By Sunday Chilufya Chanda
Will the Opposition United Party for National Development (UPND) participate in this year’s Independence Commemoration, breaking from their long-held tradition absconding important national and continental events such as the Africa Freedom Day.
As the title of Nelson Mandela’s book “Long walk to freedom” suggests, the struggle for the political emancipation of Africa and Zambia was a long one. Because of the significance of the day in relation to the heading, this article is also longer than usual.
A BACKGROUND TO ZAMBIA’S INDEPENDENCE DAY
Every year on October 24, Zambia celebrates its Independence Day in commemoration of the day it attained its freedom from British rule in 1964.
In 1889, a treaty was signed between the Lozi overlord and a representative of the British South Africa Company in 1889 establishing British protection. Sir Harry Johnston added Eastern Zambia to Britain’s empire during his conquest of Nyasaland (now Malawi).
British administration in Zambia (then called Northern Rhodesia) was the same like its other African territories. A governor heads a small central council composed of Europeans appointed by the British government. The local rulers are allowed greater freedom under this system of indirect rule. In the late 1920s copper was discovered in the north, this development led to the extension of the railway and the building of the first smelting plants in the so-called copper belt. In 1939, Zambia had become a major producer of copper, and the urbanization of the northwest has begun. The arrival of European technicians and administrators to Zambia was brought about by the copper industry.
In 1953, the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland, comprising the territories of Northern Rhodesia, Southern Rhodesia, and Nyasaland (now Malawi), was dominated by the white population of these territories. Every African politician in the state condemned the federation from its inception by. For Zambia, the path towards independence was more problematic than the other British African territories because the federation had to be broken first.
On 24 October 1964, Northern Rhodesia became the Republic of Zambia, with Kaunda as the first president.
So why would an Opposition party abscond anything to do with commemorating the significance of such an important occasion as our Independence Day?
A BACKGROUND TO AFRICA FREEDOM DAY
On 15 April 1958, at a time when most of Africa was under colonial rule, Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, the Prime Minister of the newly Independent state of Ghana convened and hosted the first ever congress of Independent African States.
The gathering also showcased the progress of liberation movements on the African continent in addition to symbolising the determination of the people of Africa to free themselves from foreign domination and exploitation.
It is at this conference that the concept of commemorating an “Africa Freedom Day” was born.
The day was mooted in order to “…mark each year the onward progress of the liberation movement, and to symbolise the determination of the people of Africa to free themselves from foreign domination and exploitation.”
A few years later, on 25 May 1963, Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia, a country that has never been colonised, hosted in Addis Ababa the representatives of 30 African nations. By then more than two-thirds of the continent had achieved independence, mostly from imperial European states.
It is at this meeting that the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) was founded, with the initial objective of galvanising the decolonisation of Angola, Mozambique, South Africa and Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe). The OAU pledged to support the liberation efforts of freedom fighters in the respective colonies, and remove military access to colonial nations.
Zambia after attaining independence from Britain in 1964 under the leadership of Dr Kenneth Kaunda played a pivotal role in the liberation of neighbours Zimbabwe, Angola and Mozambique and our people also paid the ultimate price with their lives to liberate our brothers and sisters in South Africa from the shackles of Apartheid.
Fast forward to 2002, our nation during the tenure of the Second President Dr Frederick Jacob Titus Chiluba hosted an OAU summit, and it was at this meeting that the continental body was transformed from OAU to the African Union (AU).
In spite of the changed appellation of the continental body, Africa Day continues to be widely celebrated on 25 May by Africans across the globe, in the motherland and in Zambia by everybody…well almost everybody except Mr Hakainde Hichilema and his UPND!
TRIBALISM; AN ARCH-ENEMY OF NATIONALISM & PAN AFRICANISM
The UPND under Mr Hichilema has for over a decade consistently absconded official commemorations of Africa Freedom Day and Independence Day ostensibly because he does not want to observe this day or even his own country’s Independence day until he can do so as Head of State. He has an entrenched “It’s either my way or no way” mentality that blinds him from celebrating others (even freedom fighters).
BLINDED BY THEIR OWN EGO AND TRIBALISM; UPND SNUBS CELEBRATING AFRICA & ZAMBIA
Mr Hichilema’s narcissism and self-centeredness is at the core of his unpatriotic attitude. His self-centeredness has gone to the extreme and it has produced in UPND tribal inclinations that override everything that celebrates national and Pan- African causes. The UPND leader’s very introduction on the political scene was unpatriotic and perverted; it was an act of glorifying Tribalism.
As Guy Scott the former Vice President of Zambia recounts in his recently released book “Zambian Politics: a Story in Black and White”:
_”When Anderson Mazoka the founding President died, a convention was held of the UPND (then as now, the United Party for National Development was the leading opposition party) featuring Tonga warriors with spears and friction drums, galloping around the convention and threatening anyone who would oppose the election of another Tonga to the presidency. The winner in these circumstances was the wealthy privatisation expert, the wealthy Hakainde Hichilema. There was an exodus of non-Tonga leaders…”_
With the systematic hostile ejection of non-Tongas from the time Hichilema took over UPND, its tribal stature has consistently dwarfed its national identity. Tribalism is by its very nature inimical to the concept of Nationalism and Pan-Africanism.
Samora Moisés Machel one of Africa’s greatest revolutionaries and first President of Mozambique once famously said:
“For the nation to live, the tribe must die”.
From 2006 when Hichilema usurped leadership of UPND he expected all Southerners and Bantu Botatwe to automatically support him. UPND ethos since then has been a perverted form of Machels’ mantra: _“The nation must die and the tribe must dominate that I must become President”._ He is neither Nationalist nor Pan-Africanist, that is why Africa Freedom Day and Independence Day celebrations mean nothing to him!
UPND’s tribalism is NOT representative of the people of Southern Province and Bantu Botatwe. Hichilema and his UPND have betrayed the spirit of many of our founding national fathers and gallant freedom fighters who’s roots were in Southern Province. Together with their compatriots from other regions of our nation , they joined forces to overcome the shackles of colonialism to build the nation of Zambia where a common National identity eclipsed tribal character.
Can UPND and Hichilema’s unpatriotic nation-dividing agenda be compared to the following Southern Patriarchs?
1. HARRY MWAANGA NKUMBULA (15 JANUARY 1916 – 8 OCTOBER 1983)
Until the late 1950s, Harry Mwaanga Nkumbula was very much the public face of African nationalism in Northern Rhodesia (colonial Zambia).
While at the London School of Economics in the late 1940s, Nkumbula had been drawn into Pan-Africanist circles and worked closely with Hastings Kamuzu Banda, the future President of Malawi, with whom he co-authored ‘Federation in Central Africa’, ‘a point-by-point rebuttal of federationist arguments as well as the first comprehensive statement of political objectives ever made by Nyasas and Rhodesians’.
Upon his return to Northern Rhodesia in 1950, Nkumbula became president of the newly formed Northern Rhodesia’s African National Congress (ANC) and spearheaded the party’s vehement anti-Federation campaign. In early 1955 Nkumbula and Kaunda were imprisoned together (with hard labour) for distributing “subversive” literature that called for independence.
Column space does not allow me to outline the great contribution this great man made to the freedom we enjoy today.
Just prior to Zambia’s independence, Nkumbula chose to form a coalition with UNIP and was given the post of minister of African education. The UNIP/ANC alliance lasted until the pre-independence elections of January 1964, when UNIP won fifty-five seats to the ANC’s ten seats. Nkumbula became leader of the opposition.
When Kaunda moved to convert Zambia into a one-party state, Nkumbula in the interest of keeping the nation together signed a document called the Choma Declaration on 27 June 1973 and announced that he was joining UNIP.
Nkumbula was a nationalist who sacrificed his personal status for the sake of national unity.
Can the same be said of the “only-me-myself-and-I” Hichilema of today?
2. MAINZA MATHIAS CHONA (21 JANUARY 1930 – 11 DECEMBER 2001)
While Nkumbula remained as leader of the ANC when Kaunda broke from the ANC in October 1958 and formed the Zambia African National Congress (ZANC); Mainza Chona had been a member of ANC while in London and he had not made a choice between the two factions. Due to ZANC’s militancy and its unwillingness to compromise on the issue of “independence now”, Kaunda and other leaders of the new party were detained by the colonial authorities, and ZANC was banned in March 1959.
Chona and other nationalists broke away from the ANC and, in October 1959, Chona became the first president of the United National Independence Party (UNIP), the successor to ZANC. However, he did not see himself as the party’s main founder and he stepped down when Kaunda was released from prison in January 1960.
Would Hichilema have done the same?
As Kaunda’s loyal lieutenant, Chona was elected deputy president of UNIP, but he had to leave Northern Rhodesia to avoid a charge of sedition brought by the increasingly rattled CAF authorities.
Yet again column space cannot allow one to highlight in detail the exploits of one of Zambia’s first lawyers who later served as Vice President of Zambia from 1970 to 1973 and Prime Minister on two occasions: from 25 August 1973 to 27 May 1975 and from 20 July 1977 to 15 June 1978 and defacto second in command in the one-party state when he served as Secretary-General of UNIP, the ruling party, from 1978 to 1981.
The great Nationalist Mainza Chona put Nation above tribe when in the interest of laying the foundation for the nation of “Zambia” he left his tribesmate Nkumbula to join Kaunda.
One wonders; what would the patriarch Mainza Chona have made of the “Only a Tonga Must rule UPND” campaign that paved Hichilema’s way to the leadership of UPND?
There are many other examples too numerous to mention of our Southern Province freedom fighter fore-fathers who placed nation building above tribal interests. Hichilema’s UPND is a disgrace to their memory.
3. ELIJAH HAATUAKALI KAIBA MUDENDA (6 JUNE 1927 – 2 NOVEMBER 2008)
A freedom fighter and post-independence cabinet minister and diplomat who among other things played a significant role in negotiating the construction of TAZARA with the Chinese Government when Zambia was surrounded by hostile colonialist states. So significant were his contributions to the emancipation of his country and Africa that he was conferred the Friendship Medal by Fidel Castro’s Cuba.
What would Elijah Mudenda, Fidel Castro or Che-Guevara make of Hichilema?
4. KEBBY SILILO KAMBU MUSOKOTWANE (5 MAY 1946 – 11 FEBRUARY 1996)
The charismatic and selfless Musokotwane who was one of the closest allies of President Kaunda. Musokotwane served as the 5th Prime Minister of Zambia from 24 April 1985 until 15 March 1989.
How does Hichilema and his UPND compare to Zambia’s fond memory of patriotic “Kebby”?
5. BALDWIN MWANA KUMABU NKUMBULA (DIED 27 AUGUST 1995)
A son of veteran politician Harry Nkumbula, and Minister of Sport in the Chiluba regime, Baldwin was an astute politician in his own right.
Would Baldwin have approved of Hichilema’s “Tongalisation” of UPND?_ _Would Baldwin have approved of Hichilema’s indefinite tenure and Life Presidency of UPND?
6. VERNON JOHNSON MWAANGA (BORN 1939)
How does Hichilema’s narrow tribal agenda compare to the Nationalistic outlook of the versatile living legend Dr Vernon Johnson Mwaanga, freedom fighter, politician and diplomat par excellence who played a key role in championing China’s admission to the UN? How does Hichilema’s UPND’s Sinophobia compare and contrast?
There is really very little (if any) that Hichilema’s style has in common with the pragmatic approach of “VJ”. This is sadly underscored by how UPND cadres brutally assaulted Dr Mwaanga when as Chief Government Spokesperson of MMD Government of late President Levy Patrick Mwanawasa, at the time; he went to deliver a special message of condolences at the funeral house of UPND founder Anderson Mazoka. In a well-documented incident, his UPND assailants physically and verbally abused him for “being a traitor” i.e. being a Southerner and “not supporting a Tonga Party”.
Whereas our forefathers fought to raise national character above tribal identity, there are some that are working overtime to undo what our forefathers worked so hard to build.
Hichilema even spat on the recent National Dialogue Forum’s efforts which includes the honouring Freedom Fighters!
While Africans across the globe celebrate Africa Freedom day, and Zambians celebrate Independence Day, there are some among us who are not celebrating because they are agents of international capital and are being used to provoke regime change for the benefit of their neo-colonial masters. They are but puppets and mouthpieces of the capital!
They do not value it, so they will not celebrate it!
On our part, the Patriotic Front Government led by President Edgar Chagwa Lungu values and celebrates the efforts of our forefathers and we are now building on their foundation with our fight for economic emancipation and creating a better life for ALL.
The Author is Patriotic Front Media Director