It was former British Prime Minister John Major who said in criticizing the audacity of Tony Blair’s ambitious platform of change in 1997 – “the road to hell is paved with good intentions”.
How odd that, those political leaders who start with the greatest resonance with the common man, almost always end their reign, under that haunting cloud of failure to live up to popular expectations. Sometimes there is such outrage at the end; it is hard to reconcile that failed political villain exposed by a term in office to the candidate that started off with overwhelming promise and potential.
This is certainly true, in the case of FTJ Chiluba of Zambia, whose rallying chant “the hour” raised such popularity that a former UNIP official who threatened to kill his own son who had succumbed and dared to recite the national mantra at the time, was told by his angry wife , you will have to kill the whole family. Now, those same people that were willing to sacrifice so much in 1990 want FTJ’s blood.
Tony Blair, who started his reign with his shoulders firm and his head in the clouds, may have succeeded in the devolution of power but he lead to and left his country the hell of the Iraq war and had to end his reign early under the awful cloud.
So when will Michael Sata’s political bubble burst?
Uka chenjenjela ma’anja ulyenawo (if you are clever and quick with your hands, you will eat with them) a Chewa proverb - Sata has certainly been quick with his political hand, having been a UNIP royalist and Governor in the Kaunda reign, a regime whose legacy mortally scarred all that fanned its suppressive wings yet Sata survived the blight. He went on to claim his share in FTJ‘s hour. And though, Sata was Chiluba’s dirty job man- sinking opponents and wooing cadres with brown envelopes, he emerged from yet, another corrupt and failed regime, still with enough political clout to form, his own party (PF). In the 2006 presidential and parliamentary, he came close securing his ultimate ambition - plot one.
Yet under scrutiny, Sata notoriously called King Cobra’ credentials reveal, a man with precious little formal education, an abrasive style of leadership and utter lack of the diplomacy necessary, for the role he so desires. Recently, he claimed to have lost his passport in a botched attempt, to conceal his long and deepening relations with Taiwanese business lobbyists.
In African politics, it is impossible to survive this ultimate political sinker, being branded a foreign interest crony. Despite this recent misstep, Sata continues to draw a large political following and an increasing footprint in Parliament.
What is it, about politics that makes the not so qualified thrive?
In the 2001 US elections, most Americans say they voted for George Bush because he appealed to them as “the guy most likely to share a drink with you at the bar” and “most likely to stop and help you change a tire”. Needless to say there is now, in the US substantial regret and disappointment for having set the bar so low.
In South Africa, Jacob Zuma, amazingly still has political clout among the average man despite surviving a sacking from office following strong allegations of corruption and rape. Like Sata, Zuma has little formal education, several wives and children. At rallies, he woos his large following by appealing to their militancy as he sings “mshini wami” which translates “bring me my machine gun”. Yet, he is a front runner to succeed Thabo Mbeki as President of South Africa.
And in Zambia, if HH for UPND and possibly Cosmas Chilala or Maureen (if Hilary wins in the US) for MMD, do not learn the tricks and get down & dirty by 2011 – The madness of King Cobra may yet have its worst qualities revealed.