The Americans have an “America dream” which is the widespread aspiration of Americans to live better than their parents did. It is a drive to always be better economically and never compromising on their values of freedom. It is a powerful aspiration which is a nonpartisan theme politicians preaches about on both sides of the divide. When it comes to Zambia, what do we consider as the Zambian dream and what values do we stand for?
The most important achievement we have as a country is liberation from colonialism. It came at cost of lives, lives whose loss is yet to be justified because we still remain under the bondage of economic hardships. As a nation we lost grip on our companies and economy in the 1980-90s largely because government could not recapitalize the state owned enterprises. The government lost the trust of its people as they became economically disoriented due to loss of jobs as results of companies going under or downsizing due to privatization.
A Zambian typically wants a happy family, support for the extended family, educated children and a comfortable retirement. A real Zambian society is an inclusive society, an inter-marrying society, multi-denomination society, multi-democracy society, with Zambian owned enterprises, with diverse leadership and friendly people. This is what we are made off and no style of politics or political agenda should destroy that. A real Zambian society puts the church at the centre and violence in the fringes.
I can’t define the Zambian dream, but I know the Zambian dream is not only about an individual, it’s about family. It’s not only about family, it’s also about the extended family. It is about our good neighborliness. It’s about our synergetic societies and our Christian faith.
Our politics today have slowly intoxicated this dream and hampered our progress. Looking back, our political progress has been eminent. In 1964 we defeated colonialism. In 1991 we defeated the one party state, with the help of the church. At the end of the same year, Zambia was declared a Christian nation. In 2001 we defeated a heavily sponsored third term presidential bid. In 2005 we achieved debt relief. After or during which we started making scores in independent media, civil society participation, fighting corruption and stabilizing the economy. Real results like tax cuts on pay as you earn and stable growth in GDP from 2008 onwards were realised.
This is the progress which today seems to have been stopped or slowed in its tracks and even rolled back. This drawback has not happened naturally or by mistake. There is a political force fighting this progress and overlooking our values. Values did not begin with the current government. Kaunda was passionate about national values and wrote about them especially on the subject of humanism and the motto “One Zambia, One Nation”. Humanism probably influenced his economic policies that promoted human welfare above everything else. FTJ was about multi-party democracy and Mwanawasa about rule of law especially anti-corruption. Where have all these legacies gone to?
The questions the current leaders, especially the ruling government need to reflect on is why and how we are rolling back on the progress we made as stated above. Why has the church been pushed from the centre by our own government? Why are our institutions becoming less inclusive in terms of tribe? Why have our debts returned in just a space of seven years? Why has fighting corruption become lip service by our president when it was once a president’s iron fist? Why is a Zambian contractor or employee a last priority? Why is government treating opposition as enemies instead of partners they can share a table with? Why is the constitution abrogated at the will by those sworn to uphold it to the letter? A law of the land that was once locked away from its people to gather dust and doctored at the eleventh hour.
The current politicians are a real danger to our aspirations and act against our values. They started by castigating the church in the most demeaning way. A Zambian typically has always trusted the church more than any government that has ever ruled this country. The authority of the church is what has solidified our togetherness due to our shared faith in God. Without the church we easily become a divided society that just degenerates into a negative form of individualism that promotes greed, bribes, corruption, violence and hampers progress. It is this kind of individualism that causes ministers to become very rich amidst poverty. It causes reckless spending amidst deprivation. It causes appetite for power at a cost of people’s will and justice. So to claim that the current government is promoting national values it too late, because evidence shows they have gone against these values and so far we have paid the price dearly, and even dragged future generations into the same mess.