WHEN I went to collect my daughters’ dresses at Kamwala Market which they needed to wear during independence celebrations at school, the female tailor remarked upon seeing me: “Sir, our current government leaders have shamelessly and inhumanly robbed the freedoms which our forefathers gained in bloody and racial fights of the 1920s, 1930s, 1940s, 1950s up until the early 1960s”. Are you sure they are actual aggravated robbers of our social, economic, political, cultural, spiritual and emotional aspects of our lives? I asked. Emotionally, she further charged at me saying you look like you are one of them. At that point, I stopped smiling because I was also already annoyed with the very current government mismanagement she was refereeing to. So we had a chat, closely engaged and as emotional as it was.
Her lamentations were genuine and ignoring them was impossible on my part – I am sure even on the part of any of the current government leaders would not if they came across her. She explained how it has been hard to be in the business of textiles with fluctuating Zesco power. That day she related how she arrived at the shop around 05:00 hours to chance some power and clear her clients’ orders, me inclusive. As a woman, she felt it was risky to move in the night in unsafe market places. As early as that time, she found other ladies taking their bath outside the shops as they usually spend nights to also just chance some electricity. This, according to her, has been the ‘new normal’ under the Patriotic Front (PF) government. For years now, the lady tailor wondered why Zesco would not supply stable power to small-scale businesses, especially in peak periods like independence, Christmas and other festivities. That way, women particularly, would make money to fend for their families and reduce being exposed to risky night environments.
As though that was not enough, the woman further shared how those with saloons, barber shops, the metal fabricators, carpenters and many others no longer live normal lives as they used to under the MMD government. At that point, I intervened by asking a question as to what Zambians should do to save themselves from such pain caused by the current government. Her response was she in-fact no longer knew what next to do. She put up a fierce argument that even voting in 2021 was not necessary anymore, pointing out that previous election results lacked credibility and transparency. According to her, Zambian elections of 2015 and 2016 planted a bad seed of gross cheating by the ruling party. She added that even when the PF could have won those elections, they lacked credibility and public acceptability. If there was a way, she continued, God would simply come himself and solve the Zambian problem of leadership vacuum. Looking into the future, she lamented what awaited her children and grandchildren. I am happy she seemed convinced to cast her vote in 2021 after I reasoned with her.
At the end, we could each afford a smile as other clients and her workmates joined in the discussion. By then, we took some time to reflect on the meaning of our 56th Independence Anniversary which fell on Saturday October 24, 2020. We all reached some consensus that, this year’s independence celebration was not meant for the present generations. It was not for the many children of Zambia who have completed school but have no jobs. Neither was it for farmers who could not access cheap inputs, parents who did not know where the next meal for their families would come from nor was it meant for workers whose meagre salaries got swallowed with high inflation. The sick and cross-border traders were not part of this year’s celebrations. Indeed, the 56th Independence Anniversary was not for us – at least the majority Zambians. But who was it for, we all seemed to ask.
One reason that may warrant us taking a bit of time to reflect on the importance of October 24 was to salute the gallant men and women before, during and few decades afterwards (considerably up to 1991) for having guarded our country’s endowments jealously. Those men and women deserve to be praised and magnified in many ways. They did what was rare to do at the time they ruled Zambia. We mentioned names like Simon Kapwepwe, Nalumino Mundia, Harry Nkumbula, Kenneth Kaunda, Grey Zulu, Kebby Musokotwane, Malimba Masheke, Humphrey Mulemba and many women. Given the circumstances at the time, our protracted discussion even supported the cause of the renegade soldier Adamson Mushala, who fought to take over state power by force. But the more we brought in those names, the more we got angry again.
The lady tailor changed her facial appearance again and snapped. “But sir, the current government leaders have merely ‘robbed in broad daylight’ all the gains made by our forefathers and freedom fighters.” Her reaction finally provoked the monitoring and evaluation (M&E) and results-based management (RBM) in me. I took charge of the discussion and named all the poorly performing Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) for Zambia’s economy. The exchange rate is now almost K21 for US$1; fuel cost and availability are at their worst in history; political tensions and intolerance are sky rocketing hourly; health care services have collapsed; education for all policy has become curtailed by selfishness and greediness by the ruling class; the energy sector is on autopilot at its worst; those who attend public prayers and fasting sessions cannot show any good for doing so; manufacturing sector has collapsed; transport sector faces extinction due to an influx of taxes. Before I could add how hateful the ruling classes have become of the rest of the citizens through excess corruption and appetite to amass wealth, the tailor cautioned me to take action since I seemed knowledgeable about governance issues. Aluta continua (struggle continues) for a Zambia that shall genuinely celebrate the Independence Day without broad-day light robbers in our midst or in sight. All generations deserve a better Zambia.
Dr Vincent Kanyamuna holds a Doctor of Philosophy in Monitoring and Evaluation and is lecturer and researcher at the University of Zambia, Department of Development Studies. For comments and views, email: firstname.lastname@example.org