“You cannot stop an idea whose time has come”, Victor Hugo.
The above quote sprang at me as I observed the proceedings of the coronation of the 38th Chitimukulu, Kanyata Manga in Luwingu recently. Many dignitaries were in attendance including his grace Archbishop Ignatius Chama and leaders of various opposition parties. Here is what struck me though.
When calling upon his Excellency, President Edgar Lungu to speak, the MC requested all to be upstanding. And all did stand including Edith Nawakwi of the FDD, Nevers Mumba of the MMD and various Diplomats. But what I really found curious was that GBM, the newly appointed VP of the UPND, remained seated while his wife, Chama stood up. Mr Hakainde did not bother standing up either. My curiosity peaked. Does that mean experienced politicians like Nawakwi and former Republican Vice President Nevers Mumba, in the eyes of GBM and HH, are lesser opposition leaders than the two ‘rich men’?
The expected behaviour of any gentleman is that he will stand up whenever his lady does so, especially in public. It seemed almost funny seeing Ba GBM seated while Madam observed the traditional etiquette of such gatherings. Secondly, I recalled the simple teaching, do unto others as you would have them do unto you. I wondered how HH can be so oblivious, if not as a Christian, of this simple political etiquette, observed by the poor and ordinary he wishes to lead. I wish to reiterate that it is common sense and not wealth that makes good leaders.
In our democracy, it is possible for anyone to become President of Zambia. But the citizens, the poor and ordinary, expect humility from leaders especially before they get into Statehouse. As a people, we hate boastfulness.
And so I watched the curious case of the two ‘rich men’ defy common decency at a very public gathering of the poor and ordinary they wish to lead. My conclusion was that they totally missed the very basic tenet of democracy, which is accepting the leadership in office until it is your turn. That does not mean you agree with them but one can disagree without any demeaning public display, much more so at that level of leadership. Secondly, in a democracy, one must accept that the power to chose a President lies with the poor and ordinary, the very people GBM and HH were revealing their intolerance and disrespect to. Democratic politics, especially at Presidential level must be done with a certain decency to each other. If not, then the whole purpose of multiple party politics is lost.
In his book, The Wisdom of Crowds, James Surowiecki explores the idea that large groups of people are smarter than an elite few, no matter how brilliant the elite may think they are. The idea is very similar to Proverbs 11:4, “where there is no counsel, the People fall; but in the multitude of Counsellors there is safety.”
The ideas of democracy are here to stay. We would all do well as Politicians never to forget that unity, peace and respect for one another is the least Zambians expect.
Former German Chancellor, Willy Brandt put it well too when he said….”claims to absolutes threaten Man.” None of us is good enough until the people; the poor and ordinary, say so.