SATA was right; politicians ought to begin from the grassroots

Although this may ruffle a few feathers; we shall call a spade a spade, and not a spoon to please a few folks! Former president Micheal Sata used to say for one to be an effective leader in politics, they ought to have commenced their political journey from the grassroots – the branch of you like, and he’d refer to himself as a perfect example.

A good number of us would take umbrage and castigate the King Cobra for what we perceived as outdated thinking. We actually argued that this was akin to suggesting that before anyone can aspire for a lofty position as Chief Executive Officer of a business, they must at least have served as a ‘malonda’ frisking the staff at the gate on their way out!

Although some of us may not have quite agreed with his kind of politics; in light of what we know now, King Cobra had a valid point, cast in gold in fact. If we take stock of how some Cabinet Ministers, Permanent Secretaries, Members of Parliament, Diplomats or even the District Commissioners have ‘insulated’ themselves from ordinary people, we are left with no choice but to somehow concur with the old man. He knew what he was talking about.

Why do we say so?
As a servant of the people, a politician is expected to be in constant touch with the people. This way, you’re at least able to have an ear to the ground which would help you greatly in decision making. There can never be a perfect place to master the craft of politics than the grassroots – shanty compounds! We’ve in mind places such as Chipulukusu in Ndola, Chibolya in Lusaka, Mulenga in Kitwe and Kapisha in Chingola where survival is indeed a real struggle.

Once politicians becomes exposed to such settlements, they’ve simply undergone ‘political baptism’ which enables them broaden their worldview. When faced with situations such as strangers calling you in the middle of the night informing you a relative has died or is seriously sick; people frequently knocking on your door requesting for assistance to buy a coffin or transport to fetch firewood and party cadres inundating you with phonecalls to say they “just wanted to greet you,” you’re already in a privileged position to respond accordingly.

We shall give a practical example. Not so long ago, Zambia News Information Services (ZANIS) staffer Kalani Muchima revealed that one day, he found himself at the PF Secretariat to cover an event. Davis Mwila, the Secretary General of the party at the time, looked at him and jokingly remarked he looked as if he was starving. Mwila invited him to his office. And voila, he was lashed a K5 pin, just like that!

Of course we are not suggesting government and party officials should emulate Mwila and start going around dishing-out loads of cash, anyhow! However, our leaders should endeavour to always share the ‘little’ that they have or at least just pay attention to the masses and listen to their lamentations.

Truth be told, the political science theories inculcated to students in lecture theatres at our universities may not resonate with places mentioned above, but may be in New York, London or Paris! This is why we support the thinking of those who insist Africa desperately needs its own homegrown solutions for whatever our woes and not necessarily copying and pasting everything from the West.

Barack Obama, arguably one of the greatest US presidents, did not hone his leadership skills and abilities by attending Ivy League schools but rather getting involved in community mobilization from a tender age. He has clearly explained this in one of his books.

When you see several individuals calling it quits from their occupations as doctors, lawyers, business executives, journalists, economists etc to join the frenzy of politics amidst a cloud of excuses that they are doing so in order to serve our people; just know ni boza, wenye, bubela, bufi, makudi, plain lies! They’re simply looking for an easy route to further create wealth for themselves and their families while the rest of the population remains suffocating in abject poverty.

Next time a politician comes your way claiming they want to serve you better, take time to interrogate their credentials: Are they generous? Have they rendered support to anyone in their communities? Do they have a history of community service?

All in all, most politicians are just chancers; they are motivated by nothing but the trappings of power!

Prince Bill M. Kaping’a
Political/Social Analyst

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