By Isaac Mwanza
PRESIDENT Lungu seem to take time to think through his appointments. His appointment of youthful persons to positions of responsibility ought to be commended but also comes with it a challenge for these youthful persons to deliver to the expectations of, not only the Party from where they are being tapped, but also to the nation at large and to the Presidency.
In his wisdom, Dr Kenneth Kaunda had appointed a number of youths as ministers in Zambia’s first cabinet after independence in 1964.
Dr Kaunda, himself was just 40 at independence. Dr. Peter Matoka and Sikota Wina were cabinet ministers under the age of 35. And Zambia’s first Minister of Finance, Arthur Wina, was just 35. Clearly, Zambia’s first Cabinet was one of very young people. It represented the way the independence struggle was waged and who led it.
No doubt, I have met newly appointed Permanent Secretary for Central Province, Chanda Kabwe, during some of the events we conducted and the man, despite his known association with the ruling party, he does always strive to remain above board and serve all the people who come into contact with him. As PS for Central Province, I have hope he won’t confine himself to Kabwe but work to deal with problems across all districts.
Newly appointed District Commissioner for Kitwe, Binwell Mpundu, is another fine young man and, at 34, it should be a great honour for him to serve the people of Kitwe but he should understand that both the outgoing DC and Kitwe Mayor has set standards for Kitwe. It is up to him to work much more harder and take Kitwe to greater height.
Those PF youths who have not been appointed ought to now understand that it takes much thought for the Presidency to finally bestow the honour on a person to serve the people of Zambia.
It is certainly good to have a national leadership that represents all politically active age groups. From the older generation, more wisdom arising from their many years of experience, of struggling is brought into the leadership. And from the youth, who lack experience but have abundance of militancy, enthusiasm and energy is added the experience of the older generation. A combination of these is required for efficient, effective and orderly leadership.
But one doesn’t become a leader simply because he or she is a youthful like Mayor Christopher Pikiti-kang’ombe, Minister Vincent Mwale, Binwell Mpundu or Chanda Kabwe. And you will not become a District Commissioner, Permanent Secretary minister simply because he has four, five, six, seven or eight decades of experience like Ministers Joyce Nonde or Freedom Sikazwe
Leaders will always come from those who are able and are willing to lead. In his address to the UNIP national council in 1968, Zambia’s founding father, Dr. Kenneth David Kaunda said:
“Every struggle that is not spearheaded or supported by the youth will not succeed. For one thing, like mothers they are fearless; Secondly, the future of the country depends very much on how we shape the young ones of today.
You will not become leaders simply because you belong to the youth of today. This nation will choose its leaders from among those who are responsible, those who realise, understand and appreciate the importance of man and his position in all things on earth. The task of preparing the young people of today is a responsibility that must be shared between them and us.”
But Dr. Kaunda went further than just recognizing youth leadership when he noted:
“It falls to few generations to share in the task of building a new nation. But this honour carries with it great responsibilities. If we are to live up to the challenge before us, we must cultivate certain essential values; a love of learning, tenacity of purpose, a mind attuned to new ideas, a sense of respect for the human personality and a dedication to the service of mankind”
(opening of the University of Zambia, March 18, 1966).
Political leadership should not be the preserve at any given time of one generation only. The best of all generations should come together, blend, cooperate and lead the country.
The best of each generation brings something to the table that is of great importance. The experience of older leaders cannot be done away with just like i have learnt a lot from the wisdom and experience of two people i can call my good mentors (of course after my father), Peter Mpande and Suman Patel. But the militancy of the young leaders like Mayor Kangombe, DC Mpundu, Minister Mwale is also vital in National Building. Youthful persons like George M. Chellah, one of youngest person to have served as Presidential Press Aide to the most difficult and complicated President from the old school, late Michael Sata, known for his strong language, a temperamental and impulsive person, are a testimony that when given an opportunity to serve, youth can do their very best, under prevailing circumstances.
All over the world, from South Africa’s Apartheid to the North Africa uprising, it is young people who are painfully involve themselves in the struggle to eliminate oppression and exploitation and improve the lives and dignity of their people. Nelson Mandela once said, “Young people are capable, when aroused, of bringing down the towers of oppression and raising the banners of freedom.” In fact, most leaders who are democratically elected in Africa like late Michael Sata and President Lungu ought to owe it to the youth.
Young people who are genuinely concerned with the affairs of their country, community and nation deserve to be admired and to be respected. Young people from political parties don’t deserve to be used as praise singers even for things they can see are wrong but must be encouraged to critically think and empowered to make contributions.
Unfortunately, youth who embark on that path do not have the experience of someone who has been around for a longer period. One would wish a young person, with all his militancy and energy like the ones I saw from 44 young African politicians from Malawi and Zambia during the Program for Young Politicians in Africa (PYPA) training had also the experience of someone older. This combination is difficult to find in one person. And because of this, there is need to blend people from different age groups or generations into a nation’s political leadership.
And moreover, this country is for the young people as well as the older ones, but in the last analysis, it is for young people. Zambia’s President Edgar Lungu, in opening the 12th Session of the National Assembly reminded that Parliament which has zero youth: “we do not inherit our country from our forefathers or ancestors, we borrow it from our children”.
Indeed, young people, full of vigour and vitality, are in the bloom of life, like the sun in the morning. Our hope is placed on them. Our country belongs to them. Zambia’s future belongs to them.
The youth must be helped to understand the challenges of our country and Africa as a whole and that only through the united effort of our younger generation and all our people, working together, can Zambia and Africa be made strong and prosperous. Again let me re-echo the words of President Lungu:
“We cannot talk about development or indeed the prosperity of our country without recognizing a huge section of our society whose voices are predominantly overlooked – our children. For a long time, we have assumed that children should only be seen and not heard. If we indeed believe (and I am sure we all do,) in the long-term prosperity and development of our country”
And because of their lack of political and social experience, young people like me may not always be able to see the contrast between the Zambia of yesterday and that of today, and it may not be easy for us to comprehend the hardships our people went through in the struggle to free themselves from colonial and neo-colonial domination and put the nation where it is today. It is therefore important to constantly carry on lively political education among the young people and tell them the truth about the difficulties that crop up and discuss with them how to surmount these difficulties.
Young people are the most active and vital force in society. They are the most eager to learn and the least conservative in their thinking. We hope those in the political leadership of our country will do everything possible to bring into full play the energy of our youth by appropriately incorporating them in the structures of government and in the political leadership of our country.
Young people should not be treated in the same way as everybody else and ignore their special characteristics. Of course, young people should learn from the old and other adults, and should strive as much as possible to engage in all sorts of useful activities with their agreement.
There is need to include more and more young people into the highest structures of government. Currently, we do not have anyone who can be said to be a youth in Cabinet. If an opportunity arises to infuse a deserving youth in President Lungu’s Cabinet, there should be no hesitation from President Lungu to do so. It shouldn’t be forgotten that the basic clay of our work is the youth. Let’s place our hope in them and prepare them to take the banner from our hands. President Lungu must consider appointing the Youth Advisor to the President who shall focus herself or himself, not in singing praises for the President but someone who can openly discuss the plight of the youth and galvanise ideas that provide solutions.
Join me in thanking President Lungu for his continued search to find deserving youth who can serve this nation and we hope our young colleagues will serve with honour. Congratulations to both Chanda Kabwe and Binwell Mpundu on your appointment.
Youthful persons who are being given an opportunity to serve this beautiful country under President Lungu are certainly very lucky. You are dealing with a young and educated President, a free spirited kind of Boss. One who is adaptive to the times and seasons. What more can you ask for? Now that you have been given an opportunity, use it to serve the nation ahead of your party or families. Do not fail to reflect the character of your boss and to take advantage of his strength in order to come up with a domineering brand that puts Zambia First.
The Author is the beneficiary of US President Barak Obama’s Mandela Washington Fellowship (2014); also Governance Advisor at the Young African Leaders Initiative and now leader at the yet-to-be opened Jefferson Presidential Precinct (JPP) in Kamaila Suburbs of Chisamba, Kabwe Rural