The essence of leadership is communication. It is the responsibility of a leader to cast a vision on the people he leads; to inspire them out of national and personal problems; to collaborate with critics on strategy and solutions. Even with a shaky vision, a leader must have a mission, and the only way that a people-centered mission can be achieved is through engagement with followers. We are not seeing this here in Zambia.
We are afraid that Dr President Edgar Lungu has fallen flat on his face when it comes to communication. It has been bad from the time he took over office in 2015, as the only communication we’ve gotten from State House has been some random Airport ranting and some off-the-cuff remarks from his press aide; but it is even worse now that he has an introvert spokesperson. This silence from State House on critical national issues is now deafening.
A president can’t be quiet when citizens are stampeding for mealie meal! How can a leader who cares for his people be silent when hunger is taking away the dignity of humankind in this manner? We understand why he can chose to be strategically silent on corruption and related criminal matters because no one is expected to condemn their own bad habits. But surely, the skyrocketing mealie meal prices shouldn’t be hard for our President to address.
Look at the xenophobic attacks on Zambian citizens and other Africans in South Africa! Our brothers and sisters are being hacked and others are being burnt alive at the hands of protesting South African youths. Is our president telling Zambians that he has nothing to say about this? Does he consider this a simple matter that he feels should pass with time?
Our students have now taken to the streets, threatening to destroy South African chain stores in retaliation to the xenophobic attacks, what does our President say, first he condemns the students and then “regrets the happenings in South Africa” through a press statement which he obviously had no hand in. Really? Where is your leadership Mr doctor of philosophy in good governance? Show your face, so that people can see you in person talking about what is affecting the nation.
This is really embarrassing. We can’t understand why our President speaks when people don’t want him to say anything and stays quiet when he must provide national guidance. Talk about a country being on autopilot! We can safely say by now that what is keeping Zambia afloat is the peaceful nature of its citizens and a few second-in-command people serving in government who are going out of their way to stand in the gap of this vast leadership vacuum.
We mean no disrespect for the Commander-in-chief of our defence and security wings; our opinion only seeks to remind President Lungu that a delay in addressing a problem only compounds problems. We are challenging our Head of State to step out now and be a man before disaster becomes a routine in this country.
It’s devastating to a president’s credibility when he is surrounded by calamity, but refuses to communicate solutions to his people. A wise leader is expected to own up. There is nothing wrong in admitting that things are bad; if anything, it is a rare strength and a mark of responsibility.
Of course we know that President Lungu does occasionally speak to the nation using those informal avenues, but that is not what we are calling for. We don’t want him to just come out and show off his authority. We don’t want the President to speak for the sake of opening his mouth; we want him to make sense. We want to hear our leader inspire the nation and make people feel confident that they have someone sensible in charge of the country.
We are saying this because at the moment, Zambians are leading themselves. It’s almost as if the President is saying he doesn’t have time for problems that don’t affect him. He is simply watching from a distance like an ordinary citizen waiting for his leader to do something about the many problems.
We feel sad that Mr Lungu has exhibited a Presidential demeanor that forbids citizens from asking questions, challenging his decisions, pointing out problems or even offering helpful feedback and innovative suggestions. President Lungu’s body language is unfortunately that which paints a picture that he is the boss; the most powerful man on the land and no one has the right to say “fyoto fyoto” to him.
There is a problem with having leaders like that. It is dangerous to the country because such a president puts the entire weight of a nation on his shoulders and can fall down with everyone else. Right now, the President may not see the consequences of this because people are persevering, but there comes a time when those who are governed decide to explode – democratically or otherwise; and the first victim of the people-power becomes that bossy leader.
President Lungu must know that he will not live long enough to make all the mistakes on earth by himself and learn from them. He needs to learn from the mistakes made by those who led this country before him. Most importantly, he must be careful with the information that he gets from those that surround him, because it is their job to make him feel like things are okay. Rupiah Banda confessed after he was kicked out that false intelligence reports cost him the 2011 elections.