Thursday, November 03, 2011
By The Post
Thu 03 Nov. 2011, 14:50 CAT
The most serious problem facing Michael Sata's government today is not civil servants leaking information about his appointments. It is the quality of his appointments that is a problem. And this is what Michael should focus his attention on and find ways to improve the quality of his appointments so that they are accepted by the great majority of our people.
There is dissension in the country over the appointments he is making. And this dissension is not coming from his political opponents because these would be very happy to see him weakened by poor appointments. His political opponents are happy with the poor appointments he is making because that aids their campaign against him.
It is his supporters who are most affected, who are most saddened by the poor appointments he is making. To remove this opposition, this dissatisfaction, the primary requisite is for Michael to eradicate the cause of dissension. A great number of his appointments are not in accord with the expectations of his supporters. And Michael doesn't seem to realise this because he is shielded away from them in State House.
If Michael today was to put his appointments to the approval of his supporters, very few would be approved. This may not worry Michael because as far as he may be concerned, he is acting within his constitutional powers. But there are people who gave him this opportunity, this power and he has to listen to them, he has to mull over things and consider their feelings. If he thinks he doesn't need to consider the feelings of anyone and continues to act only according to his own desires, he will be in grief soon.
We say this because the constitutional powers he has amount to nothing without the support of the people. In case those around him don't have the moral courage to tell him that the great majority of our people are not happy with his appointments, we are telling him that. If he is in doubt, let him go to the people directly and consult them.
The problem is not with the civil servants leaking information about his appointments. It is the quality of his appointments that are causing problems. But it's always easy to blame other people for one's problems, no matter how self-created they may be.
It won't help Michael to try and turn those humble civil servants into the burden bearers of the problems he is creating for himself through poor judgement and lack of adequate and meaningful consultations. No one in this country can make the number of appointments singlehandedly and get it right at the end of the day. Michael is trying the impossible and is bound to fail because he doesn't know everyone in this country.
Zambia is a big country covering over 755,000 square kilometres with a population of over 13 million. How many of these kilometres has Michael covered? How many of these over 13 million Zambians has Michael met, does Michael know?
The only way for Michael to avoid deficiencies in his appointments is to go for collective leadership. This will help because when the best opinions, the opinions of most competent men and women, the most capable men and women, are discussed collectively, they are cleansed of their vices, of their errors, of their weaknesses, of their faults.
If Michael wants to think that because it's only him and him alone who has been given the powers by the Constitution to make these appointments he will make them alone, then he is in for more dissension, more troubles and more failures.
If he wants to govern like an absolute monarchy decreeing everything down to his subjects or servants, he will face serious challenges. Michael is a part of a collective and he has to work within that collective to succeed. If he wants to run things alone as if he has no party, no colleagues, no cadres, he is in for a rude awakening.
Yes, Michael has the right to make the final decisions, but he has a duty to consult. If he is going to continue making decisions alone, he will soon find himself alone, defending everything he has done alone. This will be so because it will be unfair for him to expect his colleagues to come to his defence on matters he never consults them, on matters he thinks are personal to him.
Michael has to learn to share his constitutional powers with his colleagues by consulting. And moreover, consulting others is another way of mobilising his colleagues to support his decisions whenever they are challenged or if they happen to be wrong because there is no human being, or human decisions that are always correct. If he continues acting in solitude, he will find himself abandoned and only surrounded by those who seek favours from him, those he has given jobs.
Of course there will be opposition to everything he does. He has opposition now, and he will have even greater opposition in future, even if he does everything the right way - and he should do them the right way, even if it calls for his greatest efforts.
It is hard for any political party or person to avoid mistakes, but we should make as few as possible of them. And once a mistake is made, we should correct it, and the more quickly and thoroughly, the better. There is nothing to be ashamed of or stubborn about in correcting mistakes. Yes, sometimes it may be painful to reverse the decisions one has made.
But you are saving yourself a lot of future problems, worse problems than the one you are attempting to correct. After having made very unacceptable appointments of Xavier Chungu and Emmanuel Mwamba, Michael should have reversed both of them. But it seems it was too embarrassing for him to drop both so he had to retain Mwamba to save face. But what face can one save with such a wrong decision, a filthy appointment?
Michael must learn to listen attentively to others, including those outside the leadership of his party and government, and let them have their say. If what they say is right, he should welcome it, and should learn from their strong points; if it is wrong, he should patiently explain things to them than start to denounce them and accuse them of all sorts of things.
If we have shortcomings, we should not be afraid to have them pointed out and criticised because the job of those in leadership is to serve the people. Anyone, no matter who, may point out our shortcomings. If he is right, we should correct them. If what he proposes will benefit the people, we should act upon it.
It is a waste of time for Michael to concern himself so much with leaks, with who has leaked what appointment. No government or institution or corporation can be certain that their secrets are safe. States and citizens will, as many do already, operate on the assumption that nothing can reliably remain hidden.
Whistleblowers and secret sources are here to stay. As fast as governments encrypt and hide, whistleblowers and hackers will decode and seek places to publish. There is a sea-change in the way we are ruled and the information we are entitled to expect.
Threatening civil servants over leaks will not change the tide of history. The genie is out of the bottle - there will be more leaks. No government anywhere, even the most powerful, can protect itself from greater public scrutiny and a new age of whistle-blowing. The only sensible way to operate now is for those in government to try at all times and in all circumstances to do the right thing, things they can easily explain and justify to their people with a clear conscience.