Analysis: BENEDICT TEMBO
FOURTH President Rupiah Banda has made a case for celebrating lives of those who sacrificed their lives to improve the welfare of all Zambians.
Mr Banda said this on Sunday during the first memorial lecture in honour of the country’s second President Frederick Chiluba who died on June 18, 2011.
Dr Chiluba, who was among pioneers of the re-introduction of multi-party democracy in 1990, ruled the country from 1991 up to 2001.
However, Mr Banda’s eulogy of Dr Chiluba has been met with mixed reactions.
Dr Chiluba had various shades ranging from a democrat to a devout Christian.
But he was also viewed as a plunderer and vindictive in the manner he treated first President Kenneth Kaunda and some of his political opponents.
“We can acknowledge Chiluba for his role and not forget him in the books of Zambian history. But honour is a sacred word which he does not deserve,” Trywell Kalusopa, a former University of Zambia (UNZA) lecturer says.
He says honouring entails placing above all on the pedestal.
Mr Kalusopa acknowledges that there are a lot of unsung heroes need recognition.
Another school of thought is that honour should not be reserved for former presidents only.
Even politicians such as Harry Mwaanga Nkumbula, Simon Mwansa Kapwepwe, Akashambatwa Mbikusita- Lewanika cannot have their place in Zambia’s history erased. They too must be celebrated.
But this has not been the case in Zambia. Long before his removal from office in 1991, first President Kenneth Kaunda was demonised as a dictator.
Dr Kaunda was later arrested by the Chiluba regime with his residence in Kalundu being declared a police cell.
It took intervention from the region for Dr Kaunda’s freedom to be restored.
It was in Levy Mwanawasa’s regime that Dr Kaunda’s freedom and dignity were fully restored.
Today, Dr Kaunda’s legacy has been so sanitised that he is now a hero.
As regards honouring, Zambia should have a defined criteria for recognising heroes and heroines.
Cabinet Office should avail to the public the criteria for honouring citizens because currently, it appears to be skewed towards politicians.
State House hosts investiture ceremonies at least twice a year – on African Freedom Day (May 25) as well as on Independence Day (October 24) where deserving citizens from a cross section of society are honoured.
But honour is not restricted to the State recognising citizens. Society has a way of recognising its own heroes.
Clubs and sports associations for instance, host end of year events where performers in that particular season are rewarded.
Schools, too, also reward outstanding pupils in various fields from academic performance to co-curricular activities.
Like beauty being in the eye of the beholder, so does honour.
So instead of citizens grumbling each time a citizen, living or dead, is conferred with honour, it is high time sections of society started recognising their own heroes.
For instance, UNIP would do well to set up a political museum where the young generation can learn about it.
The MMD may also do well to mount its own museum where Zambians will be reminded about the movers of the party, Garden House meetings, the failed third term campaign and how Levy Mwanawasa rose to power.
The ruling party Patriotic Front, has a super story – starting with its founder Michael Sata leaving the MMD in 2001 to forming government in 2011.
Co-founders of the party should be recognised and honoured.
For a party ruling the country at the height of robust infrastructure development, it should have by now built its own party secretariat with attendant conference centres and a museum to depict its rise to power.
The United Party for National Development (UPND), too, should have by now had its own secretariat and a museum to document its contribution to Zambian democracy.
The Football Association of Zambia (FAZ) and other sports associations should also be looking at documenting their success stories, so should the country’s successful clubs such as Nkana, Mufulira Wanderers, Power Dynamos and Green Buffaloes.
They have a unique history befitting museum status. By now, they should have named some of their stands (with pictures) of bigger than life contributors.
Zambia has a unique story which cannot be told in a day. We should not derive the future generations of the country’s fairy tale.
To honour or not, lies with the beholder.
The author is editorials editor at the Zambia Daily Mail.
Analysis: BENEDICT TEMBO