If there is a politician who is relentlessly and unfairly attacked in the history of Zambia’s political landscape, it is Hichilema.
One example, to put things into context, is the recent heedless attacks against him by Apostle Sunday Sinyangwe of Shalom Ministries.
In the face of unjust attacks, Hichilema refused to hate Apostle Sinyangwe.
When responding to Apostle Sinyangwe’s spiteful attacks, Hichilema simply said “we take note of the remarks by Apostle Sinyangwe and forgive him.”
The lack of recrimination and vindictiveness in Hichilema’s reaction left many people in disbelief.
Despite being unfairly attacked, he clearly insisted on forgiveness, with no question whatsoever of revenge.
That, is what we call leadership. Leadership that does not find contentment in being vindictive.
However, Hichilema’s reaction should not be mistaken for weakness or timidity, failing to hold Apostle Sinyangwe accountable or pretending that no offense occurred, but it is a testament of strength.
It took strength for Hichilema to cut down his negative feelings toward Apostle Sinyangwe who offended him and replaced them with positive feelings of forgiveness.
His gesture of forgiveness can only come from an internal process of getting in touch fully with his conscience not to retaliate.
It takes a principled person to see forgiveness as an honourable decision when it is not fashionable to do so.
Hichilema’s action shows that he belongs to a crop of leaders able to see forgiveness as an important personal value, perhaps even as a moral, and as a spiritual or religious imperative in a Christian nation.
Having been unjustly attacked, it was easy for him not to choose forgiveness for principled reasons. At the level of personal values, it was going to be justifiable for Hichilema to hold a grudge because the goal of forgiveness is secondary to other goals involving justice, and self-protection.
He did not chose the legal course that is important in guiding human behaviour, but chose forgiveness.
It took a real sacrifice to forgive Apostle Sinyangwe. But more important, it took solid leadership to choose not to be bitter after being unfairly treated.
By forgiving Apostle Sinyangwe, Hichilema has unfettered both his accoster and himself from the burden of bitterness. Indeed, in forgiveness there is transformation for both the victim and attacker.
He saw no need to nurture resentment but made a deliberate effort to forgive.
Hichilema’s gesture shows in clear terms his inner ability to exercise self-control, a quality every leader needs.
It may be difficult for Hichilema to forget but he has forgiven, which is what really matters and one of the trademarks of a good leader.