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By Davies Mataka
My Heart bleeds to see what a lost generation we have turned out to be, and my earnest appeal is that whosoever forms the next government will blend it with the one ingredient that has been lacking in our kind and that is, the drive to seek positive change, zeal and militancy in the manner we govern and how we are governed.
Over three generations or more of Zambians have evolved since the early sixties when our forefathers, in their unwavering resolve to seek self determination, end racial segregation and fight for basic human rights fought for and died to see the emancipation of Zambia as a free and democratic independent state.
During this time of great tribulation and anxiety, this crop of freedom fighters, the torch bearers of the struggle that carried the vision of independence had one thing in common. They were mostly youthful firebrands
These gallant men and women, the likes of Kenneth Kaunda,Mwansa Kapwepwe, Grey Zulu, Reuben Chitandika Kamanga, Aaron Milner, the Wina brothers, Chibesa Kankasa, Juliah Chikamoneka to name just a few amongst many other great fighters plyed their ‘guerrilla’ war trade antics with the unrivalled potency of young age on their side.
This coupled with wit and diplomacy played a very significant role in the ultimate attainment of self rule in 1964.
Kenneth Kaunda was barely 40 when he became President of the new republic of Zambia. The line up of names of his first Cabinet can attest to the youthfulness of the team that suprintended over the affairs of the nation which for those that were old enough remember the period as just about the best times this country enjoyed economically.
THE HAY DAYS
Those of us that were born post independence and maybe a few years before will hardly appreciate the environment through hardship and humiliation in which our parents, the freedom fighting generation endured.
We basically inherited a peaceful Zambia that flowed with milk and honey borne through the sweat and blood that our forefathers had sacrificed so much to attain. In short, we were born with a silver spoon in our mouths.
Free education, New tertiary education centres being opened, booming prices of copper and well run mines, the economy matched or simply surpassed those of many European and Asian nations, the Kwacha was trading at one to one with the British pound, what else could a young working labourer or professional in a new African government ask for? We, the generation of the baby boomers thrived, the population grew.
The policies of the new government guarded against any form of discrimination against the survival of this new generation of black African child. And in any case, the adage “imiti ikula empanga” could not have made more better sense than at the time. Promises of one egg per day for every Zambian child to ensure a healthy population. Ennoculation, vaccination campaigns against disease were the order of the day. Who never enjoyed life.
That was the correct thing to do. Yes, any political establishment seeking a continued mandate over its people would do the same thing. Investbin its people.
For us the pre and post independence babys, a seed was sown for generations to come. We were ready to take over from where our independence freedom fighters would hang their gloves. Or but were we?
A new wave of political thinking was holding sway. The all fashionable fights for self determination and democratisation was beginning to erode and a more autocratic leadership began to emerge in Africa which brought about a new wave of national civil upheaval. Most of the tired heroic independence leaders wanted more and more of that power. They decided to slowly start changing the rules of the game and chart their own concept of democracy and perpetual rule, but maybe that can be a subject for another day.
THE HONEYMOON IS OVER
The onset of the infamous one party system of government that was presided over by our independence hero Dr Kenneth Kaunda may have been instigated by so many factors that I guess so many scholars have studied and dissected. Unfortunately, very few of the living politicians who formed part of the one party establishment then and who are still living are too shy to discuss the full extent or reason for the change from a multi party system to that which seemed to take away from the gains of yesteryear by Kaunda and his team.
Dr. Kaunda remains a very intelligent and astute statesman who in my estimation of his capacity through personal interaction and the heaps of literature I have read about him could not have flown the Kamikaze plane to his sure destruction . Could it have been mounting internal political dissent from within his inner circle or opposition elements that he felt power was slowly slipping from his clutches?
Was it his foreign policy that evidently leaned towards the eastern block of countries, the USSR now Russia and many others like China that there was an inherent phobia that the western world largely through the USA and the British her former colonised would sponsor an insurrection using opposition political parties to oust him?
Regionally, a feisty neighbour south of the border in the name of Ian Douglas Smith made no qualms about how he distasted Kaunda because of his position as the so called leader of the Frontline states supporting liberation struggles in Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) itself, South Africa, Namibia Angola and Mozambique.
Geographically, the position of as a Zambia as a landlocked country did not make things any better economically. At some point, an economic blockade on Zambia caused the economy serious seismic shudders, our cheap energy importation routes through the south were stifled. Growing dissent from a population tired from biting economic hardships and feeling nostalgic of the years of plenty from the recent past made Dr. Kaunda’s situation dire. It was just a matter of time that his government capitulated and as you and I know, the rest is history.
A little history always helps understand your current position. And so after the Kaunda reign which saw some of the best and worst economic times in the history of this 57 year old nation, successive governments have attempted to ressurect what was left of a nation with huge potential for being the richest in Africa in terms of natural resources- mineral wealth, fresh water sources, agriculture and fish farming, name it.
President Chiluba, President Mwanawasa, President Banda, President Sata and now President Lungu in their succeeding governments have all in their own manner attempted to ressurect the fortunes of this nation and have succeeded and failed in their own unique ways.
What is however evident is the posture that the current youths, the post independence Babys, now the adults of today have assumed a laid back posture and how lamentably they have failed to bluntly speak to and face the challenges of the leadership and hardships that beset this country.
I imagine a cadre of youths today, transposed into the pre independence era of the 60s, we would not have assumed our independence at all, never! The Cha Cha Cha we talk about today would not have been a reality at all.
We today face an economic war, maybe not completely any fault of our own. The dynamics are numerous but mostly compounded by ourselves than any other external factors. We the post independence Babys now the adults of today are too sloppy, too laid back to hold our leadership to account for so much wrong that is going on. We complain in the comforts of our closets never voicing out the pain that we endure.
Galloping inflation, rampant unbridled corruption, a fast shrinking political operating space, growing police brutality, a collapsing economy, everything just seems to be sucking us into a vortex.
We are failing to communicate the message to our leadership that we are suffocating, We are drowning, we are axiphiated, We can’t breath.
Do we expect change when we do not speak? Do we expect change when we do not demand it from the leadership?
Iam slowly beginning to understand that their is always a down turn even to the most positive situation there may be. Even for many good tonic that eases pain and suffering to the body and heart, there is a side effect.
Is this somebody else will do it attitude, this laid back approach, the lack of political militancy a side effect of the silver spoon we were born with in our mouths?
We then all must take responsibility for the mess that we find ourselves in, nobody wants to act, nobody is talking, nobody wants to be hurt politically, nobody wants to endure the pain that our fore fathers endured to place that silver spoon in our mouths. We may just all go home and sleep or bury our heads in the sand like the proverbial ostrich, until the danger is gone past.
We may all slumber but as we awake, the challenges grow deeper. Is this the end of the error of the Silver spoon in our mouths? Posterity will judge us harshly.
OUR YOUTHS OUR HOPE
ALL so often than not, i hear the usual refrain about our youths not to be used by those in political leadership to commit crimes such as violence against others in their quest for political supremacy. The advice Could never be so true. Do not be used at all.
However, one thing that lays so true Is that the youths have minds of their own. They are the most vulnerable, The think, they feel, they hurt. The youths are our lsstvgope to influence for better political change. The Youths are our last line of defence in seeing that the leadership are jolted out of their comfort zones. That they take time to listen to the cries of the people..
Just like the youthful Dr. Kaunda’s of the 60s they must carry the torch ahead and rally ahead of the masses. Let those in leadership be held to account. Let them justify their continued stay in leadership by doing the right thing.
Repression of any kind breeds contempt from those being oppressed and can never sustain any regime no matter how powerful. World over, time and again, no political establishment has endured through military heavy handedness. Not even the colonizers of Zambia at the height of their might ever underestimated the power of the youthful liberation leaders.
Nobody must ignore them now.
A new leader will emerge in Zambia one who will lead tho nation to prosperity once again. To all those who may vying for political leadership at the helm of this nation my free advice is that while you advance your ambitions, be rest assured that you will only succeed with a youthful team in your Cabinet if you are not a youth yourself. This is our only hope after our lost generation of silver spoons.