I am the third born child of my parents. My family was just two players short of a full football team. Together with our parents there were nine of us! The first and last born are girls, now grown into old God-fearing women (Holy Mother of Jesus, please I pray, these two strong women must not team up and give me a beating, for merely saying the truth! They are old!).

We were a large family on one poor pay: my father’s, who was a cop all his adult life. He started by first serving under the last Prime Minister of the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland (now Zimbabwe, Zambia and Malawi) – Sir Roland “Roy” Welensky– and laterin the Zambia Police Mobile Unit under Kaunda.

I have sometimes wondered why Kaunda as Chancellor of the University of Zambiahad me expelled from UNZA way back in the 80s – could it be that my father, as a cop in the colonial police force once clobbered Kaunda as he was protesting the federation and its harmful effects on Africans? I don’t know. All I know is that for leading university and college protests against Kaunda’s adoption of IMF austerity measures (which included removal of university student allowances and introduction of meal coupons) Kaunda unleashed his Mobile Police on us at UNZA and I got a bit of a beating and was detained by the police! This is a full story for another day.

My parents brought us up as good god-fearing Catholic kids. Despite our near football team size family, we were a closely welded, generally happy regular church going children. I do not remember, ever, either my father or mother telling us not to smoke or drink. Church did that job very well. School confirmed it. To this day, I have never seen the lips of my sisters near a bottle of beer or a wine or whisky glass!

Only after finishing school and leaving home did some of my brothers openly start smoking and drinking. I only started drinking after being expelled from UNZA. I vividly remember being almost impeached from the University of Zambia Student Union (UNZASU) at the instigation of older members of the Union who were upset because I was not authorising use of student money for beer! Of course, I brutally suppressed that “beer insurrection”, and effectively got the truant beer drinkers removed from the union, by students of course (my strong catholic authoritarian upbringing served me well that time, thank you Jesus!)

All my brothers and sisters finished school and went on to complete their tertiary education or training, and got jobs. And none of them had an alcohol problem during this time.

My Mother was the glue, heart and soul of our family. I have yet to meet a gentle, humble and yet extremely strong and tough woman as my mother was (I know you may say the same and more, good things, about your mother, but I tell you, my mother was far better than yours, just accept it!). As a mobile cop – literally and figuratively – my father was always away on stretches of patrol duty sometimes extending as long as one or two months. My mother therefore brought us up, singlehandedly.

My big sister never really grew up with us – she was in boarding school for much of her teens and immediately after secondary school she went on to become a Catholic nun – she still is to this day. It used to be such a joy, and the waiting so exciting, for the holidays when my big sister would come home. We were a happy family on a poor constable pay.

Today I see girl children as young as 12 years carrying their babies on their backs living on the streets in our towns, surviving on alcohol, drugs and prostitution. The last government actually decided to forcefully send these children to Zambia National Service camps. Zambia has a massive pre and teenage alcohol abuse crisis.

Boys at 18 years today will have swallowed more beer that I ever drank in my whole life after being expelled from UNZA. For more than a decade and some years now I have not tasted any alcohol. And I am perfectly fine, and don’t crave it at all. Zambia has a youth alcohol abuse crisis.

There was structure in my life. I was very lucky I had a family, with both parents married. School held the genuine promise of university, college and a permanent full-time job. I looked forward to the day I would be educated, working, fall in love, marry, have children and enjoy my life! And yet my family was poor, by all standards.

I have never ever smoked dagga, and yet today I hear talk this plant must be legalised.

Six out of every ten children under the age of five in Zambia are starving, deprived of essential needs and requirements of life, and exist in overcrowded homes with only a single parent or none at all.The majority of Zambia’s children above 18 do not know why they are alive, have no hope of university, college or work. Their ugly poverty is written on their faces every day. Hundreds of thousands of them are in prison or remand detainees.

Millions of Zambia’s young people between the ages 18 and 35 have never had a formal job, do not expect to get a job, therefore depend on someone else for shelter, food, clothes and recreation. Many drink heavily, whenever they can lay their hands on any type of alcohol.

7out of every 10 Zambiansare under 24 years. Less than 3 out of every 100 Zambians are above 65 years. Why are we drowning Zambia in alcohol andkilling our country?

Zambia has destroyed the economic foundations of a normal family by tolerating mass unemployment. We are not rebelling at the poverty which has become the daily lived reality of our youth. We are used to seeing orphans and doing nothing about it.Churches do not fullyserve the needs of the family – they are preoccupied with politics, money and survival.

I ask; what must we do to rescue the young people, and therefore free our country, from the tyranny of poverty and alcohol? The next article will address this question.

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