proof of virtue is to possess boundless power without abusing it; power is the ability to do good things to others.

And no man is fit to command another that cannot command himself. Example is not the main thing in influencing others, it is the only thing. You don’t lead people by insulting them, abusing them, telling lies about them and scandalising them in all sorts of ways – that’s tyranny, not leadership. You can’t lead anyone else further than you have gone yourself.

It is not fair to ask of others what you are unwilling to do yourself simply because you are the president. You can’t ask others not to insult you when you are everyday insulting them simply because you are the head of state. Ethics must begin at the top.

It is a leadership issue, and Rupiah must set the example. Leadership is practised not so much in words as in attitude and in actions. Mambalas are not fit to be leaders. And we know who the real mambala is from his utterances and actions.

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