There is a lot to be happy about, and be proud of, about being Zambian. We Zambians, of all ages, genders and social classes, are a very happy people, in spite of our near Afghanistan general humanitarian levels of poverty and suffering.

In so many ways, in fact, we are worse off than Afghanistan – we have not gone through the horrible wars Afghanistan has endured! And yet, we are a happy people, always polite, very respectful, joking, laughing and going about our business of preventing death as if this is all there is to life. Many of us, young and old alike, enjoy alcohol, and are incapable of sleep without it.

We love our country, and its people. We love ourselves so much that we did not like the hatred and insults that our celebrated Zambian football referee (best not to name him, you know him!) who made history at the ongoing Africa Cup of Nations suffered! Most of us have offered defensive explanations for his unbelievableperformance.

Generally, we are a very respectful people. We talk a lot, most of us. Among friends and family, we argue,quarrel and insult each other quite often, so often in fact, that our hopeless politicians now think theytoo must insult each other, to win popularity. But we do not like violence. We hate and fear war. Most of us love boxing though.

We love good gossip. We love good jokes. We enjoy poking fun at everything, including our poverty, death and funerals. We are not clowns; we just love laughter, jokes and gossip. Laughter is the popular medicine we use to protect us from our pandemic of economic and social suffering, and their stressful maddening consequences.

With mass unemployment, millions of us have all the time in the world to gossip, poke fun at ourselves and others, quarrel and insult each other and laugh to conceal the pain of the indignity of life without a job, without work, lives wasted doing nothing but wanting everything, while waiting for death.

Many of us think there is nothing to fight about, and to fight for, apart from hustling to pay rent, buy electricity and water, buy food and occasionally buy some clothes, and somehow put our children in school. We love our beer. Our food is quite basic and predictable, organised around mealie meal and relish. On occasion we go to any of the manyforeign restaurants and takeaways which have mushroomed all over the country after we removed Kaunda from power. Usually, we survive on the food we can get from our markets.

Many of us will not ask questions buying stolen goods cheaply. Lack of work and money bothers all of us, a lot. Many of us buy and sell whatever we can, to survive, and have long given up on getting a decent job.

We hear of military coupes on our continent and thank our stars we have escaped military power grabs, so far. We are, in fact, celebrated globally as a country that changesgovernments through the ballot. Apart from one or two incidents which did not amount to much during the Kaunda and Chiluba governments, our soldiers have thankfully stayed in their dilapidated barracks, and avoided straying into politics. We are very grateful for this, to our armed men and women, and their commanders, in the Zambia Army.

We think, some of us, we are a democracy, even with all our problems. We have a government made up of a judiciary, a parliament and an executive president, and a civil service. We have local, provincial and national tiers of government all wrapped up in one huge bankrupt Government of the Republic of Zambia. We are not at war.

We have many political parties, so many that in the August 2021 elections we had 16 presidentialcandidates, even as the top two presidential candidates shared among themselves 98% of the votes and selfishly left only 2% to the rest to smear among themselves. Once again, we escaped a civil war!

Let us say that the good things described above are a rough but quite accurate description of some of our “good national character” – generally full of laughter, happy, peaceful, talkative but not violent, and “democratic” people. We fear and respect authority. We hate war and violence. We have, in fact, been declared a Christian Nation by our politicians.

It is our “good national character” that worries me. Could it just be possible, that the extreme humanitarian levels of poverty, unemployment, inequalities, corruption and general decay are in fact facilitated by our “good national character”? 58 years after gaining our independence from Britain, we are obviously sinking deeper, every day, into mass poverty, nationwide unemployment and extreme inequalities.

Barely 6 months after our historic August the 12th 2021 elections all signs are there that nothing much will change; signs of our sliding into worse and new forms of corruption, extreme inequalities, mass poverty and countrywide unemployment are there for all to see, notwithstanding the cosmetic improvements the UPND government has made so far.

The UPND and Hakainde Hichilema are fast turning out to be no better than all our previous governments; corrupt to the core. What is the problem with us? What are the sources of some of our national inability to overcome our neo colonial poverty, unemployment and inequalities?

Could it just be possible that we have confused “democracy” for many parties, elections, and a talkative urban educated class? What is the value of our “democracy” to the majority of Zambians who live only to prevent death every day?

Is it not just possible that we have failed, in the past 58 years of our existence, to understand that “democracy” is the fight and victory over the killer violence of hunger, unemployment, extreme inequalities among the majority of Zambians? Is it possible that our fear of physical violence and war is used to blackmail the majority of us into poverty and its dictatorship we mistake for democracy?
Democracy is more than just many political parties and periodically voting for corrupt and thieving politicians. Democracy is a healthy body anda stomach full of good nutritious food, a head rich with advanced learning and latest knowledge, a decent, safe, and well-paying job, a comfortable home with water and electricity always available, safe streets and children in modern schools, colleges and universities fully equipped with the latest learning materials.

Democracy is equal and full access for everyone to modern clinics and hospitals run by quality healthy personnel, efficiently and fully supplied with the latest medical science technologies, and medicines.

And, yes, democracy is genuine peace as the absence of injustice, poverty, unemployment and inequalities and therefore, freedom from violence and war.

Democracy is full equality of all people, all genders. When this happens, all the other freedoms acquire their true value and aspire to reach their full development.

Democracy is freedom from ignorance, poverty, unemployment and inequalities. Democracy is the liberation and explosion to the fullest extent of the intellectual, spiritual and creative talents and capacities of all people.

Judged, therefore, by what “democracy” and “peace” actually mean in the everyday lives of a people, Zambia is neither a democracy nor a peaceful country. Zambia is a dictatorship of mass poverty, national unemployment and extreme inequalities. Zambia is therefore a very violent country. Which is why we have an extremely young population!

The historic August 12, 2021 national elections and their results are a wakeup call for all of us who call ourselves, and are Zambians, to ask and answer the questions: Are we a “democracy”? Are we a “peaceful country”?

What do YOU think?

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