An open letter to President Michael Sata
December 12 2012
Your Excellency Sir,
From the day you were elected I have wanted to have a quiet conversation with you. I actually toyed with the idea of joining the long line of people that were said to be knocking on State House gates for an appointment with you in the latter part of last year. But then I figured you would not have the time for the kind of chat I wanted given as you were still busy trying to create government. And heck, I was unlikely to be given an audience. All I had wanted to say then and which I am trying to say now is Your Excellency, please do our beloved Zambia no harm. But I will come back to that.
It is more than a year since you assumed office and the need to speak directly to you has risen with every month of your presidency. It is for that reason that I have decided to put my thoughts to paper. I have chosen to make it an open letter in the hope that someone might come by it and bring it to your attention.
Let me start, Your Excellency Sir, by reminding you of an incident you may have forgotten. Sometime in 2004, I think it was, you came to my office at what was then the Catholic Centre for Justice, Development and Peace (CCJDP) in Kabulonga.
As you walked in with your entourage you said “iwe ka Laura ninshi ulandila ati Zambians should not vote for me because I have a lot to explain. Ninshi ufwaya nkalondolole” You then said “Levy Mwanawasa nga alakumfwila efyo ulanda nga alateka bwino” I laughed and you left.
Well the reason I write today is to give you the answer to the question you asked that day. I want to tell you why I never wanted you to become President.
It was that, given your actions as MMD Secretary General, and your role in President Chiluba’s third term bid, I just feared for Zambia under you. I simply could not get my head around citizens expecting that you would, as President, not be very disrespectful of the institutions of democracy given that you had supported a president’s bid to go against the constitution. It also boggled my mind that you were asking for the presidency when you had never given a good explanation as to why you were the face of that much hated third term campaign. There was also of course that Chawama by election.
The point for me was that, the most certain way humans have of knowing how someone is likely to behave in the future, is by how they have behaved in the past. In my view therefore, Zambians were either expecting some kind of miracle change of heart with you or else were just putting their collective heads in the sand. So yes from 2001 until 2011, I consistently suggested to whoever asked me in private and in public that putting you in State House would be a bad idea. As an opposition leader though, I quite liked you.
Now let me quickly add that I still cling to the hope that I have been consistently wrong in my evaluation of your politics. But heck, Sir, the signs are not good.
So far, any objective observer of your administration will agree that you seem to be taking the country backwards in long strides especially as regards its hard won institutions, traditions and practices of democracy.
Let me give you an example from the actions of your administration this week. The police have arrested MMD President, Nevers Mumba for God knows what. Apparently he went to a place he should not have, or addressed some chiefs without permission – the story is not clear seeing as no one seems to think citizens need an explanation. My guess is you are utilising the much hated Public Order Act to harass Pastor Mumba. Why, I cannot understand.
Why does it not matter to you that you seem to be going against everything you ever propagated in all those years you worked so hard to become President? I keep scratching my head and asking – so this man stood in three elections so that he could dismantle our institutions of democracy. Is it really why you fought so hard?? So that you could arrest opposition leaders, appoint dodgy characters to high office, mess around with the judiciary, and waste loads of money that could be used in service delivery on unnecessary bye elections?
Let me spend a little more time on the question of bye elections because they make my blood boil. Your Excellency, I am sure you know that the people of Chibolya, and those of many other townships in the country, have no toilets. I have written about this for many years because it makes me want to weep. Landlords, many of them living on yours and my side of the street, are allowed by government to build what they call houses or rooms in townships. They rent them out and make a bomb of money and yet are not required by law to build even the most rudimentary of pit latrines as a minimum. The result is that millions of Zambians have to be creative in the way they relieve themselves. We are told they defecate in empty shake shake containers which they then toss onto neighbours rooftops, onto the street and any which where.
Tell me Mr Sata why? Why should a Zambian in 2012 not have access to even a pit latrine? Let me connect this to bye elections now. I am no builder nor am I an accountant but something tells me that for the astronomical cost this country has expended in the last year, to hold the totally unnecessary bye elections your government created in Chongwe and Mufumbwe etc, we could have quite a few toilets built in Chibolya. Each home does not even have to have one. I am sure the residents of townships across Zambia would be happy to share one decent pit latrine and bath space between three homes for a start. With the kind of money that government after government has thrown at useless bye elections that bring nothing to citizens, we should actually have flush communal toilets that residents can share in every township.
So tell me Mr Sata, why are we continuing to waste money on by elections? Do you ever connect the money used in Mufumbwe to real lives? Does the ruling party consider that the money used to run one senseless by election could prevent an adult man moving his bowels in yet another shake shake container? That man is Zambian. He has nowhere else to go where he will be treated with dignity. It is his money that ruling party after ruling party throws away in order to gain seats in a moribund parliament.
Do you know what is funny, Sir? It is that if you did address service delivery questions and built these toilets I am talking about in township after township, Zambians would canonise you. They would sing your name in praise. In short, you don’t need to have violent by elections to ensure the PF rules for the foreseeable future. Just improve the lives of the poor. Forget Nevers Mumba. I mean why does he bother you?
But I have got to end as this letter is getting too long. Let me end where I started and ask you for just one thing. In dealing with the this country which you have the privilege to preside over having been brought to power on a wave of much joy and determination from ordinary people, please adopt as your motto the Hippocratic Oath that is taken by doctors. It says “First do no harm!” Simply, I am begging you to ensure that when the day comes for you and your administration to leave, you will not have reversed the gains we have strived for. Even if you do nothing to improve Zambia, I ask you please -do not take us backwards!
That said, let me end by stating that I do wish you and the PF well. You proved me wrong.