By Titus M WALAMBA Jr.
Fellow youths it is with utmost disappointments and heartache that I join you in this commemoration of the grand contributions of young people to Independence and Democracy of this nation: It is disappointing that despite what our gone patriots contributed to this nation, today youths have been thrown in the recycle bin of politics andare only revived when the BIG BWANAS want to shed blood or bully opponents.
I may express my views as if they were dogmas or ultimatums, but they are not intended to be. It is because I am presenting a viewpoint which comes from the depth of my heart, full of enthusiasms and emotions.
I would like to speak briefly and simply about a serious national condition. It is a national feeling of fear and frustration that could result in national suicide and the end of everything that we Zambians hold dear. It is a condition that comes from the lack of REGARD FOR THE DRAFT CONSTITUTION. When Mr. His Excellency Michael Chilufya Sata was in the oppossition he verociously campaigned for the enactment of a new constitution, to such an extremely fanatical extent that He referred to Mwanawasa as MENTALLY IMPAIRED for refusing to give the people a new constitution. NOW THAT SATA IS LIVING UNDER THE ILLUSION THAT THERE IS NO NECESSITY TO CHANGE THE CONSTITUTION, CAN WE ASSUME THAT HE IS SUFFERING FROM THE SAME MENTAL IMPAIRMENT AS DID MWANAWASA?
I speak as briefly as possible because too much harm has already been done with irresponsible words of bitterness and selfish political opportunism. I speak as briefly as possible because the issue is too great to be obscured by eloquence. I speak simply and briefly in the hope that my words will be taken to heart.
From time immemorial, youths have always been at the helm of political agitation, but the political equation in Zambia today does not favour the youth – that is no news! unless the youth become active forces in the different political parties, the issue of seeking elective political offices would remain a mirage. Besides serving as a platform for contesting elections, political parties also play the role of policy and agenda setting for national development. So, if the youth must have any influence in the process of national development, we must be active forces in the political arena.
Still on our woes, the Constitution has failed to define or create any roles for the youth. Furthermore, the age limits for contesting election seem to have placed certain public offices like the Presidency outside the reach of the youth. Analysing how we got to this point where the youth are shut out from the political parties would require a brief historical narrative.
The early days of Zambia’s independence was marked with a lot of hopes and aspirations for a great nation. It is not a coincidence that the political terrain then was dominated by the youth – compatriots who took to the political trenches and took up intellectual arms against the forces of colonisation. Nationalists, we call them and so they remain in the annals of our history.
I have gone through this brief narrative just to say that our first crop of national leaders was made up of young people who had a cause – took to the challenge of engaging the forces of colonialism and they became the midwives of a potentially great nation for us. The next crop had plenty money but didn’t know what to do with the money! BUT TODAY WE HAVE CHOSEN TO IN THE BACKYARD OF NATIONAL POLITICS WHILE OLD MEN WHO ARE SUPPOSE TO BE IN OLD PEOPLE’S HOMES DOMINATE GOVERNMENT, OFTEN AT THE AUSPICES OF YOUNG MEN’ IDEAS!
It is foolhardy for us keep whining about ‘them’ not giving us a space or not carrying us along! The ruling party has a grandfather as their “Youth Leader”, the newly merged opposition parties have not made any attempt, to the best of my knowledge, to get the youth involved in the merger process. In fact, the ascendancy of money politics combined with the lack of internal democracies within the party makes it almost impossible for a young person to emerge as a candidate for any significant office in any of the parties.
But I have good news for you. If you are an incurable believer in the Zambian dream like I am, I want to assure you that the task ahead of us, though daunting, is not insurmountable. All we need to do is to first of all remove the mental shackle of helplessness and tell ourselves that if Zambia must deliver human development dividends to present and future population and take its rightful place among the comity of nations, you and I must play an active role. Secondly, we need to devise strategies for engagement – yes, engagement must be strategic. Our goal is to permeate the political landscape but we cannot achieve that if we proceed haphazardly. Let us get involved in political sensitisation of our spheres of influence. Let us form political cell groups, let us engage in constant policy dialogues among ourselves; let us network with young people in different parts of the country based on common values. We are not seeking some high sounding ideological rallying point; we simply want to end corruption and impunity in the governance in our country. If we are agreed on this point, then we have a cause!