In 1973, after having tasted political power, Kenneth Kaunda and his colleagues in UNIP argued strongly that Zambians and Africans in general were united and peaceful people such that whenever they faced a dispute at community or national level, they discussed it under a tree or pansaka (dialogue platform for men), until a workable solution was reached.
They made sure a win-win situation was reached and everyone left with a genuine smile. They were focused on realising the concept of ubuntu (humanity) and thus placed man and woman at the centre of their developmental agenda. Kaunda and team practiced politics of developmentalism. Anyone propagating politics of ‘divide and rule’ was disciplined and sidelined.
During the Kaunda regime, there was oneness and cohesion which spurred development. Citizens worked freely and happily in any part of the country. Lozis worked freely in Bembaland, Bembas worked freely in Tongaland, Ngonis worked freely in Lambaland and Luvales and Kaondes worked freely anywhere within Zambia.
Peace and unity were considered an integral pillar for the development of the country. There were no politics of tribe, politics of wako ni wako (tribesman), politics of banione banione (show off), politics via bootlicking, nepotism, and politics of family tree, politics of connections and politics of flip flopping because of the tummy. There was equitable distribution of development and national resources.
This was possible because scarce resources were not wasted on politics and corruption. Public funds were not used for fighting one another and creating unnecessary political enemies, both real and imaginary. The meagre resources were not wasted on man-made by elections, on ruling party induced by-elections and, above all, on buying and corrupting citizens for political survival.
There were no politics of life and death as is the case today. There were no flawed procurement processes like we are seeing today where 42 fire trucks can cost US$42 million. There were no inflated tenders for road contracts like we are seeing daily today. Public funds were spent on serious national issues. Ministers and leaders were humble, disciplined and well behaved. Leaders respected citizens. Ministers did not own mansions and expensive automobiles like is the case today. Ministers were not competing for scandals and corruption. In fact, corruption was a sin and punishable. Leaders were not allowed to be entertaining contractors and receiving any form of gifts as is the case today. Discipline was key and a must for all leaders.
The current political dispensation has a lot to learn from the developmental politics of Kaunda and his team. The time to start learning is now and not tomorrow. I say they have to start learning now because if they have been learning, we would not be seeing the current levels of corruption, the current levels of poor leadership, the current levels of plunder of public funds as reported year in and year out in the Auditor General’s report. We would not be experiencing unprecedented levels of selfishness and greed and the flourishing tribalism in the country.
Just recently, President Edgar Lungu called for a stop to tribalism within his party – the PF, between the Ngonis and the Chewas while campaigning in Eastern Province. This shows how deep-rooted tribalism has become in the country.
Finally, if both PF and UPND mean well for this country and its citizens, let them take time and peruse through the leadership diary of Kaunda and his team. Thereafter, both should genuinely and honestly face each other in the interest of the country. It’s the only way their long-awaited dialogue process will succeed. In fact, we are tired of the drama surrounding this dialogue process at the expense of real issues affecting the citizenry. For instance, ZNBC has kept choking us with unnecessary political brouhaha of PF sponsored elements whenever it’s news time.
After all is said and done, Zambians must win. It will be important to see both PF and UPND coming out of the Mulungushi Conference Centre smiling and embracing one another in the spirit of Ubuntu.
The author is a law student and social commentator. Send your comment to: gregory. firstname.lastname@example.org