WRITING books in a society where the reading culture has declined drastically may not be a fulfilling venture but that has not stopped Grieve Sibale from completing a trilogy of novels in five years.
Sibale’s trilogy started in 2006 with the publication of his ambitious novel The Dance of the Derivatives, which was followed by the suave and futuristic The Land in the Sun before concluding it with The Future Has Arrived.
However, Sibale’s first published work was Between Two Worlds in 1979 under the National Educational Company of Zambia (Neczam Library Series) before bouncing back with Murder in the Forest under Tupelo Honey Industries almost two decades later.
At 59, he holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Economics from the University of Zambia (UNZA) and a Master of Business Administration degree from the University of Leeds in England. He has a professional diploma in marketing from the Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM) and pursued various postgraduate studies at the Victoria University of Wellington in New Zealand, University of Wisconsin in the United States and at the Irish Management Institute in Dublin, Ireland.
Despite that background, Sibale’s interest is not necessarily academic writings. Instead, it seems to be political writings, if his last three books are anything to go by.
His latest novel is about the legacy of an outstanding young leader, Dan Katenga, who continues to move heaven and earth to transform his country on a gargantuan scale never witnessed before.
And as a consequence, his country, Zambia, becomes the most-re-engineered country on the continent of Africa as he bids to re-align it to the fast changing macro-environment of the 21st century. In the process, Zambia even manages to achieve its most lofty mission of becoming the most lucent beacon of success on the continent.
Though it is fiction, the book is dedicated to former President Kenneth Kaunda, who also officiated at the launch of the book in Lusaka recently.
According to the author, like the main character in the novel, Dr Kaunda cared about the legacy he would leave after vacating the highest office in the land.
In his dedication notes, the author pays tribute to the former president for moving to State House in the newly independent Zambia and leaving 27 years later still in the same poor state.
Sibale says both Dr Kaunda and his main character Dan Katenga strongly believed in the biblical teaching that they came to this earth with nothing in their possession and that they will also eventually return to their God with nothing, and also fervently believed in the sanctity of public assets, which must never be plundered by anyone no matter their position in society. This is in spite of the fact that both men had been living in the midst of plenty during their respective reigns of power.
Sibale’s three last books are set against the backdrop of a change in the leadership of the country which saw Double Kei losing the election. However, the government that assumed office soon after was disappointing to the masses to say the least. The scenario was that of grinding hunger, abject poverty, debilitating diseases, and piteous ignorance.
Despite this scenario, the president still wanted to go for a further third term and was only foiled by the bravery of the Zambian people. Still, with much impunity, he rigged the election in favour of his surrogate presidential candidate and members of his ruling political party.
However, the masses took to the streets in large numbers to protest against their stolen votes. With the help of the international community, the results of the disputed general elections were annulled after a recount was undertaken. Consequently, Dan Katenga and his new Zambia in the Sun Party were declared bona fide winners.
And when he assumed the office of president, Dan realised that the journey to the land in the sun that he promised his people was not going to be short and smooth but a long and complex one requiring a lot of stamina, resilience and meticulous planning.
In his first five years in office, Dan Katenga did everything possible to try and change the fortunes of the country. The economy, which had been on the verge of collapsing, was skilfully re-engineered and started to grow at the same rate as that of the East Tiger nations.
Macro-economic fundamentals such as inflation, interest and foreign exchange rates also started looking good. The country also became one of the most preferred destinations for foreign direct investment with many multi-national corporations setting up base. The new government set up a mixed economy in which individuals, private companies and state enterprises were participating freely.
Additionally, the major cities and towns were no longer an eyesore with street kids after they became absorbed in schools, trades training institutes, mines, factories and on the land with others getting self-employed after acquiring appropriate entrepreneurship skills.
The government also established new primary and secondary schools, teacher training colleges, trades training institutes, technical colleges and universities across the country. This, coupled with the abolition of all types of school fees, led to a rise in both literacy and enrolment levels.
When it came to the area of politics, a major paradigm shift took place with sanity being restored.
Politics of insults, name-calling, character assassination, mud-slinging, settling of old personal scores, and other such unwanted shenanigans were consigned to the political dustbin for good.
Even the practice of arranging for fake but sometimes genuine mass defections of members of one political party to another at well choreographed and heavily-publicised political rallies was done away with.
Further, the civil service started functioning efficiently and effectively like a well-oiled, turbo-charged engine following its complete overhaul.
Remuneration packages of civil servants and other public workers were increased remarkably across the board leading to improved workers morale and a significant improvement in the delivery of public services.
On the international front, many successes were recorded. With the encouragement of the president, a number of well-qualified Zambians started getting employed by all the United Nations agencies in which the country was grossly under-represented.
There was also a queue of world leaders wanting to pay state visits to Zambia. At the same time, Dan had a number of invitations for state visits. The visibility of Zambia on the international scene was further enhanced with the election of Dan as chairperson of the African Union (UN).
The success was extended to sports with the Zambia national soccer team winning the Africa Cup of Nations and qualifying for the World Cup for the first time in its history. Also, one of its runners, the indefatigable MwendalubiMuleya won both the Boston and London marathon with ease before adding a gold medal at the Olympic Games.
In the pugilistic sport of the sweet science, Teddy “The Dream Hammer” Makofi of Kitwe, won the highly –regarded World Boxing Council (WBC) heavyweight championship in the gambling city of Las Vegas, USA.
With all these successes, the people of Zambia persuaded Dan to go for a second term despite his reluctance. But after completing his second term, there was still pressure for him to amend the Constitution to allow him go for a third one.
However, he resisted this temptation, in his female deputy president, he and the country had a worthy successor. By grooming his female deputy for the presidency, he believed that he would be contributing greatly to closing the gender gap in the nation.
Here, he also resisted the temptation to have his wife succeeding him despite herself showing strong interest in the position.
All in all, the author presents Dan, almost like a messiah, and without blame. While that could be deliberate, a move meant to inspire readers; it would have been even more helpful to present more of his weaknesses as well. Almost all the world’s greatest leaders in history have always had their weak points, even Nelson Mandela. In fact, the former South African prisoner and world’s most famous prisoner, says one of his fears is that people tend to regard him as a saint, one without defects. Well, in any case, even autobiographies and authorised biographies normally contain some shortcomings.
But perhaps, the author wanted to show the kind of integrity and leadership that is needed in public life. Overall, the book serves to remind all Zambians of what is possible for this nation if everyone applied themselves fully to the cause. A good addition to the literary scene!
(The book is available at Bookworld, Zambia Educational Publishing House and Planet Books Arcades)
[Zambia Daily Mail]