Friday, April 23, 2010
By The Post Editor
Fri 23 Apr. 2010, 04:00 CAT
TO lead a people one has to know them.
And it seems Rupiah Banda does not know the type of people he is leading. Rupiah doesn’t realise that today’s Zambia is very different from the Malawi of Kamuzu Banda. Kamuzu ruled Malawi through intimidation, harassment and sometimes even naked brutality.
No one dared to question what he did. Once, Kamuzu remarked that “those who oppose us do meet with accidents” in response to the death of a prominent political opponent who had perished in a road accident.
Like Kamuzu, Rupiah is forgetting that those who are evil also do meet disastrous ends; those who rely on brutality to keep themselves in power are bound to come to grief at one point or another. This is why it is also said that the mark of great leaders is the ability to understand the context in which they are operating and act accordingly. It is folly for anyone to think that today’s Zambia can be successfully governed through intimidation and brutality.
This is a different breed of Zambians that will not be silenced into submission. Free speech and other democratic practices are starting to take root in the lives and hearts of our people. This is not because of people like Rupiah and his corrupt, crooked and thieving friend Frederick Chiluba. It is despite their attempts to silence everyone who opposes them, including the free press. Who doesn’t know what Chiluba did to those he thought were a threat to his hold on power? Kenneth Kaunda, Rodger Chongwe and many others who did not submit to Chiluba’s corrupt ways are today very lucky to be among the living.
Six months after Kamuzu came to power, all hell broke loose. Some of his closest compatriots had to flee at short notice and take refuge in neighbouring countries like Zambia. A despot was born.
It is interesting that not long after Rupiah came to power, the country has been fed on a continuous diet of threats, intimidation and blackmail. Anyone who opposes Rupiah is threatened with one form of judicial or extrajudicial action of one form or another.
The people around Rupiah are not helping him. They are reinforcing Rupiah’s propensity towards intimidation and victimisation of his opponents. The likes of George Kunda, Lameck Mangani, Ronnie Shikapwasha and William Banda are moulding Rupiah into a type of Kamuzu. If you disagree with Rupiah, you are in danger; you are a devil.
But it would be wrong to say that Rupiah is behaving in the way that he is because of the people around him. Rupiah is a grown man who makes his own choices. And he has made it very clear that he does not tolerate dissenting views. Anybody who dissents is punished. This is Rupiah’s mode of operation.
The other day when he addressed a press conference on the Copperbelt, he decided to shamelessly, blatantly and brazenly intimidate all those who work with him. His words were not the words of a democrat. What he said was not consistent with what obtains in a democratic country governed in accordance with the rule of law.
Rupiah should not accuse us of distorting what he said. He is what he said with his own mouth: “Let me warn that government officers no matter how senior they may be, they do not have the authority to challenge my directive.
The civil servants’ role is meant to implement government decisions generally and presidential orders specifically, just as they are given, whether one agrees with them or not. Unfortunately that is how life is. If you are given a directive and you are the employee of government and don’t fulfil, you will be removed. It doesn’t matter what political party you come from and those leaders who are telling you to oppose will not be there to give you a job. You will just make your family suffer.”
This is what Rupiah said in Kitwe this week.
Rupiah was telling public officers that they should obey every instruction that he gives them or risk being fired. By saying what he said, Rupiah is forgetting one simple but very fundamental prerequisite to obeying any instruction, that is, such an instruction should in all circumstances be lawful. This is probably what Rupiah is grappling with. He expects people to obey him even when his instructions raise legal problems.
We say this because in the time that Rupiah has been President, so many things have happened which have put pressure on public officials. Rupiah has wanted to ensure that things are done which are not always straightforward. This seems to be the reason he is now resorting to threats. To him, professional advice from civil servants and other public officers is tantamount to political opposition and his reaction is to threaten dismissal in order to force capitulation.
We should not forget that since Rupiah came to power, there have been so many scandals that if the civil servants and other public officers are obeying him in all his wishes, they may end up in trouble themselves. Soon after coming to power, there was the Selex radar controversy at the airport which was associated with Rupiah’s family.
There is also the RP Capital and Zamtel privatisation controversy which is linked to his family as well. These are not the only controversial procurements that seem to interest Rupiah. It is now beyond question that Rupiah has been pushing for the acquisition of the impractical mobile hospitals at exorbitant prices. What about the boreholes that they want to sink at K40 million per borehole? The list seems endless. The procurement of oil is another area where rotten things have been going on. Rupiah’s government tried to collude with one of the bidders. They only changed direction after they were exposed.
No one is obliged to obey directives that are unlawful and those who do should know that they are doing it at their own peril. People who like giving directives that they know to be unlawful or illegal do not have the courage to put their requests in writing. They like to give verbal directives. Those who are working in government today should know that they will only have themselves to blame if they take illegal verbal instructions.
When the day comes to explain why they did what they did, they will have no way of explaining. It is unfortunate that Rupiah could go on a public platform and threaten public officers in the manner that he did. If the instructions and directives that he has been giving are in the best interest of the country, then indeed no one should have any problems implementing them.
The civil service exists to translate the policies of government into lawful activities. But if directives are of an operational nature and not founded in law, then the technocrats, the civil servants and other public officers are going to have difficulties implementing them.
Rupiah’s threat to the public servants and his demand that his directives must be followed has raised a fundamental question: how is Rupiah running government? What are these directives that he is giving that are not being followed that he is now annoyed and resorting to threats? We say this because the function of the president is not supposed to be the micro-managing of every detail, of every contract or tender – he shouldn’t be a tenderprenuer.
Rupiah’s rantings on the Copperbelt gave the impression that some of his petty projects are being frustrated by civil service professionalism and procedures. This is why he saw it fit to tell the civil servants that if they don’t obey his directives, he will fire them and their families will suffer. How can a President sink so low? How can the President be so devilish, so brutish and vindictive?
This is truly the incarnation of the devil himself. He called us devils for simply pointing out the shortcomings of his management style of our national affairs but his actions and threats are showing us who the true devil is. Or if not, who has befriended the devil. It’s no wonder that Rupiah today sees everything damn good in the little devil that robbed our poor people of billions of kwacha or millions of dollars to buy designer clothes in Europe and to pay for the services of girlfriends.
All in all, it can be said that Rupiah has problems respecting the law and its dictates. To him being President has placed him above the law. He has deluded himself into believing that he is omnipotent and that his orders are law itself and should be obeyed. But we are reminded that “a group of people who have no respect for the law is like a pile of kindling; they will meet a fiery end. Every lawless act lives an incurable wound, like one left by a double edged sword” (Sirach 21).
If Rupiah wants to lead well and aspire to any form of greatness, he needs to learn to do the simple things of life that constitute goodness. Respect for the law is one of them. Telling the truth and listening to the people that he leads whether he likes them or thinks they are devils may just help him. Rupiah must stop his threats. And those working with him must tell him that you cannot govern by threats and intimidation. Praising thieves will do him no good.