By Gershom Ndhlovu
“Experience is the excuse of the incumbent over the ages. Experience is what they always say when they try to stop change. In 1979, James Callaghan had been Home Secretary, Foreign Secretary and Chancellor before he became Prime Minister. He had plenty of experience. But thank God we changed him for Margaret Thatcher.
“Just think about it: if we listened to this argument about experience, we'd never change a government, ever. We'd have Gordon Brown as Prime Minister – for ever…
“The risk is not in making a change. The risk is sticking with what you've got and expecting a different result. There is a simple truth for times like this. When you've taken the wrong road, you don't just keep going. You change direction – and that is what we need to do. So let's look at how we got here – and how we're going to get out.”
These were the words of opposition British Conservative Party David Cameron at his party’s annual conference last week and they ring true of the current Zambian campaign period in which the older candidates in the forthcoming presidential by-election, MMD’s Rupiah Banda and PF’s Michael Sata both of them in their 70s and both of whom have been on the political scene even before UPND’s Hakainde Hichilema was born, have been deriding their younger opponent as lacking experience in government.
Sata even goes farther by contemptuously referring to Hichilema or HH as he is popularly known, as an “under five”. I am not a fan of Cameron and his Conservative party, but for once, I agreed with him on the issue of experience as an excuse to block the much needed change in our situation.
For ages now, our own leaders, past and present, have referred to the youth as future leaders but one wonders when that future for the youths to take over will come. Or is it the case of those old men and women who used to say “ndise mayusi,” loosely translated as we are youths and never getting to admit they were past their sell by date?
Examples of what harm the so-called experience can do in the running of a country abound. The leader of one neighbouring country has been at the helm for close to three decades and he is not getting any younger and yet the economic and political situation that country is in a serious mess it can only take a miracle to change things.
Our very own President Kenneth Kaunda was Zambian president for 27 years in a government in which both Banda and Sata cut their teeth and where did he leave us? There were long queues for basics like Ebu, a smelly carbolic soap, pasa mulopa buns and just about anything until came along someone who did not have experience in government, Frederick Chiluba who--let us face it--changed a lot of things for the better.
May be by a miracle, our own “experienced candidates” both of whom are claiming to carry on with the late President, Levy Mwanawasa’s legacy will truly turn round the fortunes of the 80 per cent of the population leaving in poverty, something they failed to do when they had the chance. On the other hand, one would hope that the younger candidate would inject fresh blood and energy in the running of government along corporate lines which, in any case, is the norm in the globalised world.
The days of running government just for the sake of it are gone. This is the reason why we still have people in government who want to give themselves huge salaries, comparing themselves with corporate managers, but not delivering the goods to the shareholders, the citizens who also pay the taxes on which state machinery runs.
I was shocked to read about Solwezi Central Member of Parliament Benny Tetamashimba saying that he drove the most expensive GX in the country and that he could manage to buy any vehicle on earth.
If Tetamashimba was an MP for Lusaka Central, he could be excused because quite a few constituents there would afford to have bespoke Rolls Royces made for them, but that coming from an MP of Solwezi Central where few people can afford a bicycle not to talk about a Corolla, is a bit insensitive.
Just last week, a junior British minister, Tom Harris was sacked by Prime Minister Gordon Brown for an insensitive comment he made asking why the credit crunch currently affecting Britain and other western countries which has seen people lose jobs, companies closed and banks collapse, made people “so bloody miserable.”
Principled men and women like James Lukuku are demonised for not taking advantage of the kulyamo fye culture which surprisingly, is defended by some clergymen and journalists, at least in private.
If the president, acting or substantive, cannot fire such ministers, the people themselves can fire them by not voting for them at the next election. This is the only way our public servants will show respect to us if they know that their utterances hurt us.
And talking about MPs, some MPs supporting Rupiah Banda’s candidature are arm twisting the electorate by saying that even if they vote for an opposition leader for the presidency, the MMD MPs are in majority and would make it tough for the new leader to pass laws.
In one of my earlier columns, I stated that it was possible for MPs to dissolve themselves quoting a relevant Article in the constitution, but because of their selfishness, they had no compelling reason to do so.