State of the Nation

Whom was President Rupiah Banda addressing in his speech at the official opening of the Tenth National Assembly?  What went through your heart and mind as you listened?  Did you capture the vision of Zambia and what role you and your team, your church, your organization, and your family will play to make Zambia’s vision a reality? Did you get the sense that you were being invited to be part of the national team that will promote economic growth that focuses on the poor, to contribute to the eradication of malaria and HIV and
AIDS, and to address the need for quality education in communities where people live in poverty?   Or, did you get the feeling that the squad was already full, and that only the men and women surrounding the president would be enlisted to solve our most critical challenges thus leaving the majority of us as beggars with our hands held high
and heads hung low waiting to receive ARVs, mosquito nets, and other government handouts?

One of the greatest challenges of leadership is how to make a vision penetrate the hearts, minds, and lives of those you lead.  Making vision stick is not a job for populist leaders who thrive on pleasing everyone now, but rather for those who can rally sustained support for a greater yet more remote good; a picture of the future.  Mobilising others toward “a greater yet more remote good” is especially difficult in Africa in general and Zambia in particular given the absence of prudent legislation to reign in the economic zeal of powerful foreign investors who have their sights set on exploiting our natural resources today with no thought for what tomorrow will bring, because tomorrow they will be gone.

Several years ago we had a television program which gave us a glimpse into the lives of expatriates who had made Zambia their home.  Leading up to the interview the camera would show the beautiful homes and the well kept surroundings of the featured resident. They had built swimming pools, they had developed wonderful parks in their residential areas, they had tarred all the roads in their community, and they had built state of the art hospitals and schools. The motivation behind all of the expense and effort to develop their environment was captured well by the title of the program: “They Came to Stay”.  Driven by a vision of what they wanted their community to be these expatriates turned residents invested with a view to the future.  Unfortunately the same cannot be said of current expatriate investors.

Zambians are here to stay. It is therefore the task of every politician to help Zambians understand, own, and live the vision for Zambia.  While we are grateful for donors and business people who are genuinely helping us develop our nation, ultimately the responsibility to develop our nation rests with each one of us who call Zambia home. Recognizing the size of the task at hand politicians would do well to spend more time with people living below $1 per day.  They need to receive input from PLWHA to gain a better understanding of how to reduce the impact of infection. We can’t simply put more people on medication without addressing the longer term issue of prevention.

Like all worthwhile endeavours, making vision stick is not easy. Challenges notwithstanding, it is imperative for leaders to persevere.  Are you taking responsibility to help your people understand and embrace the vision of your church, or are you blaming the people around you for their inability to understand and act on the vision you have shared?  God’s call to the church is to pray for the peace and prosperity of our nation.  He has called us to be part of our communities and to work hard to build things that will last.  In everything, God desires us to demonstrate and proclaim His salvation. Has this been your message Sunday in and Sunday out?

Lawrence Temfwe