CHOMBA MUSIKA, Lusaka
WHY should one wait until a loved one has died to let them know what they meant to them?
This is why Vocal Union in the song ‘Don’t Scatter Roses’ sing like this: “Don’t scatter roses after I’m gone; give them to me while I carry on.”
It is good to openly appreciate the works of those who have gone before us, in an effort to preserve their memories.
But of what good is it if you had never done so while someone was alive? Scattering roses otherwise would be meaningless; it will be like throwing an extravagant birthday party for a person who is away and may never know how much you really appreciate them.
In a bid to demystify the notion that Zambians only appreciate people who have died, Skeeble clothing proprietor David Mukena, 28, early last year started printing T-shirts bearing former President Kenneth Kaunda’s face.
He wants to use the T-shirts to promote peace using Dr Kaunda’s One Zambia, One Nation motto.
“We need to appreciate the big man for uniting this country and promoting peace through the One Zambia, One Nation motto. We need to appreciate our icons like Dr Kaunda while they are still alive,” Mr Mukena said.
Fondly known as KK, Dr Kaunda, who served as first President of Zambia from 1964 to 1991, turns 93 today.
Internationally, Dr Kaunda is among the few living pan-Africanists who led the liberation struggle of Africa against colonial rule.
At home, Dr Kaunda has a legacy of the One Zambia, One Nation motto with which he united 73 ethnic groups irrespective of colour, creed, and language, which has seen Zambia unite and enjoy peace for over 50 years.
But what really motivated Mr Mukena to print T-shirts in honour of Super Ken?
“When I was in Namibia, some strangers who learnt that I was from Zambia inquisitively asked me how the big man [Dr Kaunda] was doing and told me how much they love and appreciate him.
“But in Zambia, some people do not even know that April 28 is his birthday, so I decided to do something in his honour,” said Mr Mukena, who is renowned for his coveted ‘Salt Muli Supu’ branded T-shirts.
He is hopeful the Kaunda branded T-shirts, which are already on sale, will be a reminder to citizens to promote the values which Zambia’s founding fathers fought for.
“The tribal talk and post-election violence witnessed during the August 2016 elections should have been hurting Dr Kaunda and I urge everyone to play their part in promoting the good values of the old man in future elections,” he said.
Mr Mukena urges his fellow artistes to step up efforts in promoting peace, love and unity just like Super Ken did during the liberation struggle.
But the artist feels Dr Kaunda’s birthday has not been given the significance it deserves.
“To appreciate fallen icon and anti-apartheid activist Nelson Mandela, who was a close friend Dr Kaunda, South Africans have the Mandela Day and [once]dedicated 90 minutes on his birthday to do good.
“What have we done to ensure our very own Dr Kaunda’s birthday continues to be forever memorable among all citizens?” he asked.
To this effect, Mr Mukena has appealed to the government to consider declaring Dr Kaunda’s birthday a public holiday to celebrate his contribution to the liberation struggle.
He argues that there is need for citizens to continue celebrating the life of Dr Kaunda long after he is gone, especially that he is among the few surviving frontline heroes.
Dr Kaunda deserves commendation for the important role he played in the liberation struggle of the continent.
“I am appealing to the relevant authorities to consider making the big man’s birthday a public holiday or dedicate part of the day to do charity work in his honour,” Mr Mukena said.
He said there is need to continuously document and embrace the first President’s virtues especially on peace and unity for posterity’s sake.
“Aspiring young politicians should be encouraged to read about Dr Kaunda’s leadership history and how he hated corruption and encouraged dedication and patriotism in his cabinet,” Mr Mukena said.
He also urges politicians to emulate Dr Kaunda’s respect for democracy.
“The democracy we enjoy today is because of the old man KK who accepted defeat [in the 1991 elections] and peacefully handed over power despite being the founding father of this nation,” Mr Mukena said.
The youth’s call for a KK public holiday has not fallen on deaf ears.
Chief government spokesperson Kampamba Mulenga welcomed the “brilliant” proposal.
“The proposal to have a KK day is a very brilliant and good idea worth taking to Cabinet [for possible approval].
“It is somewhat typical of us Zambians to celebrate the achievements of heroes after they die, but I think we need to change that mindset by honouring heroes like Dr Kaunda while they are with us so that the younger generation can also appreciate the role he played in the liberation struggle and peace building,” Ms Mulenga, who is Minister of Information, said.
She said Dr Kaunda and other freedom fighters such as Chibesa Kankasa and Simon Zukas should continuously be celebrated for posterity’s sake.
Dr Kaunda has a rich history which should continue being documented so that his legacy of peace and unity lives on, she said.
As the country celebrates Super KK’s big day today, remember, good deeds leave behind good memories.