Last week, Edgar Lungu summoned Julius Malema and Mmusi Maimane for a meeting. But both of them refused to meet him.
Malema said he can only attend “a proper meeting with” Edgar. Maimane said he would only meet Edgar to discuss his governance style if he was ready to condemn the arrest and detention of Hakainde Hichilema on trumped up treason charges.
Edgar summoned Malema and Maimane to understand their concerns about Zambia. He instructed the Zambian High Commission in Pretoria to facilitate a meeting with Malema and Maimane because the duo had continued to criticize him and his government. Edgar claimed Malema and Maimane had appeared to disrespect the sovereignty of Zambia and had interfered in the domestic affairs of countries like Zambia, Swaziland, Lesotho and Zimbabwe. He accused Malema and Maimane of setting a dangerous precedence that was likely to encourage political interference across borders.
Malema and Maimane have every right to express opinions on Zambian politics. If what is happening here deserves praise, they have every right to praise it. And if what we are doing here deserves criticism, they have every right to criticise it. Borders will no longer protect tyrants from criticism and denunciation. And this point was very well articulated by Nelson Mandela. Addressing the Organisation of African Unity in June 1998, Mandela said, “Conflict threatens not only the gains we have made but also our collective future. We should treat the question of peace and stability on our continent as a common challenge. We cannot abuse the concept of national sovereignty to deny the rest of the continent the right and duty to intervene when, behind those sovereign boundaries, people are being slaughtered to protect tyranny. One destabilising conflict anywhere on the continent is one too many. For as long as the majority of people anywhere on the continent feel oppressed, are not allowed democratic participation in decision-making processes and cannot elect their own leaders in free and fair elections, there will always be tension and conflict.”
There’s need for humility and modesty on Edgar’s part. He needs to learn to accept contradictions and correction cheerfully. Edgar needs to realise that being President is not everything. Being President of the Republic of Zambia doesn’t make Edgar a demigod who can summon anyone any time and they drop everything they are doing to see him.
A great man is always willing to be little. It is said that on the highest throne in the world, we still sit only on our own bottom. Ernest Hemingway said, “There is nothing noble in being superior to your fellow man; true nobility is being superior to your former self.”
Soon, Edgar will be forced to learn the hard way that life is a long lesson in humility. And humility requires us to pass over the mistakes of others, accept insults and injuries and being slighted, forgotten and disliked. It also requires us to be kind and gentle even under provocation and never to stand on one’s dignity. As long as you are proud, you cannot know what it really means to be humble. A proud man is always looking down on things and people: and, of course, as long as you are looking down, you cannot see something that is above you.
Humility is perfect quietness of heart. It is to expect nothing, to wonder at nothing that is done to you, to feel nothing done against you. It is to be at rest when nobody praises you, and when you are blamed or despised. If you want to be a leader of a people, you can’t afford not to be gentle, frugal and humble because without these, you won’t be able to put others before yourself. Be gentle and you can be bold; be frugal and you can be liberal; avoid putting yourself before others and you can become a leader among others.
But we should be careful not to mistake insecurity and inadequacy for humility. Humility has nothing to do with the insecure and inadequate; just like arrogance has nothing to do with greatness! There are insecure people who try to carry themselves like sheep to conceal their insecurity.
It’s okay for Edgar to disagree with the thoughts or opinions expressed by Malema and Maimane. But that doesn’t give him the right to deny any sense they might make. Nor does it give him a right to accuse them of poorly and unjustly expressing their beliefs just because he doesn’t like what they are saying about him and his government. Edgar must learn to recognize the freedoms and rights of others, even if it means overcoming his pride and opening his mind beyond what is comfortable.
Winston Churchill said,
The greatest lesson in life is to know that even fools are right sometimes.
Proud people breed sad sorrows for themselves. T.S Eliot was right when he said,
Most of the trouble in the world is caused by people wanting to be important.
And we are warned in Isaiah 13:11: “…I will put an end to the arrogance of the haughty and will humble the pride of the ruthless.”