Former president Rupiah Banda’s press aide Dickson Jere says in certain situations, apologising for mistakes made by the Head of State is better than trying to explain everything away as doing so only sustains the debate.
Commenting on President Edgar Lungu’s “ubomba mwibala alya mwibala” idiom, which has attracted a series of negative reactions from members of the public, Jere, in a statement shared on his Facebook page yesterday, suggested that an apology was the only way out.
“Once upon a time, Father [Frank] Bwalya was a pain in the flesh of President Rupiah Banda. He could really rile the President with his baseless personal attacks. So, in trying to hit back, the President attacked Father Bwalya by saying “he is a father without children” and went on to say Fr Bwalya was in fact kicked out of the Catholic Church. But what the media picked and twisted was that the President insulted Catholic priests who are called Fathers but have no children. The Church was riled with the President statement so much that State House had to apologise. The media forgot (assuming they did) the last part of the statement in which the President explained his attack on Fr Bwalya. As press aide, I was bombarded with phone calls especially from the catholic faithfuls who thought the President had offended them,” Jere stated.
Jere also recalled that he had to apologize on Banda’s behalf after a joke about UPND leader Hakainde Hichilema went sour.
“President Banda attacked UPND leader Hakainde Hichilema for not taking his wife in public prior to the 2011 polls. The President said; ‘nanga ndiwe mwenye mambala…’ which loosely translated to; ‘why hiding your wife from the public, are you Indian?’. Within minutes, the President realised his statement meant for HH could in fact be offending to the Indian community in Zambia. He immediately ordered me to release a statement apologising to both HH and the Indian community. And I did and the matter quietly died. And so Presidential statements can be misconstrued at times especially if one does not know the context in which they were issued. It is, therefore, prudent to quickly come out and explain the context without justifying it. No need to spin as it will only escalate the debate. Apologies deflates enemies at times!” Jere stated.
He emphasised that justifying President Lungu’s “ubomba mwibala alya mwibala” idiom would not help because the damage had already been done.
“When the context is misconstrued, defending may not be a good option although it depends on the circumstances. Thinking of “ubomba mwibala alya mwibala “ idiom. Anyway, I was just remembering my lecture notes on crisis communication management! Remember President Levy Mwanawasa misconstrued statement that Bembas were dirty? It stuck with bembas!” stated Jere.