Sata and the Problem of Many Hats [editorial]

Life can be very simple if you just get yourself a hat, because a hat establishes your identity. If you have forgotten your identity and can’t remember who you are or what to say, putting on your hat will help you a lot. A military hat will help you march up and down and bark orders. A baseball hat will bring informality, and provide you with endless chatter about inconsequential sporting matters. A mortar board will bring forth much learned but meaningless vocabulary.

But if you are a Zambian president, life is much more complicated – because you have been given three hats. Firstly there is the President of the Party Hat, secondly the Head of Government Hat and thirdly the Head of State Hat. This makes things much more complicated.

It can cause terrible confusion and embarrassment to yourself and all those around you if you forget which hat is on your head. The problem arises because all the people looking at you can see your hat, and therefore know how you should behave. But you, you can’t see your own hat. If you can’t remember which hat you put on, you can make a dreadful ass of yourself.

If you’re a president, the three hat problem is further complicated by the awkward requirement that one hat demands very different behaviour from that which is required by the other two hats. When wearing your Party President Hat you can tell people that they will regret not voting for the governing party. But when wearing your Head of Government Hat you must tell voters that they’ll all get development even if they vote for the opposition – you are supposed to be president for everybody, not just your party members. But when wearing your Head of State Hat your role is purely ceremonial: you must not say anything about parties or voters, but you must confine yourself to meaningless speeches, such as saying that violence is a bad thing, and that sort of thing. Or otherwise busy yourself with cutting ribbons, planting trees and laying foundation stones. You may even have to attend Excruciating Commonwealth Conferences, and be required to listen attentively to the deadening wit and wisdom of Prince Charles.

All of this is very complicated, especially if you never attended a university to be taught about different hats. If you cannot entirely conceptualize a multi-hat version of your job, then you will find yourself conflating the job into something simple that you can understand. For example Kaunda thought of himself as a Headmaster because he could only understand one hat, the Headmaster Hat. To him, the nation was just one big school, his ministers were the teachers and the rest of us were his pupils, to be taught about Humanism, which was a one-hat philosophy. More than one hat confused him dreadfully.

So how did Kaunda make one hat? To him it was very simple. He took the Party President Hat and made it supreme. Then he tucked the other two hats – Government and State – inside the Party Hat, and made the One Hat State, with him in charge of everything, complete with a Constitution composed of only one slogan saying ‘One Nation, One Leader, One Hat’. Now he was now in charge of everything and he didn’t have the complication and distraction of having to listen to aice from people wearing other hats. At least he could now understand the job. The only problem was that the nation was not a school and he wasn’t supposed to be the Headmaster. He was supposed to be the President of Three Hats, presiding over many other hats such as the Judicial Hat, the Parliamentary Hat and the Army Hat.

This problem has lingered on. It is particularly acute under Michael Sata, who definitely cannot conceptualize three hats. Whereas Kaunda conceptualized the job as a Headmaster, Sata has conceptualized the job as a Village Chief. Whereas the Kaunda’s concept was more western, Sata’s current version is more traditional. Both, of course, are equally dictatorial. Just as the pupils cannot tell the Headmaster how to run the school, so the villagers cannot tell the chief how to run the chiefdom.

One of the serious drawbacks of the One Hat version of government is that it causes the president to be in a constant state of rage. Take the example of appointing a Supreme Court Judge. Because the president thinks he has the Only One Hat, he entirely discounts the power of the Judicial Service Commission Hat, the Law Association Hat and the Parliamentary Hat. To show that all power resides under his One Village Hat, he shows his absolute power by appointing an aged donkey as a Supreme Court Judge. Then, of course, everybody starts shouting and spluttering and tearing their wigs. Worst of all they start asking him questions he can’t answer. Such a situation is likely to be very frustrating, and he is likely to fall into a rage and start chewing the carpet, even on television.

So the people say to the president ‘we shall write you a constitution setting out more clearly the principles and rules by which you shall govern us, and explaining who can wear which hat, and which hat is yours.’ But the Village Chief says ‘I don’t need a new constitution because there is only One Hat and that One Hat is My Hat. Stop talking about these other hats!’

Then people start to laugh, which is a sure way of causing a president to fall into a more apoplectic rage. And so the president disappears entirely inside his Great Village Chief Hat and starts shouting ‘There is only One Hat! Shut up! Sit down! Stupid! This is My Hat! I am in charge of everybody!’

Then all the people laugh louder, saying ‘We can’t vote for this fellow again, he is talking through his hat!’

But do not worry. There is a simple solution to this problem. All we have to do is to have three different people as three different presidents with three different hats. The first one wears the Party Hat, the second one wears the Government Hat and the third one wears the State Hat. None of them will have the conceptual challenge of having to change hats, so each one will know what they are doing. Then we will have government made simple, so that even simple presidents will be able to understand it.

Source: Seriously Kalaki

Source : Zambia Reports

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