Well known freedom fighters like me never get invited to State House for independence functions, but people who were less involved in the struggle are embraced, says Veteran Politician Vernon Johnson Mwaanga.
And VJ says it is unacceptable to have a government that does not want to be accountable to its people.
Speaking when he featured on ‘Let the People Talk’ on Radio Phoenix today, VJ said Cabinet Office does seem to have an accurate list of freedom fighters.
“I was involved in the struggle of course and there are a lot of people found in every part of Zambia who fought for the independence of this country. A lot of them have been forgotten because record keeping as the country particularly of the struggle has been very, very poor. You will find that even people like myself who are well known as freedom fighters, I never get invited to go to state house for independence functions, instead I see people who were less involved in the struggle who are now being embraced as freedom fighters of the day. So there is a systemic problem in terms of record keeping and keeping people who were involved in the struggle,” VJ said.
“In 2014 when Zambia became 50 years, Cabinet Office drew out a list of people who were going to be honoured and when I looked at this list I found that there were a lot of names which were missing. There were also names which were on the list which should not have been there because these truly speaking they were not freedom fighters. And I insisted that they should add some of the other names which we were able to collect in a very short time so that they too could be honoured. It was important not to distort our history but if the problem can start at Cabinet Office were they don’t have an accurate list of who fought for the independence of the country you can imagine how confused the born-frees must be and what kind of political history they are being taught now in schools.”
He observed that today’s politicians were focused on enriching themselves instead of serving the people.
“Looting of national resources is not acceptable under any circumstances. People who are in politics must be there for service to the people. Not service to themselves but service to the people of Zambia because that’s what political leadership is all about. It’s not about enriching oneself. A regrettable tendency appears to have emerged in the recent past where people who were using public transport now are owning buildings, fleet of private cars packed in their yards which cannot be justified by their income levels, which is a matter of public interest because they are in the public domain, VJ noted.
“Service to the people appears to have taken a backseat. I do regret this development and I hope that this generation of politicians can re-evaluate themselves and genuinely tell the people of Zambia whether they are there to serve the people or serve themselves. If we don’t address this [topic], the problem will go unresolved.”
He said a selfless leaders listen to the concerns of the people they govern.
“We have to listen to the people when they talk because you know that people have got issues which have to be addressed by the leaders. We cannot have a leader who does not address the issues that the people raise. And we have to develop a spirit of tolerance towards one another. Listening to each others views not treating each other as enemies even though we belong to different political parties. Democracy is about listening to the will of the people and doing what the people would like their leaders to do,” he said.
And VJ also urged people not to be afraid of holding the government accountable.
“It is not enough just to declare that we are going to do the following. There must also be an implementation strategy to implement these policies. And people must continue to hold government accountable for promises they make in their manifestos. People in this country have a tendency of not holding government accountable for promises which they make to them. Fear, intimidation are unacceptable in a democratic society. Citizens should not live in fear,” he said.
He also observed that the One Zambia One Nation motto had weaked over the years.
“Before independence, the founding fathers of the nation decided that we are going to adopt a policy of ‘One Zambia One Nation’. There was a good reason to it. We wanted all the 72, 73 tribes, ethnic groups to be able to live together in peace and harmony after independence but in the last 53 years there has been a weakening of this motto particularly in the last few years,” VJ said.
“There has been a general improvement in terms of infrastructure but although a lot has been done, a lot more and I mean a lot more remains to be done to improve the general condition of life of citizens. A lot needs to be done to improve our road transport, to provide clean water, health services, to improve the manufacturing sector so that we can become less dependant on importation of goods,” said VJ
“We the founding fathers laid the foundation and it is up to the generation now to continue from what we left behind. Not by destroying what we left but by improving on what we left behind so that the country can move forward.”