Columnists Features

Caring for customers during national mourning

IT HAS been a long and emotionally painful two weeks for many people in Zambia, more so the family and friends of our late President Sata, who was put to rest yesterday. May his soul rest in peace.
While I appreciate that it cannot be business as usual when such a senior dignitary dies, I could not help notice how business in some quarters almost came to a standstill.
Somehow, certain people have a tendency of blaming their inertia on any event regardless of how divorced it could be from a particular event. You can bet that up to next year, some people will be saying things like ‘sorry, we couldn’t attend to you due to the national mourning’.
Having had so many occasions of national mourning for different dignitaries in the past, by now people who provide service should have known the dos and don’ts.  Again, maybe, someone should provide general guidelines to all on what activities they can engage in and which ones they cannot.
When announcements are made about national mourning, the public is informed that public events of an entertainment nature should be cancelled or postponed.  Media houses (television and radio stations) are expected to only broadcast programmes of a solemn nature.
A private station can argue that they are not a public station and could ignore the directive but in all honesty, how can you be seen to be celebrating and rejoicing in a nation where everyone else is mourning?
Besides, a head of state is in charge of the whole country, whether one supports him or they do not.  It is therefore only prudent and courteous that everyone is solemn and respects the government’s declaration of a national mourning period.
The media’s role in any economy is to inform, entertain and educate.  During national mourning, the media cannot entertain but nothing stops them from informing and educating.
For someone like President Sata who had such an industrious career, the media could have done more in educating the general public about who Michael Sata was and where he was coming from.
For instance, television and radio stations could have gone in the archives and produced properly chronologicalised documentaries about Mr Sata, from his days as an industrial relations consultant in the 1960s, to his days as Governor, to his days in various portfolios he held as minister, to his time as opposition leader right through to his time as President of Zambia.
There were glaring gaps in what was shown and far too many repeats.  More of his family members and personal friends could also have been interviewed.
In addition, programme schedules could have been prepared and communicated on a daily basis so that viewers and listeners could plan when to tune in to a particular station.
I seemed to gather that some broadcasters appeared to think gospel music and solemn music are interchangeable.  I watched a video on a private television station on the second day of national mourning that was playing disco-like gospel and doing some imitation of late pop star Michael Jackson’s dances.
Some pubs and drinking places played loud secular music and it was business as usual, and I wondered if there was any legislation to allow law enforcement agencies to deal with business houses that did not adhere to the national mourning directive.
Probably someone must come up with guidelines to guide the public and business houses of the dos and don’ts during national mourning.  It is quite possible that some failure to adhere or overdo is due to ignorance.
On the whole, most agencies, especially our men and women in uniform, did their best and the Secretary to the Cabinet kept everyone informed.
To whoever was responsible for closing major roads in Lusaka to facilitate the passage of the convoy carrying President Sata’s remains, it will be helpful in future to provide a visual map or be more specific about parts of the roads to be closed.
Whatever we do, let us not disadvantage our customers.
The author is chief executive officer of Career Prospects Limited, a human resource consultancy firm based in Lusaka.

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