Dickson Jere

DICKSON Jere has advised President Edgar Lungu’s aides to explain the context in which he issued the idiom ‘Uubomba mwibala alya mwibala’ instead of justifying it.

Jere, who served as president Rupiah Banda’s special assistant for press and public relations, in his Facebook posting yesterday stated that when the context was misconstrued, defending might not be a good option.

President Lungu on Saturday night during a fundraising dinner for the construction of a PF convention centre in Kitwe told PF members and officials that they were free to ‘steal’ government resources but that they should do so minimally.

President Lungu, who was on the Copperbelt on a three-day ‘working-visit’, told party functionaries, sympathisers and some government officials present that “Uubomba mwibala, alya mwibala, tabatila kulya nembuto kumo (literally meaning, you are free to ‘derive’ benefits from government resources but do not finish everything).”

PF media director Sunday Chanda on Sunday issued a statement justifying President Lungu’s statement saying he was spot on to say ‘uubomba mwibala alya mwibala’ because those serving in government were allowed to get what they deserve (salaries, wages, etc) but that they must not eat the seed which was not what they deserved.

However, Jere stated that apologies deflated enemies at times.

“And so presidential statements can be misconstrued at times, especially if one does not know the context in which they were issued. It is, therefore, prudent to quickly come out and explain the context without justifying it. When the context is misconstrued, defending it may not be a good option although it depends on the circumstances. Thinking of ‘uubomba mwibala alya mwibala’ idiom. Anyway, I was just remembering my lecture notes on crisis communication management!” Jere stated.

He gave examples of times when Banda used idioms that were interpreted to mean something else and angered other people.

“Once upon a time, [former priest] Fr [Frank] Bwalya was a pain in the flesh of president Rupiah Banda. He could really rile the president with his baseless personal attacks. So, in trying to hit back, the president attacked Fr Bwalya by saying ‘he is a father without children’ and went on to say Fr Bwalya was in fact kicked out of the Catholic Church. But what the media picked and twisted was that the President insulted Catholic priests who are called Fathers but have no children. The Church was riled with the president’s statement so much that State House had to apologise,” stated Jere.

“The media forgot (assuming they did) the last part of the statement in which the president explained his attack on Fr Bwalya. As press aide, I was bombarded with phone calls, especially from the Catholic faithful, who thought the president had offended them. Fast forward, another presidential speech mishap happened (it comes with a territory). President Banda attacked UPND leader Hakainde Hichilema for not taking his wife in public prior to the 2011 polls. The president said; ‘nanga ndiwe mwenye mambala…’ which loosely translates to, ‘why hiding your wife from the public, are you Indian?’ Within minutes, the president realised his statement meant for HH could in fact be offending to the Indian community in Zambia. He immediately ordered me to release a statement apologising to both HH and the Indian community. And I did and the matter quietly died.”

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