imageOnce again it is Heroes and Unity Days, July 1st and 2nd. The event invites us to reflect in order to correct our political history which seems incomplete. But who should write our authentic history? Who should be national heroes? Who decides who is a hero and who is not?

An illustration from Zimbabwe comes to mind. It is reported that in 1971 our Founding Fathers handed over some ZAPU guerrillas (freedom fighters) to Mr Ian Smith! What was their fate? Are those who handed them over heroes? Whose heroes were those handed over? What is a hero anyway?
Ordinarily a hero/heroine is one who carries out a noble or brave act; or one who dies while doing something brave or noble. So identifying a hero or heroine is subjective and seems to be dependent on the perception and discretion of those in authority. But I add my own definition to include an innocent person killed for a cause they are not involved in.

Although I was rather young, I remember names like Timothy Kankasa, Mathew Nkoloma, Solomon Kalulu, Lawrence Katilungu, Finess Bulawayo. What really happened to Simon Kapwepwe? What is the place of Harry Nkumbula, Nalumino Mundia, Zilole Mumba? What of Zeniah Ndhlovu? But for this reflection two people stand out, namely Lillian Burton and Omelo Mumba who are also forgotten.
I admit that it may seem odd to include a “nonentity” called Lillian Burton but lend me your ears. Ms Lillian Burton was a white lady. She was not into politics; neither was she involved in any altercation at the time she met her violent death. She happened to be driving on a Chifubu road in Ndola with her two children, minding her business. Ahead of her some UNIP cadres were demonstrating against the colonial regime. Some of the agitators in the crowd poured petrol on her car and set it ablaze; she later died of the burns. That was the end of her journey on earth, leaving behind a sordid part of our history. Was she a heroine? If so whose heroine is she and who will “anoint her the heroine?”

Another forgotten name is that of one Omelo Mumba, from Chief Mumbi area in Petauke. He was an avid campaigner under Dr Kaunda’s UNIP. The bicycle was his mode of transport that enabled him to etch an indelible trail tracing Zambia’s independence history, especially in Eastern Province. Apart from the obscure “Omelo Mumba Road” in Rhodes Park in Lusaka, next to President Sata’s residence, he is forgotten, buried at Mumbi at a desolate fork betwixt the roads to Manga village and Kasonde School. Was he never a hero worth recognising? Mr Mumba’s widow, popularly known as Dona Mumba, is still alive; she is a heroine in her own right and is in the league of Mama Julia Chikamoneka and other brave womenfolk who contributed to Zambia’s history. No doubt those with forked tongues will one day choose to revive Mr Mumba’s spirit to gain some political mileage from his tragic ending – he too was reportedly assassinated!

What is this unity? Unity for what? The state of the nation today is one of strife and tribulation. Zambians have become foreigners in their own land. Those who are alive today are subjected to unbridled political violence and other forms of harassment. Additionally lies, tribalism, racism, regionalism and nepotism are now part of our philosophy and culture, while our founding heroes such as Dr Kaunda are watching in the background, showering praises on those who have the power to rein in their violent cadres but are urging them on by their silence. How can there be a celebration of unity and reconciliation in such a duplicitous state? How can lies bring people together? How can a skewed history bring the nation together? Why have some who fought for this country been ignored? Why have some qualified to be heroes and heroines and yet others not?

I believe that today the only heroes and heroines must be those who will be peacemakers and who refrain from lying and deception as a means to gain their political objectives. BIGOCA and Kampasa are still fresh on peoples’ minds. The irony is that those who beat up, killed and maimed unarmed Zambians are the very ones who rushed to finance the funerals and use the public media to wail loudest. Talk of blowing hot and cold!
With the prevalent political violence in Zambia today, there will not be a genuine celebration of the Heroes and Unity days at all!!!
[30th JUNE 2013]