By Elias C. Chipimo
National Restoration Party Press Statement – Issued on the eve of Zambia’s 50th Independence Anniversary
Ladies and gentlemen, we are less than 24 hours away from a momentous time in our history that will never come again. Zambia turns 50 tomorrow. Whatever we may feel about our nation, whatever we may feel about each other, whatever difficulty or challenges we may be experiencing, we must surely all acknowledge that we are standing on the edge of a truly historic moment.
For the first time in our history, we have the opportunity to look back at 50 years of progress and pitfalls, 50 years of sacrifice and selfishness, 50 years of high expectations and unrequited hope.
Five decades ago, our country rose from the ashes of colonialism to become a model of freedom, inspiring liberation movements within Africa and beyond. We did not take our responsibility lightly. Under the leadership of our first president, Dr. Kenneth David Kaunda, we determined that we would only truly be free if all our neighbours fighting for their own liberation, were also free. We determined that our freedom could not be enjoyed in isolation and that humanity demanded a sacrifice beyond our own comfort.
Because of that sense of humanity, we will not be celebrating this event alone. Africa will celebrate it with us, particularly those nations for whom Zambia became a home-away-from-home as they battled to control their own destinies. As we prepare to commemorate our milestone independence, we need to ask ourselves: What should our history teach us? What lessons will we be sending to future generations if we downplay and disregard the importance of an opportunity to reach out to one another with the spirit of unity that enabled us to take control of our destiny 50 years ago?
Let us not forget that the most symbolic demonstrations of our humanity have often occurred during times of great violence and turmoil. In December 1914, during the first World War, German and British soldiers who had killed each others colleagues days before, temporarily declared a truce, laid down their guns, left their trenches and ventured into a neutral space where they exchanged gifts and souvenirs, sang songs together and played a game of football. We see this same spirit when we consider matters closer to home. During bereavements we put aside our enmity and political differences and we mourn and celebrate the lives of loved ones as members of the same human family.
As leaders who want to build a better Zambia, now is the time when we should demonstrate an example of this same humanity to the generations that will succeed us. We should be exemplary examples of peacemakers who seek a harvest of righteousness for our nation.
While in opposition, the Patriotic Front set an unfortunate trend of not attending state functions even during important national events such as commemoration gatherings during independence anniversaries. Now that they are in power, they seem surprised and dismayed that their own time in government has been characterised by similar opposition boycotts of national events.
Whatever one feels about the Patriotic Front administration, however, Zambia’s Golden Jubilee is not about them – it is about something far greater. It would be a grave mistake to turn our backs on the sacrifice of those who went before us just because we are not the ones that happen to be in power or because we do not approve of the way we have been governed. We should not turn our backs on the national events that will be lined up because we feel that somehow this will enhance our credentials of concern for the poor and vulnerable. Our celebration of such an important milestone of independence is about the freedoms that were secured on our behalf by countless heroes and heroines, many of whom – in spite of their total dedication to the struggle – would never have imagined that we would be free to make the choices available to us today.
When – as Zambians – we take part in the official and unofficial events that will be lined up as a way of marking this important milestone, we are acknowledging the sacrifice made by our forebears that set in motion our ability to take control of our own destiny as a nation. Just as importantly, we are also providing a crucial reference point for future generations to set their own goals by, when they are entrusted to manage the nation’s affairs.
Let us not deprive those that are yet to be born, of the chance to cherish their history through our commemoration and celebration of it, no matter how unpleasant certain aspects of our past may be. We celebrate the good that was done and the hope that our future presents us with, while acknowledging the mistakes that were made in order that we can learn from them. For without knowing where we came from, we shall not completely understand where we are going and why. We are as much a product of our past as we are a product of the hope we have for our future. This should be a time to remind ourselves of how far we have come and the work that still lies ahead. This is a time to re-dedicate ourselves to the spirit that spawned the struggle for our freedom in the first place.
Let the lessons of our history not be lost on us or on future generations. Let us stand together with the heroes and heroines of our struggle in thankful unity for the platform they have provided to the post-independence generations. Let us both commemorate and celebrate our 50th Independence Day in the way that best suits our ability to do so. So whether you will dance tomorrow, share a meal with a friend, engage in community work, attend a party, pray or simply sit in silent contemplation, be a positive part of this historic moment.
Zambia will only ever be 50 once. Let us commemorate and celebrate the day in whatever way we deem appropriate and fitting in line with our means and aspirations. And as we do so, let us remember the fallen heroes and heroines that dedicated lives to bring our nation peace. Let us remember those that are living in abject poverty and for whom the dream of true freedom seems but a shallow hope. Let us also remember our republican president, Mr. Michael Sata as he faces his toughest challenge yet. Our prayers go out to him and his family at this time and we pray for his safe return. And finally but most importantly, let us remember God, our Creator, without whom, all this would otherwise be meaningless.
I thank you and may God’s grace be with you all.
Elias C. Chipimo
National Restoration Party
Thursday 23 October 2014