Independence means self-government, sovereignty, autonomy, self-rule, self-determination, freedom and liberty, to mention just a few definitions. Forty-five years ago, our people rose up as one to reject British colonialism. The founding fathers and mothers of this nation made great sacrifices, some even died, for the sake of independence. Surely independence must be a highly cherished thing for our people to pay the kind of price that they did to attain it. As we celebrate our forty-fifth anniversary of independence, it’s, therefore, important to ask ourselves deep penetrating questions regarding the original intent of our freedom fighters that brought us independence.
Our freedom fighters threw-off the yoke of colonialism because it was a dehumanising system. It was a discriminatory system that preached white supremacy and black inferiority. It was a system that had no regard for the dignity and humanity of black people. It was a system that promoted concentration of wealth and privileges in the hands of a few white settlers and the big multinational companies that had come to exploit our mineral resources. The black man was only good as cheap labour for the colonialists.
Not surprisingly, colonialism did not consider public expenditure on the so-called natives an important investment. That’s why, for example, despite all of Northern Rhodesia’s vast mineral resources, there were only a hundred African graduates, twenty-seven trained nurses and five thousand hospital beds in the country at the time of independence. The freedom fighters that brought us independence had in mind the intention to change all this so as to improve the quality of life for themselves and their descendants. This was indeed a noble cause.
Forty-five years after independence, where do we stand as a nation? Yes, some changes have taken place in our country. Nearly all schools built by the colonialists for their children and named after white colonial officers and members of the British royal family now have African names and are full of black Zambians. The colonial governor’s executive mansion has changed to state house and since 1964 has been occupied by our own black presidents. The British Union Jack has been replaced by our own flag and in place of God bless the Queen we now sing our own national anthem. But is this all that we fought for?
Surely, we did not shed blood for independence so that we can have a few rich Zambian kwacha billionaires with no connection to production while 80 percent of our rural folk are officially classified as poverty stricken? Independence could not have meant that a few Africans shift to Kabulonga and Woodlands while 70 percent of our population live in unplanned settlements known as shanty towns such as Kanyama, Chipulukusu, Kapoto, Kawama and Kansunswa, with no modern amenities? Independence could not have meant that we only end up with 10 percent of the population employed in the formal sector while the majority have to survive the hard way on the streets?
Zambia could not be where it is today if this nation had leaders with hearts to serve the people. This nation has enough resources to go round for everyone to live a decent and dignified life. The problem is that we have had selfish and greedy leaders whose number one preoccupation is to line their own pockets. That is why anyone who has served in government at a very senior level before cannot claim to have new ideas to move the nation forward. They had their time and failed miserably. Zambia needs a new breed of leaders who will give true meaning to independence by ushering in a new era of empowerment for all our people. Zambia needs leaders with a clear commitment to service above self, integrity, accountability, transparency, patriotism and loyalty. Zambia needs authentic leaders whose stock-in-trade is servant leadership.
Interim President, ZED.