The struggle for Zambia’s independence was not easy. Tribute goes to the many heroes – men, women and youth- who sacrificed so much, including their lives, for our country to be independent 53 years ago, from British colonialism. We have many of our citizens today, who were born after independence – affectionately referred to as born-frees- and who have no idea what it was like to live under an oppressive British colonial regime, which believed in the domination of the indigenous people of people of this country. In 1953 , Britain allowed the white minority in Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia), Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) and Nyasaland (now Malawi), to impose the infamous Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland on black people of these three countries, which entrenched brutal white rule and caused even more suffering on them.

The born-frees have no idea how much their forefathers and mothers suffered at the hands of colonialism. They have never heard of the African Welfare Society, the fore runner to the African National Congress(ANC), the Zambia African National Congress (ZANC), which split from the ANC, ostensibly to accelerate the struggle for independence; they have never heard of the ordinary men and women who donated cattle, goats, groundnuts, chickens and money to send the first delegation of black leaders to London to lobby the British government, lawmakers, trade unions and ordinary citizens for our independence. It is difficult to explain to them that our residential areas, education and health systems were segregated on racial lines and that is how areas such as Chilenje, Matero (for blacks), Thornpark (for Coloureds), Madras (for Indians) and Kabulonga, Woodlands, Northmead, Rhodespark (for privileged white minority Brits, who even punished none British whites to areas such as Roma township. The blacks could not enter departmental shops, chemists, hotels such as Ridgeway, Lusaka, Savoy, North Western, Edinburgh etc on account of their colour; blacks had to carry the notorious Chitupas or an identification pass, without which they were arrested; it took enormous sacrifice and selflessness to confront the evils of colonialism with zeal, dedication and commitment. They did not do it for reward. They did it out principle and love for the country and its people .

At independence after a long and bitter struggle, our country only had a handful of black University graduates and holders of todays grade twelve certificates. In recognition of this, the founding fathers prioritised education as key to whatever the country wanted to achieve in addition to improving health and other services, which were virtually non existent or meagre. They came up with a national motto of “One Zambia, One Nation”, because they recognised the need for the over 72 ethnic groups to share responsibility in the construction of every aspect of our national life and receive equal attention. Cabinet, Civil Service, Parastal and Diplomatic appointments were done in a fair and equitable manner and no part of this country felt excluded.

We have come a very long way and from a small population at independence of about 3 million to about 17 million today. We have so many educated zambians and our country has become a net exporter of human expertise to the region and beyond. We have in theory achieved freedom, which should always go hand in glove with development. Without development, you very soon lose your freedom. What then did we promise our people at the time of independence? We promised them development, education, health-care, better roads, clean water, housing, and also greater freedoms to participate in making decisions which affect their rights, including freedom from arbitrary arrest for saying things which may annoy those in power at any given time. Yes, some progress has been made in the last 53 years, but a lot and I mean a lot more needs to be done to make the lives of our people better. Increased production of maize, soya beans, cassava, sugar, cattle, fish, chickens, goats, beans, coffee, tea, honey etc, is development only it makes our people food secure and makes their nutrition better. The area where we have gone backwards is that of politics, where our political leaders have been treating each other as enemies and not mere opponents. We want to see a peaceful corrupt free country in government, where all Zambians shall share national wealth and live in peace with one another. This new generation should not let us down.