President Hakainde Hichilema’s Cabinet has drawn some mixed feelings, and understandably so. Some simply say, it is not a “wow” Cabinet. Others are questioning if this is what the people were waiting for all this while, arguing that this was a list that could have been concluded within a few days after the inauguration ceremony. We also observed that some citizens are concerned that President Hichilema has brought back some old veterans who have previously served in MMD and PF, at the expense of appointing some youths or fresh minds as they call it.
The truth is that it’s not possible to appoint Cabinet ministers who will impress every single citizen. Our people need to understand that a President can only appoint ministers from the people whom citizens elected as their members of parliament. If you did not reject the MP at constituency level for being a recycled politician, then you must embrace their appointment to Cabinet. If you voted for an old MP, that MP has the right to serve in Cabinet and the President is at liberty to elevate them.
The next point that our people must understand is that in politics, especially here in Zambia, appointments are a reward for mostly two things: loyalty to the President as well as the party and contributions or sacrifices made during the campaign period. Unless the President doesn’t plan to run for a second term, it would be a miscalculation to appoint total strangers into Cabinet simply because they are young.
Our opinion is that President Hichilema’s Cabinet is okay, especially that it is a mixture of the old and new. The names don’t really matter when it comes to delivery of public service. Do we think that the President succeeded in ensuring a tribal balance as he promised? Absolutely! Every region has been represented, which is something the previous administration failed to do. But our people should not be fooled into thinking that the tribal balance is what will do the job. It’s about the characters appointed and what will drive their interests.
Swearing in his ministers on Tuesday, President Hichilema said: “Over the years, I have been observing governments that have come and gone, quickly people [who are appointed to Cabinet] begin to act as individuals and pursue individual interests. You have an eagle and the eagle has eyes, especially the fish eagle. There is a fish eagle around, and the fish eagle will not go to sleep. The good news is that there are more fish eagles around. What are they? The 18 million Zambians, they are watching.”
This could not have been said at a better time. Our people must not worry too much about the names of the people appointed, but wait to see what they will become a few months and years from now. We can assure our people that some of the appointees who appear to be the most credible and formidable will be the first to disappoint, and the least favourite will outperform. It all boils down to how they handle power.
When former president Edgar Lungu unveiled his Cabinet, we remember that many people applauded him, especially that he introduced the first female Vice-President and appointed several women in key government positions. But look how those people handled the affairs of this country. It was a mess, but that had nothing to do with the names of the people appointed. It was about their hearts and their understanding of power.
Power corrupts, it has been said many times before, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. We don’t believe that capacity alone is enough for someone to deliver on the job. You need passion, a heart for the people you are serving and an appreciation of your limits. Like the President rightly observed, people who are appointed into senior government positions forget too quickly that their power has limits.
Before Mr Stephen Kampyongo became Cabinet minister, he was a normal and reasonable man with feelings for his fellow citizens. Him and others whom he served in Cabinet with did not have special marks on their foreheads that indicated what they would turn out to be. They used to be good people, friendly and approachable. It was only when they tasted power that they discovered they could do anything they pleased. Suddenly they changed their attitudes towards the people who elected them into office. The strange thing about it all is that to this very day, they think they were the best leaders in government and they see nothing wrong with how they governed.
Forget the promises they made after being appointed. Wait until they see the list of tenders in their ministries and watch them change colour like chameleons.