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Author Archives: Katongo Mupunda

About Katongo Mupunda

Perceptive person that takes an interest in the immediate environment with a view to be a positive mind and voice that expresses thoughts, opinions and views objectively and as innocently as a simple mind can.

RSA Xenophobia: tears, ashes and ingratitude

 

The pain of those images coming out of South Africa is unbearable. Watching people so closely linked suck life out of another brother or sister is a shock.

This is all happening in a nation that owes its freedom to the neighbourliness of the countries around it. An entire continent in fact. A nation whose umbilical cord is so linked to Africa’s history and heritage. You only have to listen to some of their languages or indeed the national anthem to appreciate this fact.
But now we see flesh burning, bones broken with rocks and people battered to pulp. Why? Because they are foreigners in that land…the same status South Africans had when their home knew no peace. 
When I first heard the report on these attacks, I downplayed it assuming it was a one-off that would be explained as some drunken mistake in a compound. 
But then it continued and reality dawned that Africa had a huge problem. Fueled by amnesia. A problem that in 2008 reared its head . About 60 lives were lost then when xenophobic attacks surfaced in South Africa. Another 4 people died in attacks on foreign shops in January this year. 

Now this atrocious evil has come to life again this April with about 7 people reported dead, including South Africans (how ironic). 
But we all wonder what has changed. And indeed we seek to know, what has happened in South Africa?
A great man departs
Perhaps in Madiba’s demise, we had seen the end of South Africa’s rainbow beauty. 
He had been the symbol of unity, restraint and reconciliation. He believed in it, suffered for it and because of that commitment, the nation held together.
But now it may appear that long walk was a lonely one too. The bulk of the nation perhaps did not walk with him, did not believe with him and were not ready to sacrifice as he and his compatriots did. Of course, that cannot be a sweeping statement labelling all South Africans as such.
However, it is clear some held back only as a mark of respect for what Madiba had done for the country.
Even though restrained collectively, the volcano had been simmering underneath. Ready to erupt and spit out its hot spew. And now the world can see the rot so perfectly disguised over the years. Right from prominent members of society to the shacks. It is evident that some underlying issues have not been dealt with as yet. 
This is the classic failure of a nation. A nation that has departed from its history and chosen to forget where it has come from. 
What some feared would happen post Mandela’s death has began to show. Now louder and deadlier than ever. This once beautiful nation with abundant potential is now easily collapsing to its knees as blacks kill blacks. Africans killing Africans. How heart-wrenching. 
Without a doubt, there are good South Africans who do not endorse this primitivity and arrogance. But as evil’s nature may be, the good is usually overshadowed. There remains a lot to be done to stamp this out and put the perpetrators in place.
This is the challenge the good South Africans face. The burden on the shoulders of the nation’s leaders. 
And the call to deal with the real issue(s) that will not just evaporate into submission and oblivion.
When leadership fails to inspire
An influential figure, King Goodwill Zwelithini of the Zulu, has been widely quoted in the media for allegedly stating that foreigners should pack and go. 
The President’s son, Edward Zuma, was also said to have made a statement bordering on being alarming. This has, with great difficulty, been justified as not being xenophobic but reported out of context. 
The number of scandals associated with politicians has also consistently been in the news. This is especially the case for the top citizen,  the President himself. The massive Nkandla estate is undoubtedly a statue of leadership shortcomings.
The foregoing really highlights a huge challenge emanating from the leadership realm. Careless and irresponsible statements, luxurious tastes and the seemingly “usual” failed leadership without notable direction. 
These without needing much thought or debate have contributed to what we see today. A nation that had hope and dreamed before, is now despondent. 
The incidents may be localised in one or two areas reported so far. But it could be the signs of birth pains, problems that lie ahead for this nation. Demons they must face urgently today and not tomorrow.
But to deal with this mess requires inspirational leadership, brutal honesty and a citizenry ready to face the harsh reality of their situation and what they must do.
Right frustrations, wrong enemy

And this is precisely what has not happened with those perpetrating this violence. Yes they are frustrated about some things. Yes they may be unhappy about their household or national economic situation. Yes some of the dreams they had have not materialised.

It is absolutely commendable that these South Africans realise this and are expressing their unhappiness.

However, they now attack the wrong enemy. Their energy is expended on the wrong target. It is not the foreigners at fault. In fact, it is not the foreigner that has sweated to set up a shop in the community that is to blame. The one who also struggles in his(her) own way to make a decent living.

It is not that able foreign African who realises they must work to sustain their lives. The one who has commandeered their entrepreneurial self to survive, the one who has pursued education to equip themselves with knowledge and build a career. 

This is a blatant fact those ignorant and violent South Africans must face. Those South Africans shallow enough to kill their own blood in misguided and emotional attacks.

Yes some of these foreigners are in RSA illegally. That too has a process to help deal with. The legality and status of anyone has a process provided for within the confines of the law. Anything done outside the laws has never been successful at all. It is a sure recipe for anarchy, chaos and destruction. 

Let the law deal with the illegal Africans. No one must ever be a law unto themselves and administer it as they deem fit.
Laziness and entitlement mindset
The real issue must be faced. The truth must be told. 
What is that truth? It is that these South Africans that are burning their brothers and sisters are lazy. 
They are crippled by the mindset of entitlement. Believing that since they are now “free”, they deserve everything they put a hand up for without a sweat.
This is the arrogance we now see that penalises those that are working to provide for their lot. It defies logic to assume that because one is foreign, they are illegal in that land. That they can be of no economic benefit. 
Some of the foreigners in South Africa today actually add more value to the country’s economy than the locals. That is a fact that cannot be disputed and holds true in most countries and not just South Africa. Afterall, are we not in a global village?
When history is forgotten
What is happening in South Africa is painful and sad reading for a continent emerging as a potentially huge economic power. It is bad publicity and just what cynics would love to tell a depressing African story.
Is this what the continent’s rebranding journey should face? Surely not.
We are here because some people have opted for ignorance over progress. 
Those people that have chosen to forget their history and throw it out completely. Either because they do not value it at all or they have never known in full.
Where South Africa has come from, what its leaders have fought for and the contribution of other African nations, is prominently available in history. 
The challenge we now have and each country must take, is that no nation must allow its history to die. Or to be adulterated by opportunists and economic snipers with their selfish motives. 
History must live on even generations after its makers are long gone. It must have a life of its own, well chronicled and deliberately shared with all generations. 
What we now see in South Africa is the fruit of a nation that has detached itself from its history. One that has no appreciation of how it was helped to get to where it is. A people puffed up with pride, believing what they are and have is their own work. All else and all others matter less.
It is those South Africans that have no sense of their past that now burn others alive. That pummel other Africans with bricks as though they were crashing an adder. The heartless ones who sadly have African blood flowing in their veins but think less of other Africans.
Who loses out in the end?
It is the nation that neglects its history. The people who have no respect for why Mandela made it a point to extensively visit African nations after his release. 
Those people whose stupidity and shallow humanity overwhelms ubuntu and the community Africa has laboured to build through sweat, blood and sacrifice. Losers who do not deserve to even be called Africans.
Imagine for a second if Africa had not opened its doors to South Africans during the Apartheid era?
If African nations responded now by lashing out at South Africans or anything South African?
If this reality is not fully grasped by these few good for nothing South Africans, the nation faces a bleak future. One of a nation run down with a tattered reputation, damaged infrastructure and strained relationships. An nation detached from its neighbours. A shameful black sheep and member of the community.
The truly African and decent citizens of this rainbow nation must rise to the challenge. To defeat the evil and ignorant lot that are determined to destroy all the progress made over the decades. 
There have been enough tears and so many ashes already to let any ingratitude cost more lives.
  1. For now our prayer is that “Nkosi sikeleli SOUTH AFRICA”.
 
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Posted by on April 22, 2015 in Leadership, Opinion, Politics, Social

 

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A tale of positives: some hope for Africa?

 The month of March has come with some welcome surprises for our beloved continent.

These may well be ordinary events for some. But they are notable strides for a continent oft associated with poverty, corruption, autocratic rulers, disease and any negativity imaginable.

The dates of interest when these events occurred are 8th, 26th and 31st March. Reviewing each of these casts some clear light on why this is positive for Africa.

His Excellency collapses
It was to be a warm Sunday and our women were to be celebrated. It was their day, women’s day on 8th March.
A prize would be in order for anyone that remembers the theme this year. Because the event in Zambia was overshadowed by what happened on the main podium. 
President Edgar Lungu was reported to have collapsed. Medics immediately swung into action to manage this public spectacle. Social media was awash with varying accounts of what happened. The print media had their own way of reporting the following day what transpired.
Before leaving the Heroes National Stadium, President Lungu took to the podium to announce that he was feeling uncomfortable and would be leaving but the event could continue.
And he left.
Uhuru cracks the whip
Fast track to Nairobi a couple of weeks later on 26th March.

Corruption continues to haunt Africa relentlessly. So many statements have been made about this plague and politically correct efforts publicised, perhaps for the cameras and microphones (who knows!).
Therefore when President Uhuru Kenyatta in Kenya delivered the state of the nation address (a constitutional requirement, by the way, at least once yearly), not much may have been expected. At least from the perspective of the average African. 
However, what ensued after the address was to say the least encouraging. What happens further in this episode will be even more inspiring should it yield anticipated (or is it desired) end results.
It has been reported that this vice of corruption has been spiralling out of control in Kenya among top officials. It is therefore not surprising that President Kenyatta was accorded a standing ovation after his speech when he did the unprecedented, directing that all officials regardless of position step aside to facilitate investigations.
The Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) had issued a confidential report listing scandals and naming officials linked to the rot. 
In cementing this stern message and setting the tone, President Kenyatta could not be more explicit when he stated that “Consequently, I hereby direct that all officials of the national and county governments that are adversely mentioned in this report, whether you are a Cabinet secretary, principal secretary, or chief executive of a State institution, to immediately step aside pending conclusion of the investigations of the allegations against them.”

Usually this would be taken as political rhetoric. But since the address, several top officials have stepped down from their positions as they comply with the President’s directive. 

This is a development that cannot be ignored both in Kenya and across Africa. It is time real action was taken against corruption at the top level.
No more luck for Goodluck
Away from Kenya, on the Western side of the continent, a milestone in democracy was underway at the end of March. 
Nigeria was voting.
The continent’s most populous nation  had its presidential polls. The contest was a very close one between the incumbent Goodluck Jonathan and former military ruler Muhhamadu Buhari. 
Goodluck’s People’s Democratic Party (PDP), in power since 1999, was on the wane and his popularity shaken in the wake of various factors including the elusive Boko Haram.
On the other hand, Buhari’s All Progressives Congress (APC) had mobilised to unite the opposition to challenge the ruling party. This was refreshing on a continent that has briefcase and one man/woman political parties. 
By the evening of March 31st, President Jonathan had conceded defeat. It was widely reported that he had actually called his opponent to congratulate him on the victory. 
That gesture too can well be considered a rarity on the continent. But there it was happening in our time again. 
So what does this mean for Africa?
The biggest question for us all is what this may signal for our beloved Africa. Are these flukes or signs of efforts to do things in a new way by our leaders?
President Lungu’s collapse and how this was handled speaks volumes of the progress we have made or can make. The issue here is not what is speculated about the authorities being forced to own up. 
 What I believe is commendable is the President making the effort to step back on the podium and let the people know he was not well.
Zambia has lost two presidents in office and one in retirement. This is quite a number for a half century old nation. This therefore immediately makes presidential health a very public issue. The country has endured enough pain and huge resource drain due to presidential deaths.
So the fact that President Lungu shared his condition that day and regular updates followed on a daily basis is nothing short of commendable. 
This transparency is a welcome development on a continent where the president’s health is a closely guarded secret. 
Additionally, what happened in Kenya also sets the long overdue standard against corruption and poor leadership. 
It is very appropriate for President Kenyatta to take the tough stance he has. Even more heartening is that this did not end up on a forgotten piece of paper (speech) or end with clever oratory. The cited senior officials have stepped aside.
For once we are seeing action beyond rhetoric. How many more leaders will now follow suit? We watch expectantly.
Finally, in Nigeria, an incumbent president was defeated and he conceded. This is a nation not shy on coup attempts and military takeovers. It has a very volatile governance past.
President Jonathan becomes the first sitting president to be ousted from power in Nigeria.With all the instruments and advantages of incumbency at his disposal, he did not opt to challenge the wrong way.
The fact that this is beginning to happen in Africa should boost our hope for a better future. In the recent past, Zambia had in 2011 also experienced this when President Rupiah Banda conceded following defeat at the hands of the late opposition leader Michael Sata. On the eastern side of Zambia  the same fate befell Malawi’s President Joyce Banda.
In addition to this democratic milestone, this must serve as a loud message for all our leaders, current and future. The people are now watching closely and have become very clear about their expectations. This is extremely critical in driving accountability on the part of our leaders. 
Leaders must no longer get away with promises they make with no attempt to follow through or deliver on. Any leader worth their salt must keep their side of the bargain and walk the talk. 
Like both President Bandas, the citizens now speak loudly through the ballot, making it known that they cannot be taken for granted anymore.  Delivery, inspirational and transformational leadership is what our continent requires to keep us relevant and progressive.
The dawn of hope
The foregoing may appear simplistic. But with an eye on where Africa is coming from, these are milestones that must be celebrated. 
It is a fact that there remains a lot of work to be done to move Africa forward. But even baby steps are a welcome indication of development. But the more we begin to see a progressive brand of leadership, it will soon become a norm and a minimum expectation. 
We deserve it and we must demand it. It is the only way Africa will exploit and realise her fullest potential. 
As I ponder on these events in March, I cannot ignore the growing sense of optimism that is building inside me.
Maybe, just maybe, this is a good sign of things to come. One cannot be blamed for being hopeful.
The sun seems to finally be shining on Africa.
 

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Just these 10 things Mr President!

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Dear Mr President,

The drama, anxiety and tension is done. The Presidential by-election is behind us and Zambia has yet again ushered in a new Republican President.

Congratulations on your appointment and may God be your guide in this important job.

I take this opportunity to draw your attention to a few things that in my view are of critical and immediate importance.

1. Heal the nation

This election and the campaigns have exposed a delicate cancer we must wipe out. The nation has been left polarised on tribal lines. Never have we seen conversations, discussions and opinions degenerate to the tribe one is.

For the first time, we have witnessed colleagues that have co-existed all along differ and be at odds bitterly with tribe at the heart of these differences. This cannot be right and we must curb this for the sake of our future.

Your role Mr President is to bring this nation together. We must remember we are One Zambia, One Nation. We are Zambians and that is the most important thing. It is my hope that this will reflect in your approach, appointments and aspirations for this country. This must by all means be a priority.

2. New Constitution

The nation has spoken several times and the demand of we the people has been clear. We need a new a Constitution. It may not be perfect but it will be the beginning of a journey to correct some of the inherent flaws we have experienced as a nation.

It may not be far from the truth that we are fatigued because of this dragging process. Tired of the different Constitution commissions, roadmaps and pronouncements. It is time to execute and deliver. Mr President, you have the opportunity to make history by delivering a people driven constitution. The biggest test you face here is keeping your word.

The time has come for us to institutionalise our democracy. It has become imperative that we do so and there can be no better time than now. It will not only save costs but it will have significant bearing on strengthening our much cherished democracy.

We expectantly will keep an eye on you Mr President, believing that this too is a matter of priority.

3. International leadership

Once again Zambia has managed a leadership transition smoothly through the ballot. This makes good reading for us as a pioneer of democracy on the continent. This is a pole position to be maintained on a continent full of questionable power struggles and imposed leadership.

Similarly, for so many years Zambia played an instrumental role in continental affairs. During the liberation struggle and years after that, our country has been an active player in international affairs. But we have faded into obscurity somewhat.

It is time to review our foreign policy positioning. Times have changed since the liberation struggle days. But we have a lot to share in terms of democratic progress.

Likewise, there are various things critical for our nation, region and continent that we can now focus on. These are things beyond politics such as health, technology and agriculture among many. These are areas we must take a lead in which have an impact on our people.

3. Integrity and maturity

The reputation of most of our leaders lies in tatters. Redemption is inevitable and a loud call. There is an urgent need for a different brand of leadership. Progressive leadership.

This we hope to see in your conduct as well as the approach you take in managing yourself and what you demand of your team.

Many a time, our political leaders have fallen for an unfortunate egotistic manner of leadership. Failing to read the mood or appreciate what the people desire. We expect maturity from you. In the way you handle national affairs, non-partisan events and even engagement with other players you may not be in agreement with such as opposition leaders and the media.

4. Refreshed vision

Every party is guided by its manifesto and agenda. That is understandable and acceptable.

However, there has been a critical direction taken over the last few years. That of having a national roadmap that outlines our aspirations beyond a sitting government. The Vision 2030 is this comprehensive and cardinal blueprint.

Please refresh and review this blueprint to ensure we remain on track. Even more importantly, let it be a transparent journey where we will all be kept abreast as we progress.

It is time to aspire for greater heights as a nation.

5. Challenge our institutions

Yes we have made headway in so many areas. But a lot more remain. Mr President, please use your new privileged position to steer our core institutions in the right direction.

Our Civil service, public institutions, Legislative and Judicial arms among others. Outline your expectations and let it be known what will need to become the norm in the conduct of their business.

Similarly, one of the institutions that must change its ways is the Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ). They have done a commendable job in this election in spite of their challenging circumstances. But it must be noted that there are a lot of Zambians that have been disenfranchised.

Some have come of age but have not been registered. Others have moved from their last constituencies and registration points but could not be transferred to other stations. While still some may not have exercised their right to vote simply because of their hairstyles and nails!

Voter education is paramount. But even more necessary is for the ECZ to adhere to the law and ensure continuous voter registration is adopted. I believe failure to do this has been on account of a lack of political will as opposed to limited resources.

6. Talk to your people

Yes this may appear like a straight forward request. But it may also be an easily ignored undertaking. Take the necessary time to speak to your people.

Let us know what you are doing, achieving and planning. Let us know what you and your team are struggling with. Hear too what your people are seeing, experiencing and yearning to share with you.

Communication is paramount and we may not all have easy access to you or your office. Therefore, the more you reach out to us, the more we will willingly follow on our nation’s journey.

7. Infrastructure development must continue

We have over the last few years seen that it is possible to invest in our nation’s infrastructure. There has been debate about the source of these resources. That is another discussion.

However, we now know that time is not a factor and even within a year or three, so much can be done for our roads, health facilities, schools and even other high impact sectors such as agriculture and manufacturing.

We still face an uphill battle against poverty. You must not rest Mr President until you set in motion real momentum to reverse our ills. Our infrastructural development is a catalyst for the development we so much pursue.

8. Appoint on merit

You are but only one man, very human like all of us. Therefore, the people you surround yourself with will be the determinants of your success. Or failure.

This is where the wisdom you referred to during campaigns comes in. Pick people that are strong and will offer you the challenging support needed for you to deliver. This should also include as much as possible those people that can criticise you candidly when you need it.

By all means, do not surround yourself with praise singers and job seekers. This has been the failing of many gone before you.

Lastly, as you appoint your team, let this be meritorious and balanced. Search broadly and let your team be representative of our great nation’s diversity.

9.Meet the Opposition

This remains largely uncommon this part of the world. But the fact that it is rare does not entail it is impossible.

Extend an invitation and frequently engage the Opposition. For consultation and the exchange of ideas that will be helpful for our great nation. And this is not as a one off but as frequent as practically possible and value adding.

Yes even they want to win the next elections and you want to claim your own success, without outside influence.

But both your government and the opposition must remember that this is about Zambia. Not party or personal agendas. The nation’s progress must not be delayed until one is in office, Opposition or otherwise.

Extend the invitation and let it be accepted or rejected.

10. Humility and respect for the people

God grants leadership. This alone must always challenge you to remain humble and determined to serve to the best of your ability. Do not allow the trappings of power to steer you away from your noble job. Recognize God’s role in your current circumstances and let Him be your guide, no matter how difficult.

Additionally, if there is one thing this election has shown all of us, it is two things.

Firstly, that Zambians are tired of being taken for granted by our politicians and leaders. An average voter turnout of 32.36% is a source of huge concern. It is dangerous when the people decide not to care anymore and feel hopeless.

Secondly, it is the fact that Zambians are paying close attention to real issues and the quality of delivery. It is no longer about a road here and a clinic there. It is also about the commitment to honor promises or acknowledgement where delivery is delayed. Every leader must now pay close attention to this or ignore it at their own peril.

Please take note.

Once again, congratulations your Excellency and I can only wish you well. Yours is not an enviable role because of the enormity of expectations. It will not be easy. But it also is the best possible opportunity for you to make a mark and stand out as one of our exceptional leaders. In the end, it remains a choice you must make.

There will be no luxury of time as 2016 is but a few months away.

We will be watching closely. Make your mark on history Mr President.

God bless you and your government.
God bless our great nation, Zambia.

Proudly Zambian.

 
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Posted by on January 25, 2015 in Leadership, Opinion, Politics

 

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The death of One Zambia One Nation

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In April 2012, I wrote an article Of tribalism and narrow minds. I had shared my thoughts then based on the observation of a silent but potent threat that our country faced.

Over two years later, I believe firmly this danger is growing even stronger by the day. I am seeing it prominently appear each time I surf social media for trends and any active discussions in the country. Sadly even some comments that have been widely publicised and attributed to some of our leaders make it an even bigger issue.

So who’s talking tribal?

In the recent weeks, we have heard some very negative remarks from one of our MPs regarding President Sata’s funeral proceedings. It bordered strongly on an off remark about tribe. The observation made may have been meant to drive a point home but it also was a reflection of a possible unfortunate national challenge.

When one scours different forms of social engagement and discourse such as Facebook, print media and Online publications, it is easy to pick a growing sense of disunity and erroneous pride. The comments associated with different discussions point to a sharp rise in tribal undertones.

The country is currently highly politicised and approaching a presidential by-election as well as national elections in 2016. However, the general emphasis of most discussions is painfully obscure and not premised on quality leadership or delivery at all. On the contrary, many such debates or discussions effortlessly degenerate into tribal exchanges.

It is not rare now to find comments about which part of the country one hails from, negative attributes of one tribe compared to another and anything else so irrelevant.

At this stage, we should be pressing our presidential hopefuls and current leaders on their vision. On the important aspects of how they will deliver on flowery promises, given our history of disappointment. Alas, there is quite a substantial amount of time lost on matters so trivial such as names and provincial origins.

An Ignored reality or fanning a flame?

Has it been a rapid deterioration or was it a cancer subtly working its way through the core of our nation’s soul?

I have always held and still do that tribalism is one of the worst forms of disability. This is a nation that has a rich history of unity and co-existence. Or perhaps not?

Most of us have grown up not bothering about where our friends come from and what language they speak. As long as we could communicate, there was no issue. I look back at my friends, colleagues, workmates etc and all have obviously been of different tribes. And at no point has this ever been an issue. I actually now have to scratch my head to remember if I ever knew which province my friends were from, growing up.

But it now appears so prevalent that this is at the heart of debates. It now seems more important than any other demands we have of our current and potential leaders. We now not only speak but also think in terms of a tribe of thieves, minority tribes, selfish tribes etc, the list goes on. And even the people that must lead a whole nation speak very little of national identity and unity. This is dangerous.

Maybe while the nation has grown over the last half century, this is one wound that never healed under the surface but was instead treated with bandages to pacify it. Or it may be that we have gotten so comfortable with our unity and peace that it has a very low price attached to it.

Whichever the case, the solution does not lie in playing our way right into a time bomb. Instead it lies in a nation and its people facing up to an ugly evil, then charting a positive way forward.

Freedom of expression or freedom of implosion?

The conception of technological advancement has remarkably led to the delivery of a bouncy baby. This is a healthy baby called freedom. More people are freer to share thoughts via the multiple channels available.

But as the case is with most things, abuse and irresponsibility also follow in close tow. Where we ought to witness more progress, we have been introduced to the ill of stupidity. It is this ailment that has resulted in the unfortunate proliferation of regrettable and shallow tribal talk.

It is the ultimate wish of every progressive individual that any development will be a positive change agent. This appears not to be the case when social media, pub talk, household chatter and those private corners are all being sucked into who is more Zambian than others.

God in His wisdom has made us all different and like the parts in the human body, all have a role to play. It is not anyone’s fault or choosing to be born in one part of the country and not the other. It is not anyone’s choice to speak one language over another. It should not be a curse or problem if one language is spoken less or widely by others. What must matter is that citizens of a country can communicate, co-exist and understand each other.

There must never be any claim of superiority or the deliberate despising of other tribes. One tribe’s prominence over another may merely be a function of demographics and the resultant ease of adoption. But never must this be a factor that divides our people. Our common heritage and nationality is far bigger than any individual’s tongue. Nothing can ever make you nor I superior than another because ultimately we have the same claim. We are Zambian.

The freedom we now enjoy to express ourselves must be a celebration of our diversity. Not an outlet for pettiness and absurdity. So this freedom must never at any point be abused or used unwisely.

This responsibility lies not only with us individuals on every sideline but also our leaders. Most importantly, we also have the media, a key pillar in any nation’s development. We need to witness more maturity in editorial policy with a sustained pursuit of unity and decency over tribalism and exclusion.

A nation of christians or children of the devil?

So much has been said and claimed about our status as a christian nation. Many are the professions we hear about our godliness. But in the end, our deeds carry more weight than our spoken word. Everyone yearns to be associated with the good, straight and clean.

However, what we see and hear in our beloved nation shows a deep wrong that must be fought and defeated before it tears our nation apart. We are one people and if we are, love and unity must prevail at all costs.

But when we let careless tribal talk define who we will get along with, we are doomed. Our children may inherit a rotten perception and understanding of what it is to be Zambian. I pray and hope the technology that we embrace today will spare future generations the curse of tribalism. By uniting all across tribe, race and all things we do not consciously choose.

Our behavior and sentiment in some circles currently is far from anything christian or godly. We cannot want to praise God and be associated with Him yet create barriers between us and our fellow citizens. That behavior is devilish and a far cry from the standard expected of any so called christian.

So the next time your disposition is inclined to go tribal, determine within yourself whether you are being more of the devil’s child than God’s.

We are bigger than tribe

In the end, we must know what matters the most for ourselves, our nation and our children. This is key so that each time we are tempted to go tribal, we will know it is the way of those against progress, unity and development.

Let us not take for granted this peace we now enjoy and the unity we have swam in almost all our lives. Maybe we have lived in this state so long that we now attach a very low price to our unity and peace. We must only observe around us how countries have taken the wrong unwanted path and ended up in flames. We ought to know better.

Ultimately, it does not matter where I come from or what language I speak. What is more important is that I am Zambian and so are you. Therefore you and I must take a look deep within ourselves to check whether our tribal bias is deep rooted and historical or a mere fruit of an adopted and prejudicial mindset.

Then we can confront this despicable evil and suck the life out it’s soul. Because whichever way one looks at it, tribalism is for the small mind and deserves no place among us.

The next time you see the image of the freedom statue or walk past it, remember the blood shed for us to enjoy our peace and unity.

Then you will realise and know that we are One Zambia and One Nation.

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Posted by on November 20, 2014 in Community, Leadership, Opinion, Social

 

Sata’s demise: Time to change our politics

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Yet again Zambia mourns. The fifth President, Michael Chilufya Sata breathed his last on 28th October 2014 and was laid to rest on 11th November after fourteen days of national mourning. In 2008, we went through a similar chapter following the demise of third Republican President, Levy Mwanawasa. Both these leaders died in office. In 2011, the nation lost a former President, Frederick Chiluba, the second Republican President.

Of the three leaders, two died in Europe while Dr Chiluba died at his home in Zambia. I choose not to dwell on this odd truth which is not unusual on the continent of Africa.

But much can be said about the whole process of managing our leaders especially with respect to their health and wellbeing.

A President as pubic property

The life of a public figure is not an easy one and they are consistently in the limelight, their every move watched. This is the very attention so passionately sought by our leaders before they get to the highest office in the land.

It therefore cannot be disputed that at a certain point, privacy is lost and one becomes public property. This implies that updates on cardinal events and developments in a leader’s life take on great importance with secrecy kicked out. This is simply because the absence of the flow of factual information leads to something even more dangerous, speculation. A lack of information must never be a deliberate norm. At worst it must just be an unplanned omission.

Where speculation thrives, uncertainty sets in and it is this state that poses every form of threat to a nation in every imaginable way-political, economic and social.

Lies or information management?

After Levy Mwanawasa suffered a stroke and was evacuated to France, there were updates given to the nation. One could not argue with what was said because that is all the information that was made available.

But there were questions asked regarding the real state of the President in France. When Dr Mwanawasa died, the suspicions were confirmed that the president had not been as well as the Government had portrayed in its public statements.

The widely remembered update was that Dr Mwanawasa was well and jogging. One can only speculate what state he left Egypt in and whether he was in a coma till his death. But the most important question will always be how truthful the government updates were to the nation.

Fast track to 2014 and it has been evident that the lesson was lost with the demise of President Mwanawasa. When the nation saw President Sata in May during the Labour day and Africa Freedom day celebrations, the whispers began to get loud that he appeared unwell.

The government incessantly denied these claims and insisted that President was well, performing his duties as expected. Subsequent public appearances and prolonged periods of absence from the public eye suggested otherwise.

When President Sata this year appeared to open Parliament, it could not be denied that he was not the vibrant Sata Zambia had come to know. Weeks later, he travelled to the United States of America (USA) for the United Nations General Assembly. He was expected to address the Assembly but did not pitch. An official reason for this “no show” act was not given.

When he returned to Zambia, some still photos were shared showing him leave the hotel in the USA and upon his arrival at the Kenneth Kaunda International Airport. For a man that always engaged with the people and media, seemingly enjoying those moments, it was certainly unlike him to be so invisible. Away from the public eye.

The next we heard or read was the President leaving the country for a medical checkup just before the nation’s Jubilee celebrations. He came back in his casket sadly.

When do leaders cease to be human?

Leaders are human and as such will experience what we all do. But it appears not to be so when they take office. What I have struggled to understand is whether this is their choice or one of the institutions that surround them. A combination of varied stakeholders with unique and veiled or explicit interests.

If our leaders are as human as we are, it must be easy for the government to transparently share the state of health of a leader. Illness solicits prayers, well wishes and depending on the nature of an ailment, even enhanced awareness for the masses. The latter is so because how the leader is managed or he shares his health battles raises the prominence and support for the ordeal. This is especially so for terminal illnesses.

Health matters remain private but what is needed in the case of leaders is not the full disclosure of what one is suffering from but rather the honesty of stating when one is unwell or receiving treatment.

In the recent weeks, we have read about President Zuma of South Africa being unwell, President Fernandez of Argentina being hospitalised and President Kikwete of Tanzania undergoing surgery. This is the cure for false reporting, speculation and the evil of those with ulterior motives that manipulate the lack of truthful information.

From hereon, Zambia specifically and Africa at large must steer away from the secrecy that surrounds the throne, the presidency. Whether this is the fruit of the chiefdoms that have characterized our traditional leadership or not, it is one attribute we must divorce with.

The inevitable future steps

Debate about President Sata’s health has been rife. All types of media had various opinions to prove he was unwell or healthy as well as what needed to happen next.

One argument that never went anywhere was that of appointing a medical board to investigate the president’s capability to carry on. With the experience we have now, this is one issue that begs careful, honest and unbiased consideration. Not just for the good of having it but also for the humane interest of an incumbent leader. Life is sacred and paramount above all else.

It is gratifying to note that the draft republican constitution has covered this well under Article 105 sections (1) to (8). The process stipulates how to handle the President’s health and performance with the initiation of the process reposed in the National Assembly.

This varies slightly from the current constitution which in Article 36 requires Cabinet to initiate this action. It perhaps explains the inertia surrounding the decision to determine the President’s state of health.

However, life and history have been kind enough to Zambia with the combined loss of three presidents we have suffered. Based on this, the formulation and enacting of our laws must always be motivated by the greater good beyond individuals.

Time to get back home

Like the vast majority of Zambians, I too have felt sad and mourned the passing of our leaders Dr Levy Mwanawasa, Dr Frederick Chiluba and now Mr Michael Sata. But my thoughts transcend this moment and our country.

It is time for our leaders to question why they must still die in foreign hospitals. Both our third and fifth presidents have died in office and while in a foreign land. The vision of those that follow after them must be to invest in our health infrastructure,not only for their good but the ultimate benefit of citizens.

This appears to be an African problem, the subtle verdict on the poor state of our hospitals and facilities. President Sata aggressively undertook the construction of roads, schools and hospitals around the country. The politics of personal signatures where one discontinues what a predecessor did are archaic. Continuity offers more progress than unnecessary disruption.

Therefore, the next set of leaders must be burdened with the need to improve health facilities so that their treatment is done within Zambia. Unusual as it may sound but the next Zambian president must die in Zambia.

Farewell President Sata

Our fifth President is gone and has been laid to rest. But as he has departed, he has left us lessons we need to pick. This may not be something he planned but in the circumstances of his presidency and passing, there are questions we must ask.

Key among these is at what point must we move beyond rhetoric and perfunctory statements when a leader is unwell? It does not help to swim in secrecy even when the writing may be on the wall. Further, our constitution, guidelines and politics must take cognizance of the fact that life is sacred and must be safeguarded. Not individual interests that jeopardize the very essence of one’s being.

It further calls for those that have the opportunity to influence any leader to be honest with them at all times. The inner circle, family, friends and even we the ordinary people all must carry this load. Social media has been an indication of this. Some people emotionally tore each other apart just at the mention and suggestion that President Sata was unwell. The print media too found themselves constrained due to either a lack of information or editorial limitations.

Alas lessons have been learnt and we have bade farewell to a man that led this nation for three years. A man that added immense value as an Opposition leader, unrivaled to this day.

Whichever way we look at it, the ultimate call on one’s life is made by God. He has brought the curtain down on President Sata. And we remain alive, challenged to improve where we must.

To our current, incoming and future leaders, take heed.

Go well President Michael Chilufya Sata.

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Posted by on November 11, 2014 in Opinion, Politics

 

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Ebola: Africa’s research challenge

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Ebola has been in the news and on many lips lately. Rightly so when one considers its ravaging assault in West Africa.

As at August 15, a total of 1,145 lives had been lost and approximately 2,127 cases reported according to the World Health Organisation (WHO). The prominence of the disease this time has also arisen due to the much publicized attention given to the two American citizens, Dr Kent Brantly and Nancy Writebol. The duo were infected with the virus and evacuated to the US from West Africa. Also evacuated was Spanish priest Miguel Pajares, who eventually died.

The reporting and coverage both in Africa and internationally has been intense. The impact of the disease has been immediate and cannot be ignored. But in the whole scheme of things, what does this merciless attack mean for Africa?

The Zmapp hope

An experimental and untested drug has been administered on the three named victims so far. It has further been reported that Liberia has received some doses of the drug as efforts intensify to contain the disease.

The Zmapp drug had not yet been tested on humans before this but due to the emergency nature of this latest attack, it seemingly became impossible to maintain the status quo while the disease spread rapidly. Especially when one considers the high mortality rate in the region of about 90%.

Africa equally has pinned her hope on this drug. No vaccine or treatment is available yet to fight Ebola. The supply of Zmapp may well be a challenge as it is believed the manufacturers had run short on supply already since it was produced to support ongoing tests, not to bring a catastrophic attack under control.

The two American aid workers are said to be improving after treatment. There also has been no uproar fortunately for using the drug before it could be tested on humans. Even when used in Africa, not much resistance or bad press is expected as the case would perhaps have been if it was first tried on Africans.

Short supply. Experimental drug. Rapid loss of life. This is the grim reality Africa faces and her hope requires her to look West. It is not in her hands at all.

A loss beyond the disease

Without a doubt, Ebola comes with an economic impact. West Africa and by extension most parts of Africa may experience a slump in the number of visitors to the continent. This inevitably will pose a challenge for the tourism sector on the continent.

Flights into West Africa have been cancelled in some cases until there is assurance that the Ebola outbreak is under control. Nigeria has been the latest country added to the list of countries under threat after Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea. Kenya was in the news as being a high risk destination.

While all this is happening, day to day activity has been derailed in some of these countries as citizens opt to remain home rather than be exposed to the virus. This disruption in productivity and economic activity will surely have unquantified impact in dollar terms.

A time for introspection

Most African countries cope poorly in times of crisis and this episode is no different. The World Bank is on record offering $200m to Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. This is meant to assist in the procurement of “medical supplies, pay healthcare staff and other priorities to contain and prevent future outbreaks”.

The Zmapp drug is a product of a Western laboratory and if at all there is steady supply secured, it will inevitably be from outside Africa.

While affected countries grapple with this deadly disease, we have seen media images of unburied corpses in streets. The Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf publicly apologised for the Ebola death toll of health workers and Government’s perceived insufficient action and slow response to the crisis.

These three scenarios above raise fundamental questions for our continent. Are we investing in our capacity to deal with the varying crises our countries face?

Historically and traditionally, we almost always will depend on the West and the East now,to bail us out. This is among the things that we must be actively aiming to change.

The World Bank’s assistance is appreciated and will likely make a difference in curbing the spread of Ebola. But where are our resources and is our will alive to fight our battles?

The experimental Zmapp will come from the West and Africa will receive whatever doses are available. The cost has not been made public as yet if at all there is one attached. The irony here again is how much Africa has purposed to invest in her capacity with strong consistent will.

Heeding the call of research and science

Has our research and scientific capability been enhanced to deal with our unique challenges? Ebola was first reported in Congo in 1976 and we have had reported cases since then, culminating in the current attack.

During this 30+ years window, are we able to show that we have accorded necessary attention to research and an active intention to find the vaccine and treatment for Ebola?

This may appear critical and ill-timed while efforts are put in place to fight Ebola. But it is the very loss of life and panicky dependence on international help that should spur us into self reliance.

It is our airports that will be shunned, our tourism that will take a plunge and national treasuries that will be blown to facilitate emergency expenditure.

And if that be the case, logically we must be the ones in the forefront in devising solutions.

Africa must now become a force in science and research. All this disease, poverty and death presents the opportunity to review our collective agenda. What treatments can we discover? What drugs can we manufacture? What resources can we galvanise to boldly face the challenges our continent comes up against every so often?

The missing voice

Information dissemination has been in overdrive since the current Ebola outbreak struck. We are being enlightened about what the disease is, how it is spread and how deadly it is. Tune to any of the international news channels and the reports are in your face. Locally in Zambia, the papers are running consistent messages about what the government is doing to prevent the outbreak and what we must all do to keep ourselves safe.

But there is a missing voice. Where are our African researchers and what part have they been playing in finding a treatment for this menacing disease?

It is time Africa paid attention to science. Time we became a researching continent that applies resources on proactive approaches to our unique circumstances. That calls for deliberate leadership, resource mobilization and a long overdue acceptance that we are our own solution.

Idealistic as it may sound, we need to start somewhere. That $200m should have been funding generated by Africa and invested in health care and research way before over 1,000 lives were lost. Africa should be the continent currently busy in the laboratory testing a “Zmapp”.

After all, it is in our best interest to do so. We remain thankful for all the help that is coming through to avoid further deaths. But we must now cast our sight on the next years and decades.

Africa must rise to this challenge urgently. Ebola has taught us this and continues to do so with the next life lost.

Will she learn and rise to face this challenge?

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Posted by on August 17, 2014 in Leadership, Opinion, Policy, Politics

 

10 things I’ve learned from KK

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In an age where life expectancy is low, getting to anything beyond 50 is a great milestone. Zambia’s first President Dr. Kenneth David Kaunda (KK) is one privileged person that can taste this rarity as he turns 90 on 28th April 2014.

So much can be said about the man that ruled the Southern African nation for 27 years as the first post-Independence leader. Others have hailed him as an African statesman, others an authoritarian leader and dictator while yet others see him as an example of a revolutionary and visionary. My intention is not to discuss his classification as this is a matter of opinion. I have my personal views on this and remember his reign including my impression of it.

Rather, I delve into some of the lessons I have picked having read about or observed KK both in his heyday as a freedom fighter and as a national leader. Below I share the ten.

1. Selflessness

KK trained as a teacher and therefore was on his own career path. However, at some point in his life he was sucked into the fight against colonialism.

This took him away from home and his family. His motivation? To play his part ridding the country of colonial rule which disadvantaged his countrymen and women. And this all at the expense of things surely dear to him such as a normal family life.

2. Visionary and patriotic

The government post independence in 1964 has been credited with major strides the country made. The Railway system, strategic companies such as Mulungushi Textiles, Mansa Batteries among others are cited as some of the examples of the progress made then.

KK was at the helm when these things happened and it is evident that his team had their sight on an empowered and prosperous Zambia.

The country was the heart and soul of policy direction, another pointer to the spirit of patriotism that drove the need to develop the nation beyond what they had found.

A free region was also another area to see the semblance of the visionary in KK. The liberation struggle was heavily intertwined with the life of Zambia as he believed it was senseless for Zambia to be free while her neighbours were tangled in the web of colonialism and the toxic apartheid system.

This remains a key test for any leader. The bigger picture and the ultimate cause they support in their lifetime. KK seems to have gotten this right and it will inevitably always be part of his legacy.

3. A clear mind

Controversy undoubtedly was part of KK’s reign and to some extent his earlier days as a freedom fighter. This was the inevitable outcome of his missional clarity and position taken on contentious issues such as the need for present day Zambia to be free.

His protests saw him imprisoned just as his stance on the liberation of Southern Africa saw him castigated by some.

Regardless of the consequences and price paid for such decisions or actions, one thing he cannot be faulted for is his clarity of purpose. Any mention of his role and legacy will have a description of what he stood for.

Some decisions remain unpopular and even hurtful to this day but it is indisputable he was clear about what he stood for. Wrong or right.

4. Recording thoughts

KK in his lifetime has authored some books. These shared the thoughts he had and values he espoused.

This is a lost art to a large extent in Zambia today. We do not write much and it is evident how this has impacted our generation. Our history is at risk of either being adulterated or lost altogether.

KK showed on this path that the written word must remain even after one’s journey on earth is done. Books are important and will always be. But someone must record this.

5. Reading

This is yet another lost habit and art in our generation. Not so with KK. He without a doubt has done a lot of reading hence his related efforts in writing as well. His exposure to and positions taken on issues such as religion and socialism are evidence of a man that has taken time to read as well as think things through.

He quite often spoke about humanism and also shared his thoughts on this. It was and remains evident that this is a man that has invested in a library. He yet again quietly sets an example of how important this rich habit is for us to build our knowledge base and learn as much as we can from others on varying issues.

Our nation must get this culture going for the sake of progress and if there is one critical lesson to pick from KK, reading is one of them.

6. Dare to be different

KK has been criticized or questioned within and outside Zambia over some decisions he made whilst in power. This includes supporting the liberation struggle in Southern Africa, a fight that had consequences on the nation as well. Similarly, other decisions such as the fight against colonialism, a One party state or nationalization have all been questioned before.

But the one thing to acknowledge is the courage to believe and be different. With the clear risk of being unpopular, he still took the more difficult route as opposed to the easier one. This worked for him as well during the transition to multipartism when he responded to people pressure then.

That set the tone and opened the door for democratic change in Zambia leading to his defeat at the hands of second President Dr. Frederick Titus Jacob Chiluba and the Movement for Multiparty Democracy (MMD) in 1991.

There have been varying views about how he arrived at that decision. But the critical thing is he chose to act even if it meant disadvantage for him.

7. Stand for what is right

One of the commitments he has been credited for is that of the liberation struggle. This is especially so outside Zambia.

There will be times when we are faced with questions of the conscience. Regardless of our motivation, views or advice taken, our ideal choice must be to do the right thing.

When looked at in terms of brotherliness, the liberation struggle was an action based on conscience undoubtedly. A classic example too of the end justifying the means.

8. Mistakes are human

KK’s rule had its dark days and it took the advent of multipartism for most to see what we did not have or enjoy. I have my detest for those days. It may well also be true that KK has been effectively and successfully rebranded as a democrat and statesman by the media.

Yet there are several people that still hold a different view on this. Those that remember him for being intolerant, autocratic and responsible for driving Zambia into the suffocating economic ditch the nation ended up in. A man that overstayed his welcome in power and one with a hard heart.

Whichever view one holds, it cannot be argued that he made mistakes. Some costly and painful. Forgettable too.

The man was and is human. Mistakes are a part of our journey in life, with rich value if we choose to admit them and learn.

One hopes at 90, KK can look back at this and share his learnings with others. One hopes even more that we have also learned from his failures and will avoid them in our leadership roles and life in general.

9. Good prevails and lasts

It is always easier to list the bad and negative but a daunting task to state the good.

With the good that KK did or what has been attributed to him, this has helped in painting him in a more positive light in his latter days.

One simply has to look at the mood, activities and statements that have come through prior to his 90th birthday. It is easy to believe others have simply wanted to be associated with this goodwill for personal or collective motives and mileage. For such people, it has been an attempt to do or say the politically correct things in line with a perceived overarching agenda. This is usually the case in Zambia these days when people are swayed by what’s popularly held either by politicians, public figures or editorial commentaries.

But the biggest lesson for me is that where good can be found, it can see the light and overshadow the dark. KK’s story is a more positive one now because of some of the good he did.

Love or hate the man but he played his part to get us where we are as a nation.

10. Serve the nation

Finally, the most important calling for any citizen. We must serve our nation.

A young KK got himself in the thick of things for Zambia to be free. At 40, he was citizen #1.

We may not all end up in public office or politics but we all must serve our country. This can be in any small way in our communities for instance and even our homes. What is critical even now is how we galvanise to build pride in our country. To consolidate our identity as Zambians, standing tall, proud and free.

Once we start on this journey, it is inevitable that we will aim to improve where we have to and make our mark as an emerging nation. This is even more important now as we take stock of our half century as an independent nation.

KK and his lot have played their part. It now turns on us. And there is no age limit.

What pride can we point to for our effort to serve the nation?

After all is said and done and KK celebrates his 90th birthday, we will have to look back. To ask ourselves what we have learned from such a long life. The successes and failures alike.

Then we must ask ourself how different we are or will be in our different roles.

What lessons have you learned and how are they shaping your life?

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Posted by on April 28, 2014 in Leadership, Opinion, Politics

 
 
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