Because of his unwavering aggression while in the opposition, political rivals called him a mad man. They likened his desperation for get into power to that of Adolf Hitler and fascist Benito Mussolini as well as Idi Amin on the African continent. His critics warned that if Zambians made the ‘mistake’ of electing him to the presidency, it would only be a matter of months before he would drop the pretence of democracy and declare a full fledged dictatorship.
Indeed, he was a militant and assertive man, but also very charming to the followers of his radicalism, to the extent that he didn’t need money to pull a crowd if he wanted to address a rally. This ‘mad’ man had a shrewd political acumen and a niche for public speaking. Backed by an alert ear for scandals, his mouth kept the Zambian government in check for an entire decade before the citizens eventually rewarded him.
His style of politics was unique, and that is what made those in government endure sleepless nights. This man did not just talk from his office apartment. In fact, sometimes he never talked, he just demonstrated, and it was up to the journalists to pick their angles – from walking on foot to queuing up for rationed fuel.
The MMD government was far from flawless, but most of its scandals were too complicated for the people of Zambia to follow. Of course there were fuel shortages, nurses and doctors strikes whose implications everyone could relate to. But the criminal undertakings of the Rupiah Banda regime like the sale of Zamtel, theft of Nigerian oil, airport radar and construction of Mpundu Trust among others, needed an interpreter. And that is where the ‘mad’ man came to give every scandal a befitting title and theme.
In 2009, government was accused of paying then first lady Thandiwe Banda a salary despite her resignation from the teaching service, but then chief government spokesperson Ronnie Shikapwasha rubbished the allegation as hallucinations of a bitter opposition. But the ‘mad’ man called journalists to a press briefing where he distributed the first lady’s latest payslip, and the nation rose.
Those are the scandals that swallowed the MMD and that is the politics that earned the ‘mad’ man the biggest job in the country. How his ‘madness’ served Zambians afterwards is a story for another day, but his aggression in demanding for government accountability is our talking point today.
The scandals that are sprouting from the Patriotic Front government are making us miss this very special fallen politician. If he was alive today and still in opposition, Zambia would not be in this shape. We can imagine the kind of mobilization he would have done and how the PF government would have gotten away with all these scandals.
The Swaziland mansion
The theft of ARVs
The digital migration scam
The US$288, 000 ambulances
The US$1 million fire tenders
The New York dossier
The hidden Chinese loans
The Lusaka Ndola dual carriageway
The smuggling of Mukula
The threats on ConCourt judges
We are very sure that there is a way in which our late ‘mad’ man would have connected the hunger in the villages, the collapsing economy in the cities and the deaths in hospitals, to these scandals. There is a way in which he could have awakened the citizens of Zambia from their docile slumber to stand and defend their country. These scandals would not only end on social media, by now, Zambian voters would be eating popcorn and counting down to August 2021.
What we have as an opposition today is a sham! Firstly, they have no functional intelligence wings to penetrate the system and fish out information of public interest. Instead they rely on the very oppressed media to dig out and give them data which they can use to gain political mileage. Even when they get this information, they simply issue a statement and fold their arms.
Of course there are those who are trying to package the government accountability challenge in a much appealing way like Mr Chishimba Kambwili, but there is no doubt that only a few citizens have respect for the NDC leaders. Zambians may love his entertaining mouth, but they are very far from forgetting what the same mouth was saying while it was eating in this same PF government.
Generally, the opposition in Zambia has such a monotonous message that you can predict today, word for word, what they will say tomorrow over the Swaziland mansion scandal or next week when they lose the election in Chilanga. Yes, the Zambian people are docile, but the bigger problem is that there is no leadership in the opposition.
We miss the ‘mad’ Michael Sata, and until another one like him emerges to rescue us, we are all in deep $#@?&%*