A reflection by: Arnold Shatunka Shatunka
The late 3rd Republican President Dr. Levy Patrick Mwanawasa once remarked that “Zambians forget easily”. What we failed to appreciate from Levy’s concern at the time was that he was giving a diagnosis of a chronic pathological condition of a nation. Zambia is a very unique country in Africa and the World as a whole as it presents a character of a “peaceful” and “liberated” people who care about nothing more than their individual daily needs being met in whatever manner and time.
What is wrong with being peaceful and liberated? This is the ultimate goal of any independence struggle as was the case with Zambia pre-October 24th, 1964 and pre-multi-partism in 1991. Zambia has attained political independence from foreign oppression and Zambians live free. Zambians live free from worry of colonial oppression but not free from their own failure to look after themselves. When Zambians voted against the MMD to allow PF to rule in 2011, many remarked that “MMD had eaten enough, it was time to allow PF to eat as well”. The voter didn’t look at his/her benefit but that of PF leaders. This is unique selfless citizenship.
But is this selfless character or symptomatic of some pathological condition? Zambia suffers from a unique condition of amnesia which I want to call “ZAMNESIA” because, I have searched the world of scholarly writings for a descriptive diagnosis of the Zambian tendency to drift into forgetfulness and have found none close to defining our condition. I want to suspect that the general observed forgetfulness we suffer from as a country may have its roots in some genetic complications especially after such extensive intermarriages after 1964.
My theory is that we are nation descended from cowards who populated this part of Africa we call Zambia running away from wars in the South (Zulu) and North (Luba-Lunda) or slave traders. It is interesting to note that Zwangendaba a claimed Ngoni icon died and is buried in Nakonde-Mwenzo area at the time he was running away from the mighty Zulu warriors. We are cowards and want to justify our failure to rightly claim what belongs to us in terms of real freedoms and benefits of independence by all sorts of scape goats such as “being a Christian Nation”, “ being patriotic” and all sorts of claims.
When Zambia got independence from Britain in 1964, Zambia had a progressive and health political system that allowed and guaranteed freedoms and safety of all citizens until the “One Party Participatory Democracy” set in in the early 1970s. The change wind-swept away all gains of independence as one man in the name of Kenneth D. Kaunda assumed the position of a deity in governance of our beloved country. Those who were there will recall tales of the “shushushu” and secrete justice systems and the Vigilantes. Freedoms became benevolent gifts from the man who was in charge here on earth while GOD was in charge in Heaven. The rule of UNIP promised prosperity and heaven on earth as the MAHEDCO (Maharish Heaven On Earth Development Corporation) once a UNIP importation from India tried to last-minute propagate in Zambia prior to 1991 general elections. What did Zambia get instead? A huge foreign debit that haunted Zambia for many years after the UNIP era.
After 1991, Zambians visualized a renewed dream of prosperity and freedoms. We tried to stick to the dream though it was taking too long to realize. The long wait made us drift into restlessness to the extent of withdrawal from active participation in decision making through the ballot. Remember that under UNIP, Zambians were forced to vote and voter turnout was always predicted. Zambia had the first genuine voter turnout in 1991 and in 1993 when the first bye-elections were held under the MMD after a split led by the likes of Bodwin Nkumbula and the Aaron Muyovwe’s of this world. Voter turnout started declining after 1993 and has been on the drop since then. Why? Perhaps this is a question for all of us to answer individually.
After Levy Mwanawasa began to make sense to Zambians, a renewed awakening crept in and Zambians started to live again until GOD decided to change the game plan. The Rupiah Banda presidency tried to build on Levy’s foundation but could not fit in Levy’s shoes. A seed of hatred sown by those who always coveted the presidency and desired to champion tribalism of inaugurate one tribe above all others sprouted and geminated in 2011. Now Zambians are more depressed and suffer from personal persecutions for the wrong decisions made in 2011 while those who deceived them continue to blackmail them with diagnoses of stupidity and irrationality for believing the sort of lies they believed to make the choices they made.
Our ZAMNESIA condition is critical but curable like most conditions of amnesia. First we need to submit to professional care. Zambians need to undergo a reflective therapy of renewing our identity as a people and begin to propagate correct history to make informed decisions. Why? Our current ZAMNESIA is self-created at the instigation of those with ill motives. We are made to believe in freedom fighters who never fought on our side throughout history. Where were the people who claim to be our liberators from MMD when MMD became a menace in this country? Were they not part of the MMD? Where were they when UNIP was a menace? Were they not part of UNIP? Who accrued the UNIP debt that led to the infamous SAP (Structural Adjustment Programme? Isn’t it the same people dragging us into yet another debt trap that will lead to future SAPs?
Why have Zambians forgotten that it was because of the pain of SAP that many of our beloved parents, relatives and citizens died of depression after being retrenched from work in order to address a debt burden? Are we so gullible to think that the effects of the current debt being accrued will be different from the last one? Why do we forget so easily? We need a rebirth of nationalism for the post-independent Zambia not a re-incarnation of pre-independence nationalism of trying to address deprivation. What do we make of non-institutionalized development planning and benevolence driven infrastructure development distribution in Zambia? We were promised more jobs, more money, better health facilities, a people driven constitution, better and accessible education, the rule of law inspired by the 10 Commandments, better agricultural policy and implementation of a wealth creation enabling agricultural policy, cheaper fuel, cheaper and nutritious food and many more goodies. What has happened today?
How do we cerebrate a Jubilee when our souls suffer so much from loss of our dreams and the dreams of those who enabled us to get this far by laying down their lives? It is irrational to cerebrate a Jubilee with such ZAMNESIA.