The delivery of the state of the nation address is not just a duty for the incumbent President of the Republic of Zambia, but it is a solemn responsibility that should be treated with the seriousness it deserves. On Friday, February 12, 2021, the Republican President gave the state of the nation address speech as he opened the last session of Parliament before the general elections of August 2021. It is clear that this speech was nothing but mechanical or rather empty by every account. In fact, the President just went on with the emotions and read out some stuff written for him on a piece of paper. President Lungu’s speech was absolutely disappointing, because it lacked the inspiration needed to uplift the spirits of the people during these difficult times. It was as if the President knew this would possibly be his last speech to Parliament.
Today, Zambia is faced with so many challenges from the devastating effects of the coronavirus pandemic to the unbearable economic hardships, corruption scandals and police brutality to mention but a few. And the fact that the President does not address any of these important issues in his speech is overly concerning, because this shows a lack of seriousness on the part of the Head of State. Any student of history will bear witness that some few individual leaders in the past have missed the opportunity to step up to the plate and seize the moment of demonstrating leadership when it mattered the most. These so-called leaders failed to communicate and provide answers to the masses in dire circumstances. Thus, they failed miserably to offer hope in desperate times, as is the case with our current President. In contrast, we have seen leaders or historical figures inspire a nation during difficult times through speeches and effective communication.
The President’s speech which was anchored on seven pillars of what he calls national values and principles was full of nothing but political rhetoric. Hence, I am certain that my feeling of despair and sense of loss were the feelings of many, if not all Zambians, after listening to the most powerful man in Zambia address the nation. This man was supposed to tell us about how the economy will improve through whatever means or initiatives the government is undertaking. The man was expected to inform us and reassure the public that the police force would no longer make catastrophic mistakes of killing unarmed and innocent citizens. We still do not know to this day if the man or woman who killed the late Nsama Nsama and Joseph Kaunda will face justice or not. The President needed to remind us that, not so long ago he had taken disciplinary action against his former minister of health concerning the scandals at Ministry of Health. At the same time, reassure us that this same ministry has been restructured under the new leadership of Dr Jonas Chanda. Also, he should have spent some time to talk about the specifics of fighting COVID-19 and tell us if at all we are wining this battle or not. But instead of highlighting all these important issues, what we saw in Parliament is a situation where the President gives a fantastic speech but actually says nothing at all.
Unfortunately, what the President did on that day could not inspire confidence at all. The truth is that people can distinguish between a speech spoken from the heart, and a hallowed speech given for ceremonial purposes. We all know that President Lungu is not an orator by any means. In fact, he is better off not saying anything because the man lacks charisma, and his arguments are flawed in logic. Therefore, to the political advisors and speech writers of President Lungu, I offer you free advice concerning how you can help the President with his speeches. First of all, we should state here that a great political speech needs three key ingredients: number 1, a serious argument which leaves the audience thinking deeply about whatever is said and makes people resolve to act on the message. Number 2. A great speech needs great delivery that stirs the emotions as well as appeals to reason. And lastly, a great speech needs a sense of occasion, such as our present moment. The implementation of these 3 ingredients in all the presidential speeches will lead to a hundred per cent improvement in his charisma and ability to inspire the nation.
Interesting enough, it seems like the Republican President was so much focused on things which have nothing to do with the bread-and-butter issues of the present. For example, the introduction of the so-called cyber security and cyber-crimes bill No. 2 of 2021 by cabinet to Parliament is unnecessary and a waste of time.
The President’s emphasis on having law and order before, during and after the elections was uncalled for as well. Because we all know that Zambia is a country that has relatively observed law and order in all our previous general elections. So, why this emphasis on law and order as an issue today? If anything, the culprits in this regard have always been the PF cadres who have engaged in political violence in most of the by-elections in the past.
The President’s speech had so many misplaced priorities in terms of what is on the mind of the Zambian people. The cost of living keeps going up, while there has been wage stagnation for many years under the PF regime. The currency has terribly depreciated against the US dollar, while inflation is on the rise like never before and this President says nothing about such economic indicators. There are no medicines in government hospitals and clinics across the country, and to make matters worse the Ministry of Health purchased expired drugs due to corruption and incompetence. Unfortunately, none of these issues made it on the President’s list of important items to be communicated to the people within the walls of Parliament building. If this speech is not the worst of its kind, then I do not know what could be worse than this.
To all well-meaning Zambians, there is no time for slumber under the PF government. We need to be vigilant and be watchful at all times. This cyber security and cyber-crime bill No. 2 of 2021 which cabinet is introducing to Parliament should be carefully studied, and not be entertained at all if there are any hidden undertones which may seek to suppress the liberties and freedoms of our people. I have no doubt that this bill has been carefully crafted by the regime to silence any opposition to government. The people should not forget that this bill is not so much different from the internet tax or levy that Yoweri Museveni introduced in Uganda a year ago. This internet tax had major consequences on the internet users in Uganda as we saw the number of internet subscriptions to social media platforms, networking sites and on money transactions using mobile phones services fall by more than 2.5 million within 3 months. Soon our people will be left with no choice but to choose either between security in the name of adhering to the so-called cyber security and cyber-crime bill or protecting our liberties and freedoms. I pray that Zambia will do the right thing, that we will heed to the counsel of a great American Statesman Thomas Jefferson who once said that, “People willing to trade their freedom for temporary security deserve neither and will lose both. Or if we restrict liberty to attain security, we will lose them both.”
There is no excuse for us to allow the PF government to regulate the internet use for whatsoever reason, because this government cannot be trusted with such a task. But also, it is a matter of fact that any society that sacrifices liberties or freedoms to gain a little security will in the end enjoy neither.