Hunt for Successor 56: We can tell a sweet potato when we see one

By IAfrica
In Zambia
Mar 13th, 2014

By Field Ruwe

Sata on a path of self-destruction

President Sata with Dr Christine Kaseba Sata in Siavonga

President Sata with Dr Christine Kaseba Sata in Siavonga

President Sata with Dr Christine Kaseba Sata in Siavonga

The Constitution; Paramount Chief Chitimukulu; Mining in Lower Zambezi; “Useless PF MPs:” We are watching perhaps the voluntary self-destruction of President Michael Sata. Mark my words; if Sata falls from grace his confidants, including Guy Scott, Wynter Kabimba, Willie Nsanda, Chisimba Kambwili, and other legatees will lather and wash their hands in the usual turncoat style and describe him as the deaf and dumb red emperor who listened only to his voice.

“He treated us like sheep,” they will say. “He took us to the pasture in a rocky and barren land and left us there. Like sheep there was absolutely nothing we could do about it, even if we bleated.”

Others will say that his cabinet meetings were a sheer waste of time. “We were the butt of his ridicule. He subjected us to his abrasive comments, and forced us to listen to his archaic ideas. Those who dare voice a conflicting opinion left the room without clothing. In as far as he was concerned we were all chaff.”

The learned like Scott will be on television: “He was a megalomaniac,” they will decry. “A stone deaf despotic, dictatorial leader…completely allergic to advice…”

“Why didn’t you stop him, he’s your friend.”

“I tried,” Scott will say. “Like I said, you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. When I made an effort, he grabbed the leash and flogged me with it. So I said what the heck, nivutikilanji.”

And “Innocent Chimfuntumba” will add: “He behaves that way because he’s a Tanzanian. He has nothing to lose. Like he told me, he will simply run away to his country of origin and never set a foot here.”

In a political party of apostates and renegades the above narration is not far-fetched—it is not fiction. It is very easy to throw Sata under the bus if he blows his reign, and it is possible he could do just that because he carries with him symptoms of self-destruction that are manifested in his egoistical trait and are evidenced in outrageous comments like “show me an animal-driven constitution.” Such an irresponsible comment can only come from a person who is so benighted he does not understand the importance of a constitution and its ramifications if fractured. He does not know or chooses to ignore the fact that the constitution has been the downfall of tyrants and dictators.

Why is Sata in the habit of undermining our intelligence?

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Why does he tell us falsehoods? Why is he at liberty to cause us so much pain, stress, and anxiety? Why would a head of state urge his people to ignore the constitution debate? “Zambia does not need a new constitution,” he said. “We already have one.” This was after vowing a new constitution would be ready within the shortest period if he became president. While constitutional rhetoric in an election campaign is an important component of the candidate’s strategy to winning, failing to carry out the campaign promise on such a sensitive issue, and meddling with it like Sata is doing, is a recipe for self-destruction.

“Doctors must examine his mental state,” Nevers Mumba said.

Did you notice how rationally he responded to calls by the diplomatic corps and NGOs to resolve the constitution impasse?

All those like Mumba who believe that Sata’s mind is so unsound he could take the country over the cusp of the abyss may not be far from the truth. But they also need to understand who he really is. The entire nation must be aware of what seems to provoke, attract, or trigger an element of recklessness in him. We have the right to thoroughly know him because his far-reaching actions like debasing the constitution, disrespecting the Bemba chiefdom, demeaning his own MPs, affect our emotions, thoughts, and activities.

President Sata may be perfectly normal, all I know. It is possible his outrageous acts are intentional. He could be using them to confuse potential usurpers. Did you notice how rationally he responded to calls by the diplomatic corps and NGOs to resolve the constitution impasse? “Government will consider the recommendations [of the constitution], because we have to factor the logistical and financial repercussions in order not to derail other pressing developmental projects,” he said in an urgent matter-of-fact. Clearly a lie, but it is all the same a statement far removed from his absurd “animal-driven constitution” ranting meant for us. So, why does he choose to sound erratic and obnoxious to us and perfectly logical to the nonpareil?

Answer: Because we have allowed him to.

Intellectuals empowered King Cobra



Let me put it crudely; our lackluster intellectuals, the so-called professors and doctors in our corporate and higher institutions of learning like the University of Zambia have helped him to elevate his erratic behavior to an art form. They have lamentably failed to be the country’s cognitive elite that protects the vulnerable, the hopeless, and the defenseless. They have failed to cleverly and intellectually identify and expose the incumbent’s psychological manipulative tactics. Because in their fraternity they don’t see eye-to-eye they have failed to create counter strategies aimed at watering down Sata’s maneuvers, some that could lead to a revolution.

In the absence of an effective intellectual watchdog, Sata has turned erratic behavior into a weapon; a scythe with which to mow the same intellectuals and keep them trimmed down to subservience. In fact he noticed the intellectual laissez-faire attitude back in 1985 when Kaunda extolled him as the “genius” who fixed Lusaka. He saw that Zambian intellectuals were not woven together and shared no causal entities that would transform the country into a power house; that they have failed to do what he did for Lusaka.

When some of the so-called intellectuals attempted to bar him from participating in the presidential elections because he did not have a degree, he retorted: “A degree or piece of paper written or signed by someone…some kama wigged or capped chap will not stand in my political way, it will not stand in my aspirations.” Sata’s comments stemmed from the fact that Zambian intellectuals had absolutely nothing to show off, not an invention or innovation. They were not as creative as he. And when he saw that they had failed to navigate through the minds of the poor, come out with great ideas, and benefit from their support, he created a mystical bond with them [the poor], pitched his themes to their desires, and pledged to be their savior.

He dribbled and dazzled the intellectuals they called him “King Cobra,” and he loved it. He was so excited he bought an effigy of the adder and displayed it in his office. Not a day passed without looking at it. To him, it projected his daily might; his feelings, thoughts, and experiences. It helped to quip his neural circuitry with proper defense appliances. He felt impregnable, untouchable, dangerous, and unpredictable. To him “King Cobra” was more than a tag for his ruggedness and insolence. It provided security and concealed who he really was. It made it possible for us to know him only tangentially; only as Lusaka’s superman. Yes, the title “King Cobra” conveyed symbolic ideas beyond meaning and consolidated his political integrity. With it he was able to apply emotional manipulation to intimidate, alarm, or put intellectuals in a temporary paralysis.

It is therefore with the help of the Zambian intelligentsia that King Cobra, with a humble education (Form 2), and with little understanding of the principles and fundamentals of democracy, and the power of the constitution, won the election and was elevated to demi-godly status. Zambian intellectuals accorded him untrammeled executive powers. He is now in a position to delay or kill the draft constitution or insist on one in which he is both kin-pin and eternal emperor of the nation. He can use his executive powers to dethrone Paramount Chief Chitimukulu and appoint a chief of his liking right in the face of the “brave” Bembas. He is now the head of state and commander-in-chief. In the ambit of the so-called democracy we have given Michael Chilufya Sata the red button to do with it whatever he likes.

Why future presidents should have a degree

Some graduands at the University of Zambia great east road campus hoist their head dresses after graduating in various programs

Some graduands at the University of Zambia great east road campus hoist their head dresses after graduating in various programs

Some graduands at the University of Zambia great east road campus hoist their head dresses after graduating in various programs

With Sata at the helm, it has become clear why future presidents should have a degree of some sort. Going by his handling of the draft constitution and his utterances on the matter, he does not have the academic clout on which to exercise his faculties. There is no intellectual dialogue going on between him and the citizenry, a clear indication that with his humble education he is not naturally inclined to intellectual debate. He is unable to use his knowledge to validate his concerns and offer some reflective listening and thinking. Often learned presidents, question, challenge, and empower the populace. Sata does the opposite because he does not know how. This should perhaps explain why he is not so enthusiastic about press conferences. Facebook is his comfort zone because he can engage ghost writers and respondents.

It also explains why his erratic behavior has become idiosyncratic. He uses it to mask his inadequacies, and insufficiencies. Often when he finds himself in the presence of people he perceives as smarter than him, he consciously or unconsciously applies the “roll over” tactic as a utility for self-empowerment. Those familiar with such semantics know that he is using erratic behavior to defy accurate judgment of his abilities, capabilities, and intellectual assessment. In all his media appearances we have watched him disengage the interviewer and take over the show. We saw him do that to Charles Mando and Goretti Mapulanga [both departed] and turn a serious interview into a “reality TV” show. He did so because he was afraid they could expose his intellectual deficiency. You only need to replay his interviews to see how he fails to articulate issues perceptively.

I know I am being hard on the president. He entered State House for this very reason; to be held responsible for his shortfalls. Those who support him may find it repugnant and inappropriate to attack him when they believe he is doing his best. But at the same time, it will be utterly irresponsible, timidly and outright wrong to watch him rule with such recklessness. We shall not bury our heads in the sand and allow him to rule by hook or crook, by trial and error, or learn as he rules. First and foremost as president he bears personal moral responsibility to secure a protected democracy. His office demands honesty, integrity, and dedication, and not lies and shenanigans. Most importantly, a man of his status must be a professional politician who understands both legislative and executive responsibilities. He must carry on the system of government with all the seriousness it deserves. He must always be reminded that we, the people of Zambia are not fools, we can tell a sweet potato when we see one.

Field Ruwe is a US-based Zambian media practitioner, historian, and author. He is a doctoral candidate at George Fox University and serves as an adjunct professor (part-time lecturer) in Boston. ©Ruwe2012

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