Wisdom from the first Independence

The Rt. Rev. Dr. Musonda Trevor Selwyn Mwamba; President of the United National Independence Party (UNIP).

22 October, 2023.

Our founding fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters, around midnight on 24th October 1964, watched the Zambian flag hoisted in the sky clustered with sparkling stars.

As it’s decades later we are celebrating the 59th independence anniversary we may wonder what they thought and felt witnessing the historic moment of the birth of Zambia.

Perhaps they saw in the hoisting of the flag their aspirations, dreams, hopes, and vision for a better life filling each with boisterous joy.
For the struggle for independence was about uplifting the lives of the Zambian people.

The hoisted flag signaled the birth of a free democratic and prosperous Zambia, where people from all walks of life would live in peace and harmony regardless of their political, economic, social and religious beliefs.

The hoisted flag also signaled challenges ahead.

In his brilliant book, Zambia: The First 50 Years, Andrew Sardanis writes that “waking up on the morning of 24th October 1964, as masters of our own destiny, there was only one Zambian engineer, three Zambian doctors, three Zambian lawyers and some 90 other Zambian graduates.” That was Zambia.

Zambia on 24th October 1964 embraced its people’s aspirations, dreams, hopes, and vision of a better life, as well as, the challenges.

It’s prudent for us 59 years later to pause, reflect, and contemplate whether the vision of a better life for Zambians has been realised. The answer lies in the wisdom of the first independence celebration.

Nations are the souls of its citizens. A nation that treasures the aspirations, talents, and possibilities of its citizens and boldness to its challenges is wholesome to fulfilling its purpose of nationhood.

By Divine Providence at independence Zambia was blessed with leaders from all the provinces and races endowed with vision.
The leaders cognisant of the challenges Zambia faced had the intelligence to perceive that she could not develop without peace and unity.

So the chief cornerstone of Zambia became One Zambia One Nation which was brilliantly epitomised in the first cabinet.

The motto One Zambia One Nation originates from the UNIP Constitution under the Fundamental Principles and Objectives:

Article 2(1) says:

The motto of the Party shall be, ‘One Zambia One Nation’.

The motto of UNIP then became the motto of the nation though many people today are not aware of it.

The motto is always displayed on the ZNBC news broadcasts: One Zambia One Nation.

One Zambia One Nation is a prayer, a vow, a mantra, a vision of uniting the different ethnic, races, creed, religions, as one people in Zambia. It’s about Zambia being inclusive not exclusive and that nobody should ever feel left out. We are all one.

The UNIP government made this motto a reality by abhorring tribalism. President Kaunda had a carefully crafted tribal balancing system in the cabinet, in the civil service, in the parastatals, and in all the appointments he made across the country so that not one tribe or tribes was left out or dominated.

President Kaunda further created a system where students were moved from their provinces of origin to other provinces as part of his plan to create a nation that was One Zambia One Nation.

Economically the promotion of One Zambia One Nation was done by ensuring that each of the provinces in Zambia had an industry to propel its development. For example, the pineapple industry in Mwinilunga , the Battery factory in Mansa, the car assembly plant in Livingstone, and the glass factory in Kapiri Mposhi.

One Zambia One Nation is every Zambians calling and responsibility to build a wholistic united nation where everybody feels significant and included.

UNIP 59 years ago at Independence planted a seed of inclusivity for Zambians to pursue a policy of love, equality, truth, justice, fairness, liberty, solidarity, peace, political, economic and social development for all.

Given this spirit the present trend of tribalism sown as wind in the PF administration as become a whirlwind in the UPND administration. This is contrary to the spirit of Independence and the motto of One Zambia One Nation our forebears bequeathed us.

Accordingly, the 59th independence celebrations is a clarion call for us to pause and reflect critically as we are veering dangerously off course and need to get back quickly on track to the noble values enshrined in the motto One Zambia One Nation.

The visionary leaders of Independence coined this motto as a blessing to every Zambian to be peace and unity as only together can we realise a great country of One Zambia One Nation.

Our forebears understand well that peace and unity were indispensable to the development of Zambia. This is wisdom for all times to inspire and guide present and future leaders.

This wisdom should be the desire of political parties to work closer together in promoting peace and unity. This is possible by accentuating what they have in common and narrowing their differences by constructive criticism and providing solutions which benefits the country rather than recklessly insulting each other and pursing selfish and personal ambitions.

Accordingly, the first wisdom we glean from the first independence is: One Zambia One Nation. The national interest is above all.

The second wisdom we glean from the first independence is the leaders’ belief in God as their inspirer in the task of building a nation.

Mr Simon Mwansa Kapwepwe the second vice president of Zambia was a wise man. In 1958 he named Zambia – Zambia flowing from the Zambezi river.

He took pride in our culture and identity and through his leadership and writings sought to help us preserve our heritage.

In One of his books Shalapo Canicandala – he instructs us to know God.

In 1991 Zambia as a Christian nation was enshrined in the Constitution and most Zambians think that the originator was President Frederick Chiluba.

On the contrary, historically, the founding father of the nation President Kenneth David Kaunda, after Independence conceived of Zambia as a Christian nation.

He said so in messages at the first and second anniversaries of Zambia’s independence.

He reminded Zambians that our aim was to remain as always ‘One Zambia – One Nation’ … that we could ‘…show the world that as a Christian nation God is all – powerful in our family life.’ And wherever Zambians we’re to let God help them to help our country.

This was in 1966.

President Kaunda’s faith made him respect and appreciate other religions. He felt equally at home in a cathedral, synagogue, temple or mosque.

And for this reason given Zambia has many religions, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Judaism, Jainism, and others, President Kaunda did not think it was right to declare this religion or that ‘official’.

President Kaunda did not play politics with religion. Each religion had the right to exist, so his desire was that all believers of all faiths should live together in harmony for we are all human beings.

President Kaunda believed, envisioned and lived out his faith and encouraged Zambian citizens to live likewise.

The declaration of Zambia as a Christian nation in 1991 did not necessarily make it Christian. As we think of the corruption in our Christian nation it needs a lot of prayers and salvation!

The vital truth for Zambians to know is that the Christian Faith like any other Faith must be lived out to be real not imagined. It’s only the living out of the faith of a believer, the living out of love, of compassion, of forgiveness, of reconciliation that makes a believer Christian; and with a critical mass a Christian nation – not a political declaration.

Belief in God exemplified the leadership of the first independence informing their political and economic actions.

This is the foundation of morality and values in a nation it’s the indispensable moral compass that engenders development and progress in society.

The third wisdom we glean from the first independence is the focus on the wellbeing of the people. Its imperative leaders know that their primary task is to uplift the welfare of their people especially the poor and vulnerable.

Under UNIP it was articulated under the philosophy of Humanism which advocated all developments to be for the benefit of people.

An apt example is the Mulungushi Reforms.
The government acted to remedy the greed of foreign companies in Zambia. It saw as unfair allowing companies making off with the jam and butter and leaving the crumbs of dry bread to Zambians.

Accordingly the economic measures which were activated focused on uplifting Zambian entrepreneur by kick-starting Zambian participation in business.

It was economic nationalism which proved quite successful.

Another example was the a tug of war between the government and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) over the poor and vulnerable in 1986.

The background was that the country’s economic troubles rooted in a string of global crises: specifically the oil crisis of the 1970s and the steep drop in copper prices, made them turn to the IMF who prescribed some bitter economic packages to them to implement.

The action led to Zambia’s worst civil unrest in 1986 as President Kaunda was forced to implement the IMF inspired increase in the price of Zambia’s staple food, maize meal, by removing the subsidies. This was an issue of survival for Zambia’s poorest people.

So the poor went on rampage to force the Government to bring the price down.
They targeted state-owned properties as a public statement of indignation against the Government.

The rioting was so severe that on the second day President Kaunda imposed a curfew and closed all of Zambia’s borders.

The protests against subsidy removal caused the government to back down. Government was sympathetic to the plight of the poor.

Accordingly Zambia’s relationship with the IMF and the World Bank ceased as the economic packages prescribed by these organizations were abandoned.

The technicalities of Zambia’s international debt meant little to the poorest trying to survive. What mattered was the affordability of maize meal.

As a lesson from the past the present rising cost of living and price of maize meal which has affected Zambians, especially the poor, needs to be addressed with urgency and sensitivity by President Hakainde Hichilema intervening and imposing subsidies to lower the price of maize meal.

Maize meal an essential food for the majority of Zambians its not a luxury but life itself. Many Zambians are struggling to survive so maize meal as to be made affordable.

In such situations a government must be very empathetic by buffering the suffering of its people lest we have an explosive repeat of the 1986 food riots.

The focus on uplifting the poor stirs up what really matters in our lives, what do we value in the communities we live in, what kind of country, what kind of society, what kind of world, do we really want to be if not to help the poor.

The final fourth wisdom we glean from the first independence is our identity and sovereignty in a global world.

The guiding policy the visionary leadership of the UNIP government formulated was that of Non-alignment. It advocted the right of a nation to make informed choices on the basis of each issues merits regardless of the interests of the global powers. Zambia assumed political independence in foreign policy that has to be guarded jealously.

One examples shall suffice in the light of the Israeli – Palestinian conflict. The Zambian Government developed and initiated a foreign policy which addressed Middle East issues, such as the right of Israel to live within secure and recognised boundaries and the right of the Palestinian people to live in a free and independent state.

In the present conflict and being consistent with our past policy Zambia condemns all violence and unnecessary loss of hundreds of innocent civilian lives on both sides and the destruction of properties.

Zambia should strongly advocate negotiations towards a peaceful resolution of the conflict in line with the previously adopted UN resolutions recognising the existence of the two states.

Zambia’s non-alignment has ensured an environment of peace in which Zambia can promote a life of dignity and creativity for their citizens. And provide a positive influence in the world not as a sterile neutralism.

The wise leaders of our first independence saw Zambia as a place of peace, hope and reconciliation. A place where Zambia planned, consciously and unconsciously, an equitable world order, by promoting anti-colonial principles. A haven for refugees and unflinching partner of those who fight for justice, human rights and peaceful coexistence.

So the policy of non aligned in the light of Zambia’s independence holds to the rights of all peoples to freedom and self – determination.

Zambia’s independence signaled opposition to economic and political domination of one people by another or compromising itself as a base of war games.

The hoisting of the Zambian flag on 24 October, 1964 was about pursuing wholesome values that are very important in life.

It’s these values over the past 30 years we lost and as we celebrate our 59th independence celebration remember and rekindle in our lives and nation.

Zambia can enter a new future only by reconnecting with the wisdom of the first independence and adapting it to our times.

Sir Shridath Ramphal the former Secretary General of the Commonwealth reflected on values when he turned 91.

In his memoirs Glimpses of a Global Life, he wrote of how his life had been driven by values which he tried hard to respect; sometimes failing, but sometimes coming close.

He had a habit for making difficult choices. He asked himself – when the pros and cons were exhausted- what was the choice that more closely conformed to his values; in other words the path of principle. And he always felt assured that his decision was right when he found that path.

Values should be rooted in morality, this is the path of principle. The path to do the right thing, to enoble us, that is, make us better people and nation.

Values are a moral compass which we ignore at our peril as individuals or as a nation.

The British writer and Anglican lay theologian
C.S. Lewis wisely said, ‘Education without values, as useful as it is, seems rather to make man a more clever devil.’

To be educated without values is to be an educated fool.

Values are the richest inheritance a person or nation can have.

The wisdom from the first Independence are the values we need to build a prosperous Zambia that is able to uplift our people and create a better life for them.

To guarantee a better Zambia for generations to come we need to go back to the future. In others words as Marcus Garvey wisely wrote:

“A people without knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots”.

We learn from the past to build the future. We learn of One Zambia One Nation; belief in God; the well-being of people; identity and sovereignty.

These lessons of wisdom are values passed on to us to guide us by our founding visionary leaders.

They lived them and these values can transform us if they inform our own lives. And as stewards acting on them we too can pass them on to the next generation.

On this 59th Independence celebration: God bless Zambia; God bless her leaders with wisdom; God bless her peoples with peace and unity and a prosperous future.

For further reading on thoughts regarding the Israeli–Palestine Conflict please see the publication, The Mast, Issue 4344 page 5 dated: October 27, 2023 DOC-20231027-WA0057.

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