Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Learn to listen to the views of the people

Learn to listen to the views of the people
By Editor
Wed 11 Aug. 2010, 04:00 CAT

To govern is to communicate. Any society comprises a great diversity of interests and individuals who deserve to have their voices heard and their views respected.

The ear of the leader must ring with the voices of the people. And the voices of the people include those of the government, its political supporters and opposition, of course. But they are joined by the voices of the labour unions, organised interest groups, community associations, the news media, scholars and critics, religious leaders and writers, small businesses and large corporations.

All of these groups are free to raise their voices and participate in the political process, whether locally or nationally. In this way, democratic politics acts as a filter through which the vocal demands of a diverse populace pass on the way to becoming public policy. And this means that all these voices must be listened to, must be heard.

To lead people one must understand them. It is very difficult, if not impossible for one to effectively lead people he doesn’t understand. And to understand people, one must talk to them, listen to their views and share their joys and hopes, sorrows and anxieties. To lead people, one has to have a clear understanding of who they are and where they are. And this can only be done by listening to them and talking to them. You can’t lead people you don’t know.

And to know people, you have to listen to them. The leaders of this government will not listen to their people, neither do they listen to anyone but their own inner demons. And the observations made by Oswell Munyenyembe, the secretary general of the Mineworkers Union of Zambia, on the inability of the leaders of our government to listen to their people are very valid.

The labour unions are very important institutions, and any political leadership that does not want to listen to the representatives of workers is digging its own grave. It’s clear that this government listens more to the owners of the mines, who are not supposed to be their masters but have become their paymasters, than they do to the mine workers and their representatives. Probably, it is because of the direct financial support they get from the owners of the mines for their election campaigns and other things. But whatever they get from these owners of mines is nothing compared to what they get through the taxes paid by these humble workers.

It is these humble workers who pay their salaries and allowances; it is these humble workers who pay for the planes they fly in and the helicopters they use in their campaigns, the automobiles they drive and almost everything else they use. But look at the way they treat them and their representatives as compared to the way they treat the owners of the mines and their managers!

Our politicians in government have to learn to reason with the people who elected them; they have to learn to persuade people. That is their due. They have voluntarily, everyone of them, joined politics. What they should be looking for is more and more people calling on them to give them their counsel, their advice and broaden their participation. By making the choice to join politics, they took a decision, and it was that, by persuasion, they could bring more people with them.

So, that is the basis on which they have to act and should act. They need to listen more and more to people because no section of the community has all the wisdom, all the virtues, neither does any have all the ignorance, all the vices. They should never pretend to know everything, to know what they don’t know. And they should not feel ashamed to ask, listen and learn from the people. They should listen carefully to the views of the people.

They should be pupils of the people before they become teachers of the people.

What the people say may or may not be correct but they are the masters, and should be listened to. After hearing what the people are saying, they must analyse it. They must heed the correct views and act upon them. Listen also to the mistaken views of the people; it is wrong not to listen to them at all. There’s need for our politicians in government to guard against arrogance. For anyone in a leading political position, this should be a matter of principle.

The people, and the people alone, are the motive force in developing our country. The masses of our people are the real heroes, while they themselves are often childish and ignorant. The governance and development of our country must rely on the masses of the people, on everybody’s taking a hand and not only on a few individuals issuing orders. Those in power should always act in accordance with the needs and wishes of the masses they were elected to represent.

They are not in government to represent themselves. They were elected to represent the interests of the people. And all their work must start from the needs and wishes of the people, and not from the desire of any individual however well-intentioned. There’s need for every politician and government to listen attentively to the voice of the masses and identify themselves with the interests and needs of the masses wherever they go instead of standing above them. If they insist on leading the masses to do anything against their will, they will fail in all they are doing.

Our politicians must not assume that everything they themselves understand is understood by the masses. Whether the masses understand it and are ready to take action can only be discovered by listening to them. They should not also assume that the masses have no understanding of what they themselves do not yet understand. It often happens that the masses outstrip them and are eager to advance a step and that, nevertheless, our politicians 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.

This government has not listened much to the workers and their representatives.

Workers need a living wage and a right to participate in determining policies that affect their lives, they need their jobs protected. But instead this government is listening to the owners of mines and their managers and they are giving them all the concessions they ask for at the expense of workers. But the great lesson of our time is that no regime can survive if it acts above the heads of the ordinary citizens of the country. They were not voted into power by the owners and managers of mines but by these same humble workers they are today not willing to listen to. But as Munyenyembe has warned them, the time of reckoning is coming. These same workers who are also an important component of the voters of this country will know what to do with them when the time to vote comes. They will vote wisely and only for people who are known for their concern for the welfare of workers and the people.

People are loyal to those who are loyal to them; the workers and the poor of this country will in the final analysis only vote for those who they think will fight for their needs and defend their interests. Those who are on the payroll of the owners of mines and their managers will be rewarded by them and not by the workers and the poor whom they are not listening to, whom they have abandoned and betrayed. People are kind to those who are kind to them, those who care for them and everything equal, they will not vote for those who don’t listen to them, those who don’t care about them. If the MMD and its leaders want to remain in power next year, they have no alternative but to heed the advice Munyenyembe is giving them and stop being arrogant and insensitive.

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