On the occasion of Heroes and Unity Days

Our country has come a long way to get to where we are today. Our founding fathers and mothers sacrificed so much for all of us to be what we are. Every generation has got its own heroes and this has been so since time immemorial. These are men and women who should fill text books in our schools, colleges and universities. Sadly, very little has been written about these unsung heroes whose remains are scattered in graves all across the ten provinces of Zambia. Even our archives don’t have their names and all the things they did. The few that remain are probably too old or two frail to tell their heroic deeds to our children, grandchildren, great grandchildren and generations yet unborn.

They were ordinary people who loved our country and who had a noble vision for its future. They worked hard and hoped for a better country, where all the 73 tribes would work and live together in unity, peace and harmony. They did not have money or care about the comforts and trappings of the 21st century. They were selfless and sweated blood and tears to arm their children with some form of education to face the vulgarities of their time. They put the country first.

Independence came in October, 1964 and these founding fathers and mothers consolidated this unity through imaginative and forward looking approaches like adopting a one Zambia,one nation, which were put in practice in so many ways through appointments to cabinet and the public service, where for the sake of our unity as a country, we all worked together as one people. Strong seeds of unity were planted by the founding fathers and mothers, which have enabled us to live together as brothers and sisters and to care for one another. No one should pretend that this approach to our national life, which won us the acclaim and admiration of the world, did not go through severe tests, twists and turns. It did, but we stood together as a people, proud and free to defend it and make it our national way of life. Whenever threats to our unity appeared, they stood together to stoutly defend it and won. Our leaders of that time led by Kenneth Kaunda, Harry Nkumbula, Simon Kapwepwe , Mainza Chona, Reuben Kamanga, Humphrey Mulemba, Grey Zulu, Arthur Wina, Nalumino Mundia, Elijah Mudenda , Peter Matoka, Sikota Wina, Munukayumbwa Sipalo, Solomon Kalulu, Julia Chikamoneka , Justin Chimba, Esther Banda, Lawrence Katilungu, Nalatindi Nganga , Samuel Mbilishi, Lewis Changufu , John Banda, Aaron Milner, Mungoni Liso, Mary Fulano, Jonathan Chivunga and many others too numerous to mention were there to guide our nation and to make sure that we kept our unity. They provided leadership and direction in more ways than one. They were ably supported by the people in all the provinces, who ultimately were the true heroes and who made sure that the leaders did not deviate or compromise the unity of our country.

In recent times, there has been a weakening of this unity and cracks have appeared as a result of changes in the political leadership of our country. We have a growing and better educated population which is detribalised, but which is being led by an elite, which is more tribalised and which seems less committed to this unity, which has served us well before and after independence. It has not been uncommon in recent elections to political office to hear aspirants of political office or their supporters play the tribal card to seek election. It is in fact very common to see political aspirants to office to retreat to their home areas to seek office and this applies to all political parties without exception. It is not unusual to see unbalanced tribal appointments to cabinet, civil service, diplomatic service, security services, public service commissions and parastatals. It has almost become an accepted norm and appears to be done without any sense of national shame. There was a time when this was a national taboo. Ethnic voting during elections to political office has become commonplace and one can safely redraw the map of Zambia. This is a shameful and dangerous development which does not augur well for the unity of our country. The absence of dialogue among our political leaders has created tension and left a dark cloud hanging over our country. For the sake of our heroes who worked tirelessly for our unity, let us as Zambians sit down, seriously reflect and put measures to correct this situation before it becomes irredeemable.