“The manager asks
how and when;
the leader asks what and why”
From the beginning I must declare that Kondwani Nankhumwa needed not have gone down so low to issue a government epistle that was very high on hyperbole and too low on substance.
I mean, I scrolled down the whole treatise just because it is my job to torture myself enduring such empty verbose. But before I hit the last full-stop on the very long press statement, I was lost on what message the good minister wanted to communicate.
Look, if Nankhumwa needed to answer back to the Leader of Opposition’s take on the daily confusion on salaries coming from State House – or is it Capital Hill? – he should have been brief and civil. Calling the MCP leader a latter-day ‘Pharisee’ does not succeed in making government a band of modern-day ‘Magi’ or the ‘Wisemen from the East’.
My interest this week, however, is on the Rev. Dr. Lazarus Chakwera’s reaction to the whole salary issue.
Look, when Chakwera dubbed Peter a ‘hypocrite’ I said, “Hey, Abusa has learnt the ropes in politics!”
Now, ‘hypocrite’ is not a pleasant noun from wherever you are standing. It describes you as a pretender, a fake, even…yes, that noun again, a ‘pharisee’ with a small ‘p’!
I will not call either Peter or Abusa Laz ‘pharisee’ or ‘hypocrite’. I would, however, like to interrogate the man of God’s choice of nouns. (By the way, I am using the term ‘man of God’ advisedly because I always argue with self-anointed ‘born-again’ Christians about that term because I always wonder if they are ‘man of God’, then who am I? Was I not created by the same Creator?)
Of course, that is fodder for a separate discussion.
But, that said, Chakwera’s choice of nouns for Peter set me thinking: the ‘man of God’ has arrived; he has found his footing in politics. If you cannot beat them, join them!
Chakwera has always been measured, if not apologetic, in how he approaches politics. While his more secular lieutenants come out on all fours, shooting from the hip, Abusa Laz has always been meek and measured, carefully choosing his verbs, nouns and adjectives.
All along Chakwera has been projecting himself as a good guy, untainted by the ugly ‘mudslinging’ our politics is known for.
But, if truth be told, the MCP seriously needs to re-invent itself as a serious ‘government-in-waiting’. The first step in doing so is being coherent with its message.
Look, before Abusa Laz came out with his inconclusive position on his own whopping 168 percent salary hike, his minions were all over the place justifying such an obscene hike. I was actually beside myself with disappointment that my good friend Jesse Kabwila could justify her own salary hike as a parliamentarian because she has to do this and that from her personal purse or else she will not be voted back to Parliament at the next election.
What balderdash is that! Jesse should have been the first to tell her less enlightened colleagues that it is not their role to physically alleviate their constituents’ every day problems.
Your role, my dear Jesse, is to make sure you pass laws that will eventually make it possible for your folks at Khombedza to make ends meet. You have no business sharing your salary with them.
In all this confusion one would have expected guidance from good ol’ Laz on how the MCP must come down from this ‘Tower of Babel’ where everyone is speaking in incomprehensible tongues as to what the oldest party on the land really stands for.
But statements like: “Personally, I do not care whether I’m paid very little or nothing at all” are leaving us none the wiser as they do not begin to inform us the exact position the Leader of Opposition has taken in this salary imbroglio.
In its ordinary sense, Chakwera’s position means, “I’m not a fighter; I’m ready to accept whatever is offered to me.” Which means Chakwera is ready to accept, “…very little or nothing at all” or, indeed, a hefty 168 percent salary hike while public universities are offered only 14 percent and the general civil service a paltry 24 percent.
If he wants us to believe he is the leader we hope he is, Chakwera should be clear about his position on national issues. He must be ready to show his hand, only then will he be able to give wise counsel to – to borrow his irreverent terminology – the ‘hypocrites’ in government.
By the way, as the Leader of Opposition, Chakwera is part of government. If it is true that he actually learnt of these obscene salary hikes for himself and his MPs from the media then he should begin to interrogate how relevant he is.
In fact Chakwera should not condemn these obscene salary hikes because of their immorality, no. According to law, the President cannot make his own salary, that is the role of Parliament. Likewise, Parliament cannot make its own salaries, the President must.
As a House of Laws, Parliament must not be guided by public emotions; it must be guided by laws. And this is where Chakwera must show leadership.
And, come to think of it, are people like Chakwera standing on the moral high ground on this salary issue because of the public outcry over the same? I am asking this because MPs irregularly increased their loans to K24 million and the Chakweras of this world secretly partook of the same without any noise. Does that not sound like hypocrisy to you?
Chakwera’s current station in life is crucial especially now that things are falling apart in the country. We need not only a vibrant but also a coherent voice in the opposition to hold the government’s feet to the fire so that it does not sleep on the job. But they say those who seek equity must come with clean hands.
Leadership is guiding your troops to a common goal. It does not make sense for your spokesperson to celebrate and justify your obscene salary hikes while you come here and pretend to condemn the same. That is hypocrisy at its worst.