The Race Issue- Zambian experience

On August 21, Australia voted the first Aboriginal representative in the lower House of Representatives in an election regarded widely as free and fair. Today, however, the ugly face of race in the lucky country has reacted by sending hate emails to Ken Wyatt whom the white electorate say they did not know was ‘black’ when they voted for him.

This comes barely half a year since an American expert Sol Trujilo raised a media storm when he called Australia “backward and “racist” in a BBC interview from his home base in San Diego. The Analyst this week attempts to see the Australian race issue in relation to the country’s ever increasing expert Australian population in Zambia. Could race soon become a factor in Zambia the way it almost became when white Zimbabwean farmers moved to Mkushi after Robert Mugabe redistributed land? This edition of the analyst will attempt to explore this issue in the footsteps of Sol.

Was Sol so right about ‘racist’ Australia?

When American citizen Sol Trujillo left Australia in May 2009, he described the country as “back-ward”“racist” in his first interview with the BBC as former CEO of the multi-billion dollar state-owned Telco, Telstra. and

The immediate reaction from supporters of the lucky state was that Sol was just a “bitter” Yankee who should have actually been grateful he stashed away millions of dollars working down-under as an expert.

His supporters, however, said Sol was so right because at one time or another or rather whenever things went wrong in the state Telco, he was either called a Yankee or Amigo, a direct derogatory assault on his Mexican-American descent which he had no problem with until he went down under seeking greener pastures.

Infact in an interview with the media, popular but short lived Star Prime Minister Kevin Rudd had two words for Sol as he packed his bags after a trying career as Telstra boss, “Adios Amigos,” which many thought was in bad taste especially coming from a national leader.

Today, however, Australia’s racialist history which it tries to hide so much to the outside world has come to haunt it yet again, exposing the half desert mineral rich country as the haven of all things racist and back-wardness perhaps only after apartheid South Africa.

After more than a centenary, Ken Wyatt, a 58 year old indigenous or put plainly, Aboriginal Australian won the seat of Hasluck in Western Australia (WA) for the conservative or white Liberal Party in an August 21 poll.

Some newspapers described Wyatt’s move to power as, “rising above childhood poverty to become the first indigenous person ever elected to the lower House of Representatives,” probably a good thing for Australia.

However, the ghost of Sol Trujilo who branded Australia as probably the worst racist country ever has risen again following threats from white supremacist voters who just can’t believe that they voted a ‘black’ into the “lower house” of representatives.

By August 21, Wyatt had already received a total of 50 hate racist emails telling him he would not have had a snow balls chance in hell at the polls had they known he was just an Aboriginal?

Having grown up in this same hostile racist environment and leaving under the shackles of race, Wyatt has responded by saying he will not be “perturbed” by the supremacists but continue working with those that support a society where one race is not more superior than the other, a commendable and gentlemanly response.

But just where will the racist buck stop on Australia’s inherently discriminatory tendencies?

Has Zambia which is currently “enjoying” substantial investment from the lucky country that is bringing in lots of “expert” workers to do electrician jobs etc got anything to worry about?

What signs should Zambians (the government and people) look out for and guard against to ensure that Australians whose racist history is a matter of public knowledge, debate and outrage are not exported to Zambia, especially in the booming resource sector, the main stay of Zambia’s economy?

In order to understand this, it is perhaps important to take a few steps backwards and look at Australia from their own prism—how they view themselves and “others” such as Zambians, Africans or indigenous people.

An article in the London-based The New African magazine in 2009 perhaps summed Australia’s “egalitarian” and “multi-cultural” society more succinctly than any other when it stated that the lucky country endowed with abundant wealth was still “struggling to find its feet” regarding the race issue.

This was shortly after Barak Obama, a son of a black father from Kenya and a white woman from Kansas had just been sworn in as America’s first black President, something that could have attracted hate emails in Huslack WA as in the August election of Wyatt.

Perhaps of special note was the articles reference to how the Australian government treated two near fatal accidents, one on the high seas involving black Australians (Torres Islanders) and an under-ground mine accident involving three white Australians, one of them died.

Anyhow, according to scanty newspaper reports the three blacks Dinghy ran out of gasoline on the high seas after heavy storms blew them several miles away from the shores but finally one of the several SOS text messages they had sent was picked by police.

They were safely air lifted to their home after a 22 day ordeal of hopelessness, fear and grave anguish having lost up to between 20 to 30 kgs each, barely alive.

During the same period in 2006, a rock fall resulted into three white Australians being trapped about a 1000 meters under-ground a faulty mine, one of them died.

What’s of interest though was that their rescue was covered blow by blow by all the national television channels and was of course concluded by a dinner at the Australian State House hosted by you guessed who, former Prime Minister John Howard.

He described the two whites as they wined and dined as epitomizing all the great stuff, character and courage that Australia represents and stand for but ofcourse no mention was made of the three black Australians that survived a 22 day ordeal on the sea without food or water.

A remote small newspaper according to a study done by an Australian university don once cited a police constable describing the survival of the three islanders as almost miraculous, “‘they’ are experienced sea people “these” people.”

Somehow they seem to have simply disappeared and melted back into “their” normal lives compared to the whites who got book and film deals and various accolades and perhaps got schools and roads named after them.

If this is not a typical case of Australia’s racial background—by the way studies show that most of the whites that cannot stand living side by side with blacks in South Africa and Zimbabwe migrate to Australia—perhaps a study done by three other Australian professors can help shade light on this.

In a paper entitled Imagining Australia: Australian National Identity Macgregor Duncan, Andrew Leigh, David Madden and Peter Tynan state that Australia has always had “a preference for an Anglo-Australia with its attendant discrimination against indigenous peoples and non-Anglo immigrants”.

If this is not enough to alarm any responsible government as Australia and other foreign countries head for Zambia, then what would it take before measures to ensure racial tensions especially at places of work do not start simmering, especially as reports abound that Zambians with higher graduate and post graduate educations are forced to work under lower conditions than for instance the Australian counter-parts?

Of course “token” Zambians are often put into place in one or three menial managerial positions or even director but out of say 10 managerial positions seven would be Australian or Canadian while the remaining three lesser managerial positions would go to Zambians, often more qualified than their fellow foreign managers and paid less of course.

One surprising thing is that the same Zambians would never be given jobs as mere clerks in some of these foreign countries that send “clerks” sometimes with piano playing qualifications to become managers here.

Jobs like business, finance and other technical jobs are almost exclusively for foreigners, how the government through the department of immigration over looks this just beats lots of critics of the porous Zambian system of allowing foreign “experts.”

Take Australian millionaire Dick Smith’s racially charged media out bursts in August 2010 for instance. He charged that immigrants—he didn’t specify the race—are going to deplete natural resources of Australia such as water so therefore they must be barred from entering the country.

Smith is probably the proverbial fool whom in the abundance of water dies of thirst but just the sheer race attitude a million like him is allowed to air on national television like ABC is intolerable especially when he has the facts wrong.

One analyst asked when this issue was raised, “Why can’t we emulate countries like Botswana which dictate that the majority positions of managers be held by Mutswana’s and the rest be advertised locally and internationally? Why should we let foreigners dictate terms to us in our land when they should be equal partners, they invest the money, we own the wealth, everybody is happy.”

The unpopular argument, the one the government glosses over and the one the so called investors hate to acknowledge is that as the discontentment increases in these companies, productivity will fall, which hunts shall increase and eventually a total collapse of systems.

The Zambian government on its part has a responsibility to read the signs early and nip the problem in the bud rather than wait for the goodwill it has created to be taken for granted by so called foreign investors who are creating jobs more for their people and the leaner ones for Zambians.

A typical example of a time bomb waiting to explode is where a Zambian professional with a university degree can earn as little as the equivalent of $US1, 500 compared to a foreign colleague with piano credentials earning treble the amount.

In fact, trade union movement leaders and their members feel this is likely to be a campaign issue as the country draws nearer to the polls in just under a year.

Unfortunately, those companies that do not take corrective measures now are likely to get burnt and have their investment scuttled while those that chose to practice equality now can survive.

It is like Steve Bantu Biko said regarding the disparity between whites in apartheid South Africa and their exclusive system deliberately designed to deny blacks privileges on colour grounds, “You cannot have one percent of the population get the best land live in the best houses while the majority suffer…when we are in the west, we confirm to western values, conversely whites should confirm to African terms after apartheid ends.”

This warning must find a home in the board rooms of all foreign companies in Zambia who want to import their racial histories in a modern democratic Zambia that has welcomed them with open arms and offered them the best terms ever.


  • comment-avatar

    Ba Tujilijili, PD Phiri merely reflected on a statement Munukayumbwa Sipalo, the then Secretary General of UNIP, expressed in anger at the the brutal manner the whites despised Africans in the then Northern Rhodesia. We hope you are not one of those Zambians that freeze and stand at attention and node aggreably to a point of near-neck breaking when a white young juvenile speaks on any subject. So we still have the a Muzungu anikonde characters around! Civilization originated from Africa and the Middle East. Learn to access historical pronouncements conservatively with sober minds. Stand up and be counted.

  • comment-avatar
    PACT 7 years


    I do have a passport. I have traveled and still travel. But even though you call me names, I’m not your enemy.

    Sneaky Muzungu talks about the racist heart of Zambia (??) . He wants you to believe Zambia is a full of racists. If ever black Africans say or do anything that can be misconstrued or interpreted as racist it will be because they are reacting to what the many evil things white people do.

  • comment-avatar
    Tujilijili 7 years


    You silly twat, what muzungu says makes so much sense, but you’d rather maintain your extremely narrow view of world. Get a passport and travel the world…

  • comment-avatar
    Tujilijili 7 years


    Correct me if I’m wrong, but don’t you reside in the UK…?

  • comment-avatar
    Tujilijili 7 years

    PD Phiri,

    So the only good white man is a dead one? Is that so?

    Probably every modern convenience in your home has been invented by a white man! So if you hate ’em so much, why not go back to your roots, literally speaking…

  • comment-avatar
    Kojo 7 years

    The reason is this:news article: “Standard Chartered employee arrested for stealing K100m”

  • comment-avatar
    Muzungu 7 years

    To the journalist/author, you would have to feel a sense of remorse if not a deep shame looking at how much your article has backfired. It has tapped right into the racist heart of Zambia by the looks of it. From what I am reading it is most of the Zambian respondent who are racist. Thank you for exposing the hotbed of animosity within. Hate to say it but your article evoked a hateful tone and now you see the result. Shame, shame, shame. Why not delete this threat and right a more balaned, thought provoking article that encourages an intelligent debate.

  • comment-avatar
    PACT 7 years

    The reason they make long-winded, tongue-in-chick comments here is because they want to – yet again – dupe and mentally enslave the naive.

    These Muzungus are racist robbers. They have been robbing and sowing seeds of war in Africa since they washed up the beautiful African shores.

  • comment-avatar

    Well, well. We live in a tricky world. Many who have been privilaged to study in UK will tell their experience of a community of die racists terrosizing the streets of London, Birmingham and several cities in that country. This honest group of racist people are POPULARLY referred to as the “SKIN -HEADS”. They feature as persons without hair but leave a line of hair in the middle of their heads. If a black person sees them advancing towards his/her direction, the safest option is to avoid them by changing your route or dash into a super market till they disappear from your sight. in Zambia we do have a clique of Skin Heads putting on “wigs” on their heads. Take a hard look at them and imagine them with hairless skins on heads, they clearly fit in as the Skin Heads. However they have adapted to the Zambian political climate by sounding to fight for the rights of poor Zambians. Your guess is as good as mine. May God save the people of Zambia from an infestation of these pretentious foreign elements of various hews marauding as Church and Political leaders in Zambia.

  • comment-avatar

    Indeed there is a substantial number of whites in the leadership of some Churches and Political Parties in Zambia, who seem to pretend that they are championing human rights on behalf of the poor peopl of Zambia, but actually stealthly maintaining fat personal bank accounts at the expense of the very poor they purport to save from some imaginary evils. Histrory has a pool of lessons for us. One of our beloved Great Zambian Freedom Fighter once summed up a solemn thought that the people of the World, and particularly Zambians, cannot ignore. Munukayumbwa Sipalo was at one point forced to think aloud and thus gravely stated that “THE ONLY GOOD WHITE MAN IS A DEAD ONE”.. May His Soul Rest In Peace.

  • comment-avatar
    Tujilijili 7 years

    For once, somone has chosen Australians (a first for me) instead of the usual sitting ducks, the Indians & Chinese!

    Muzungu, well done. Can the author please respond to muzungu?

  • comment-avatar

    Hi , I must say, your article is interesting , yet, I think you should try find out more about the subject….
    I’ll keep an eye on u’r blog.

  • comment-avatar
    Areaboy 7 years

    Muzungu, that’s a well-presented response. Very difficult to fault. So true, it hurts.

  • comment-avatar
    mickey mouse freedom 7 years

    we shall deport most of these chaps when sata comes into office ..i have no doubt..unless if he doesnt..hahahah

  • comment-avatar
    Another Muzungu 7 years


    Now that is a perfect and non offensive response.

    I feel someone is trying to tarnish the good business name of Australian companies.
    One Zambian even asking people to kill Aussies when they reach Zambia.

    Now that’s newsworthy of ZNBC.

  • comment-avatar
    Muzungu 7 years

    You had a fantastic opportunity to write an informative, balanced story but you missed the boat in many respects. The story would have been more effective if it didn’t tar all Australians with the same brush – as racists. Generalising is always unhelpful and sadly what the media are famous for. Creating and perpetuating stereotypes usually in a sensationalist and irritating fashion. By writing this article in the way you did, you exhibited the same type of racially divisive and ignorant behaviour you denounced in “Racists Australians”…..

    Let me say there are many facets of your article that I will almost certainly agree with. I agree that Zambians are able to do many of the jobs that foreigners are brought into perform. I agree that the disparity in wages and conditions is not acceptable. I agree that Companies should be forced to explain how they have managed to train Zambians so expats are eventually done out of a job and replaced by a Zambian national. I agree that the Zambian Government needs to be tougher in vetting and rejecting applications from foreign firms to import labour from abroad. The onus must be placed on companies to prove they have advertised locally and performed a genuine recruitment and hiring process. I agree that Australia has yet to fully mature and progress from a state of xenophobia when it comes to decisions and supportive policies regarding refugees and its Indigenous populations.
    On that note it is sad that few countries have matured in terms of the race debate. Please name a few positive examples that Australia and other nations could follow. If you think the appointment of a Black President has solved the US’s issues then you are sadly mistaken. Just look at nearby South Africa where the local population are killing other Africans in xenophobic attacks. What lessons can Australia learn from that? It disappointments me when journalists take a line that racism is always a black vs white issue.

    The crux of the issue is that foreigners come and work in Zambia because they are allowed to by the Government. They receive work permits. They are assessed as being suitable and the Government allows people to work here. If you have a problem with foreign numbers take it up with your Government instead of playing the race card.

    Your story could have been more effective if it contained a comparative analysis of the foreign labour requirements of each country for example. An analysis of statistics from the Immigration and Labour Department providing a breakdown of all foreign labour, including those from the SADC region as well as China for example would have been useful.

    You speak of importing racism into Zambia from Australia and but didn’t back it up with anything tangible. The connection was missing. What evidence is there that Australians are racist in Zambia, has there been a surge in hate crime, complaints of discrimination going before the courts, or for arbitration, Australian mistreating Zambian en masse? Did you run a credible random attitudes survey across the country to determine how the population feel about Australians? A vox populi on the streets? Is there a spike in Union claims against Australian supervisors? How can you validate this claim? Just because an Australian fronts up in Zambia it doesn’t automatically mean they are racist. Without this type of data it seems as though you are being racist yourself and bashing Australians.

    You mentioned the case of the Aboriginal MP Ken Wyatt who received hate mail from 50 or so people. But let’s turn this around. What about the people who voted for him knowing he was Indigenous and elected him to the Lower House? This says more for open and fair-minded Australians than it does for the red-neck element. Surely? For every case like Sol Trujilo you will find other foreigners who love Australia, who move there and want to make it their home. Again, why focus on one person. Another case where you chose to generalise.

    Be fair and be balanced please – and I think your story will be far more credible and powerful.

  • comment-avatar
    PACT 7 years

    Whites – no matter how many colored friends they claim to have – are almost always racist towards blacks. I can even go as far as saying its inborn – whites are born racists.

    Time to wake up and mete out some social justice!

    If you have to deal with them, always remember that they are not your brothers or sisters and watch your back. Your true brothers and sisters would not do to Africa and Zambia what these greedy “others” have done and continue to do.

  • comment-avatar
    PACT 7 years

    Visit abagond. wordpress. com to get some perspective on race.

  • comment-avatar
    Richard H 7 years

    Being white and having lived in Zambia, Zimbabwe and Australia I can assure you that Australians are very racist not only towords black and brown people but to everyone who are not or do not sound Australian. This Ken Wyatt is actually more white than black, in otherwords a coloured person. A true Aboriginal person is a quiet different person. Anyone in Australian can claim to be Aboriganie and claim all sorts of benefits that others can not access. This naturally causes resentment amongst other races. I remember a friend purchased a house at a time when mortgage rates were 18%. I said ” you must be crazy…18%”. He laughed and said “No, 5% from the Aborigianl Affairs department” I said that he wasn’t Aboriginal and he replied that his wife’s grandfather was part Aborigianl so they were offered 5% and naturally took it. You can imagine what his non Aboriginal neighbours felt trying to pay off an 18% mortgage! Not good for race relations! One must also remember that the “reserved occupation” policy in the old South Africa was at first not part of the goverment policies but forced upon them by the very powerfull mineworkers union who were worried about their jobs. All the leaders of that union at that time were Australians!

  • comment-avatar
    ZWA Fuseke!!! 7 years


  • comment-avatar

    Race is nothing to talk about wisdom is the issue, because in every race there are fools and inteligent people; go Aborinal go! in fact it is your land, people must learn to respect all humanity

  • comment-avatar
    Myself 7 years

    Where is the will from our leaders??? look at the NCZ case, they want to sell it, have they considered that with the infrasctructure NCZ has, goverment can raise money to recapitalise it by floating it on the stock exchange to zambians,?? instead, they are already looking at outside help. In a developing country like zambia where agriculture is critical in fostering development, and enhancing the welfare of the majoirty of the people, putting a vital asset in foreign hands would be suicidal and would eventually result in huge costs to government…its a shame really…..

  • comment-avatar
    Myself 7 years

    @ Bri..well said, my sentiments exactly, i would also add that the bucks also falls on our leaders. We need a government that is inward looking, one that will turn to its citizens first before looking outside. It is very frustarting at the moment. Development will come from within and not from outside,we need to realise our wealth and not portray a message of hopelessness if the so called investors pull out there resources.It is very annoying at the moment to be Zambian coz we have systems that seem to benefit foreigners than us citizens, government has also created a system where “investors” are given a godlike status and that we are doomed without them.
    Where is teh will from our leaders??? look at teh NCZ case, they want to sell it, have they considered that with teh infrasctructure NCZ HAS,

  • comment-avatar
    siwale love 7 years


  • comment-avatar
    londoner 7 years

    It has taken the Australians so many years to elect a true Australian…a genuine one. Goodness me…does this not smack of paternalism? Australia has a big race problem.It needs to do something about it. Zambia has had good race relations.It can be proud of that.The Australian immigration policy is racist.It allows easy entry for whites.

  • comment-avatar
    Eat and rub yourself 7 years

    Zambia has been very kind to other races, the propotion of white and indian people that have in parliament outnumbers the propotion of other countries number of emmigrant races in places of decision making. E.g in 1990, we had Stan Christoph, Dipak patel, Dr. Bandat, Guy Scot, Mia, a white MP. for Mukushi, an Indian MP from Monze, the list is endless, This is not withstanding that we have one of the least number of whites and Indian Zambian in comparison to other countries East and Southern African, and yet we have had a larger number of other races in parliament in one parliamentary session. I beg to be challenged on this one.

  • comment-avatar

    Bri, its like you writing your own article as well…interesting response though! Issues of immigration have become a hot issue all of a sudden, why? Coincidentally, this is happening when a black man is the most powerful in the world. In Arizona and USA in general, immigrants are not welcome…not surprisingly Australia is not far behind. Need we also do the same?

  • comment-avatar
    Bri 7 years

    I have friends who emigrated to Australia and know children of many friends who are studying in that country. Yes, there is discrimination and it is mainly among whites who emigrated from Zimbabwe and South Africa. They carried with them supremacy thinking and spreading the seed of discontent among others as well. Discrimination is always there – within a family also there are preferred children- in nation, like ours, there are tribes we talk of possessing certain marshal attributes and so on. Overall, subtle “discrimination” (one can link it to race) is there in almost all societies and countries. The author talked about Botswana. As on date, locals “don’t like” ( A racist can replace the words “don’t like” with “Hate”) Zimbabweans looking for jobs in their country. Is this a race issue?
    As for Australian bringing in “clerks” and majority of senior jobs going to “whites”, it is lack of visionary leadership among our politicians. We think “inside the box”. As the author put it- we have resources/wealth and they have money to invest. Why cannot we find money? I guarantee you- if e.g. Zambian entrepreneurs had formed a company and floated it on LuSE to harness local capital and then with underground resources at Kanshansi or Lumwana Mines had gone to financiers in western world, India or China they would have found loans to develop the mine. We talk of expertise available locally but have we ever tried to make them “business oriented”? We look through our narrow prism of “politics” and do not allow anybody to become too rich or comfortable. We get jealous and see them as a threat. 

    We have many locals who can pool their resources and I can guarantee – to find resources locally of 200-300 million dollars through Zambian individuals and Napsa, Occupational pension funds, indigenous banks…….and start mining at medium level and grow from there. We have waited for so long and suffered so long and brainwashed by so-called investors and their “political masters” sitting in Western World that no developing country can progress without their divine intervention.

    First Quantum is an example. It was nothing but a “syndicate of traders” (nay, smugglers!!). Ask KK. These were supremacist Zimbabwean and Australian who were smuggling copper and cobalt from Zambia and DRC and in late 70s were saved by a team of lawyers. They built their empire from such deals. I sound negative and jealous. That is how we sound about our fellow Zambians when they work hard and get comfortable. It is time we “value entrepreneurship”, we value and respect “hardworking lawyers, accountants, economists, teachers, civil servants, businessmen, doctors, nurses and so on”, we talk and honor role models who work hard and get rich in life than “begging from those who have stolen from us- Kwalalas” As long as the parallel and dominant culture of “respecting the thieves as long as they are rich and give handouts to poor Zambians” we will not bring in the inherent strengths of majority of Zambians and they will continued to be ruled by “boxed in, narrow minded, selfish” . Instead of complaining about foreigners at all times, especially during election time, I remember Hon Sata calling Indians name in 1989 and telling gullible Zambians that they were flushing our national currency through toilets. Chiluba branding his financier and later on foe “Indian” , and calling British all kinds of name when it comes to London Judgment. And now Australian race card. 

    We need to focus our energies on development than “handouts”, “foreign investment”. We shall control resources, control companies and employ experts –  chinese, indians, zimbabweans, australians, canadians, or whatever- they can invest in publicly listed companies freely but the model shall be “widely held companies, listed on LuSE”. Slowly but surely we will all benefit and Zambia will be a truely great nation.

  • comment-avatar
    Lusakan Gigolo 7 years

    An interesting read!