[By Aaron Ng’ambi]
It is only appropriate that once in a while, if not so often, we take the time to honour those men and women who mean so much to us. This past Tuesday, July 7th was heroes’ day and the significance of such a day cannot be understated, because in any society and age, we all need to have people that we can look up to; people who have done everything possible to be exemplary in all that can be good about humanity. As little children, we grow up thinking highly of our parents, guardians and even our older siblings simply because it’s human nature for us to aspire for something big, better and something good outside of ourselves. No one is born thinking or feeling complete; we are constantly reaching out to others for nurturing, learning and growing in all aspects of our lives. Therefore, our elders who love us and protect us as we grow up naturally become our heroes. But as we reach adolescence and adulthood, we learn more about other men and women within and outside our societies who have done impressive things and achieved incredible results in their careers, professions and many other aspects of life.
Zambia has many told and untold stories of great heroes, some are still living among us today in 2020. In this article, I will attempt to mention a few heroes among us whom I have had the rare privilege of shaking hands with. One lesson I have learned so far throughout my existence is that all these heroes are nothing but humans; they are just like all of us with flaws and imperfections but yet determined to do better. Hence, my favourite quote about heroes is one by Shannon L. Alder, which says “Heroes are not made. They are born out of circumstances and rise to the occasion when their spirit can no longer coexist with the hypocrisy of injustice to others.” This quote for me brings a lot of names to mind, names such as Dr. Kenneth Kaunda. I am sure everyone will agree with me that during the struggle for independence, Dr Kaunda was not driven by some selfish ambition of wanting to be president or leader of some sort but was solely focused on defeating the colonial masters by all means. In fact, I would argue that Dr Kaunda and his comrades did not even know if they would live long enough to see Zambia gain independence, all they wanted to do was fight the injustices of the British the best way they knew how. I have never met Dr Kaunda in person; I wish and hope that I will someday get a chance to shake the hand of this brave and gallant champion.
When I think of my heroes past and present, few names come to mind and of course I may not be able to mention all of them in one article. However, here are some few examples and names I cannot overlook. After the re-introduction of multi-party democracy in 1991 when the Movement for Multi-Party Democracy (MMD) came to power, Zambians were full of hope and high expectations for the future. But not long after MMD had been in power, we witnessed an event like no other when the then vice-president of the country Levy Patrick Mwanawasa and the then minister of Justice Dr Sondashi resigned from their positions stating that corruption was beginning to manifest in the party as well as the government of the day. If I am not mistaken, this would be the first time a Zambian vice-president and a senior cabinet official would resign from such prestigious posts. One would have hoped that this was a good precedent set for the future generation, but unfortunately I don’t think our so-called leaders have learned anything from such an extraordinary act by two principled gentlemen at the time. To me, both the late president Mwanawasa and his good friend Dr Sondashi are my heroes and will forever remain as such despite other people’s opinions. Also, when I think of the MMD days, it is a matter of record that there is one man of whom we cannot forget or ignore to mention as my hero and should be Zambia’s hero. The man is no other than Dr Vernon Mwaanga, who is probably the most consequential political and diplomatic figure of our time. Let me give a quick example that will qualify my pronouncements of Dr Mwaanga. First of all it’s now an open secret that Zambia has a border dispute with the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) which is becoming a matter of concern. Lest we forget that, this border issue with our neighboring country has been a pressing issue for many years now, but for some reason, with the effort of one man, we have managed to contain this issue over the years through high level diplomacy. Therefore, if anyone wants to know the reason why this border dispute has never escalated into a crisis, we should not go any further but check the record and see the role that Dr Mwaanga has played over the years in this matter. I think that the Zambian government and the people at large will do well to recognise the efforts and work done by the likes of Dr Sondashi, Dr Mwaanga etc….
It is not surprising that as a student of politics and as someone who has serious political ambitions, my heroes tend to be those who have done something that I aspire to do as well. The few examples I have cited are names of individuals who have actually served in government at some high level positions. But I also have few heroes who have not served in government but have been very much active in the political process offering checks and balances. The distinguished honorable Charles Milupi is such a man who deserves great respect and admiration from all well meaning Zambians. The man is not only a hard working businessman but he wears several other titles which are much bigger than any political office I can think of, but yet this man has decided to seek public office simply because he knows that he has a responsibility to help improve the lives of other people without acquiring any benefit for himself. Charles Milupi embodies the definition of a wise man, and a man who has dignity and integrity. In all my interactions with Honorable Milupi, one thing that stands out to me about him is that despite all that this man knows, he is a good listener, which is no surprise because good leaders listen. In conclusion, I would suggest that going forward, on a day like heroes day, the government should give recognition or awards to some of the prominent citizens of our country who have served or keep serving the nation both in the public and private sector without any form of discrimination. The names I have highlighted in this article together with many others whom I cannot afford to list in this publication deserve our sincere and heartfelt thank you for their service to our nation. Happy hero’s day to all the fathers, mothers, parents, guardians and all other daily heroes in the life of all Zambians.