[By Melvin Chisanga]
Long after they are gone, be it after they have been put out to pasture or indeed to join their ancestors in the perpetual wait for the resurrection to either everlasting life or doom, as is inevitably ever the case, it is through their actions that leaders, great or mediocre, live on. It therefore goes without saying that how people view someone long after they are gone, constitutes their legacy.
However, being a reflection of the sum total of someone’s actions while they had an opportunity to act otherwise, it becomes rather too late and mere wishful thinking for anyone to suppose that they can still use a meagre remainder at the very tail end of their life or time in office to rewrite their legacy. Timing is of serious essence!
Talking of timing, without sounding like l am condescending, allow me to posit that, save for the ill-timing, whoever wrote President Lungu’s State Of the Nation Address (SONA) this time around applied a bit more of their mind to their job. Compared to the previous one, one can decipher the growth, albeit with difficulty because it is barely nuanced. The biggest challenge is that it is coming at the very tail-end of President Lungu’s tenure, when whatever he does will not go to prop up his dwindling political fortunes, but only stand annexed to his already-written legacy.
The political abyss into which President Lungu has steered the PF boat into is so deep that if it were a disease, terminal would have been its status. Pretty much a situation that can only be pacified with palliative piecemeal solutions in the absence of any practical or known cure.
We have come to a point were our societies are no longer the gullible lot of yesteryears that politicians could take advantage of and manipulate at will in as far as matters of national governance are concerned. So much so that they have nurtured their interest to the point where they able to distinguish between political rhetoric and real issues. Politicians, be ware of this development and stop embarrassing yourselves out of ignorance.
It was a surprising observation that some sections of society still believe that President Lungu and the PF still wield a magic wand that they can use to turn around the fortunes of this country with the remainder of their term in office. They utterly are in denial of the fact that the only thing that is becoming increasingly clear by the day is that their days in government are numbered and opposition party politics await them on the other side of the 2021 elections.
As expected of him, the President went about itemising and tinkering around the edges of the many issues that are affecting the masses almost in sectorial fashion without pronouncing any serious measures that would forestall any further deterioration of the already-bad situation.
Being a President whose government has found infrastructure development to be the most feasible way to accomplish their ‘binary agenda’, it was not the question of ‘if’ but ‘when’ in his speech the infrastructure issue would pop up. True to the expectations, the issue of infrastructure development came in the very early paragraphs of his SONA.
With apparent pride in the roads that his government has been constructing in general and the Chawama Fly over Bridge in particular, which he, himself could not wait until it was complete to launch, the president spoke about how the road infrastructure has opened up the cities in this country with aplomb.
But without sounding unappreciative of the ‘development’ the government has been singing about years on end, the question that begs an honest answer in the interim is at what cost? Then we can also look at the quality of these roads, even as we wrap up our cost-benefit analysis with the price of the fuel that enable us to use these same roads whether using a private vehicle or public transport. When all is taken into account, the net benefit that a common Zambian gets is but a loss.
In the same infrastructure development vein, the president also talked about the many toll plazas that his government has constructed over the past few years. The question that I would want to be answered is how these toll plazas have improved the livelihood of the common citizen, because that is the measure of real development. How is he going to convince us that these tollgates are being constructed to benefit every citizen of this country, when the costs of their construction are inflated with his full knowledge?
Talk of the much boasted about health posts that have been constructed under pretty much the same corrupt environment as roads and toll plazas, most of them are nothing more than just shelters from the scorching heat of the sun and rain, as they do not have medicines. The video of the rodents at Kitwe General Hospital which went viral recently does unequivocally speak to the neglect of these health institutions in general.
With so many health workers unable to secure a job, as was seen from the thousands that applied when Covid-19 just broke out, the president, of all people, should realise that construction of health posts alone without medicines and personnel to dispense and administer these medicines only amounts to foolhardy investment, as only the opposite can save lives.
The president went on to encourage the citizens to exercise regularly as a way to fend off non communicable diseases (NCDs). Interesting! But what I want to remind the president is of the two categories of these NCDs. While some are more associated with the diet that is only found on the dining tables of the rich, and get be ameliorated by exercise, there are yet other NCD’s that like hunger that require someone to find the same excess calories you go burn during exercises, to survive.
From my vantage point, I feel the president has no absolute locus standi to invite the nation to a road run as a way to protect everyone from contracting NCDs, when the majority Zambians are unable to afford a decent meal because they are either unemployed, or already worked but have not received their retirement package.
We have lost a lot of people to depression that is motivated by such challenges as the aforementioned, among others and I wish the president had political or moral will and time to look into such issues. Unfortunately, with less than a year remaining to be in office, he is but in the late afternoons of his tenure, during which time he can not pull any surprise.
The president also talked about how his government is reducing developmental inequalities by taking developmental projects to every part of the country regardless of geographical location, citing the Rural Electrification Project as an example. Fair enough! But what is the fuss about taking a product to the people that they cannot fully utilise because of the forbidding rates?
The latest banks in the country- the mobile money booth operators, received a pat on the back for the many jobs they have created for the youths. Of course it is better than leaving these youths to rot in the compounds, but what the president needs to know is that most of these young people, especially girls have become so vulnerable to the owners of these booths, who are mostly ruling cadres. All things being equal, they would not accept to sit in these metal buckets for another day as most of them do even have some formal training.
There is a lot that can be talked about from the SONA, but enough for today. The bottom line is that President Lungu’s legacy has already been cast in concrete. No SONA will change anything as we head towards 2021. Let him who is just remain just as he awaits his works to justify him.