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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

 

Lest we forget who we are

The former US President George W Bush was recently in the news. He alongside the current President Barack Obama and four former US Presidents converged on the Texas soil as they unveiled a Presidential library in honour of the 43rd US President.

This was the 13th library across the United States and officially came to life on 1st May 2013. Former Presidents Jimmy Carter, George Bush Snr, George Bush Jr and Bill Clinton joined President Obama during this occasion, a rare reunion as has been widely noted.

The fact that four former national leaders and a current one came together for a noble cause was a marvel from a Zambian perspective. Our country has witnessed acrimonious relations of current and former leaders.

However, the most intriguing aspect and reason for my article is the importance attached to history and the active intention to preserve it as witnessed by the library initiative pursued by the US.

A leaf to pick

This is an aspect that our nation must now pay attention to.
We must document our history and ensure it is shared transparently and
objectively so it does not perish with time.

The relevance and importance of this can be seen in how easily our history can currently be distorted with ease by anyone with ample energy and motivation to do so. This must not be allowed and we must never get to a stage where our roots or history are allowed to be relayed by those privileged to formulate an opinion and influence many others, possibly with bias.

Every nation, Zambia inclusive has a past and it is from that path that its life, its richness is captured. This also forms the basis for a nation’s heritage to be preserved and its tourism developed. Historians must be in the forefront of documenting this with no veiled interest or bias.

This guarantees that a nation’s history will be secured and shared with future generations that can
learn and connect with their heritage.

In South Africa, on the city bus tours, it is inspiring to hear the City’s history narrated, encapsulating the good, the bad and the ugly. Even the ills of apartheid are shared including a section of Cape Town that remains largely undeveloped to reflect the past.

This was a motivation on my part and it rode home the need for us to do the same for Zambia. This is also done in Livingstone on the African Queen boat cruise where the history of Livingstone is elaborately narrated.

This leaves me thinking and convinced about how much more we can do as a nation to tell the story of the Copperbelt, Eastern province, the Lozi, Lunda or Bemba Kingdoms and take it further to the nation’s
fight for independence both pre and post.

This would not only ensure this cardinal life of the nation is shared. But it too offers an opportunity for tourism as all visitors will be walked or talked through Zambia’s rich history city by city, town by town and moment by moment up until our present day.

Why should history matter?

A nation’s identity lies in how well it connects with its roots. Our children and their children must know what got us where we are. This is knowledge we can also only pass on if we ourselves appreciate our heritage.

If that be the case, then there must be deliberate investment of time and resources to track all our national moments and create that repository of information. This would be the official verified and authenticated reference for Zambia’s history. When this is not properly structured or highlighted, we expose ourselves to a distorted national memory. One where we all tell the nation’s story
as it has been handed to us or as we may have perceived it over the years.

In essence, even those with their own interests should not share a story that reflects their interests, biases or opinions. This must never be the case and all must refer to a shared history that is accepted as a truthful account of our
nation’s past and character.

For instance, Zambia today has a prominent story that is tagged to our leaders when they leave office. The next events in their post-leadership lives now seems to be appearances in court for corruption charges and other alleged misdeeds while
in office. This started when President Kaunda left office after serving for 27 years and has followed each President since except Levy Mwanawasa who died while in office.

There are two sides to this. One is the need for enhanced transparency and accountability for our leaders when in office so they serve as expected for the good of the nation. The other is the fact that these negative endings to their duration of service overshadow any milestones achieved during their term in office. As such, we have a skewed account of these episodes of their rule and the loudest account inevitably tends to be their bad. This also becomes the ammunition used by perceived enemies or parties with their own agenda to pursue. Thus the story always told becomes the story of failure and an unwanted checkered past.

However, history demands a totally different approach. It calls for everything to be accounted for as it happened.

Walking through Presidential libraries

Now back to the libraries. Institutional memory is cardinal for any nation. After all the players are off the national stage, their tale must be told with crisp clarity. The same principle that applies for cultural and even social national history is relevant for political and economic memory likewise. This is
what we see when we analyse the Presidential Libraries in the US.

Since its birth, the concept has led to 13 libraries. The system’s genesis is traced back to 1939 when President Franklin Delano Roosevelt donated his personal and Presidential papers to the Federal
government. With that and a partial pledge of his estate at Hyde Park to the United States, his friends formed a non-profit corporation to raise funds for the construction of the library and museum building.

Roosevelt’s motivation was his belief that Presidential documents formed part of the national heritage and
should be accessible to the public.

One may then ask that if such a library is put up, what documents should be there? This is especially so because we have been accustomed to associating the presidency with national secrets and security.

According to Wikipedia, the US libraries reportedly maintain 400
million pages of textual materials, nearly ten million photographs, over 15 million feet (5,000km) of motion picture film, nearly 100,000 hours of disc, audiotape and video recordings with approximately half a million museum objects. Interestingly even some of the gifts and awards the Presidents will have received from various local people, foreign dignitaries and institutions
while in office can be found.

When one recollects Zambia’s recent history, it leaves you with no doubt about the wealth of material that can be collected. The freedom struggle era, the early days of Dr Kaunda’s rule leading to his exit, his famous press conferences, the Liberation struggle, the dawn of mulitpartyism with Dr Chiluba at the helm through the transition to Levy Mwanawasa up until the Banda and Sata spells.

There have been papers created by these leaders, monumental speeches delivered, turning point decisions made, gifts received and even prominent visitors hosted. All this is sufficient material to retell in a structured way the past of a great nation such as Zambia.

A necessary project with untold benefits

There is a compelling need to engage our historians, people who will fish through all our documented, oral and even untold history. They will then collate what we have and will be discovered to form a pool of information on which the national memory and libraries will be anchored. We have history and research students, lecturers and respected authorities, even some surviving freedom fighters and
historical figures that can be of value in building this collection. From all these sources, Zambia is capable of putting together an enduring account of what makes it the nation she is today.

A project as important as this requires the best personnel to run with it so that it is effectively executed. Coupled with it, the administration thereof of the
libraries must be professional and top notch so that preservation of quality information and facility maintenance is guaranteed. Places of importance such as these must at no point be allowed to deteriorate to depressing conditions as we have become accustomed to.

It is a project that will form an accepted and respected reference point for all events the nation will have sailed through in the past. It can be of such value that even the children of today will have a place to go to understand their country.

School tours will even be more meaningful and so will it provide material to enrich our curriculum to incorporate relevant historical aspects that can further build collective national pride.

Sometimes, I worry and wonder how much we the young generation are able to pass onto our children. Are we able to confidently talk about Cha Cha Cha or the Choma declaration? Can we break down the story of the food riots and the 1991 revolution? The moment we are
disconnected from the past is when we begin to lose our identity. We do not need to have been there or gone through all these historical times but those that will have been bear the responsibility to share it with the future generations. It is for that reason that the present generation must endeavour to embark on this project lest we lose touch with our roots and consign our children to ignorance and a poor sense of identity.

Moreover, the benefits remain enormous. I recently listened to an official from the National Heritage Conservation Commission (NHCC) state that there had been an
increase in the number of visits to sites other than the major ones
such as the Victoria Falls. He went on to mention that more local people are visiting these sites including the Presidential Memorial Park.

With our libraries well established, we would further increase the number of sites that local and foreign tourists will yearn to see as a way of understanding who we are and where we have been. Each of our Presidents could have a Library set up perhaps in their home province or preferred area that best narrates the story of their life, contribution and milestones. That too would create opportunities for infrastructure development in such locations as a way of enhancing access and attracting tourists to the sites.

Zambia is a rich nation with an engaging history to share. Now is the time to take measures not to lose touch with this history but instead institutionalise the memory so that it can be known and celebrated many generations
from today.

 
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Posted by on May 19, 2013 in Community, Opinion

 

You are poor…..so shut up!

It was hard to believe the young lady was beaming and her face betrayed a genuine smile. A quick scan around the room revealed how miserable her immediate environment was.

She had been glued to the bed for close to two months now. The University Teaching Hospital (UTH), Zambia’s largest referral hospital, had become home. Not the best of places and one had to admire Mwila as she radiated her natural warmth.

Mabvuto was an energetic toddler, enjoying the innocence of childhood. He sprang out of the sack covered pit latrine, rushing to rejoin his friends as they splashed the muddy water after some torrential rains.

The excitement was as bright as an October sunrise. There was no evident thought of concerns that the water could be a medium for disease. This is what they knew and had lived with for as long as they had walked.

Moreover, his mother and a host of other women were a stone throw away and had not raised any objection. Fathers were nowhere in sight this time of day!

As Mabvuto’s mother sauntered to the house with a tray of pounded groundnuts, she stared in the boys’ direction. Her little boy, her sixth at 28 years, was a part of the group in the pool of water. No worries. It was a safe game.

A hostile reality

The picture portrayed in both cases is but a simple reflection of what is out there. The fate of the common man is dire.

I watched with suffocating sadness as the Vice President Dr. Guy Scott visited the Mukobeko Maximum prison recently. His face told the whole story. Those walls hid the gloom, filth and inhuman face of a system that cares less about others.

Yes it is a maximum prison and a place for the condemned. But do they lose their dignity as human beings? Do they cease being human?

Let us step away from the prison. What about the hospitals? The courts of law? The densely populated townships littered with chaos, disease and debilitating poverty. Have all these people ceased being human and deserve less dignity than others?

What has gone wrong?

There clearly is something, fundamentally, that is not as it should.

We see it in overcrowded wards, filthy prisons, delayed court cases and in the compounds. A visit to our villages paints an even bleaker picture after all the further away from civilisation you are, the more irrelevant and less of a factor you are.

My mind battles with whether this is a result of failed planning and execution. Or is it perhaps leadership that neglects the needy? Or is it us a people that laze through our lives expecting all good things such as health, education, infrastructure etc to pop into our world?

It seems to be a mix of all these factors. Hence my challenge is not only with the authorities that aid this deterioration. It also lies squarely on the shoulders of the “common man” that plays a part in not holding leadership accountable and also a chronic failure to properly manage what is built.

How many times do we hear of vandalism of critical installations? How many empty packs of opaque beer do we find in ditches leading to blocked drainages where these exist?

These are but a few examples of a society so desperate for mindset and attitude change. Both for those that lead and the led.

The insignificant commoners

The common man only seems to matter when elections are near. That is the only time all top politicians visit the compounds, the crowded hospital wards and villages with promises to turn things around. Turn them around only if they could be given that vote.

As gullible as poverty and desperation makes one, the common man falls into this promise trap in exchange for opaque beer, pieces of cloth, mealie meal and some kwacha notes which also go into alcohol consumption at most.

Fast forward to elections and the commoner is back in the world of poverty. The 4×4 luxury pick-ups that were a usual sight during campaigns have disappeared. The promising politicians and leaders are a distant feature only seen on television screens or heard on radio.

What is there left to do for the commoner? One after the other, they fall into the routine of apathy, alcohol abuse, thuggery, illiteracy, disease and poverty. If they make it alive to the next campaign, maybe once again they will be the centre of the world, important people.

Is there any hope?

Absolutely. It will be a long journey but who says long means impossible? The cliche is that a thousand miles begins with a step.

Where then can this change start from?

Accountability- Leaders are responsible for everyone. This is a role that bestows privilege and must sober anyone up especially in Africa. They are millions that look to their leaders for a way out of their squalor.

This is one aspect of service that is neglected. Whether it is deliberate or not is speculation. The people that mattered when votes were needed matter less post-elections.

There is need for leadership accountability. The vote is the performance contract between the people and government. This entails that the primary focus for any leader is to remember the poverty, misery, disease and lack they have witnessed on the campaign trail. This must spur them into pursuing what will make a difference in the lives of the masses.

Reviewing service delivery- What governance structures are in place to support deliberate interventions? We must assess current local and central government structures and the checks in place to device user friendly structures that ensure delivery. Further, it is imperative to explore more efficient ways of governance to guarantee timely service delivery.

How do we ever get to the pathetic hygiene levels we see around? Litter everywhere, poor sanitary conditions for a huge population in compounds and an army of uneducated people.

We must get to a level where water borne diseases are not an annual event. We must start dealing with the seemingly small things that characterise our present conditions. Unkempt surroundings, street lights with no lighting, uncollected garbage, the list is endless.

If in these small things we do not strive to do the right thing, can we even begin to think of medicines in hospitals? Children in schools with the right materials and teachers?

To set this in motion, the planning and resourcing perspective needs to be right. This will stimulate the focus required to start driving the change we need to see.

An empowered people- The commoners and downtrodden that wallow in poverty must be an active part. They must realise that their importance is not just a pre-election ingredient. There is need for an urgent wake-up call, a call that will make them believe that they are stakeholders and have a right to demand development.

For as long as this aspect remains an unknown authority, there will be no meaningful change. This is simply because the people that must demand and also drive the change are unaware of what authority they yield.

This is the power to influence change that must be exercised so everyone in leadership remains aware of their role to serve at all times in whatever capacity. Then no leader will be selfish in this noble undertaking, opting instead to serve the best interests of the common man.

Same bed of thorns for all- Why does a man peddling a finger of drugs rot in jail while the owner roams the streets freely? Why do the known and connected citizens spend only an evening in a jail cell at most while you have individuals in Mukubeko that have gone for a decade without their appeal heard in court as Dr. Scott came to learn in Kabwe?

Why do we have patients dumped in UTH with no access to prompt attention yet the prominent get the best attention in record time, even from the farthest land on earth?

There is a place for the rich and powerful at the high table. The poor remain insignificant and even the loudest of voices can not be heard by the privileged. It is true it seems that on Animal farm, there are animals more equal than others. It is there for all to see.

This is the way it is but this is not the way it ought to be. The privileged must be troubled by the poverty, disease and filth the commoners endure. Yes they have worked for their privilege(for some) and must enjoy it. However, should those that have more not also have some to share with the less fortunate?

Even if the lucky and “haves” do not, this is mandatory for any leader. A leader cannot choose whom he serves, works or assists. They are in those roles to reduce this misery and deliver progress to the masses.

Justice not for the lazy- I speak in this way not in support of laziness. Those ready to change their lives and how they think should be the priority, the focus of development.

There are those we see around whose defeatist mindset makes them wallow in self-pity, drowning in daily drunkenness, resorting to thuggery and recklessness. There are some among us unfortunately that just want to sit back and await development. These I do not condone. When opportunity is granted for an education, work or skills training, it is met with complaints or shoddy performance.

Effort should apply to and for those willing to make a difference. The employees in hospitals, public service etc that demand higher and decent pay must be those that exhibit quality in applying themselves. Not the lot that will spend an entire day under a tree but demand higher pay.

This does not in any way mean the lot in Mukobeko for instance must be let loose. They too must pay the dues for the wrong choices made. However, it does mean that those that have appeals to be heard must rightly have them heard. Those that have been incarcerated erroneously must be released from an unfair system that has caged them.

This also means the leaders must access the same medical facilities that we all do. Only then can they be desperate to make a difference rather than end up in a 5-star facility in a foreign land.

It follows then that all have a part to play to bring development to life. The commoners and privileged. The illiterate and educated. The employed and the unemployed.

Only when this collective resolve takes root will we realise our elusive aspiration.

Institutionalised development- To deliver this development, someone must be responsible, it must be tracked and therefore a comprehensive framework must be in place to support this quest.

Development and related initiatives must never be the preserve of the elected elite or a privileged few individuals. There must be institutions with longevity that will remain in place even when individuals change. Only when this is the case will we guarantee a structured approach to development.
This is more sustainable without being underpinned on what the politicians want to pursue. That way too we curb the trend of every successive administration running the risk of throwing everything out on account of it having been driven by their predecessors. A trend that has seen us move backwards or stagnate with every change that befalls us.

Pain of the status quo

Mwila has been on that UTH bed for two months now, having survived an accident. An excited public bus driver had rammed into them after watching the Chipolopolo national team win a game at the Afcon 2012 tournament. She awaits a theatre appointment that on three occasions has been deferred for various reasons.

No electricity at the theatre. A delay in taking blood to the theatre. A much publicised operation on another poor young man that had been allowed privileged access to medical facilities via presidential intervention. Those have been the reasons Mwila has not been operated on.

Mabvuto kicked his ball through the contaminated water, bursting with childhood energy in a game of soccer.

This was the life he was born in and knew. A life of uncollected garbage, ponds of rain water, deadly sanitary conditions, the hopelessness of an absent father swimming in daily drunken stupors or seasonal jobs in the plush residential areas. A hard working mother that made sure they had a meal each day, even if it mostly meant some greens from their backyard garden. At least today, there were some pounded groundnuts to go with it.

Mukobeko and the many other prisons across the country remain overcrowded. Filled with those that have not seen the inside of a courtroom for a decade. Behind bars for being conduits of crime perpetrated by the powerful and well connected perhaps that remain free.

All these realities present evidence of a rotten society, driven by the selfishness and neglect of those blessed and empowered to make a difference. Aided also by the inevitable and unfortunate resignation of the commoners, the less privileged.

Yet it is these downtrodden and commoners that have the power and authority to make a difference. To demand change and development. To hold themselves and their leaders accountable for what we all want to see in our world.

But as long as this remains an unknown force that the commoners do not believe in, the present truth will firm its hold. The harsh truth that the poor must shut up. They have no voice, no place at the high table or clout to influence any meaningful change.

It seems when you do not have the voice, clout or privilege, you deserve what you get and remain mute.

The pain of being a commoner. The agony of being poor with the world expecting you to just shut up and take it.

 
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Posted by on April 24, 2012 in Community

 
 
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