Keep Trying ,Avoid Rhetoric Mr.President- Isaac Mwanza


By Isaac Mwanza

After watching the last press “briefing” by our Republican President, Hakainde Hichilema, which lasted for closer to 3 hours on Thursday, one can only say keep trying, be modest, avoid rhetoric and learn from the past Mr. President.

There can be no doubt when one listens to the President that he has set the Patriotic Front (PF) as the standard measure for his leadership.

The President appeared to have been singing old stale hits about the PF when people have moved on and are looking for new tunes. It was like going to a Yo Maps Heroes concert and all he performs is “Finally” from 4 years ago!

The Zambian people rejected the PF for basic reasons that it had failed to deliver the quality of life it had promised them, for its arrogance and its somewhat militant style of government.

Among its supporters, the PF party is never loyal to those who were or are loyal to it. It was one of the many reasons why PF grassroots members decided to put in less for their party to win the general election.

The PF allowed the arrogance, selfishness and lawlessness to dominate its governing structures which angered and later alienated loyal members.

The PF allowed the government and its institutions to become a cash cow for a few beneficiaries who walked in the corridors of power and gave themselves the most lucrative government and SOE construction and supply contracts.

Unfortunately, it cannot be said at this stage that the administration of President Hichilema is acting any differently or the governing UPND is behaving any better than its predecessor.

There isn’t much of any detectable difference in the two parties’ style of leadership.

The current administration is driving us to the unpopular International Monetary Fund (IMF) route whose destination is greater suffering and pain for many.

It is becoming clear by the day that measures prescribed by the IMF from its Washington boardroom are premised on the Law of the Jungle: survival of the fittest and elimination of the weakest.

Humility should compel any President wearing the shoes President Hichilema stepped into to recognize that Zambians with responsibilities on their shoulders are going through untold difficulties at this moment.

Poverty levels are growing at an alarming rate from time the Hichilema administration took up stressful IMF measures in order to access the largely irrelevant $1.3 billion loan. The money remains tightly locked up in the IMF’s vault.

According to the IMF wisdom, Mr. Hichilema must complete negotiations with official creditors and demonstrate to be taking “bold and ambitious program of reforms” to the IMF’s satisfaction.

The measures allegedly agreed between government and the IMF are, to many ordinary Zambians, evil. Families are on the verge of complete financial collapse and irredeemable poverty.

Many of the weakest in our society will lose everything, having already lost their dignity.

In the midst of what Zambians are going through, Mr. Hichilema didn’t see the need to acknowledge at his 3-hour press conference that life has generally become tough for the overwhelming majority of ordinary Zambians.

From his sentiments, President Hichilema seems to believe that Zambians who are complaining on social and other media are those who received and became addicted to free handouts under the derided PF regime.

And going by his general remarks, the President also seems to believe that his administration is doing far much better than all previous governments since independence.

His belief is based on economic indicators from his own Ministry of Finance and the “vibes” coming from his international friends and admirers who are not experiencing the hardships being faced by Zambians.

President Hichilema’s press briefing was particularly punctuated by the graphical presentation of these indicators in PowerPoint.

He struggled to showcase what he seems to believe is the excellent performance of his administration as compared to the fallen PF regime.

It would appear the President may not be aware that the PF had the best statistics in terms of tangible deliverables with regard to what they had done for Zambia in their ten-year tenure, which is statistically better than the MMD or UNIP.

Before Zambians chucked the PF out of power, the PF prided itself on having enrolled more beneficiaries on FISP and social cash transfer programmes, the biggest infrastructure investments in the education, health, energy and road sectors.

In just 7 years, the Lungu administration built 1,650 schools, the same number as UNIP built in its first 10 years of government after independence and 10 times more than the British built in their 70 years of colonial rule.

Zambia saw about 650 new health posts, Level 1, District and General Hospitals. There is also the state-of-the-art Kenneth Kaunda International Airport, Harry Mwaanga Nkumbula Airport,

Not to forget the marvellous Kazungula and Mongu-Kalabo bridges and new bituminous roads dotted in both rural and urban areas. These are among the many good things the former regime could point to.

Irrespective of statistics on poverty levels from the Bretton Woods institutions, the cost of living under the fallen regime was relatively affordable for many ordinary Zambians.

Zambians, however made a decision on August 12 to chuck out the PF despite its impressive statistics.

The PF’s lawlessness, the blatant abuse of power by the few, the disregard for democratic rights and political thuggery became unbearable and Zambians decided that it was time for change.

The hope of many Zambians was a return to normalcy and predictable order which had eroded under the PF. Zambian voters had hoped the UPND was to provide the path back to normal statehood and the full enjoyment of democratic rights by all.

The UPND, at a minimum, offered the promise of bettering their lives in a reorganized society than the previous administration.

This is why it is baffling that President Hichilema could spend over close to 3 hours comparing and contrasting economic statistics about his government and those from previous governments.

Even in his reliance of those statistics, the President completely ignored factors that could have contributed to past negative growth of our economy.

These factors include the cold war before 1990, repeated cycles of droughts and floods, wars, instability, and economic blockades against our trading partners.

The others were the pandemic in 2020, low price of metals, our primary export, on the international markets due to economic stagnation in major economies due to the 2008 global financial collapse.

From the data presented, the President should also have noted that negative indicators such as high inflation in a year before any general election reflect uncertainties surrounding the outcome of such a major election.

Real life does not flow smoothly like a good PowerPoint presentation, Mr. President.

Of what good is a country that prides itself in statistical positive economic growth when its citizens are struggling to make the ends meet in real life?

What is the value of showcasing a single digit inflation when your citizens are failing to put food on the table for their families?

Where is the pride when your citizens do not have income to meet minimum fees for health insurance with NHIMA?

Of what good is education when classrooms are grossly overpopulated to the extent that children are reduced to merely being present in class and come out with neither knowledge nor skill?

Mr. President, there are a number of good things happening under your leadership which you could have discussed as genuine positives but you elected to dwell on your predecessor’s negatives.

And, you could have taken the opportunity to learn from questions coming from media representatives who have so much to highlight and much to share.

Instead, Mr. President, you chose not to pay attention to what the media had to share. You literally overwhelmed the media with your presentation.

Did you notice that even the few questions you allowed from the media did not go to addressing issues arising from your own PowerPoint presentation and your endless statistics, Mr. President?

The media is usually a good and reliable indicator of what is on the ground. It is good to let them talk, and for you to listen.

The people wanted you to answer questions that directly affect their lives rather than to repeat presentations you may have made overseas.

If you had allowed the media to exhaust their questions, and if you had then briefly but precisely provided answers, you probably could have had a meaningful engagement with the Zambian public.

But don’t be discouraged Mr. President.

You need to continue interacting, not necessarily with students who are usually mobilized to sing praises, but the public who, by questioning your leadership style or decisions, will help you to govern well.


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