Friday, July 30, 2010

Why this arrogant insistence on mobile hospitals?

Why this arrogant insistence on mobile hospitals?
By Editor
Fri 30 July 2010, 04:00 CAT

Rupiah Banda does what he wants. Rupiah doesn’t seem to be accountable to anyone, and as such, public opinion is not something that bothers him. On most issues of great public interest, Rupiah has not listened to anyone and has simply done what he wants to do.

On Tuesday, Rupiah told off all those who were criticising his mobile hospitals, saying it’s none of their business. It seems the business of Zambia is his and his alone. And only the views or interests of his friends and sons matter. How can the use of public funds be a matter outside the business of any Zambian citizen? What Rupiah seems to be telling us is that this government is of Rupiah, by Rupiah, for Rupiah – it is not a government of the people, by the people, for the people, as Lincoln once defined democracy. This means there can be no meaningful democracy in Zambia as long as Rupiah is President. For Rupiah, our participation as citizens in the governance of our country begins and ends with us casting a vote for him. After casting our votes, the way he governs our country is none of our business. Our only business is to vote and to vote for him.

This probably explains why Rupiah has totally ignored public opinion on all major issues – the constitution-making process, the fraudulent acquittal of Frederick Chiluba and his withdrawal of the appeal in this matter. This may also explain the arrogance in his deal with his friends and sons to privatise Zamtel against the wishes of the great majority of the Zambian people.

Rupiah’s mobile hospitals have been criticised by all independent-minded Zambian doctors and other citizens of goodwill. But he has decided to go ahead and borrow US $53 million from China for the procurement of these mobile hospitals. Rupiah will not listen to anyone but his own inner demons. His lack of respect for public opinion and blindness make him a very poor leader, for a leader must temper resoluteness with listening. The exercise of power must be the constant practice of self-limitation and modesty. The use of power is not a matter of trying to show who has the final say and who doesn’t have it; it shouldn’t be a contest to show who holds political power.

There is need for Rupiah to realise that he is not President of this country because he is the most intelligent citizen. Rupiah is simply an ordinary man who became President because of extraordinary circumstances. And he should never pretend to know what he doesn’t know, he should not feel ashamed to ask and learn from the masses of our people. And Rupiah should learn to listen carefully to the views of others, including those of ordinary citizens. Rupiah should become a pupil before he tries to become a teacher; he should learn from the masses before he issues orders. What the ordinary people say may or may not be correct; after hearing it, he must analyse it. Rupiah must heed the correct views and act upon them. He should also listen to the mistaken views; it is wrong not to listen to them at all.

There is need for Rupiah to guard against arrogance. There is no need to be arrogant when one is a public servant, and not a master.

To succeed in his work, Rupiah will always need to rely on the masses of our people, on everyone taking a hand and not only on himself issuing orders and doing what he wants. We say this because experience teaches us that the right task, policy and style of work invariably conform with the demands of the masses at a given time and place and invariably strengthens the ties of the leaders with the masses. And the wrong task, policy and style of work invariably disagree with the demands of the masses at any given time and place and invariably alienate the leaders from the masses.

To link oneself with the masses, a leader must act in accordance with the needs and wishes of the masses. All work done for the masses must start from their needs and not from the desire of any individual, however well-intentioned.

There is need to listen attentively to the voice of the masses. And instead of standing above them, a leader should immerse himself among them. If a leader insisted on leading the masses to do anything against their will, he will certainly fail.

Rupiah and his friends must not assume that the masses have no understanding of what they themselves do not yet understand. It often happens that the masses outstrip their leaders and are eager to advance a step and that nevertheless, their representatives fail to act as leaders of the masses and tail behind certain backward elements, reflecting their views and, moreover, mistaking them for those of the broad masses.

To make Zambia rich and strong needs several decades of intense effort, which will include, among other things, the effort to practice strict economy and combat waste, that is, the policy of building our country through diligence and frugality. The principle of diligence and frugality should be observed in everything. We must particularly advocate diligence and frugality, and we must pay special attention to economy.

We must not take a short view and indulge in wastefulness. Spending US $53 million on mobile hospitals is wastefulness. We must do our utmost to ensure that the very limited resources of our country are utilised to the maximum benefit of our people. And we must take resolute measures against anyone wasting, misusing or misapplying public resources. We must pay special attention to thrift and economy. Thrift should be the guiding principle in our government expenditure. And wastefulness in public expenditure should be a very serious crime. We therefore need modest and prudent leaders who are free from arrogance and rashness in their style of work.

We should be prepared to work very hard. And every decision and action of government should be subjected to maximum public scrutiny so that it is cleansed of its weaknesses or vices. There are no straight roads in the world; we must be prepared to follow a road that twists and turns and not try to get things on the cheap. We should also not forget that the wealth of our country, very limited as it may be, is created by the workers, peasants and working intellectuals. If they take their destiny into their own hands and take an active attitude in solving the problems of their country instead of evading them, there will be no difficulty in the world which they cannot overcome. So it doesn’t make sense for anyone to tell them that government business, the borrowing of US $53 million to use in the procurement of mobile hospitals is none of their business. If this is none of their business, what is their business?

Let us not forget that the history of mankind is one of continuous development from the realm of necessity to the realm of freedom. This process is never ending. Therefore, we have to constantly sum up experience and go on advancing.

In approaching a problem, we should try to see the whole as well as the parts of that problem. A frog in a well says, “The sky is no bigger than the mouth of the well.” That is untrue, for the sky is not just the size of the mouth of the well. If it said, “a part of the sky is the size of the mouth of a well”, that would be true, for it tallies with the facts.

We must learn to look at problems all-sidedly, seeing the reverse as well as the obverse side of things. In given conditions, a bad thing can lead to good results and a good thing to bad results. Of course, no one should go off into wild flights of fancy, or make plans of action unwarranted by the objective situation, or stretch for the impossible.

Arrogance is not a good thing for a leader. It is dangerous for a leader to be arrogant. Even if we achieve gigantic successes in our work, we win elections overwhelmingly, there is no reason whatsoever to feel conceited and arrogant.

Modesty helps one to go forward, whereas conceit makes one lag behind. This is a truth we must always bear in mind. With achievements, with success, certain moods may grow in us – arrogance, the airs of a self-styled hero, inertia and unwillingness to listen to anyone. All such things become encumbrances or baggage if there is no critical awareness.

It is not good to see someone harming the interests of the masses and yet not feel indignant, or dissuade or stop him or reason with him but instead allow him to continue. We should never let things drift simply because they do not affect us directly; we should not try to say as little as possible while knowing perfectly well what is wrong; we should not be worldly wise and play safe and seek only to avoid blame. And we should not let things slide for the sake of peace and friendship when a person has clearly gone wrong, and refrain from principled argument because he is an old acquaintance, a fellow village or townsman, a schoolmate, a close friend, a loved one, an old colleague or old subordinate. Or touch on the matter lightly instead of going into it thoroughly, so as to keep on good terms. The result is that both the nation and the individual are harmed. It is not being a good citizen to hear incorrect views without rebutting them, but instead take them calmly as if nothing has happened. Rupiah’s mobile hospitals are certainly a waste and misuse of public funds. If that US $53 million loan is available to any project in our health sector, let’s get it and use it prudently on more deserving projects. The insistence on these mobile hospitals smells of corruption. There is something that seems to be corrupt about this whole deal. And moreover, the arrogance with which it is being pursued is corruption in itself. When we talk about corruption, we include arrogance. We say this because arrogance leads to abuse of power and of public office. And we know very well that abuse of office is corruption. And that’s why today, Rupiah and his corrupt friends want to remove the offence of “abuse of office” from our statute books.

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