What Kind of President Does Zambia Really Need

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By Sean Tembo – PeP President

1. Today, our country faces huge economic challenges, with the majority of citizens being driven deeper and deeper into poverty and squalor due to the ever-escalating cost of living. This is despite the equally huge economic potential that we have in almost all sectors of the economy such as tourism, agriculture, mining, etcetera.

2. Today, our country is divided into half. No citizen is seen as a Zambian. Every citizen is looked at through the lenses of either pro-UPND or anti-UPND. Our brothers and sisters from the Zambezi provinces of Southern, Western and North-Western are constantly fed the rhetoric that the rest of the Zambian people look down on them as second class citizens. Those who are wise can see through this empty rhetoric, but a good number of our brothers and sisters fall for it, hook, line and sinker. That is a very dangerous path which needs to be challenged and corrected.

3. Today, law enforcement agencies have been hijacked and converted into an appendage of the ruling UPND party. Instead of doing their work in an impartial manner, the Zambia Police, Anti Corruption Commission (ACC) and Drug Enforcement Commission (DEC) have been weaponized and used to crush political opponents, especially those who were aligned with the former ruling party. Opposition politicians are arrested in a dramatic fashion multiple times, and taken across the country in an attempt to exact as much extra-judicial punishment as possible. Bail, even when granted by a court, is delayed as much as possible on all sorts of flimsy reasons. Yet, when their time to appear in court comes, the State is not ready to proceed with the case.

4. Today, youths have been relegated to the backseat in terms of opportunities being extended by their Government. Instead of empowering the youths who have never had any opportunity before, the Government prefers to give opportunities to the same elderly people who had multiple opportunities in the past, and squandered them all. And yet, our youths are the biggest stakeholders in this country because they are going to live in this country longer than the elderly. Our youths are also at their most productive age, as they are vibrant, energetic and free from ailments that come with old age. And yet, they are sidelined.

5. This begs the question of; what kind of President does Zambia really need? On the economy, Zambia needs a President who will be visionary, courageous and competent. A President with enough foresight and imagination to envision how our country’s different types of potential can be woven together to create competitive advantage for us. A President who is audacious enough to believe that Zambia can become the largest economy in Africa in the next 20 years, and that our poorest citizens will at least be able to afford three square meals a day, have clothes on their back and shelter above their heads. A President who has the courage to deviate from the tunnel-vision of how things have always been done. A President who will inspire and catapult citizens into unprecedented levels of productivity, self-discipline and ambition. A President who will unlock the abilities of the Zambia people and help to convert the economic potential of our nation into actual wealth, for the benefit of citizenry.

6. On national unity, Zambia needs a strong minded President, and not one who wallows in self-pitty. A President who thrives on and enjoys our country’s wide tribal diversity and the 72 languages spoken across all corners of Zambia. And not a President who publicly complains at a press conference that his Tonga language is not as widely spoken across the country as Nyanja or Bemba. Of course in any society across the world, there will be some languages which will be more spoken than others. When you are a President, you do not need to use your platform to inflame your tribesmen into believing that their tribe has been sidelined by the nation, and that it is now time to claim their rightful position. No one should use the Presidency as a tool for advancing tribal superiority.

7. Additionally, Zambia needs a President who has a thick skin to distinguish between trifles and substantive matters. Not a President who convenes an entire press conference just to complain that he is being referred to as a cow, on account of his tribe. Well, late former President Frederick Chiluba was actually referred to as a monkey in a maize field. But he did not convene a press conference to complain that he was called a monkey on account of his Bemba tribe. Similarly, late former President Patrick Mwanawasa was referred to as a Cabbage. But not on a single day did he convene a press conference to complain about it. In fact, Mwanawasa joked about it saying; “after l develop this country, you’ll stop calling me cabbage and start calling me steak”. Those are the hallmarks of a statesman. One who is not bogged down by trifles and focuses on the bigger picture of delivering national development. In Chewa, we have a saying that; “mutu ukulu sulewa nkonyo”. Mutu = head. Ukulu = big. Kulewa = ducking. Nkonyo = punches. So you can do your own translation. Simply put, when you are a leader, you will always be subject to all sort of criticism. Some legitimate, some not. But you have a duty and obligation to rise above the pettiness and focus on leading the nation. As for me, if given a choice of what to be called between a monkey, a cabbage and a cow; l’ll choose a cow on any day.

8. On the weaponization of law enforcement agencies against the opposition, it is common cause that those are the traits of a dictator. I have always argued that our law enforcement agencies are largely professional and fully capable of doing their jobs without political interference. When they are operating independently, they are even more thorough than when they are under political pressure. The reason most of the sensational arrests fail to stand in court is because the law enforcement agencies are given undue pressure to make premature arrests even before investigations are properly concluded. When the docket is taken to DPP, it doesn’t usually have prosecutable evidence. And then you pile the blame on the DPP for failing to give consent to prosecute the cases in court. You are forgetting that you are the one who applied political pressure on law enforcement agencies to effect a premature arrest on your political opponents.

9. Personally l fully support the fight against corruption. Anyone who stole public resources in the previous regime should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law, and recoveries of stolen property made. But we need a President who can facilitate a corruption fight in a sober manner, without undertones of vengeance or retribution. For starters, the only time that any citizen is disposed of their house, car or bank account should be when they have been convicted in a court of law and the court issues an order for such forfeiture. Citizens should never be dispossessed of their property merely on the basis of an allegation. Property rights should be respected. Remember that what goes around comes around. How would you feel if one day after leaving the presidency, you are evicted from your house without any trial, on the basis that your house is suspected to be proceeds of crime from privatization? And then you take 15 years to prove that your house is not a proceed of crime, by which time the property is totally dilapidated. So let us always remember to do unto others as we would want others to do unto us. Zambia needs a President who will have no appetite for extrajudicial punishment before a conviction. A President who will uphold the fundamental constitutional principle of innocent until proven guilty. Only then can we build a better society for ourselves and our children.

10. On the sidelining of youths, in preference for the elderly; Zambia needs a President who believes in equal opportunities for all. There’s no question that the Government is the largest employer. There is also no question that the demand for Government jobs far exceeds the supply. Therefore, any Zambian who has previously had the opportunity to work for Government in the past should give room to those who have never had the opportunity before. It is unfair to keep recycling the same old people in Government positions while the youth are not given any opportunity at all. Personally am a strong believer that every person deserves an opportunity in life. If they properly utilize the opportunity and prosper, then that’s good. If they mess up the opportunity and go back to poverty, that’s well and good too. But the bottom line is that everyone deserves an opportunity. Therefore, the youths must be prioritized in any appointments made by a Government. Youth empowerment should never be an afterthought. Otherwise national development will remain elusive in this country.

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