Perspective: No joy in Livingstone as well!

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President Sata in Livingstone

President Sata in Livingstone

Parade one/2

After the Labour Day snafu in Lusaka, President Michael Sata’s next public appearance at a pass out parade for Zambia Air Force (ZAF) officers in Livingstone was equally devoid of any inspiration, writes Zambian Eye’s Special Correspondent.

He seemed thoroughly remote from and completely out of touch with the function which as commander in chief of the Zambia armed forces he is obliged to preside over.

For some reason he appeared preoccupied with the behavior of women, a subject on which he expressed an entrenched self-serving but outdated point of view that was at variance with modern thought. But he rambled on, nonetheless.

Thus, even though nobody at the parade heard her say anything he went on to upbraid his wife for talking too much! But up to that point she had said nothing at least not publicly!

The only remainder that this was a military pass out parade after all was the dubious promotion of a lady officer for commanding a platoon of men! It seemed out of proportion though in this day and age.

The mere fact that she commanded a platoon of male officer cadets is decidedly unremarkable. It is the accepted direction of things in this age of gender equality. But for whatever reason it was clearly considered extra-ordinary.

There were more surprises as the theme of women continued to dominate the function!

The military, in general it seems were praised for not using their guns and swords on their wives because “women can be provocative!” But what sort of discussion was that? Zambia does have a sizeable problem of gender based violence, it is true.

But military guns and swords have so far not been part of it. It was thus by no means clear what the point of this praise could possibly be. It seemed to come out of the blue and out of context arising it seems from the unfathomable but real preoccupation with gender based violence during a military pass out parade.

The bit about swords and guns was really troubling because it was almost an insult to the military who are a profession and have ethics. To suggest that they would use military weapons on their spouses even if “women can be provocative” has to be considered something of a slur on their profession.

It was clear though and happily that somebody other than the military had using swords and guns on women on their mind! That is how it seemed and it did seem also that the matter was under active consideration by those people during the parade.

In a rapid twist and mercifully, the inappropriate subject turned to appreciation of his wife who he said had and continued to look after him well otherwise he would have “died many years ago.” That was positive at least but talking about death with such certainty of course touched off other speculation in different directions.

This talk was not generally thought to be a good sign.    

Parade Two/2

Then came what has been dubbed the “big lie”- the incredible and altogether astonishing claim that intelligence information was that there were plans by UPND supporters in Livingstone to waylay and “hijack” the president upon arrival that morning.

The claim disturbed many. Few believed it and it drew negative attention to the president as well as more speculation around him. The majority view was that the claim was pure hogwash. It also turned out to be very damaging to the reputation of those who were understood to have processed and supplied him with the information. It opened them to the charge of being no more than brutal liars.

Many would not and still do not understand how the country’s most powerful man could ever be held hostage by a relatively small band of party supporters considering that Livingstone isn’t homogenously UPND –it didn’t make sense and still doesn’t!

Speculation was that a pretext was being put together to justify banning of the UPND and the opposition in general which effectively is already the case. The opposition can do nothing otherwise there would be a police case.

The UPND of course promptly denied the allegation and carried the public with them. All the questions were on the president and his informants and there were no simple answers. What was clear to many is that something just isn’t right anymore and for some reason the haze seems to be increasing.

There was also speculation that it could have been the result of a sense of shame over the fact that political violence is the domain of the governing Patriotic Front(PF) and that “wild” allegation was an attempt to smear the opposition and in particular the UPND as being in the same genre! But if so, it boomeranged very badly and only cast everyone connected to it in a bad light.

As a result of the obvious lack of focus on the pass out parade proper, the real issues remained un-tackled. The public expectation was that the Air Force’s worsening air safety record would be centre-stage. The number of deaths from a continuous string of fatal crashes involving Air Force planes has reached unbearable levels. It is a matter of growing public concern but the issue which is in need of urgent attention continues to be swept under the carpet.

Almost all the plane crashes in Zambia have been of ZAF planes. When added to the Gabon crash and that plane which was flying from Mbala and went down on the final approach to Lusaka, the carnage is truly grim and but there is no end in sight only secret “boards of inquiry” which change nothing. What accounts for so many crashes in peace time and how would it be in war? The clear suggestion is that ZAF should leave flying to the birds at least in the interim.

This is the subject that should have been addressed in at least some form. After all plane crashes have by now come to be among the commonest cause of death for ZAF officers such as were being commissioned. There is growing public disappointment with this trend especially as the next of kin have to be informed and they are invariably civilians. They are becoming increasingly critical.

There are too many shocks and unexpected funerals from these recurrent crashes. Very soon unless things can change, it will keep the best and brightest from even attempting to enter the Air Force! They will fear for their lives even in peace time!




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