ABOUT REACTIONARY LEADERSHIP: A CASE OF THE UPND GOVERNMENT
By Sean Tembo – PeP President
1. Different scholars define a leader in varying ways, but the definition that l prefer is that; “a leader is someone with a vision and a path to realizing that vision.” In other words, the most important attribute of a leader is that they must be able to think forward. To plan for the future. To anticipate what is likely to happen based on existing conditions and put a plan of action in place to mitigate possible future adverse events. But the question is; do we really have leaders in our Government?
2. The current cholera epidemic has been long in the making. By now, we all know the causes and drivers of cholera; heaps of uncollected garbage in the city and in the neighborhoods, shallow wells used for drinking water in the neighborhoods, poor sanitation exhibited by poor disposal of faecal matter etcetera. And yet, despite the causes and drivers of cholera being well known and documented, they have been staring in the face of Government for several years without any kind of action on the part of Government.
3. The central business district (CBD) in Lusaka has always been characterized by heaps of uncollected garbage spanning from Lumumba Road, Freedom Way, Chachacha road and even in the once classy Cairo Road. What only differs is the size of these heaps of uncollected garbage, as they are biggest in Lumumba Road and become slightly small as you approach Freedom Way and are smallest in Cairo Road. But the heaps of uncollected garbage are there all year round. This scenario of uncollected garbage is replicated in all neighborhoods across Lusaka, and l believe even in other cities and towns across the nation. I often wonder why we are such a dirty nation? Why it is so difficult for the Ministry of Local Government to put in place a comprehensive system for garbage collection and disposal across the nation?
4. Secondly, the issue of lack of clean drinking water is something that has bedeviled the Zambian people in most urban and peri-urban areas of Lusaka. This problem has been exacerbated by the mushrooming of unplanned residential areas across the entire nation. In selected places, non-governmental organizations such as World Vision have moved in to drill boreholes and erect tanks to supply clean drinking water to particular neighborhoods. When l look at the cost of such interventions, l am often left to wonder why Government through the Ministry of Local Government has failed to drill boreholes and erect tanks across all the neighborhoods that do not have water reticulation systems? A single borehole can service hundreds of households and prevent them from using shallow wells as a source of drinking water. But why is Government adamant to intervene and help these vulnerable populations?
5. Then there is the issue of poor disposal of faecal matter. You will be shocked to learn that the entire Lusaka CBD only has one public toilet which is located at Town Center near the Police Post. If you pass by there around lunchtime, you will find queues and queues of people waiting to use the toilet. It is no wonder that yesterday, a certain white man who is thought to be a tourist, ended up defecating at the entrance of the Main Post Office in Cairo Road, much to the amusement of many onlookers!!! No one can blame this man really. He had no option. And l am told that while he was doing it, he kept explaining to onlookers that he had searched for a public toilet but he could not find any. Already, this embarrassing story is trending in most international news outlets including Reuters. What an embarrament to the nation!!
6. My estimate is that at any given time there are at least half a million people in Lusaka CBD. Now, can you imagine 500,000 people using a single toilet? For a long time now, the traders along Lumumba Road and Freedom Way have been improvising by urinating and defecating in plastic bags and then throwing the feacal matter into the drainage. Government cannot tell me that they are not aware of this practice, and yet no effort has been made to construct adequate public ablution facilities across Lusaka CBD. I remember those days when l used to frequent the CBD, whenever my stomach gets warm and l need to use a toilet for a number two, l would look for the nearest hotel. They have the cleanest toilets and the Receptionist will never ask you where you’re going. When you are done and on your way out, you can even have the audacity to tell them to spray air freshener frequently in their bathrooms!!
7. And then there is the issue of cholera vaccines. We are told that Government has ordered a million doses which should arrive in the country in the next few weeks. Apparently we are supposed to clap for Government for this development? But the question is where was Government all this time, given the fact that this Cholera epidemic was first reported in October, 2023. That is more than three months ago. Why wasn’t Government proactive and ensure that they do mass vaccinations for all at-risk populations, especially in areas where people draw drinking water from shallow wells? What took them so long? Why is our Government sleeping on the job?
8. Indeed, it is beyond debate that the 300 or so lives that have so far been lost from the cholera epidemic did not have to be lost, had our Government not slept on the job. The current cholera crisis is one of self-creation by Government for reasons best known to themselves. But why would Government deliberately create a cholera crisis, some people might ask? Well, there are several possible reasons, but one of the most likely is a financial motive. A health crisis such as cholera often comes with it an overwhelming response from the business community who make both financial and material donations. This money is not subject to the internal controls and accountability systems that other public funds are subjected to, which makes it very easy for Government officials to pocket these donations. Therefore, having a public health crisis such as the ongoing cholera epidemic, is a very lucrative venture for unscrupulous Government officials. It is a time to mint cash. And the more bodies that pile up, the more cash that rolls in from donors. Therefore, even next year, don’t expect garbage to be collected. Don’t expect boreholes to be drilled in neighborhoods that use shallow wells. Don’t expect public toilets to be constructed. As for tourists coming to Zambia, well my advice is that they better ensure they carry some toilet paper in their backpacks so that even if they do it at the Main Post Office, they can at least wipe themselves!!!