Sr. Jecinter Antoinette Okoth, FSSA
Nearly a fortnight after the General Elections in Zambia that were held on Thursday, August 12, the Jesuit Centre for Theological Reflection (JCTR) has called upon newly elected President Hakainde Hichilema (HH) and his team to immediately commence the transformative journey of the nation “fix a shrinking economy and put it on a growth trajectory.”
In a Wednesday August 29 statement, JCTR Executive Director Fr. Alex Muyebe noted that “Time for reforms is now when the new administration is still trying to impress… that they are a different crop of leaders from their predecessors.”
“The wheels of reforms must start turning now within the first 100 days of HH’s inauguration and before the new tenant at Plot 1 and his new administration begin to get comfortable and entrenched in destructive the political virus of complacency and disdain for good counsel from well-meaning stakeholders,” reads part of the statement.
According to JCTR, a church-affiliated civil society organization that conducts evidence-based advocacy on political, social and economic issues, the Zambian people have high expectations to see the new President and his administration “implement economic reforms that will put Zambia on a more sustainable fiscal footing, liquidate foreign debt, and secure a bailout loan package from the International Monetary Fund (IMF).”
In transforming the nation, JCTR highlights the need for “strengthening democracy anchored on the rule of law, respect of human rights and people’s liberties as a catalyst for economic recovery and national development,” an activity they note “must include a people-driven constitutional refinement with a referendum to consider adopting some progressive provisions to enhance the Bill of Rights.”
“This must also include legal reforms to address retrogressive provisions in the Public Order Act, introduction of the Access to Information law to enhance transparency and accountability, and reforms of other contentious pieces of legislation in our laws,” they said.
The leadership of the Zambia-based Jesuit Centre whose mission is “To enhance justice and equality for all, particularly the poor and vulnerable through the promotion of Christian values, empowerment, care for the environment and provision of policy alternatives,” observed that many citizens turned out to vote “amid widespread poverty, high youth unemployment, and general economic decline as evidenced from the high cost of living and unsustainable external debt.”
Based on expectations of the majority of voters who turned out on 12th August elections, JCTR said, “Citizens, particularly the jobless youth and women are eager to see the new team come up with deliberate efforts to create jobs and business opportunities for the youths and women.”
The statement underscores that the new head of State disclosed that “his team has come to work; work and (do) more work,” but the concern is whether “Individuals in HH’s team will match up to his work ethos.”
“As for work, there is plenty of it cut out for HH and his administration to bring about the much desired constitutional, governance and economic reforms in a consultative and inclusive manner,” the JCTR leadership said and continued, “There is work of fostering unity under our motto of “One Zambia One Nation.”
They further narrated that the work “is predicated on embracing a path of healing of the wounds of any wrongs or harms committed during the just ended elections (and) people must learn to move on and march together towards a hope-filled future that taps into the all-embracing leadership qualities of women and the very creative and innovative energies of youths.”
They added, “There is work of ridding this nation of political and electoral violence once and for all. This entails completely abolishing cadreism in any shape or form in this country by finding creative and sustainable ways of economically empowering those who are accustomed to making a living from this way of life.”
In endeavoring to steer Zambia in the right direction, the JCTR leadership says referencing Mr. Hichilema who was sworn in as President on August 24, “HH has professed to have adopted a servant leadership model to guide his work.”
“When leaders prioritize being at the service of the people other than being at the service of their own interest or greed, they inevitably empower the community to grow in commitment to the common or shared vision,” the Wednesday statement reads in part and continues, “If HH shares this same understanding of this concept of servant leadership then the country is on the right trajectory to depart from the old debilitating template of leadership that we have continuously been subjected to. This is a refreshing experience which we are all looking forward to.”
They question whether the President’s team “will buy into this model of (servant) leadership, if they would share his vision” and noted that the President needs “the support of a game-changing team.”
“The danger is that if there are some individuals within his team who don’t share and internalize this model of leadership, and for that matter, other goals he has set for himself and his administration such as zero tolerance to corruption, these individuals are likely to militate against their leader and his vision,” the JCTR leadership said.
“HH will need to be incisive in identifying elements of passive aggressiveness within his team where some opportunist individuals will pretend to be with him and pretend to share his vision, when deep down their hearts they are a wolf in a sheep skin,” JCTR disclosed adding, “These individuals will slowly and surely begin to work for his downfall.”
Emphasizing the expected model of leadership for the nation, the JCTR members narrated “A servant leader must be strong enough to embrace a counter-cultural way of doing business even at the expense of rocking a boat or losing close allies or friends.”
“Zambians must pray hard that HH will be a transformative leader and that he will have genuine transformative individuals in his team to drive this country in the right direction of strong and functioning governance and economic systems, “(and) this transformative journey must begin now,” they concluded.