Since he was elected president of the Economics Association of Zambia (EAZ), Dr Lubinda Haabazoka has taken quite a bashing from some of his fellow economists, opposition political figures and, of course, some sections of the public. These people have argued that something has changed in the man’s tone when debating national issues. They are wondering whether he has been bought by the ruling elites, or he has aimlessly strayed from his famously-known calling.
So, when we invited him to take part in a public discussion forum on donor aid accountability in Zambia last Wednesday, the EAZ president used the platform to hit back at his malicious critics.
“Those that have followed me will know that I keep on flip-flopping, today, I have this position, the following day, I have that position. That is not flip-flopping [but] that is going with the truth because whatever I do, whatever I speak, I do not get money from anybody. What I speak is what is in my head. People are saying that I have been paid by the PF. I want people to show me that account because I have not been receiving that money. I need to go and see where that money is going so that I can also buy myself a house,” said the EAZ president at the interactive event on Wednesday last week where he also outlined his personal achievements.
Indeed, there is no lie in what Dr Haabazoka claimed to have achieved. He is truly an accomplished intellectual. As a newspaper, we don’t think that his kilos are as a result of any good food from State House or money from any PF structures. We know he has worked so hard in life for everything that he has.
This is not any other academician. Before moving to the University of Zambia, he previously lectured at the Copperbelt University and held the position of senior lecturer in economics, banking and finance in the School of Business. He was also Head of Accounting and Finance Department.
He has conducted several research projects, some of which include; a study on capital market developments in Zambia; The National Economic Advisory Council commissioned study on Youth Employment Creation in Zambia; The National Economic Advisory Council Study on Railway Industry Developments in Zambia; Effects of Fuel Subsidy Removal; Role of Banking Sector Economic Development and Diversifying the Copperbelt Economy. He has authored four academic books and more than 12 academic research papers. You don’t get this far in life overnight. It calls for a lot of determination and personal sacrifice.
But one thing we have come to learn about society is that academic accomplishments do not directly translate into moral uprightness. Morality is not taught in school; you develop it as you grow while being nurtured through life by the people around you. We do not believe that the richest or the most educated people are the most morally disciplined, and neither can we say the most illiterate or the poorest citizens are the worst in morality.
We have seen very poor people stick to their principles. Once they believe in a cause, they stick to it for life. A morally disciplined man or woman will proudly tell you that, “I would rather die standing than survive on my knees.” That’s how much they enjoy the struggle. It has nothing to do with how far they went in their education. In the same vein, educated and rich people who are morally disciplined cannot attribute their characteristic to wealth. When you take away their money and property, they will adjust their status in society, but stick to their cause.
We would like to help learned Dr Haabazoka understand that if his public image gets damaged, no matter how much he tries to defend himself from malicious political attacks using his life achievements, he will not succeed in laundering his name. People who are accusing him of being compromised are not looking at his social status; they are listening to the words that are coming out of his mouth. Words define personality traits.
Dr Haabazoka is occupying a very high office in our land and we believe that he earned the position because of his personal background and the cause that he had been fighting for all his life. It was, therefore, extremely important for him before taking up the position to first ask himself if the job requirements were going to fit into his life profile without compromising his principles. He should not say, “If I did not have this position I would have been speaking differently,” that means he is trying to change himself to fit in the job, instead of changing the direction of EAZ to suit what he believes in as a principled leader.
But now that he is there and performing the functions of EAZ president, it is time for him to receive feedback. Citizens have the right and they will judge him (not EAZ) based on the position he takes on national matters. If Dr Haabazoka hears more negative feedback than he expected about how he is running the Association, it is a sign that he made a wrong judgment. It’s an indication that he is not saying what the public expected to hear from him on topical subjects. If government oversight institutions confirm that donor money was misapplied and government admits it, but the EAZ president says, ‘he doesn’t know if that is true,’ people have the right to raise their eyebrows.
What that means is that, it is either citizens did not know Dr Haabazoka well or he had been giving people a wrong impression about what he stands for. So, as he gets disappointed with people who are not appreciating his new position, he must also allow them to show their disappointment in him for giving out a false impression about himself.
When people are accusing him of being compromised by the ruling party, he should not get angry. Hitting back is a waste of time because he will end up being the unreasonable man. Instead, he must check his morality gauge and see if it has gone empty or it is still full. It is not what people are saying that should worry our learned doctor, but what goes into his stomach when no one is looking.
It is easy for Dr Haabazoka to defend himself by claiming that he has not received any phone calls from State House or, indeed, the PF leadership, asking him to help launder the ruling party. In fact, no one may ever have evidence to prove that. But the learned doctor knows the truth. If his moral compass has not lost direction, he has nothing to worry about. He must sleep in peace and wake up with joy to do his job, while critics chock with envy.
But if Dr Haabazoka has secretly sold his voice in order to eat with both hands, from the voiceless and from the corrupt rich, he will soon get constipated. Sadly, constipation is always resolved with a smelly solution and people will eventually smell the truth.