My independence reflections part 1: The farcical Independence day ritual

By Brigadier General Godfrey Miyanda

Once again we have had another tired ritual to perform, NOT Independence Day but predictable Independence Day quarrels! It is this that has compelled me to comment. The only thing that is fresh about Independence Day is that 24th October 2013 heralded our 49 years of independence, but nothing new. So why do Zambians yearly accept this acrimonious and deceptive “national debate” on who attended or did not attend the celebration? Such criticisms are designed to sweep under the carpet or disguise contentious national issues by merry-making.

On Monday 21st October 2013 the Times of Zambia carried a picture of some prominent but DISPARATE adult politicians on the steps of the Cathedral of the Holy Cross at Lusaka. The picture showed those in power, those who have left power but not completely and those struggling to get into power. It sent conflicting messages, interpreted according to the eye of the beholder. But I always stick to the old cliché that a picture can tell a lie! And that picture told a very big lie – the alleged unity of those pictured and those who attended the Cathedral prayers! Politicians who did not attend were labelled unpatriotic. Those in authority were almost at the point of arresting the ‘offenders’ for being absent without leave (AWOL in military parlance). Actually it is not an offence not to attend independence celebrations; if it were a crime there would be no need for the State to send out to invitations as is done at such occasions. An invitation invites two responses: accepting or declining the invitation. That is why there is usually an accompanying note stating either ‘RSVP’ which is a French abbreviation for ‘PLEASE REPLY’ or simply ‘REGRETS ONLY’. There is thus no need for name-calling or stigmatisation; one has either to attend or not attend. To vilify those who choose not to attend such functions is the cheapest hypocrisy. It is a double standard, especially when said by those who refuse to hold dialogue with other political leaders!

I thus call upon right-thinking Zambians not to be duped by populist political sentiments but to discard the BUFI suit and put on the armour of truth. Look at how this innocent day has created a “national” controversy, just because one Hakainde Hichilema expressed his opinion and elected NOT to attend the ceremony which President Sata had not been attending when he was in opposition ranks. All hell broke loose, from the highest rooftops, and from the holy steps of the Cathedral. The Times of Zambia picture showed those adult politicians holding “loving” hands and appearing to be united. But why are Zambians deceived by such pictures and sentiments? The answer is because that is the mind of many Zambians; they seem to be ready and willing to be deceived. In fact if you want to win elections in Zambia, tell a lot of lies!

But at 49 it is time to say no to all BUFI politics. That picture is meant to show unity in Zambia when there is none; Zambians must say no to unity of and for the camera. Some of us have been calling on the President to address the people or even call for a political indaba, particularly of party leaders. He has rejected or ignored that. The state of the nation today is one of strife, trial and tribulation, fear, intimidation, abuse of power and prevalent abject poverty. Many Zambians are fast becoming refugees or foreigners in their own land. There is unbridled political violence and other forms of harassment. How can violence create unity and harmony? How can lies bring people together?

That duplicitous Cathedral picture is a coded message and instruction to Dr Kaunda that he was a witness to the fake unity at the steps of the Cathedral and that he must now prevail on his protégé, President Michael Sata, to arrange for a genuine meeting of political party leaders where, hopefully, they will emerge and shake hands and exchange serious independence greetings and shout in unison “free at last to assemble and demonstrate and appear regularly on ZNBC television and radio without let or hindrance!

To celebrate means to make merry and enjoy. I am afraid I had no reason to celebrate Independence Day because I am not happy with the management of my country by the PF servants who have overthrown the employers (treason) and are refusing to listen to serious grievances and contentious issues. Instead I have used the occasion to reflect on the PF’s failure to keep its election promises and their failure to unite us and defend our independence and freedoms as envisaged by our Founding Fathers when they chose to successfully challenge the Colonial Government. Let this 49 year landmark be the last time we hear childish screams about those who did not attend so-called national events.