Leaders are Role Models

Speaking at an event for GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney, Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R) gave credit to his wife and the wife of Rep. Paul Ryan for their sacrifices of “doing the laundry… and to have to be at home taking care of the kids.” He called the wives the “real heroes” as he discussed the challenges facing political spouses. If Kasich’s statement was purely to honor his wife, he should be praised for recognizing the work she does as important as any work. However, if he was stereotyping women, what does he do with Hillary Clinton, Condoleezza Rice, Joyce Banda and Ellen Johnson Sirleas? In context, I believe he was not ridiculing any woman, but honoring his wife, and therefore those who are criticizing his statements are being rather petty.

This could not be said of Mr. Hakainde Hichilema, the president of UPND, who called Edith Nawaki, President of FDD, a little party girl who should confine herself to the kitchen. In this attack, Mr. Hichilema mocks all women and the essential work they do in the kitchen. This statement does not sit well in a nation where women and children are often treated as inferior.  Apparently Mr. Hichilema is not aware that many women today are bread winners as men have lost jobs as a result of economic recession. Most women in our communities wake up as early as five in the morning to prepare their children for school. They are out of their homes by six in the morning to go to the gardens or to go and look for merchandize to trade so they can put food on the table by six in the evening. Mrs. Nawaki’s response to Mr. Hichilema that he is a male chauvinist ‘pig’ is equally unacceptable of such a national leader. Leaders don’t fire insults for insults. Leaders debate ideas and policies that translate into good governance and opportunity for all.

 Leaders are role models. Therefore, it is improper for any leader to hurl insults in the media. Leaders shape the character and embody the vision of a nation. Leaders look at aspects of the broken nation and get out of their comfort zone and jump into action to create positive change. Young men and women in Zambia are looking for leaders who will do away with the ethnic hatred that has contributed to underdevelopment. Thousands of orphans lined up on Cairo Road and those who break stones in old Mumbwa are crying out for leaders who will find ways to spread the benefits of democracy and free markets that they will have a chance to go to school and have a future.

 

The saga between Mr. Hichilema and Mrs. Nawaki summarizes a grave problem in Zambia. At some level, most political leaders have failed to see that they are not in positions of power in service to themselves. Public leaders (servants) should defend the economic and civil rights of their constituents. The role of the church is to pray for their leaders and to speak out when they fail to do what they are elected to do. Christians know that “the Biblical gospel of Jesus necessarily and powerfully leads to a passion for justice in the world” (Tim Keller).  Jesus reading Luke 4:17-18 is a great reminder of what Christian leaders should be aspiring to.  Tim Keller states that “a true experience of the grace of Jesus Christ inevitably motivates a man or woman to seek justice in the world.”  With the numerical growth of the church, it is time for Christians to declare that those who seek public office must demonstrate action to eradicate AIDS, fight extreme poverty and creation of opportunity for all. May the church make it clear that politicians who make headlines for hurling insults are not demonstrating the kind of leadership we need in our nation.  

Lawrence Temfwe