Rainbow Party general secretary Wynter Kabimba says Chief Government Spokesperson Dora Siliya should not use frustration when responding to issues of national concern.
On Wednesday, Siliya told journalists that even if President Lungu did not travel to Turkey, the cost of that trip wouldn’t have solved all Zambia’s problems.
But in an interview, Kabimba described Siliya’s response to questions on the relevance of President Lungu’s trip as silly.
“That is a silly answer coming from the spokesperson of government. The argument is not whether or not if the President travels or does not travel that solved the country’s problems. The question is, ‘what is the benefit of that trip to the country?’ So, for the government spokesperson to come out with that answer, it is being indifferent to the concerns of the people. The view we take in the Rainbow Party is that the trips for the President must bring some benefits to the country. Now, that should be in a way of foreign relations, economical or financial. So, I think the government is responding to that anxiety or that concern by the citizens, the government must be telling us the benefit of that trip to the country,” Kabimba advised.
“I think that would be a reasonable response. But to respond to the concerns by saying that it would not have solved [the country’s problems], that is silly! I don’t think that it is a response that must be coming from a government spokesperson to the nation.”
He argued that Siliya should have ended her response by justifying the purpose of the Turkish trip, as well as its benefits to the nation.
“It is as if the citizens are raising issues regarding personal matters of the President, or they are raising issues regarding the personal matters of the government spokesperson. The citizens are raising matters of national concern. And we expect the government, in responding through their spokesperson, to respond in a national manner, not in a personal manner. She spoiled her answer. The first part of her answer in my view was correct,” Kabimba observed.
He also advised ministers to always write down their responses and run them by their officials to countercheck if they made sense.
“So, she spoiled her answer by ending with a silly comment [that even if the President had not travelled to Turkey, the cost of his trip wouldn’t have solved any of Zambia’s problems]. And government ministers must also realise that they are talking to the citizens, we are not walking into their private homes. So, they must be calm and sober they must exercise extreme sobriety when responding to the nation. There is no need of exercising chifukushi (frustration) when you are in a public office because that is how that answer sounds like in my view,” Kabimba said.
“And this idea of just responding off the cuff is dangerous. Write down your answer, run it with your officials so that they tell you [that] this answer makes sense. But this idea of trying to express a personal feeling and a personal view over a national matter, which is what you invariably see when these guys are talking. They forget that they are responding to the nation. They forget that they are occupying public office on behalf of the citizens of this country. They want to react as if we have walked into their homes and asking for breakfast! We are not doing that. Even if we are not making sense as citizens, we expect government to make sense to us. That is the responsibility of government. But you get a feeling sometimes when you listen to them or watch them on TV, it is like we are asking private questions to them, no! We are asking questions of national interest.”
Meanwhile, Kabimba said it was illogical to attack President Lungu whenever he made an international trips, arguing that even the poorest nations in the world allowed their leaders to travel.
“And I don’t think that the argument that the President should not travel is a reasonable argument. I think it isn’t [because] even the poorest of the countries in the world still have their presidents travel. So, I do not agree with this argument that every time that Lungu makes a trip, then that must become an issue. No! So, if he is just going to attend, for example, the Reed Dance ceremony in Swaziland [the Kingdom of eSwatini] where [King] Mswati is marrying an extra woman, how does that translate into bilateral ties with Zambia? That is purely a social event for King Mswati. So, it brings no benefit. The Zambian government derives no benefit from that, but if the President is going to the UN General Assembly, do presidents get money by attending the UN General Assembly? The answer is no, but that is part of nations. The rich countries and the poor countries all attend the UN General Assembly. So, you may not see the benefit immediately, but the President may have meetings on the side-lines of the UN General Assembly, which may later translate into…,” said Kabimba.