By Nyalubinge Ngwende
No one can be against the emblem of One Zambia, One Nation. But the choice by President Edgar Lungu to issue instructions to Zambia’s public media—ZNBC—to use the motto every time the station opens and at the beginning of all news casts, both radio and television, raises eyebrows—there is more to it than meets the eye.
Lungu says it is important that ZNBC uses the motto as a reminder that there is only one country for all the 72 tribes—at least in his conception he tries to mean that.
What is the real intention of President Lungu? Had he won the election with a landslide, was he going to think about One Zambia, One Nation? Has it got to do with the respect of First Republican President Kenneth Kaunda, whom he has been reminding us to respect?
If he thinks Zambia is divided on the political front, he must know that a look at this country’s history reveals that the people of this nation have lived with these deep crevices time immemorial. Politics do not divide or agitate Zambians to rebel at a grand scale. Even if a possibility may come, which is not yet there, the One Zambia, One Nation slogan cannot be a magic wand to inspire them into restraint.
By the way, this country lived with this motto under Kenneth Kaunda’s rule, but it did not add any value to the country’s aspirations. The country continued to get from bad to worse in terms of the economy. It might have been better or not, but fact is: the country has pulled through over 20 years plus of the MMD rule without that slogan. What happened everyday under Kaunda and UNIP in terms of patriotism or lack of it continued under Chiluba and the MMD. In fact during the time of late President Mwanawasa Zambia did not need to recall the One Zambia, One Nation to register economic growth. Mwanawasa faced the worst resistance towards his government by the people of Zambia, but he remains one of those Presidents people say Zambia missed a leader who really had what it takes to move the country forward. He did not need the slogan.
There is nothing unifying or of national commission in the One Zambia, One Nation motto. It is empty lullaby that cannot put off the cries of thousands of graduates for jobs. It has no historical and empirical proof that it has had some subliminal effect, not even under Kaunda, to unify the country.
What Kaunda did was to hold this country together using force and fake democracy under one party state system. That was it. He built a country that excluded potential leadership; there were so many Zambians who did not flow with his rule. The return to multiparty politics in 1991 and Kaunda’s loss of that year’s election to the Frederick Chiluba’s MMD confirmed that.
If we have lived without the One Zambia, One Nation for 23 years: What makes Edgar Lungu think it is worthwhile lifting it up from the rummage of history? What is the real value and intention of President Lungu’s decision? Had he won the election with a landslide, was he going to think about One Zambia, One Nation? Has it got to do with the respect of First Republican President Kenneth Kaunda, whom he has been reminding us to respect?
Zambians will always be politically divided, but they do not show that until the elections come. What divides this country is more of economic inequality and that will not disappear with the chanting of a slogan. This is a country that has the rich and the poor cast at two extreme poles. It is a country where there is no drive to do things differently and change the fortunes of over 11 million people who are struggling to put food on the table. Further it is a country that has political leadership that resembles a circus—just jockeys and clowns juggling balls and bottle-sticks, walking a precarious tight rope tied up between two poles. Like spectators still holding their breath to see the string walkers get to the end, Zambians are in suspense not sure about where the country is heading till the next poll.
It is the duty of Edgar’s government to dispel that fear, not with slogans but well seated policies. He must show us that above that tight-line he is walking, he is well secured and will not lose his balance and come crashing down with the whole economic act of the country. We are not referring to the events that happened on the International Women’s’ Day. There is no doubt, the man was declared fit, or is it feat?—to walk straight from an operation procedure at a South African Hospital and get straight to work.
The Brutal Journal has particularly found it very awkward for Lungu to try and use empty ideological slogans that revive memories of an oppressive regime to inspire Zambians today, when there is a lot of room for meaningful political engagement across the table.
What is especially worrying is that the advancing of the slogan comes as key priority to President Edgar Lungu when on the economic policy front the only big decision he has made is a reversal of the well placed but ill-timed mining tax regime. The other policy statement being peddled by his vice President Inonge Wina thus far shows how she got a job out of some emotional militancy she staged, as party chairlady, during the selection of the Patriotic Front successor to late Michael Sata. Had she not prevailed in support of Lungu, the job was going to go to someone else.
But lucky she is… though it will be difficult for her to convince anyone that her appointment was not mare tokenism. It is laughable that her first policy articulation was a sound-bite ZNBC was so glad to use proposing that: “government needs to establish some commission that will be entrusted with looking after the health of the President”. Is that not politics of self-preservation?
The next policy is that she will be visiting the markets to see how they can be used for economic development of the country. Economic what? How can a country start with markets when it is failing to address the biggest problem that has continued to keep Zambia to be a dumping place for foreign products?
What Inonge Wina must realise is that the problem of the poor performing of the Kwacha, the poverty
A lot of women with greater ideas to contribute to Zambia’s development are still waiting for her to constitute a conference committee that will look at the wider issues to liberate women out of poverty. She must get down to the desk and consult and hammer out some policy thoughts that are quite inspiring. For now, there is nothing booma Inonge has done.