Zambia’s central role in region’s liberation


ON APRIL 12, 2018, newly inaugurated Botswana President Mokgweetsi Masisi arrived in Zambia for a one-day state visit. President Masisi was installed as the fifth President of the Republic of Botswana on April 1, taking over from Lieutenant General Seretse Khama Ian Khama, who left office before the end of his constitutional tenure as fourth President of Botswana.
And speaking when he paid a courtesy call on President Edgar Lungu at State House, Mr Masisi said Botswana will always cherish the role Zambia played during its liberation struggle.
Zambia was part of the frontline states that played a pivotal role in the struggle against white colonial rule, apartheid and racial inequality in the southern African region. The Frontline States (FLS) was an alliance of the independent countries of southern Africa that was established in 1975 under the auspices of the Pan-Africanist leaders such as Kenneth Kaunda of Zambia, Julius Mwalimu Nyerere of Tanzania, Augustinho Neto of Angola, Samora Machel of Mozambique and Sir Seretse Khama of Botswana.
These countries and their leaders provided invaluable material, and logistical, diplomatic and political support to nationalist movements fighting for the independence of Rhodesia (Zimbabwe), South West Africa (Namibia), and South Africa under the apartheid regime.
Therefore, the origin of the Southern African Development Co-ordinating Conference (SADCC), the precursor of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), is closely connected to the Frontline States. SADCC was formed to advance the cause of national political liberation in southern Africa, and to reduce dependence, particularly on the then South Africa apartheid regime through effective coordination and utilisation of the specific characteristics and strengths of each member country and its resources.
Thus the formation of SADCC resulted in southern African countries that were politically, militarily and economically aligned. These independent countries were determined to dismantle white minority rule in southern Africa by helping the liberation movements fight oppression and injustice in their countries.
Zambia’s then President Kenneth Kaunda welcomed a number of liberation movements and their leaders in the country and his government also established the Liberation Centre on Chilimbulu Road in Lusaka with the full support of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) Liberation Committee to coordinate the liberation movements hosted in Zambia.
These liberation movements included the African National Congress, Pan Africanist Congress and the Unity Movement of South Africa, Movement for the Popular Liberation of Angola and the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola, Mozambique Liberation Front, South West African People’s Organisation of Namibia, the Zimbabwe African National Union and the Zimbabwe African People’s Union.
Zambia, as one of the frontline states that hosted many of liberation movements and played a huge role in the liberation struggle of southern African region, should consider building a southern Africa liberation heritage centre which will be an embodiment of the collective experiences, ideals, values and principles, which unified the frontline states in their resolve to help other countries of the region in the liberation struggle.
Such an institution will honour the nationalist leaders and other freedom fighters who helped the liberation movement and those who carried high the banner of unprecedented international solidarity.
Other key historical events such as the Battle of the Kavalamanja, which occurred on March 6, 1978 when Ian Smith’s Rhodesian Army attacked Luangwa district, specifically at Kavalamanja and Kakaro villages, resulted in unaccounted deaths, internal displacement and a human crisis that has haunted the local people of these remote villages to date.
Such events should be highlighted to draw attention to key moments in the country’s liberation history that deserve institutional memorialisation and also to document the lives of the ordinary citizens who contributed to the liberation struggle of southern Africa through their personal and collective sacrifices.
The identification of these heroes and heroines, as well as the recording and preservation of their life histories are significant for a number of reasons, including honouring the contribution they made. The contribution of their life stories can add to the memory of the history of southern Africa and the rest of the world. Such narratives of the liberation struggle can raise awareness on the African liberation heritage and history.
For instance, former South African President Jacob Zuma was in Zambia recently. He and President Lungu officially opened the OR Tambo National Heritage Site as a national monument; the house that sheltered one of South Africa’s renowned liberation leaders, Oliver Reginald Tambo, during his many years in exile. Such sites are important in memorialising significant acts and events that form part of the history of the liberation struggle of southern Africa in our country.
Therefore, the significant role that Zambia played in the liberation struggle of other southern African countries against colonialism, apartheid and racial inequality, as rightly observed by President Masisi, need to be bequeathed to future generations for the benefit of posterity.
Although the legacy of the liberation struggle of southern Africa has been stated in a number of different historical narratives, Zambia as one of the countries that were at the centre of hosting many of these liberation movements and sacrificed heavily for the liberation of the southern African region should work towards the proper documentation of this part of history by building a southern Africa liberation heritage centre to ensure the permanent survival of this record and its accessibility to the public.
The author is a social commentator and blogger.

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