By Penchili Sinafwa
As a toddler I strongly despised the then president of Zambia, Kenneth Kaunda. I was just about eight years old and yet every time they showed Kenneth Kaunda on our black and white TV I would cover my eyes and say “I hate this man”.
This obviously dazed my parents. How could an eight year old child say he hated super Ken, the wamuyaya, the feared one party state leader of the republic of Zambia? The man whom no other man dared to contest in an election.
More so, my parents feared of their fate if by any chance our neighbours heard what I said about KK. This was in the late eighties. A time when the notorious Office of the president, popularly known as the special branch was in full effect.
During this time, there was no freedom of expression. Speaking against Kaunda was a certain straight ticket to prison. You could be imprisoned without a charge whatsoever. People disappeared mysteriously while others died inexplicably.
Even though I was I child, my hate for Kenneth Kaunda was warranted. My brothers would wake up at 04 in the AM, to go queue up for bread at the local bakery. They would return home much later in the day with a loaf or two, at times none. In most cases they wouldn’t be able to buy the bread because it had run out of stock while they stood on the queue. If not queuing up for bread, my brothers would be either lining up for basic commodities such as cooking oil, mealie meal or soap at the under stocked NIEC stores.
Having grown up in the border town of Livingstone, we would occasionally cross the border into Zimbabwe. This made me ask questions. Why did Zimbabwe have more than just Tarino and Kwench on their shelves? Why did Zimbabwean shops always have mealie meal, sugar, cooking oil, bread, soap and other various commodities on their shelves while the Zambian shelves were literally empty? Why were the Zimbabwean roads so smooth when ours were riddled with potholes? Why did Zimbabwe have more than one TV and radio station? How come we couldn’t find school books, shoes, clothes, butter, apples in Zambian shops but these items were readily available across the border. To me it was clear, the Kaunda of Zimbabwe was better than the Kaunda of Zambia.
This is 2013, am in my mid thirties and I am having a bad rendition of the Kaunda era. Just the other day I saw a long queue of people jostling to buy mealie meal. The media is running stories of how the essential commodity of mealie has become scarce and where it’s available the price has doubled or even tripled. I find this utterly disturbing.
According to a statement made by then Commerce Minister, Bob Sichinga, the Food Reserve Agency (FRA) y the beginning of January 2013 had 916,934.44 tonnes of maize stored in their storage facilities throughout the country. If this is this case then why is there a mealie meal shortage in solwezi, Chipata, Mfuwe, Lundazi and other parts of the country?
My only explanation is that we have acute levels of mismanagement in our country regime. It’s clear that our “Kaunda of 2013” (sata) has very similar attributes to the Kaunda I knew as a child. There is no other way you can justify the shortage of an essential commodity that was produced in surplus.
Looking at the signs on the wall, to say we are heading back to the torrid UNIP times would be a clear understatement. The PF government needs to pull up their socks and deliver results. That’s the mandate the few Zambians that voted for them gave them: to deliver and improve the Zambian lifestyle and nothing else.
Some of us knew that the PF was a mediocre party but that still doesn’t mean we shouldn’t hope for the best from them. The last thing a man losses is hope, when he losses hope anything is possible. We refuse to be taken to that level of hopelessness now. We demand solutions and not sugar coated Sakeni responses. Let’s have an end to these food shortages.