CHIMWEMWE MWALE, Chinsali
IT initially sounded vague and was dismissed by some as political rhetoric. The construction and, later, naming of the Robert Makasa University by President Sata in Muchingaâ€™s provincial capital, Chinsali, is not just a boost to the education sector.
It is about posterity and pragmatic benefits for the country which are birthed from such key institutions of learning.Â The decision has also rekindled memories of the liberation struggle and subsequent victory against white minority rule to gain political independence.
This is simply so because Robert Makasa was one of the eminent sons of Chinsali whose participation in the liberation struggle and later in national service is inseparable from Zambia`s history.
The people of Chinsali, a district which in its own right can be considered as the cradle of Zambiaâ€™s independence, consider the Robert Makasa University as one of the important lifelong gifts for their district whose rank has also been elevated to provincial capital status.
As Zambia is engulfed in the Golden Jubilee euphoria, the son of the late chivalrous freedom fighter, Robert Makasa (junior), recollects some of the â€˜goldenâ€™ moments of his father`s life – the man behind the name of the momentous landmark structures in the history of the novel province.
Robert Jr, 52, who took care of his father before the freedom fighter died, says the family is grateful for the gesture to name the university after their father.
â€œWe are deeply honoured by the naming of the university (Robert Makasa) after our late father.Â The naming of the university after him comes at a time we are celebrating the Golden Jubilee independence of the country.
â€œWe cannot ask for anything more. On this part, I think the Government, both current and previous administrations, did what they could for him and we are grateful,â€ he said.
Robert Jr said in an interview at his Chinsali base recently that his family remembers Mr Makasa as a disciplinarian, relentless freedom fighter and a humble person.
They also recall his commitment to the family until the time of his death and that it is unfortunate that he died before witnessing the Golden Jubilee.
Robert Jr said his father usually discussed the country`s welfare and freedom during his lifetime.
â€œHe had a lot of love for this country, he always used to talk about the freedom struggle and would always call us as a family occasionally and tell us what he went through, how they suffered and fought for independence,â€ he said.
He is hopeful and confident that Zambians will emulate Mr Makasa`s significant contribution to the liberation struggle and national service.
Robert Jr urged Zambians to remain resilient and continue to fight for more freedom while sustaining it.
â€œI wish Zambians a happy Golden Jubilee and we just hope they can emulate the footsteps of people who spearheaded the fight for independence. Let us not sit back and say we are now independentâ€¦ although we have independence we still have a lot of fighting to do,â€ he advised.
Mr Makasa had five children and Robert Jr was the fifth.
The gallant freedom fighter, who served in various portfolios in the UNIP government, died in 2007 in Lusaka where he was evacuated by President Sata, who was then president of the Patriotic Front.
This was after Mr Sata found Mr Makasa ailing in Chinsali District Hospital.
Mr Makasa was the first to serve as Northern Province Minister in 1964 and later served in Foreign Service in Kenya, Ethiopia and Tanzania.
He also served as Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs and North-Western Minister and as a UNIP Member of the Central Committee.
Mr Makasa was also the authoritative, hilarious and creative author of the books Match to Political Freedom, Bwana District Commissioner and Umusungu Wamusonko (white tax collector).
The books had their fair share in the country`s education curriculum in Bemba literature in previous years.
The resourceful pieces of literature depicted the loathed colonial days when whites were at the helm of administration in districts where villagers were not expected to miss tax obligations among other compulsions considered oppressive by Africans.
According to Robert Jr, Mr Makasa was working on his memoir when he suffered a stroke and eventually died.
â€œ I am a qualified lawyer and I lectured at National Institute for Public Administration and later worked in an insurance business for 13 years but I quit to come and take care of dad and also help him write his memoir. But by then, he had a stroke and his level of concentration had reduced.
â€œThe memoir was done in bits and piecesâ€¦and some people who had taken it to go through it never returned it and they have just gone missing and all that is left of are his writing works [three books]. I am now with my older brother taking care of our late dadâ€™s farm where he stayed here [Chinsali],â€ Robert Jr said.
In conclusion, Robert Jr further described his father as a driving force who encouraged selflessness and patriotism.
Mr Makasaâ€™s irrefutably and ineradicable name, to be emblazoned on the now towering university scheduled to open its doors to the public in 2015, is another mark of freedom that will live beyond 50 years.
CHIMWEMWE MWALE, Chinsali