Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Zambia at the Brink of a golden jubilee – Part 1


Status quo

PF candidate Lameck Mangani lost his seat. The Supreme Court upheld a nullity of the same ruled by the High Court. The Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ) is accused of living out its usefulness as the bye-elections in Petauke Central, Malambo and Mulobezi were postponed. And the government is on its hot seat defending the looming deficit. These are some of the news items currently canopying Zambia. And one may ask: “Are these the most serious issues that Zambia should be concerned with right now?”

At 50 years old as a nation on October 24th, 2014, Zambia will be celebrating what is known technically as a Golden Jubilee. “Jubilee” itself is a joyful commemoration held on the fiftieth anniversary of any event, such as a birth of a nation, in the case of Zambia. It is a special occasion for an important event. The significance of a Jubilee is in the etymology of the word itself; on the 49th or past the 50th year, the Hebrews blasted a trumpet of liberty. The papacy extended this to include the forgiveness of sins granted in return for acts of piety. Ancient as well as contemporary, this event has always depicted a significant event in the life of a people. It cannot be any different for Zambia.

Ironically, even if a nation, for all intentions and purposes, elected not to commemorate a 50th anniversary of its existence, historically, a Golden Jubilee dealt largely with land, property, and property rights. As nations and cultures began to evolve, Golden Jubilees became a sinister reminder of the social disparity between the Masters and slaves, the haves and have-nots. Slaves, in particular, were marginalized basically on every front – they neither could own land nor property. For the slaves, therefore, a Golden Jubilee was a cue of their state of poverty and despondency. For the rich, the strong and the powerful, it was, indeed, a golden moment.

KK Architect extraordinaire

When the Zambian fathers gathered at the newly built Independence Stadium, at the eve of Zambia`s independence, on October 23rd, 1964, they were filled with hope. They were jittery, too. Jittery, because they were stepping into new territories, into the unknown. Hitherto, all they had come to be accustomed to were hand-outs: they were civil clerks and house-servants, a.k.a “ka-boys”, under the strong arm of their colonial masters. But now they must govern, they must rule a monstrosity of political mumble-jumbo, an economical labyrinth, and international rat-race. Kenneth Kaunda (KK) would shortly be handed the instruments of independence, and with them, the secrets of national governance. Then it dawned on them that the honeymoon could be short-lived; action was immediately required to educate the masses, orient its young leadership, and canvass for new pioneers in medicine, science, technology and communication.

Zambia – have we arrived yet? When I was beginning my Grade One education almost three decades ago, my siblings were living for now, perhaps for this moment. Still, they hoped. They hoped that things would be okay under the capable leadership of KK. KK would rule for an unjustified 27 years of unprecedented political hegemony. Still, he was not too selfish – relying on what Intelligence could afford then and all that could be knowable, KK mobilized the young nation into Humanism, with man at the centre. They built notable infrastructures – roads, hospitals, schools, government centres, military installations, and so on. Ironically, what KK accomplished between 1964 and 1979, though now overtly dilapidated, has not been overtaken by any subsequent government. And in that regard alone, KK is the Architect Extraordinaire of the Zambian cirque du soleil!

Things to be thankful for

Things to be thankful for, in Zambia? In 1897, Johnson Oatman, Jr. wrote “Count Your Blessings… ” and to many people, still one of the greatest hymns ever written. Indeed, there are many things to count and be grateful for in Zambia. Chief among them, the state of peace and liberty. These two values are priceless. Zambia continues to lead other nations in being a front-runner in peaceful resolutions. There has never been a notable civil war in Zambia, thanks mainly to its determined leaders who have used its judicial and legislative institutions to solving national impasses. The gun, in Zambia, rules only in the corridors of men`s imagination. The ballot is currency in Zambia. He did not sing in vain, when he led, “Tiyendepamodzi Nomutima Umo…”! Thank you, dear KK, thank you!

FTJ the hero of Zambian dmocracy

Let us set political controversy aside, especially in the wake of the Chiluba Matrix, late Frederick Chiluba (FTJ) is perhaps Zambia`s quintessential democrat. And he can only make sense relative to KK`s totalitarian style of rule. Throughout the 1980s, it was FTJ who stood up to KK. KK even imprisoned FTJ for his agitations. It was, therefore, no surprise that it was FTJ who unseated KK in 1991. FTJ gave back Zambians a voice, a democratic voice that has given people like President Sata an opportunity to be presidents. FTJ liberalized both the mind-set and the economical ownership of private property and economic enterprise. In tandem with the soul of a Jubilee, it is FTJ, and not KK, who might give Zambians an occasion to commemorate Zambia`s Golden Jubilee! But FTJ`s personal flaws might be making him shake in his graves of what hit him – thanks, however, to records. Records will prove, in some distant future and in the light of the overall evaluation, that FTJ is the hero and not villain of the Zambian democracy!

Mwanawasa the epitome of moral leadership

Late Levy Patrick Mwanawasa may be the gold standard of the Zambian governance ethos. Mwanawasa lived for a larger cause than mere positions. And this he so graciously demonstrated when he resigned as Vice-president under FTJ citing rampant corruption. And FTJ should have known better, because when he was anointed as FTJ`s successor, Mwanawasa relentlessly prosecuted all those who were suspected of corruption, including FTJ himself. By all means, Mwanawasa fits the designation, “A Christian President”! Indeed, he was, and more, Mwanawasa reached across party-lines, amazingly, without sacrificing the plurality of the Zambian democracy. Mwanawasa epitomizes the remarkable quality of moral leadership, a conduit towards visionary governance. It will be a rape of historic proportion not to gazette the successes brought by the three enumerated regimes.

RB- Zambia’s ultimate economist

Let history be merciful to President Rupiah Banda (RB), for he had run his race with stamina. RB is Zambia`s ultimate economist. Under his rule, the economic light began to flicker at the end of the tunnel. During his brief reign, RB borrowed enormously from the styles of leadership encapsulated by the roles he played under the FTJ and Mwanawasa regimes. Before he was defeated in an election on September 20th, 2011, RB had begun rebuilding the nation in terms of infrastructure. When I left Zambia for studies to Canada, the only construction of note in Lusaka was the Manda Hill Shopping Centre. When I returned to Zambia in 2012, I could mistake the Arcade and the Levy Junction to some of the most decorated plazas and malls in Toronto. Zambia was getting there, albeit, at a marginal scale!

Sata earned the presidency

President Michael Sata has entered into the annals of the Zambian Chronicles as a man of action. Ironically, at over 70 years of age, Sata has given many young Zambians hope for the future. When I met the president at State House in April of 2012, I could not but be overwhelmed by the quality of a man he is. You can almost salute, “Mr. President!” Contrary to media reportages, Sata is personable as he is approachable. His pragmatist style of rule has all the elements of a successful presidency at the end of his tenure. But the hallmark of Sata’s contributory bolster in the 50th Zambian golden carat is in his fighting spirit. When the generations ahead will be looking for men to emulate, Sata will be the limit to what every Zambian youth could aspire to. Almost single-handedly, he pioneered a political party that would assume the echelons of power within ten years. Even failure for the third time could not dispirit Sata from another attempt. Among the five Zambian presidents so far, it is only of Sata that it can be said, “He earned the presidency!” It is, however, too early to judge his presidency. That, too, is in itself a successful part of the Zambian heritage. For 50 years after independence, Zambian leaders are passionate about preserving amity and friendly relations in the country, although not without incidents.

Zambia is more than its 5 presidents

Who calls the shots during Zambia`s 50 years of existence? The narrative so far recited above is where the evaluation of Zambia`s Golden Jubilee begins. Although this is the subject of discussion in Part II, it, however, suffices here to set the stage. By January 2014 there will be, no doubt, a countless analyses of the 50 years of Zambian existence. To be prescient, the majority of these will focus on the failures of the presidents. That will be purely wrong.

Zambia is more than its five presidents. Zambia is its people. KK, FTJ, Mwanawasa, RB and Sata, are not Zambia; they are only a small part of Zambia. In fact, the entire fabric of the Zambian presidency is so designed as to make the office very powerful. Consequently, it’s only the “President and His Men” who truly enjoy all the joys of the land. The people in the conurbations and villages may have no real stories to tell, save and except for struggles. Bana-Kapya is still struggling to make ends meet; Bana-Kabwela went to the Copperbelt to look for a bright future, only for her to lose her employment and return to the village. Bashi-Mwitwa has not been called since he applied for a teaching position. Bashi-Chuma still wallows in abject poverty. These will have a tough time celebrating Zambia`s 50th Independence Anniversary. And the irony is that, they are the majority!

In Part II, I offer a rationale why this Golden Jubilee should be celebrated. I also offer some nuggets for a Zambia of the future that will look different from the Zambia of today. Hope is a good thing. Hope does not disappoint!

By Charles Mwewa

Author, Zambia: Struggles of My People; and King Cobra Has Struck: My Letter to President Michael C. Sata President of the Zambian-Canadian Foundation


    • You can say what you like, but you will not take away the fact that HEMCS is President. Please swallow your pride and live with it.

    • Does this mwewa guy know that zambia is going with Sata into the golden jubilee bankrupt because of Sata and PF engineered Bye elections???!!!!

    • @ ndobo – dont believe everything you hear. Zambia is not bankrupt and it will not be in a long term. It maybe experiencing a budget deficit but friend, that is not bankruptcy. A budget deficit for great nations is almost a must. The Americans have it, the Chinese have it, the British have it worse even the Greeks. A national budget is simply a guide of expenditure it says nothing of the country’s wealth…! The PF have taken a bold decision to spend in significant infrastructure that will propel Zambia forward.

    • @mwelesa
      I know you have a soft spot for wrong things happening in zambia… and yes america and china might have a deficits but the point is they can afford those deficits with minimum impact on their people,,, if you want compare unemployment and poverty levels in those countries with zambia
      please dont give Greece as an example, am in europe(you are in RSA) i have first hand infor on Greek economical problems.
      The bottom line here is that Zambia CANNOT afford a deficit of any kind or size.. especially if that deficit is not well managed as the case now

  1. Good article,although I don’t agree on sata being reachable,sata is taking us back to colonial type of rule,his interference in the judiciary,overlooking the protocols.etc

  2. Aside the article!
    Zambia coming close to celebrating her golden jubilee or is it mourning her lost and wasted years? What comes to mind when one prepares to hold celebration of any kind/sort? I for one always look forward to enjoying certain days on the calender and the feeling is always undescribable which makes me wonder if this will be the case for us Zambians regardless who we and where we are.
    A look at Zambia now and 50 years ago in terms of infrasture, health care, the economy, socially and politically, statutory laws etc, what picture have we painted so far? Is the picture gloomy and sad or is it jovial and satisfied one? what do you see when you look at this picture and how do you feel? Do you feel ashamed, embarrassed you feel like burying your face in your hands?

    • CONTD:
      Is the picture of quality or quantity or is it messy looking cos the artist was in a hurry going somewhere more important? who is this painter? what kind of painting material has he used? from which buyer has he purchased these materials and at what price? Who is responsible for such a messed up painting? is it his wife and children who denies him a good rest at home or is it the neighbour who is always disturbing him with loud music and that ugly dog which never stops barking?
      Or maybe he’s not just taletend or gifted to be the Van Gogh or the Leonardo da Vinci of this painting called Zambia.

    • CONTD:
      Could it also be that the people dont understand the message this painting is sending? Maybe they do and they dont like the message, but then again, how many painters have tried to paint this painting called Zambia? In 50 years there has been no one to paint the correct face to quench their thirsty? Unbelievable! there must be someone out there for the people are desperately looking for that painter before its too late.
      However, who is to blame, is it the people who have engineerd and trusted the painters? Why then dont they search everywhere to find that Leonardo da Vinci to get the Zambian Monalisa as she deserves? Are the people in slumber or they have their brains embalmed for 50 years they cant function any more?

    • I agree with your views Cindy. As a people we shouldn’t be t quick to accept half fulfillment. As a people we could have done far better. Why don’t we compare our achievements against countries that had an equal GDP as Zambia and of the same age? Look at South Korea or Singapore and see the progress and work ethic they have? To have a few malls while 80% of the population can’t afford buying anything in these malls nor does this population have access to quality education nor health services and then celebrate that as progress irks me. I feel sad that 40 years ago as a country we had better education and health services than now, all because of misplaced priorites, with politicians getting the biggest share of the national cake.

    • CONTD: Common…, there must be someone out there, is it Van gogh PF, Leonardo da UNPD or MMD Claude Monet? I believe Zambia will one day find that one painter it so desperately need, as for now, in as much as am happy with some few good paintings available am also sad that 50 years have gone by without getting to that Monalisa, hopefully this will be our challenge as Zambians to get up and face it! Lets not waste Another 50years to come bickering, lets stand up and work, for someone out there is watching us the new generation, hopefully i wont burry my hands in my hand when i look back and face the question “what have you done for Zambia lately”!

    • @cindy
      uli mbama!!!!
      you have evoked my artistry spirit, you should have been the one who wrote that article!!! i take my hat off to you

  3. A good commentary on Zambia. How do we work together to fight poverty since the majority are on that side. Share more Mr President of the Canadian -Zambia foundation.

  4. @ Mfumu, the closer the date draws by, the more i realise what a deep mess we are in , hopefully everyone realises this and gets motivated to correct things. I actually am dumb founded just looking at how people’s lives have dwindled from having nothing to getting nothing, seriously people are hungry, people desperately need jobs, healthcare, education mention it, i for one believe there is work for everyone out there, loook at how dirty the cities are, that in itself is work, the answer is right under our noses, but somehow we dont seem to realise that, just picturing and going through how poor our society is, mmmmmm i get heart burns.


  6. the author of this article has less brains compared to cindy’s. he must be on the other side of the river bank. most Zambians are seeing the fifty years has the lost opportunity to build a Zambia which every citizen can have three decent meals a day. a prosperous zambia that future generations will look back with admiration of hard work their past generation has done. cindy, you are great

  7. Gosh @ Mwewa, your attempt to paint Sata a saint and a good leader reeks of an intellectually bankrupt persona. Save us the crap. Of all the Presidents you mention Sata ranks last in terms of performance across all spheres of governance in a two year period of their Presidency. RB only had three years but what his government did Sata’s will not achieve by end of next year. I can bet you my sweet ass on this.

  8. PF candidate Lameck Mangani lost his seat. The Supreme Court upheld a nullity of the same ruled by the High Court. The Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ) is accused of living out its usefulness as the bye-elections in Petauke Central, Malambo and Mulobezi were postponed. And the government is on its hot seat defending the looming deficit. These are some of the news items currently canopying Zambia. And one may ask: “Are these the most serious issues that Zambia should be concerned with right now?”
    The answer is a definite YES and NO. Yes in the sense that these are the issues that are taking away our time energy and intellect to concentrate on developing our nation. No in the sense that, like I have mentioned on this fora before, the real cause of our underdevelopment and lack of

    • CONTD:
      progress is OUR CONSTITUTION. Forget about the draft constitution. It does not address the issue and will not bring us the desired results.
      The solution is to have a HEAD OF STATE who is not a politician (leader of a political Party) at PLOT 1 or STATE HOUSE. Let politicians compete for Government house and to lead cabinet. The current system will not work because we have failed and shall still fail to have real separation of powers among the three arms of government.

  9. Lets be factual. For those that were old on 24/10/1964 and are still living today. There is something to be proud of as country. Zambia has achieved alot in terms of human capital development and infrastructure. We may be lagging behind some of the countries surrounding us at least we are better off. Mr. Sikota Wina was quotated walking from Matero to Freedom House and that those who owned bicycles during colonial days were considered rich. Today we have our engineers, pilots, doctors, charered accountants and bankers the list is endless yet 30 yrs those jobs were a preserve for foreigners. Lets be pround of our own achievments and build further on that one.

    • Apart from the Doctors Engineers, Pilots etc ( that are still in short supply, anyway), what really do we have to show for our fifty years of independence. Mind you this is not about the Party or government in power at the moment but like you’ve rightly said it is about the period 1964 to date. The comparison here is between our peers who were even worse off than we were in 1964 who have made tremendous progress. Any infrastructure that we attempted to develop is now in a state of disrepair all because of the wrong constitution. The wise always say the first step to solving a problem is to accept that the problem exists rather than live in denial and suffer forever.

  10. It is true that KK put up infrastructure. But are you aware that he had the potential to change the face of Zambia for good? There was enough money for KK to have created a wealthy nation but instead he became too power hungry to think constructively and started throwing money around to protect himself and his rule. That is where we lost it. Had we remained a democratic country, Zambia would be different.

    • The huge resources Zambia spent under KK on the liberation struggles in the sub region should have been loans repayable upon the independence of recipient countries. He treated the national treasury as a personal chattel; a father Christmas. However, the free education and health plus infrastructural development were excellent contributions. Fredrick Chiluba’s contribution towards democracy cannot be taken away from him, politicking aside. Mwanawasa’s second term was exemplary. Statistically Rupiah Banda left Zambia’s economy soaring. President Michael Sata is sinking the nation. Soon we shall be talking about light at the end of the tunnel, reminiscent of KK’s final days in office.

    Zambia laments over
    Fifty years of misrule
    Auctioning her to aliens.
    Digging and shipping her gold
    Silently like ghosts
    Spiriting away her emeralds
    Under-declaring business profits
    To escape due tax
    Poaching her bountiful wildlife
    Smuggling ivory and rhino horns.

    Cutting down her timber
    Laying her environment desolate
    To build foreign economies
    Fifty years of principal betrayal
    And you say I must celebrate
    What Golden Jubilee?
    The Golden Jubilee is a titanic mockery
    Nothing but a guise to loot our treasury
    On absurd pervasive politics of benefits.

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