Kelvin Bwalya Fube says it will be difficult for Zambia to develop because anyone who criticises leaders and offers meaningful suggestions is suppressed.
And KBF says “influencing public opinion requires a bit more than just repetitive praises”. We fully agree.
Our African countries have very few thinkers. History always tells us that the greatest nations respected their thinkers. True, tyrants all over the world and throughout history have always been terrified by such men, men of ideas, but ultimately, more honest, more grateful societies have parted ways with their hopeless and narrow-minded rulers and endorsed the contributions of their geniuses.
When our future generations ask themselves who the greatest thinkers were at this stage of our history, what will they find?
We are afraid they may come up with none. If they should see an amorphous mass of mediocrity ruled by fear of being thought different and in so doing subversive, rebellious, it should not surprise us. It is because we have only time to chase after the litter of material gleam, deals, contracts, bribes and nothing else.
Our heirs will find rather a toiling and sweating horde of malicious rhetoricians, people fondly enslaved to hollow jargon which speech writers willingly provide. As for the leaders themselves, our heirs will only remember the haste with which they leaped over their election manifestos, government policy and became wealthy overnight. A grave paucity of vision and an obsession with electoral violence against the opposition and innocent citizens will be remembered as evidence of their legacy.
The vital question is: where are our intellectuals who we so desperately and urgently need to develop? Well, they are here, there and everywhere galore, though they have humbled their profession to save their precious skins or are buried in bureaucracies, having surrendered their intellect to the goddess of prestige and power. They have been hammered to dust and pulp by intolerant elements and anti-critics who believe that the first step to holding on to power for a long time is to crush and destroy scholars and intellectuals of every sort. They pride themselves in the power they crookedly got from women, workers and peasants and arrogantly dismiss the value of the intellectual in the scheme of the future.
Yet history tells us that the greatest epochs in mankind’s weary journey are characterised not by subjugation of the intellect or the downgrading of thinkers. On the contrary, the Greeks gave us Herodotus, the historian, Hippocrates, the doctor and Homer, the poet. Go to Rome, and see what democracy produced in the arts and sciences. Move to the more recent times and see the Renaissance or the French Revolution. Ironically, we take the greatest pleasure in admiring these eras and forget that the one real challenge they offer us perpetually is the development of sound minds, not the destruction of reason and intellect for the mistaken fear of losing power.
The highest level of political thought was reached when some men and women became aware that no people and no man had the right to exploit others, and that the fruits of the efforts and intelligence of each human being should reach all others; that man really had no need to be a wolf, but could be a brother to man.
In a country where everything starts and ends with the President, there can’t be much progress. In a country where leaders are preoccupied with acquiring suits, hats and shoes, property, businesses, money, what progress can be made?
In a country where leaders want to be the richest people, the most important and famous individuals, there can be no progress. We cannot continue to encourage communalism and narrow-mindedness, for no nation can be great whose people are narrow in thought and action. Yes, we are being left behind as a continent because others hunger to explore the universe and discover its truths while our leaders are busy collecting bribes from transnational and local businessmen.
You can’t develop if you are not taking chances and expanding your horizons. The future doesn’t belong to the visionless and petty minded; it belongs to those who can take a deep look into the future without being distracted by small things – personal wealth and power.
If criticism is valid, it must be made. There is no doubt that criticism is good for people and institutions that are part of public life. And no institution, or anyone in public life, should expect to be free from the criticism of those who give them their loyalty and support, not to mention those who don’t.
If we have shortcomings, we should not be afraid to have them pointed out and criticised. Anyone, no matter who, may point out our shortcomings. If they are right, we should correct them. If what they propose will benefit the people, we should act upon it. We shouldn’t be reluctant to discard any idea, viewpoint, opinion or method which is not suited to the needs of the people.
It is hard for any individual, institution or political party to avoid mistakes, but we should make as few as possible. Once a mistake is made, we should correct it, and the more quickly and thoroughly, the better.