It must be quite admirable to be a President of Zambia at a meeting with Heads of State from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Zimbabwe or any other neighbouring countries that have history of political turmoil or civil war like Mozambique and Angola. It must be pleasing and comforting for a Zambian President to leave State House for days or even weeks, knowing – with certainty – that he will find the country intact.
The President of Zimbabwe Emmerson Mnangagwa has had to cut short his foreign trips, saying he won’t attend the World Economic Forum in Switzerland because he has to return home and restore peace to his country, which is currently on fire – literally. Twelve people have already been killed at the hands of the brutal military in the capital Harare and the civil strife is only getting worse, forcing authorities to impose a now famous drill in Africa of Internet shut down to control social media outrage.
When you are watching videos of the violent clashes in Zimbabwe, from the looting to the caning and actual shooting of protesters, you wouldn’t help but count your blessings and thank God to be witnessing such scenes from this peaceful side of the border. There is no doubt that those Zimbabweans who had returned home to start a new life after the fall of Robert Mugabe will soon be packing their bags to head back out into the diaspora – Zambia being a priority country where they are assured of no xenophobic attacks.
Up north, the Democratic Republic of Congo has erupted afresh, leaving millions homeless and hundreds dead. Thousands of Congolese had been cycling across the Kasumbalesa and Tshinsenda borders selling firewood and clay soil to pregnant Zambian women in Chililabombwe and Chingola as a source of livelihood, yearning for the elections to pass so that peace can return to their country. If their political leaders fail to resolve the electoral differences, they too will prefer to migrate and survive in foreign territory than live in their own country under the barrel of a gun in the hands of brutal militia.
Meanwhile, Zambia is right in the middle of these two nations that are torn apart, enjoying the rains and jostling for agriculture subsidies to grow their grains. Indeed, it must be such an admirable thing to be a President of Zambia – a country which you can confidently leave on autopilot while you fly around the world boasting about the tranquility that is prevailing back home. It must be pleasing to be a leader of a country where there is nothing hostile you expect from your citizens apart from social media jokes; and the only war you have to worry about from the opposition is nothing more than bickering over Dialogue.
This is not a feat that has been achieved by any President of this country. It all lies in the people. Peace and love is embedded in the DNA of Zambians. It should not surprise tourists who visit this country when they experience the friendliness. Today, we would like to salute the people of Zambia for their tolerance.
Yes, we are calling it tolerance because Zambians have not lived without provocations. The problems of exploitation that the Congolese are facing are not unique to Congo and the economic distress that Zimbabwe is undergoing is not something that has never happened in Zambia. Yet the people of Zambia have weathered the storm and stayed the course.
It is not like Zambia has not had disputed elections, we have them all the time, but the citizens of this country are quick at stomaching pain for the sake of peace. The fuel hikes sometimes come as sudden as lightning, with the lying government having the audacity of justifying the increase when they were promising reduced commodity prices. But the people of Zambia just watch and accept their fate.
We recall that when reports of ritual murders were on the rise, the President deployed soldiers on the streets of Lusaka to conduct night patrols and imposed a curfew. On just the burning of a market in Lusaka, the President had to declare a State of Threatened emergency, halting various economic activities as the military took charge of traffic movements. Traders in Lusaka had to endure beatings from soldiers who were ordered to clean up the city in the face of a cholera outbreak. But the people of Zambia remained calm and as loyal as a dog’s tail.
Let the leaders of this country fly the world and boast that they preside over a peaceful country. But the peace that this country is enjoying cannot and should not be credited to them. Zambians are quick to adapt to the nonsense that is thrown at them by their leaders. Those are the people we want to salute today, for without their tolerance, Zambia would be in a worse situation than Congo and Zimbabwe.
Having said that, we want to warn our leaders that this peace must not be taken for granted. It will just take one extra-foolish decision for Zambians to say, ‘we have been pushed for far too long’. When that happens, we pity the person who will be in State House because they will not escape the wrath and anguish that has been suppressed for decades. Long live Zambia!