Opinion

A Fool’s Paradise: The Case of Sata’s Hypocrisy and the ‘Secret’ Pay Rise

President Michael Sata’s specialty in riddles is well documented. It actually forms part of his long political character. From his days as a mere councilor (maybe even as a constable), Governor of Lusaka, member of parliament for Kabwata, a top MMD minister, popular opposition leader and now Republican President, Sata’s charm is vest in situational riddles.

If there is anything that make President Sata win kudos throughout his political career – riddles stand out – as one form he uses to captivate masses many of whom chant him on.

Even where Sata does not mean it, riddles are a part of his cunning behaviour, and they help him make his supporters giggle further endearing himself to many.

One such riddle Sata has used is; ciwamila galu kuluma mbuzi, not mbuzi kuluma galu literally translated as it’s acceptable for a dog to bite a goat but not vice versa. That’s right! It’s naturally unheard of for a goat to bite a dog but nothing strange with a dog biting a goat.

And that’s why those that christened a saying; whatever goes around, will always come around, should definitely have had President Sata and his political bed-mates The Post Newspapers owner Fred M’membe among the many in their mind.

Before former president Rupiah Banda vetoed an emolument bill, then as Acting President, which sought to increase salaries for constitutional holders, Sata and The Post went to town condemning the former Republican leader. They used whatever means at their disposal to not only discredit but went to the extent of demonstrating the perceived “evil” in Rupiah whose only interest, they claimed, was self-serving.

Hand-in-hand, they mounted a massive campaign to demonstrate to the Zambian people what an apparent monster Rupiah had become.
On September 20, 2008, Sata accused Rupiah of not being sincere over the emoluments bill.

Through an article published in The Post written by Patson Chilemba (now first press secretary South Africa) and Lambwe Kachali (now first secretary in Belgium), Sata declared Rupiah a leader in “a fool’s paradise.”

“We appealed to him to suspend the bill. He was Acting President, he would have suspended that bill in Parliament…people would have respected him. So he’s just bluffing because he has seen people are talking,” Sata was quoted in The Post on Saturday, September 20, 2008.

He added; “The answer is he’s living in a fool’s paradise, wishful thinking that he’s going to be the President and sign the bill and get a hefty allowance.”

This is the man, a so-called champion of the poor who barely 12 months in office has twice increased his salary not by a moderate percentage but 100 percent!

Not only has Sata increased his salary, he did so at midgnight until he was exposed by no other than a media entity outside the mainstream – Zambian Watchdog – an online publication.

The figures provided in Statutory Instrument No 17 of 2012 show that Sata will now get K327 million (about US $73,000) per annum. Further, President Sata will get K80 million as an allowance. Conversely, his predecessor was going home with K164,120,016 per annum with an additional allowance of K59,494,734 in that period. Rupiah’s salary is even less what today’s Vice President Guy Scott will get which is pegged at K198 million per annum.

When you factor in the presidential privillages which literraly gives the head of state everything he needs for free considering there is budgetary allocation for State House, the monthly salary is certainly a huge saving.

And for someone like President Sata who walked the path of claiming his passion was to serve the poor, this double increment is not a necessity. What should drive Sata’s presidency is to fulfill the massive promises he made which he has so far failed to deliver within his 90 days period.

President Sata should be ashamed of himself. The hypocrisy he displayed as an opposition leader is now haunting him to say nothing about those who parrot his lies day in and day out.

It was not surprising it had to be Fred M’membe coming to the defence of Sata in the face of public outcry over the adjusted salaries for constitutional office bearers.

The Post’s major argument is that constitutional office bearers deserve to be well enumerated to avoid an instance where the officers will dip their fingers in public coffers depriving the ordinary poor.

This is a valid argument. Our politicians, like any other hardworking Zambian, deserve better President Sata inclusive. But isn’t it this the same Fred M’membe who tells us that what is good for the goose is good for the gander?

And so, if it was bad for Rupiah to sign a bill adjusting salaries for constitutional office bearers by a moderate 15 percent before looking at the ordinary worker, what makes it good for Sata – the man who vowed never to walk that path until Zambians had jobs – increase his pay, not once, but twice within 10 months?

That is absurd and highly contemptuous of those who burst, some of them virtually naked, into the streets to hail Sata’s historic ascendance to the throne.

As if increasing President Sata’s pay-check is not enough, the PF government goes to undertake such an important issue at midnight when everyone is sleeping. It’s criminal to do such a donchi kubeba (don’t tell them) on the innocent population.

Credit should go to Rupiah when he was faced with this situation. He was transparent enough to even take the matter to the National Assembly where at least you were guaranteed of some debate.

By taking the bill for emoluments to the National Assembly, you are ordinarily hiding nothing even when it’s a forgone conclusion members of parliament – opposition and ruling party members alike – will pass it without debate.

For Sata, he went at midnight, when no one was awake, to the Ministry of Finance to literally steal a salary increment and when he realized it was due to leak, his labour ministry signed another statutory instrument to pacify the anomaly in the name of revising the minimum wage. The same minimum wage is now chaotic!

Irrespective of the moral issues surrounding Sata’s abnormal salary rise Fred M’membe, without an iota of shame, is another crook using the media to endorse wrong things. How bizarre can the self-styled moralist in Fred M’membe be? Only when it suits his belly and his friend Mutembo Nchito (director of public prosecutions) then it is good for them. There is nothing Zambians can expect from Fred M’membe and his friends because whatever Sata is doing to them is the right thing.

Look at it this way; when the government of Rupiah presided over the sentence of an ordinary citizen for the defamation of the President, M’membe used whatever resources at his disposal to challenge the decision in the name of press freedom.

Today, people like Fr Viateur Banyangandora are deported for speaking for the poor, the so called champions of free expression have gone as far as only one mild comment. The rest, as they say, is history.

Two ordinary citizens – Peter Mweete of Kalomo and a 38-year-old man in the Northern part of Zambia working for President Sataâ’s government are serving sentences for allegedly insulting Sata in the name of defamation of the President but there is no campaign to free them, not even from Zambia’s masters of free expression – Fred M’membe and The Post.

Present events are only confirmation that Sata and his friends at The Post are hypocrites serving their own interest and not those masses they claim to represent.

Wherever Rupiah and his colleagues are today, they watch and laugh at what sort of hypocrites had deceived the population to win an election.

Rupiah and his colleagues had the decency to increase their salaries by 15 percent. Sata and his friends gave civil servants 15 percent and apportioned their greedy self a 100 percent pay rise which they defended as amounting only to 58 percent.

Sata should not forget his own words in reference to a fool’s paradise. The arrogance he and his surrogates are showing Zambians, the very people that voted for them confirms he is comfortably enjoying the throne in a fool’s paradise style.

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