By Mthoniswa Banda
Cabinet office has invited interested citizens to submit how Zambia should celebrate its 50 years of independence next year.
This is a welcome invitation as it allows citizens to input into how we should celebrate our independence.
Cabinet Office has proposed a theme “Commemorating God’s favour of Zambia’s 50 years of Independence for the Continued Peace, Unity, Democracy, patriotism and Prosperity.” This is a mouthful of words and do not convey to me what we are trying to achieve with this mouthful.
From the first republican president Kenneth Kaunda to all the presidents (Chiluba, Mwanawasa and RB) that have ruled Zambia in the last 49 years, the discrepancy of political emancipation not translating into socio- economic freedom and benefits has been a worry that each tried to solve. Despite Zambia having attained political independence in 1964, the means of production and the economic arena are still owned and dominated by non-Zambians.
Kaunda when fed up once declared that “None but ourselves will develop Zambia,” while Chiluba empowered Zambians with real estate so that they can qualify to play the capitalist game. Mwanawasa on the other hand started his winter maize project so that the country can be food sufficient and create an agricultural base for job creation and manufacturing. Rupiah Banda continued on the Mwanawas dream and encouraged diversification of the economy to break away from dependence of the non-Zambians.
Zambia next year will be 50 years old and the state the country is in would be as a result of the political freedom prioritisation which as stated above did not directly result in economic boom or freedom. Zambians next year would be no better economically as our forefathers were in 1964 as the CSO statitics will attest. Infact the growth that we are enjoying in real terms is moving from the negatives towards zero, if you compare where we were in 1964 when the Kwacha was equivalent to GB Pound and when Zambia was a middle income country where everyone ate an egg a day!
This therefore means political freedom, even though necessary, has not done us any good. We need to move towards economic freedom where all the means of production are owned and controlled by Zambians. We need to move to a stage where Zambians consume food, goods and services produced and manufactured in Zambia by Zambians. We need to join our fast industrializing friends like Brazil, India, China and Korea who were worse or at par with us in 1964.
So how do we celebrate our 50 years of political freedom minus economic freedom?
First and foremost the theme of the celebrations needs to change to reflect where we want to be in the next 50 years. We need a theme that reminds us of the failures of our system to improve our lot and a theme that helps us aspire to be the best so we can return to our global place of being a developed nations as we were in 1964. How about “50 years of Independence Thus far we have come, time to develop from our own resources and mighty” or “From Middle income country to lower middle income country, time to aim higher through innovation, manufacturing and entrepreneurship”.
How then do we celebrate our golden Jubilee? My suggestion would be that politicians and civil servants rest on this day and spend time with their families. Let the players of industry, manufacturers and creative thinkers take over this day. Let for once Zambia be exposed to the people that have toiled through creativity, enterprise and hard work and whose activities have resulted in Zambia making money through their activities. These are men and women of industry, academia, civil society who through their activities, industriousness and interaction with the global world have resulted in millions of dollars coming into Zambia.
As a climax for the celebrations, let professional associations, civil society and universities be allowed to identify these men and women and let us as a nation recognise and honour them on this day with recognition awards. These awards ceremony should be held in council halls or any suitable place but entry to these premises should be at a fee so that snacks and refreshments are paid through this fee.
Prior to that, in the morning, let every household and community gather to clean their houses, drainages and surrounding dirty areas and let the government release funds for fuel for people with vans and trucks to collect and ferry garbage to designated disposal areas.
In the afternoon let volunteers visit public clinics, hospitals and orphanages and clean and donate foods and materials as they think fit. In the evening lets honour and fete the champions of industry, civil society and academia who have helped improve our country through their intellect, creativity and hard work and helped bring the much needed foreign revenue that have resulted in jobs, food and development that we see today. Above let Zambia save money on this day.
This is my proposal to cabinet office on Zambia’s 50 years celebrations!