MWILA NTAMBI, Kitwe
KITWE-BASED freedom fighter Augustine Mutale says the value attached to independence celebrations has been eroded because young people do not appreciate the price that was paid for the freedom they are currently enjoying.
Speaking in an interview ahead of this yearâ€™s independence celebrations, Mr Mutale, 78, said it is sad that the young generation does not recognise the true value of political independence, but rather opt to engage in actions that threaten the peace and unity that freedom fighters fought so hard for.
â€œThis freedom young people are enjoying today was won at a great cost, and as freedom fighters, we are always saddened when we see people involving themselves in actions that can threaten our peace and freedom,â€ he says.
Mr Mutale also mentions that tribalism is an enemy of freedom and unity and that leaders at all levels, especially traditional rulers, should address it because of its potential to divide the country and destroy the very purpose of independence.
â€œLeaders, especially traditional leaders, need to join hands in educating young people on the importance of living in love and unity because that was the vision of all freedom fighters. When we were fighting for independence, there was no tribe, so it should not come up now,â€ Mr Mutale says.
On the other hand, he feels Zambia has not yet achieved the full benefits of independence because the country is still grappling with issues of inequality and unemployment which the freedom fighters hoped would be addressed soon after gaining independence.
He also bemoans lack of recognition of people that fought for independence, and expresses hope that their constant concerns will be addressed for the good of mother Zambia.
Mr Mutale says freedom fighters sacrificed a lot for the country to be where it is today, but society has not reciprocated their good deeds with benevolence.
He says it is sad that most freedom fighters are destitute and can hardly afford basic needs of life such as food, clothing and shelter.
On his role in the freedom struggle, Mr Mutale recalls that he was only 16 years old when he joined the liberation movement in Mporokoso district.
He narrates that a renowned freedom fighter in the area, called James Chapuloko, used to mobilise and sensitise villagers in Mporokoso on the cause for freedom. At the time, people were generally dissatisfied with the prevailing inequalities and segregation that were perpetuated by the colonial government.
As a youth, Mr Mutale recalls being part of a group that burnt down Chibomfuma Bridge in Mporokoso to prevent mobile police from accessing the area. He said freedom fighters never had it easy in terms of executing activities because of the presence of â€œinformersâ€ within the black community that would leak information to the colonialists.
After successfully participating in the burning down of Chibomfuma Bridge, Mr Mutale left Mporokoso to avoid being arrested by state police.
And another freedom fighter, Angel Malama, recalls that the most painful experience for black people during the colonial regime was the growing racial segregation which was being practised with full blessings of the government.
â€œThere was so much segregation that they (whites) had their own stores, while black people also had their own shops, but we could only buy things through the window. They had their own clubs and generally the two races could not just co-exist, so we thought that as the black community, we needed our freedom,â€ Mr Malama, 80, says.
Mr Malama, who was a miner at Nchanga Mine during the independence struggle, says the most significant thing he remembers about the independence struggle is the Cha Cha Cha movement on the Copperbelt.
He says during the Cha Cha Cha period, precisely on June 16, 1961, there was massive civil unrest on the Copperbelt which led to many people being injured and hospitalised.
Mr Malama says some of his friends were arrested, while a white man called Fleming allegedly maliciously broke the knees of two black men.
â€œThey used to mock us that this is your country but the money is ours,â€ he recalls.
This freedom fighter also shared Mr Mutaleâ€™s views that the objectives of the independence struggle have not been fully realised because freedom fighters feel neglected.
He said despite the role that they played in the liberation struggle, most freedom fighters are struggling to make ends meet. He feels Government should empower freedom fighters with houses, farmland and also provide them with free burial sites.
Another freedom fighter, Chitonge Chimfwembe, 71, says the apparent disunity in the nation is worrying and violates the spirit of independence.
He said Zambians should not pay lip service but rather should uphold the spirit of â€œone Zambia, one nationâ€ as espoused by the founding fathers.
He says freedom fighters sacrificed a lot for the country and there is need to guard against any activities that threaten the countryâ€™s peace and unity.
Mr Chimfwembe says Zambians must never allow tribal politics to divide them, regardless of which leader is in State House.