BY NYALUBINGE NGWENDE
How painful it is to the Catholic Church, whose nuns, priests and bishops threw their weight behind the Patriotic Front in the run to the 2011 elections, assuming Sata would govern Zambia in a much humane way after winning presidency. Nuns and some priests even went to the extent of telling congregants that any of them who would not vote PF was not a genuine Catholic.
The Catholic vote was vital; Sata won the election and made his promises known. Taking oath of office using the bible, the President-elect declared that he was going to govern by the 10 commandments.
|Sata emerging from a Corolla|
Vital among the promises was to give Zambians a people driven constitution. “It was all going to happen in 90 Days”, he assured the nation that was agog with a historic defeat of the MMD.
The first few Sundays he attended mass was like the long awaited ‘God-Send’ finally arrived to reign over Zambia.
On September 25, only two days after taking oath of office Sata was in church. Father Charles Chilinda, the parish priest, prayed that God would grant the president wisdom, knowledge and good judgment so he could effectively govern the people of Zambia.
His supporters, mostly Catholic Faithfull’s, went agog—posting on social media the President’s pictures arriving at church in a Toyota Corolla with only two vehicles as escort. Other pictures appeared with Sata sitting in the middle of the congregants and kneeling in the pew of the Church. The blubs on the pictures screamed: ‘humble servant of the people’ and ‘man of action’.
“He is really a simple president. Where do you find a Head of State who can just walk and sit right in the middle where ordinary people are? “We were looking for vehicles when he came, only to see one small car in front and another one behind,” said a congregant, Lisa Mubita.
“Sata was driven into the Church like an ordinary citizen and walked to a pew in the middle of the Church. When he arrived, he took time greeting his neighbours before he sat to follow the service.”
It will be good to see fresh and recent pictures of any Sunday this year showing Sata arriving in a Corolla and piously kneeling in the pews of the St Ignatius Cathedral, with hands of other church members stretched towards him and the wife, Christine, as they pray to God to bless the first couple.
If you are like me looking for that scene, you would bet and lose your index finger because this will not happen; President Sata has changed and he is not listening to anyone.
Sata has ruffled the feathers of the Catholic Church with impunity. He has dissented from almost all of the things that the clergy thought would come with a politician who sought the blessings of the church as his first assignment in the Presidential office.
It even baffles, not just the Catholic clergy, but the whole Zambian population that Sata who pleaded with the people that he would govern them differently—end the abuse by the police, deliver democracy other than tyranny, objectively deal with corruption and happily give the people of Zambia a constitution in record time—is doing the opposite.
When the news happens today that relates President Sata and the Catholic Church, it is in bad taste. It is about the catholic bishops chastising the President to behave and do right things or end up badly, or about Sata making calls to threaten bishops who are speaking against his mischievousness of consequences.
Eastern province Diocese Bishop George Lungu has been the latest target of Sata’s threats. The bishop received threats from Sata for allowing constitution advocates to converge at St Antanazio Parish to denounce government failures.
Sata is reported by online media of telling bishop Lungu to watch his steps and mark his boundaries by stirring clear of the constitution debate for if he did not, he’ll be sorted out.
President Sata is an absent head of state. He hardly drives on the road, as he uses a chopper to fly instead of driving in a Corolla. The chopper takes him straight to the airport on his foreign trips or to some place where he is pursuing many of his necessities that are proving costly to the economy.
If you are a journalist who needs to catch up with Sata and get a quick sound bite from the head of state as he lands on a pavilion, it is like looking for horns on the head of a dog. Sata does not talk to the media—he shakes a few hands of his cabinet members and security chiefs before disappearing; from a chopper onto a plane.
His absence is conspicuous. Three years into office he is yet to address a press conference. This absence sometimes turns out to be more disgraceful than baffling. He missed the wedding of one of his sons, choosing fly on a working holiday to London straight from Addis Ababa where he had gone for official engagements.
On return he only appeared at one meeting in Katuba constituency to campaign in a by-election where he called some of his MPs useless; exactly not a term one expects from a humble mouth to refer to colleagues. Even if Sata is elderly among his MPs, calling them useless shows arrogant disregard for others. The PF lost the Katuba seat to the opposition United Party for National Development (UPND)—at least Zambians decided not to add one more useless MP to parliament.
Shortly Sata was off to Congo DR on a SADC region meeting, but hardly had he touched down back home, Sata was jetting straight to Zimbabwe to attend a wedding for Robert Mugabe’s daughter. What was the snub about his own son’s wedding?
Today the civil society feels extremely pissed off by President Sata’s ‘animal driven constitution’ remark. “Those demanding for a people driven constitution must first show me an animal driven constitutions” is all the response Sata made when he was shaken out of his cocoon, feeling the mounting pressure over the constitution.
Sata did not stand at the Freedom Statue to grace the International Women’s Day on March 8 and yet the most significant Youth Day that followed four days later, he absconded.
On Labour Day he only issued an instruction, a quick one, to Labour minister to make employers to pay more money to their workers and refused anyone from delivering speeches and off he went back to State House where he is holed up most of the time, choosing to speak to the nation through his Face-book Page.
Just on Youth Day as Sata remained holed up in seclusion, police arrested 42 youths from Action Aid who joined the Youth Day march-past clad in T-shirts demanding for a clear road map on the constitution from government.
Despite this police action reflecting badly on the issues of how the government tolerates peaceful and silent symbols of freedom of expression, the really ‘humble’ Sata has remained mute.
In Eastern province, from 16th to 17th March, police fought running battles with local people they tried to stop from attending meetings that were to be addressed by opposition UPND leader, Hakainde Hichilema.