This past couple of months as we battle the Coronavirus COVID-19 and as we receive official up-dates of the scourge, usually delivered to us from locations where our cabinet ministers have convened, I have been thinking of the character of they who are our ministers. It is important that I disclose that I am actually a fun of the comedy series “Yes Minister”.
I have been reminded of several gatherings that I have attended in the past where the government minister is the guest of honour and I have often been amazed at the minister’s performance.
According to an online dictionary, The Free Dictionary, an “actor is a person who behaves in the manner of a character usually by reciting scripted dialogue, in order to entertain an audience, especially in a play, movie or television show.” The Free Dictionary further defines an actor as the “one who takes part, a participant.”
Am reminded of Thursday, 9th November 2017, I was one of the invited speakers at a convening at which the government minister was the guest of honour. In her speech and in her actions, the minister was spot on and she nicely embodied “a person who behaves in the manner of a character usually by reciting scripted dialogue.”
She left many at the convening befuddled, when after she agreed to participate in the ceremonial launch of The Report – signing the dummy; being photographed doing so; standing beside it – and then immediately afterwards, in her speech, she vigorously rejected The Report, right from its title?
To many at the convening, indeed, the Minister appeared as an actor who forgets her role and her scripted dialogue; realises so; and then improvises, so as to rectify and get back on course; hoping that the audience does not realise her misstep.
While delivering her speech, the Minister seemed as though she was reciting a rigidly scripted dialogue and that which is characteristic of a particular school of thought, some observed.
It appeared as though the script from which the Minister read was so rigid that it did not allow her to constructively engage the views of The Report that she had just participated in launching. Nor was the Minister able to engage the views that a short while prior had been expressed by the discussants of The Report.
The content of her speech and the manner in which she delivered it, in addition, was consistent with what subsequent Speakers at the convening considered as arrogant, disrespectful and insensitive.
Just like those cultivation machines, the graders clearing the land for sugarcane plantations, the Minister’s attitude and her speech seemed firmly located within a paradigm that promotes the crushing of my ancestors’ bones in the name of “development”.
Whereas, the Minister was physically present and she participated in the convening, some at the convening were left wondering if the Minister truly participated in the convening as a rational human being in her own right.
This is because, it seemed more like the Minister was ‘participated’ in the convening – as in her participation in the convening was seemingly that of one who has received ‘orders-from-above’, in order to participate, as opposed to one who attends on her own original initiative and intention to participate.
While she delivered her speech, after all, the Minister seemed as though she were acting out her assigned part, voicing a script that she seemingly did not write or even participated in writing.
It was assessed by some at the convening that the Minister seemed like she was reciting scripted dialogue and that she seemingly did not fully understand the implications of what she uttered, the encoded message, particularly.
Yes, some, at the convening, did question the free will or the human agency, if you will, of the Minister, only on the basis of her actions and the content of her speech at the convening.
Which begs the question, how might one rate the participation of the cabinet in the briefing and up-dates on Uganda’s handling of COVID-19?