Perspective: Another own shot in the foot

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Events in Zambia are taking on an uncanny resemblance to those in Malawi before the untimely end of President Mbingu wa Mutharika in 2012, writes Zambian Eye Special Correspondent

They are increasingly driven by a certain shameless level of barbarism and like in Malawi an anointed heir is slowly but surely emerging-forget Guy Scott and Wynter Kabimba.

Thus, that crowd of supporters that thronged and milled around the Lusaka court grounds as President Michael Sata testified in the case in which he has sued the Daily Nation newspaper for defamation may have been a part of the real reason for the unprecedented appearance in court of a sitting Zambian president on May 21.

Such an appearance was unimaginable until Mr. Sata pulled it off and it broke all previous records of infamy at that level!

But make no mistake this was no after- thought however ill thought out it may have been. It was a carefully choreographed appearance- something of a ‘glorious” return to the limelight. Not surprisingly it featured the putative heir apparent – the Lusaka Mayor Mulenga Sata whose “creeping” succession promises to be the next big political headache for Zambia.

For, there is clearly a renewed determination to go ahead with this altogether sick enterprise. Thus, Mulenga was as per script pulled centre-stage to bask in the power and glory of it all!

There seemed to be a method even to the timing. For, in recent months, both in speech and appearance the president has come through as somewhat out of sorts, out of the picture and out of touch. With not many more appointees to be sworn in, State House has seemed cold and peripheral generating mainly rumours about the president’s worsening health!

In contrast, the nemesis the UPND leader Hakainde Hichilema has seemed to generate all the waves. He has been made to be the man who controls the local political agenda and paradoxically this arises directly from the president’s attitude towards the opposition. At great cost to itself, the PF has been reduced to savage and utterly unacceptable methods of thwarting his potential.

He has enjoyed high visibility through his constant appearances in court and has always been accompanied by lively devoted supporters ready and willing to pay back in kind for every insult whether real or imagined. He has been empowered and enabled to steal the thunder by the shabby attempts to silence or frighten him. There has come to be something about him –always- while State house has in contrast seemed largely dormant and in accelerating decay.

The charges that HH and other opposition leaders face are widely understood to be politically motivated – an attempt to get them out of the race. The scheme has largely boomeranged and has only won them public sympathy which could increase as the 2016 elections approach and people begin to think seriously on who should be the next president and it has to be somebody else necessarily if Zambia is to remain sane and on radar!

This is happening at a time when the incumbent is visibly a tottering and tired 70- something year old who is in what seems to be irreversible decline.

Events Two/3

Addressing the people has become excruciating as illustrated on Labour Day in Lusaka. It hasn’t helped that as president he finds himself obliged to officiate at such functions as military parades where he is completely out of his depth. His attempts to play a role have been largely disastrous because of a discernibly increasing inability to say the fitting things.

State House thus has only brought forward unfamiliar and “tedious” assignments where many times there are no crowds of the gullible and the riff-raff to cheer you on.

The president has traditionally done well and is more at home in the tumult of hired or paid crowds of soothsayers where he is the main man-the man of action. But increasingly that now seems to describe him only in the past if ever as there has been little or no action from State House virtually since his ascendance! But the absence of a cheering crowd as in the past could be disconcerting to a man of his background and the urge to recapture the “lost initiative” even by means of only the last hurrah could be irresistible.

Sata at Court 1Thus, that court appearance on May 21 may have been considered a real splash- a return to the hustings to prove that HH is not the only one who can pull a crowd at the courts. For, he like HH was accompanied by a crowd of supporters and that may have been thought of as having illustrated that he is not the “spent force” that the on-line media persistently reports to be on permanent “complete bed rest.”

This could well have been a case of an increasingly isolated and estranged man reaching out to make some sort of statement perhaps that he is able to match the “troublesome HH” the identified spoiler, blow by blow!

But whatever the real calculation both the physical appearance and decision to appear as a witness only tended to confirm reports of the president’s overall declining output and only exposed him to critical public scrutiny. He scored very badly indeed.

In appearance, he looked physically emaciated and only the cranium seemed intact. He seemed numbed by age and his hair appeared no longer capable of responding to the comb while his manner was on the whole quite desperate. The whole spectacle merely fed into fears about his health and ability to make the right calls.

The same court appearance could also have been an attempt to deflect growing criticism of his stewardship. His record in office is a sorry one. Three years after his ascendance, multi-party politics has been dealt an undeniable and perhaps mortal blow in Zambia.

He has inflicted real damage and has failed to even disguise the fact that he is no democrat and has never been. He is largely unperturbed though because like the constitution-making process, democracy to him only seems to be an expedient to get power and for the sake of it!

He has practically set aside multi-party democracy and Zambia is for all practical purposes a one party state since 2011. Everything democratic that had been built up since 1991 has been destroyed, over looked or simply scorned in favour of strong-arm tactics common only among thugs.

Opposition has been criminalized. One by one opposition leaders are habitually arraigned on charges based largely on silly relics of laws from the distant past.

Events Three/3

Opposition party meetings are banned – and police are now ready to raid even private homes! The fundamental constitutional right to assembly has been set aside and when those who espouse views other than those of the Patriotic Front (PF) are not physically attacked, they are casually dismissed as “yapping.” This shameful direction is always defended and exhorted by poorly-tutored hatchet men masquerading as PF provincial chairmen!

His reneging on the new constitution, the disregard of lawful court orders, the open tribalism in the matter of the appointment of the new paramount chief of the Bemba and the failure for instance to stop those demonstrations that rocked the PF in 2013 until there was a fatality have all drawn a truly pathetic picture of the state of play.

They have been very damaging to Mr.Sata and have destroyed any reputation that he may have built as arising from all this, the Zambian president has only managed to come through as a determined despot.

It is too late in the day to operate at that level and because of his position, there are many who may have no choice but remonstrate with him directly as a matter of duty. There is pressure and he may be attempting to respond by showing that he has public support!

His attitude has obviously led to increasing difficulties in his execution of the functions of his office and they are of the kind that the first president Kenneth Kaunda may not be in a position to help since they arise from personal conduct and attitude.

Whatever the real reason(s) for the shock court appearance, it only added to the damage. He seemed to have his priorities truly upside down- a president leaving State House to go to court when representation by his lawyers was sufficient suggests an uncommon degree of idleness! The nature of the case too tends to subtract from his stature as did the whole court appearance.

In many respects this seems to be the “Mutharika Syndrome.” The question is: what next?





4 Responses to Perspective: Another own shot in the foot

  1. I would like to have someone tell me what they have observed on each and every person in this photo excluding any observations about his exellency the president .

    May 22, 2014 at 9:18 pm

    • Everyone looks disappointed and therefore wear sad faces looking down in shame, and not a single person is wearing a smile as expected. This says it all….

      May 23, 2014 at 7:52 am

      • That’s not just logic. That’s really seensbli.

        August 14, 2014 at 10:35 pm

  2. I would give this article an A. 76%.

    May 23, 2014 at 10:38 am

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Start: 2019-07-01 End: 2019-07-31