We have noted with growing concern the manner in which State House officials express themselves when responding to criticism thrown at the Head of State. Although it is their obligation to defend actions and decisions made by the President, presidential advisors need to watch their mouths.
It is obvious that in and around State House, those who eat and dine with President Edgar Lungu find critics very annoying. When a member of the public or indeed an opposition leader like Chishimba Kambwili rebukes the Head of State, what they hear is rubbish from his noisy mouth. In their ears, it is all nonsense.
Presidential advisors do have the option of viewing political rivals that way. They have the privilege of mocking hungry critics and calling them all sorts of names during their sumptuous three-course dinners and buffets as they laugh and joke with each other at State House. But taking that same language to the public is dangerous. It is not good for the individual aides and most importantly, for the appointing authority.
Mr Amos Chanda, the Special Assistant to the President for Press and Public Relations needs to tone down on his language, especially when he is on television responding to governance questions from the public. Unless he has changed religion while at State House, we know Mr Chanda as a Christian raised by a devoted Christian family in Chingola. The Bible in 1 Peter 5:5 orders Christians like Mr Chanda to clothe themselves with humility toward one another, because God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble”. It also says in the book of Proverbs 16:18, “Pride goes before destruction; and an arrogant spirit comes before a fall.”
The language Mr Chanda used on Diamond Television last Friday strays from these biblical teachings. His defence for President Lungu was laced with arrogance as he punctuated his sentences with words like “rubbish”, “nonsense” and “pedestrian noise”.
In explaining how much a tolerant leader President Lungu was, Mr Chanda had this to say, “Some of the nonsense that you are hearing today, in a state that is led by an intolerant president, an intolerant government, some of that rubbish you cannot hear it. So that is an expression of an existence of democratic space available to even those who want to exercise their right to talk nonsense.”
We agree with Mr Chanda that criticism and fault-finding is the easiest thing to do in the world. Any fool can criticise, condemn and complain – and most fools do; but to tell such people that they are foolish takes away all modicum of dignity from a leader. Words such as those used by Mr Chanda demonstrate that ego always hinders ones ability to influence and inspire the demotivated public.
This is the trouble we have with our leaders in PF, especially those who occupy State House positions; they would rather be ruined with loud praises than be saved by sharp criticism.
As for Mr Chanda, that was not all he said, when asked to respond to critics who say Zambia’s bailout negotiations with the IMF have fallen off, Mr Chanda’s reaction was “Between those pedestrians who are making noise and those who are making points, I will choose to believe Minister Mutati who says that the IMF program and engagement is intact.”
Now, by definition, a pedestrian is a person who doesn’t drive but walks to get to a particular destination. Therefore, to regard comments coming from such people as “noise” is demeaning and disrespectful. By his own admission, Mr Chanda comes from that same background, he had no job at some point and he was a pedestrian. However, God lifted him to the level he is today because all mankind is equal in the eyes of the Creator. Mr Chanda could have simply said, “I believe what the Minister of Finance says on the IMF deal because he has certain information which critics outside government don’t have”.
In crticising Mr Chanda, we are not demanding that he loses all his pride, because again, the total failure of recognising who he is in society can lead to low self-esteem, which is also not a good attribute for a leader. But we are asking that he finds some form of reasonable equilibrium between humility and confidence.
We fear for Mr Chanda because he is making the same mistakes made by people who occupied his office before. Mr Chanda seems to forget that after leaving State House, Mr Richard Sakala who was Frederick Chiluba’s press aide was sent to prison for the things he did while in that office. Chiluba was not there to protect Mr Sakala because he was fighting for his own survival, and the people of Zambia, the pedestrians who sounded like they were making noise, talking “rubbish” and “nonsense” against Chiluba, used the law to punish the former State House press aide.
If Mr Chanda recalls that Bowman Lusambo was nothing more than a pedestrian in MMD during Rupiah Banda’s reign, then he should not have difficulties appreciating the agony that has befallen RB’s former spokesperson Dickson Jere. With all the power and influence that he had at State House, Mr Dickson today has to go and humble himself before HONOURABLE Lusambo, to plead for intervention for his Israeli client who was recently deported from Zambia.
We encourage Mr Chanda to reach out to Michael Sata’s spokesperson George Chellah and ask him how he is being repaid by ‘his own’ party. Let him ask if those he used to defend have the time to call him today to find out how he is doing. At least Jere was removed from State House by another political party, but for Chellah, it was the same PF that he sacrificed for, sleeping in the bush, that tossed him aside. Despite taking care of ailing Sata, Chellah has been reduced to a ‘pedestrian’ whose voice cannot even be covered by the public media he once controlled, that is the ingratitude of politicians.
In fact, you will be lucky if they will leave you alone, Mr Chanda, like they have left Jere and Chellah. But if, apart from insulting back at the critics, you are also preying on public resources; nga muleiba ba shimpundu, you better start pushing for improved prison conditions now, because the trial that awaits you is still in the gym!