Columnists Features

UNIP must live longer


MANY scholars believe that you must use your past, no matter how unsound or successful, to smoothen the road ahead. I believe the same applies to independent countries. Countries and their nationals have transformed systems to bring about change on which they sit today.

This is a thought that has influenced my thinking about the need for countries to retain the most important facets of their foundations. In unpacking my thoughts, I have taken bias towards the place of liberation parties and why they must be given a special place in contemporary politics.
For that matter, I want to discuss the affairs of the United National Independence Party (UNIP), not as a political party but as a concept.
I am, therefore, not interested in campaigning for UNIP to win presidential and general elections because that is not my area of competence.
My interest is limited to providing UNIP with a special status and protecting its future so that the country does not one day wake up without UNIP in any physical form.
It is a party of sentimental presence to the existence of Zambia because of its role in liberating many countries in Southern Africa, but, most importantly, Zambia.
Zambia and Malawi are the only countries in the region that have removed liberation parties from power while the majority of them have kept them even more vibrant.
The situation is different from Lesotho where the liberation party was removed from power through a coup d’état.
Liberation parties such as the ANC in South Africa, Zimbabwe’s Zanu-PF, the South-West Africa People’s Organisation (Swapo) of Namibia, the Mozambique Liberation Front (Frelimo) and Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) in Tanzania continue to dominate the political landscape in their countries.
In that sense, the liberation parties that are still in power have a longer lifespan than those that have lost power like UNIP and the Malawi Congress Party (MCP). These are on the verge of collapsing. Their history is slowly being erased from the list of institutions of influence.
Zambia’s first post-independence ruling party, UNIP, led by Kenneth Kaunda, lost power to the labour-backed Movement for Multi-party Democracy (MMD) in the 1991 elections.
In the case of Malawi, the MCP of the first post-independence president, Kamuzu Banda, was defeated by the United Democratic Front (UDF) in elections in 1994.
For the sake of preserving the identity of the country, UNIP should recreate itself and the government should take the lead; not actually joining the former ruling party.
As a political party, UNIP is a competitor to other parties, but it is a hub of the country’s history and a piece of precious academic reference for future generations.
The concern is that should school syllabuses change and slant more towards skills development even at lower grades, UNIP will be erased and lose its precious space.
It is a political party with special presence in the country. The National Heritage Conservation Commission (NHCC) needs to reflect on the place of UNIP in Zambia. Loss of UNIP is loss of physical history, if there is anything like that.
The headquarters of UNIP should not just concentrate on partisan politics but must take up the role of reconciling political divisions. UNIP leaders should not concentrate on operating contested politics but act in a neutral manner in certain circumstances. There is a reason for UNIP to work closely with the government in promoting national unity and finding more relevance in the country.
The absence of UNIP structures throughout the country should be a concern for all Zambians. Zambia should not honour UNIP after its death. UNIP is the father of Zambia and must not stay away from directing the affairs of this country.
The call is for UNIP now and UNIP tomorrow because Zambia without the liberation party is a stillbirth.
The author is a journalist.


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