By NKOLE NKOLE
SOME may ask what is so special about the number 50. Attendants at a national youth conference held in commemoration of Zambiaâ€™s 50 years of independence believe that the number denotes a fresh beginning and the turning of a new page in different areas of Zambian life.
The conference was specifically designed to reflect on the past 50 years of Zambiaâ€™s existence and to discuss the next 50 years.
Dubbed the â€˜Jubilee Conference for Young and Emerging Leadersâ€™ and attracting individuals from all spheres of life, it was meant to be a â€œwake-up callâ€ to Zambiaâ€™s youth.
Notable speakers at the conference included such personalities as veteran politician Vernon Mwaanga, former first lady Maureen Mwanawasa, Lusaka mayor Mulenga Sata, Zambia Episcopal Conference (ZEC) president Archbishop Telesphore Mpundu, Dr Reverend Japhet Ndhlovu of the United Church of Canada and Chikondi Foundation president Bishop John Mambo.
Zimbabweâ€™s minister of environment Saviour Kasukuwere, who was guest of honour, noted that people had gathered not only to celebrate 50 years of Zambiaâ€™s independence but simultaneously to reflect on the nationâ€™s history and salute the founding of the country.
Mr Kasukuwere insisted that the freedoms enjoyed in African countries like Zimbabwe and Angola were made possible by the people of Zambia.
â€œZambia became the recipient of Ian Smithâ€™s anger and sabotage because of its stance that it was its brotherâ€™s keeper,â€ Mr Kasukuwere said.
He shared that as a young person, he felt that the debt owed to the people of Zambia had not been paid back in full.
â€œYou have a lot of challenges, but are a great and wonderful people,â€ he said.
Mr Kasukuwere quoted former President Kenneth Kaunda in one of his speeches, stressing that ambition never comes to an end.
He said economies were devastated in the struggle for independence, but African freedom fighters knew what they wanted to achieve.
â€œDo you the young people know what you want to achieve?â€ Mr Kasukuwere challenged. â€œItâ€™s about solving problems.â€
He asked the young people present what they would like to be known for as their forefathers knew what they stood for.
â€œWe must rise to the occasion. We must define ourselves and say enough is enough,â€ he said.
When he stepped up to the podium to give his speech, Lusaka mayor Mulenga Sata acknowledged that one of the first people he consulted into leadership was actually veteran politician Vernon Mwaanga.
The mayor spoke about the Zambia he felt young people wanted to see.
â€œWe would like to see a country thatâ€™s prosperous. We need to get rid of the culture of overdependence,â€ Mr Sata said.
He stated that he would like to see Zambia regain its leadership position in the region of Southern Africa.
Sharing that he had been to school in Botswana, Mr Sata said at least 90 percent of the people in Botswanaâ€™s hospitals and schools were Zambian in years past but Botswana had since overtaken Zambia by leaps and bounds.
He shared how he desired to see a Zambia that grew and evolved and where an environment that enables others to evolve is created.
The mayor said if young people wanted to see change, they needed to participate in the change.
â€œYou canâ€™t stop an idea whose time has comeâ€ was the catchy introduction by Dora Siliya.
She said the call of duty for young and emerging leaders had been clearly heard.
According to Ms Siliya, while leadership in politics is good, leadership in other areas such as the church, in business and in homes is also critical.
She reminded that politics affects peopleâ€™s lives at national and country level whether one is an active politician or not.
In an emphatic and engaging tone, Ms Siliya carried the opinion that if 50 percent of the Zambian population represented women, more than 50 percent of Zambian women should participate in politics.
She encouraged Zambians to change their attitudes and undergo mental restructuring with time.
Ending with the words of Jim Rohn, Ms Siliya stated: â€œLet others lead small lives but not you. Let others leave their future to others but not you.â€
Movement for Multi-party Democracy (MMD) national secretary Muhabi Lungu said leadership not only had to be of high quality but truthful as well.
Populism in politics, Mr Lungu warned, is not a viable economic framework and development does not happen automatically.
â€œDevelopment has to be planned for. It is not swift and does not take a short time,â€ Mr Lungu said.
He advised Zambian leaders not to give people the impression that everything they desire to see can be achieved overnight.
He said political parties in Zambia need to survive because this was how lasting institutions within the country were built.
â€œOur founding party is not represented in parliament anymore. We need consistency if this country is to survive,â€ Mr Lungu stressed.
The church was not absent from the platform. In delivering his remarks, Bishop John Mambo said the past should be buried and the younger generation encouraged.
He said Zambiaâ€™s first problem is that most people are spectators, both the young and old, and if the nation went back to sleep in the next 50 years, nothing would be seen.
The conferenceâ€™s main highlight occurred during the official handover of the leadership mantle from Vernon Mwaanga to a group of 25 young Zambians.
The respected and accomplished veteran of Zambian politics, who was councillor at age 18, ambassador at age 20 and at the age of 21, a full cabinet minister, underlined that leadership is not limited by age.
And with that, the conference participants departed with deposits of wisdom from the vast experiences of the elders who had gone before them and whose light had since dimmed but not completely gone off.
By NKOLE NKOLE