After 50 years of independence there is need for Zambians to begin reimagining the myth of their nation. The story of our nation needs to be told in a fresh and new light. Each time a nation or indeed an individual celebrates an anniversary; there is a great temptation and pressure to focus only on the past rather than on the future. This is the temptation we risk falling for, this 24th October 2014. From 1964, there is a possibility that we will begin looking back over the years and let nostalgia pervert our ability to imagine a future ahead of us. We could spend all of the time and effort at seeking to recover the fossils hoping to get inspiration from our past. Regardless of how glorious the past has been the people of Zambia should use the past as a springboard to a new imagination of a future. This is not to mean that we should dishonor the past, but rather that we must use the past only as a backdrop of inspiration for tomorrow. The nation that was not has now been, for 50 years. It cannot return to the past, but it can only spring to its future. To do so, we will need courageous imagination to foster a unity needed to face the challenges of tomorrow rather than the ambiance of yesterday.
We need to reimagine our education system. For any nation to prosper, it needs an educated citizenry. This education must be in areas that our economy needs most: science and technology. The government and the business sectors should begin investing in those educational programs that offer a promise for the future. No doubt, we have had a proliferation of universities in the past ten years. This is only but a beginning. Government now needs to put in place a qualifications framework of some sort so that quality is assured. Zambia right now is not facing a university problem more than it is facing a university “quality” problem. Regardless of how many new universities we build in Chinsali, without quality we would only be digressing and not progressing. Fifty years after independence, it becomes necessary to establish a national qualifications framework that could both accredit and regulate the universities around the country. Additionally, it is no secret that most of the universities have gone into the humanities. I have no problems with humanities. I have read humanities at both universities and seminaries. I love humanities. But Zambia also needs sciences and technology. Government and the private sector can invest in higher education that produces suitable graduates in the sciences and technology. It is unacceptable that fifty years after independence we still cannot design a single “fosholo” to help mine copper in Kansanshi. With a new imagination and new incentives, I have no doubt that a future Zambia can create the higher educational framework for the good of our common tomorrow.
We also need to reimagine and reevaluate our dependence on copper. It is rather shocking that fifty years after our so called independence our country still depends upon copper for its economic survival. Now copper is a finite resource, it is a diminishing resource. The problem with such dependence is that our economy oscillates according to the performance of copper in Beijing and London. We must face the honest assessment that, Zambia has no economic future without economic diversification. Regardless of how glorious the past of copper has been, we have to reimagine a future of Zambia that is less dependent upon copper. With fertile land that is the envy of millions and water so abundant as to quench the thirst of billions, we have no justifiable excuse to fail in agriculture. We need a fresh imagination that takes our minds off copper to other things such as agriculture to develop our country.
In terms of politics, we have made giant steps since 1964. We have had five presidents. We have done mature transitions from one leader to another. We have a judiciary that is relatively independent. We have a somewhat workable constitution. And in the little areas it is not working, we are making effort at changing that which needs to change in this 1991 constitution. We are a talking people, and we do not take kindly to governments that want to desecrate our liberty to speak and to assemble. That being the case, we must continue in the same spirit to safeguard our democracy. The greatest defenders of any democracy are the ordinary men and women around the country. Democracy belongs to the people. As such, the people of Milenge as well as Mwinilunga should continue participating in the democratic process. We should continue to vote and make our voices heard. It is our democracy. It is our country and we have a duty to hold leaders accountable. We must build on our democratic success over the last fifty years to build a more robust democracy for the next fifty years and beyond.
Zambia is not necessarily our heritage more than it is our destiny. Heritage connects you to the past, but destiny connects you to the future. Our republic should connect us not only to our past, but also to our future. Zambia should be a collection of people united in their imagination of the future rather than a morgue of people united only by a common past. A past is limited, while a future has unlimited. Together, we are creating a destiny called Zambia. Each day is an opportunity to build a nation and to help imagine that place we desire for ourselves and for our children. Destiny looks at other Zambians and collaborates with them in building a future for the people of Nakonde as well as Chirundu. It is not enough to share a common past, what we need now is a commitment to share a common future. This has implications. Tribalism can easily be defeated if we all decided to focus more on the destiny we are trying to create rather than on the heritage whose past we may not all share. To create a future for Zambia means we have to go beyond the limits of our own tribes to capture out of other tribes a common dream for Zambia. Destiny means we should find it repugnant for a cabinet to feature only one tribe or region. Destiny is welcome of others and this is the welcome we need for Zambia and her future. A Zambia at fifty should be accepting of a Vice-President Guy Scott not just by the colour of his skin, but rather by the content of his passion for our nation. When we condemn tribalism, we should also condemn racism and the evil that comes with it. Zambia belongs to all. It belongs to the Bantu, the Ng’uni, the Luba-Lunda migrants, the Mfecane raiders, the Bantu Botatwe, the Makololo invaders as well as the descendants of the Europeans. It belongs to all.
To a nation committed to a bright future, we should all say happy 50th Anniversary, Zambia.