IN 2011, I published Zambia: Struggles of My People. In this book I rather presciently predict the future of Zambia from what has gone before. I detail our struggles from pre-colonial days to colonial days to post-colonial days. It is documentation in time of the real struggles of the Zambian people. It is barely three years after Struggles of My People and as I look back I am still touched by the quandary of my people.
2014 announced a Zambian Jubilee, 50 years of self-rule, of self-determination and of freedom from colonial bondage from the former British Empire. It was on October 24th, 1964 when the red-green-orange-black flag was lifted and a new nation called Zambia was created. She was no longer a habitat of Cecil John Rhodes (Northern Rhodesia). The people of Zambia had become tired of being “boys” and wanted to be “men.” Today after 50 years of that so-called independence we are still left with so many questions.
Foremost among these questions is: are we better off 50 years after the fact? It is clear that the answer or response to that cannot be “fair,” “good” or “best”. We may have to search deeply into our souls to be able to provide a better answer. But whatever route we may take politically, economically or religiously, things have not been getting better. Some people might even say that things have worsened. However, such an indictment would be blatant disregard of the efforts and the progress the Zambian people, in particular, and some African states in general, have made.
Taking the case of Zambia as an example, successive Zambian governments have built some notable infrastructures in terms of schools, colleges or universities and hospitals. Most of these were built after independence. We may as well note that in terms of socio-political stability Zambia — which in 2014 was ranked the third most peaceful nation in Africa and 44th in the world, according to the 2014 Global Peace Index and beaten only by Mauritius and Ghana — has been a successful story. Zambia can also boast of being a regional heavy weight in the way she has postured herself as a fountain of refuge and protection for all those running away from war, civil wars and regional distress.
Zambia has registered massive successes in the integration of tribal aggregates into a One-Zambia One-Nation formulation. This in part can be attributed to the spirit of compromise and tolerance our fore-fathers under the Kenneth Kaunda era tried and strived to impart at every level of government. In a way, it can be said that Zambia has recorded notable economic stability post-Structural Adjustment Program (SAP) era. This though, is relative and may not be accepted by all reasonable Zambians.
Politically it is an elephant in the room, but speaking from an historical nuance Zambia has done well in political changes after 1991. Kenneth Kaunda’s rule of 27 years cannot be justified even given the sometimes uncouth records of those who succeeded him Frederick Chiluba; Levy Mwanawasa; Rupiah Banda; and Michael Sata (President Sata died on Tuesday). Credit should however, be given to Chiluba for ushering in the most coveted multi-party politics; Mwanawasa for setting into place an agenda for economic progress; Banda for a short but frugal determination to hand over power peacefully to the Patriotic Front (PF) after failure to win the 2011 presidential elections; and Sata despite his frail health, for showing that with courage a staunch Movement for Multi-party Democracy (MMD) government could be changed without resorting to the bullet.
In spite of the aforementioned and putting politicking aside a genuine question to be answered is still this: are we better off than we were before independence? We have done much to quell and curb repression and the rule of emergency regimes; we have instituted a working two-tenure presidential regime; and we have removed excesses in the quartered regime vis-à-vis our copper mining sector. But we still are tormented by the huge number of our people living in abject poverty, with hunger in rural areas, with lack or poor and inadequate education, and of course, our precious people dying from curable diseases. From whatever angle you look at it, and as I mentioned politics aside, we have a long way to go to create conditions that favour a much more magnanimous and prosperous society. Zambia is still bleeding internally.
Earnestly, I ask this question: can we let this quagmire, this state of impoverishment follow us into the next 50 years? We have seen, we have heard, we have touched and we have felt, but it is time to do! And going by what has gone before, the current crop of the Zambian politicians ran out of ideas in the 1980s. Even post-1991 they have not regained tract. They are old and tired, and if they are young, they cannot admit it they have been made redundant by the ineffective policies and the 1970 economic models they still espouse, mostly engineered by the old guards!
Zambia needs new blood, new formulae and new assistants to drive the Zambian economic and political machines. We, the up and coming hope of Zambia cannot insult the spirit and hard work that built our structures. No, we should not! We cannot ignore the good efforts the previous regimes have worked to instill. Even that, we should not! We cannot overlook the good intentions of those who died for the causes of our freedom and independence. That would be an error of historical proportions. But we should also not forget that if we sit and do nothing we will end up with the same poor, stagnant and attendant results.
Where are the vibrant, the innovative, and our contemporary thinkers? Where are our educated lot, our exposed statesmen, and our assiduous intellectuals? Where are the young, with their new and progressive ideas? Where are the women, who still hold a key to Zambian, and African progress? Where are you, with your brain, your intellect, your time, your experience and your resourcefulness? Where are we when Zambia, and Africa, needs us most?
Zambia, in particular, needs a progressive and golden thinker-brand. Zambia needs a new dream, a new hope, and a new perspective on how to run government and set priorities. If we don’t want to change Zambia no-one will change her for us! It’s Time!
Charles Mwewa is author of Zambia: Struggles of My People and Sail Without Ship: Poetry of Post-Independence Africa, A case of Zambia.