Columnists Features

Independence Day – so what?

INDEPENDENCE Day is around the corner. For many of us, it means nothing more than a public holiday and an opportunity to rest, to catch up with some household chores, or to visit some friends or relatives who suffered bereavements.
Is this how it should be? I doubt it. Surely, we ought to spend this public holiday thinking about and celebrating our independence as a nation from colonial rule. We have been a free people for over 50 years now. This day is meant to enable us celebrate this fact.
What has gone wrong? Why this great disconnect between what took place 50 years ago and our present experience? Why are we not excited about celebrating our emancipation from the tyranny of colonial rule? I think that there are a number of important reasons.
Let us begin with the present reality of poverty all around us. Many Zambians are too busy trying to survive to think about Independence Day. They cannot afford to feed themselves. You need to have enough and to spare for you to spoil yourself with food.
Every election, we vote in new leaders in the hope that they will stick to their promises and get us out of poverty. After five years, we find that we are still where we were before or perhaps have even gone further down. That makes Independence Day difficult to celebrate.
Another reason we find celebrating our independence from colonial rule difficult is that no one makes the effort to inspire us to do so during the remainder of the year. We are so busy trying to survive that often Independence Day comes upon us as a surprise.
It is unlike Christmas where all the shops start very early to tell us that they will reduce their prices on special items so that we can buy gifts for one another. Churches also tell us about the meaning of Christmas, that God sent his Son to come and save us from sin.
In that way, we are in the ‘Christmas spirit’ by the time December 25, comes upon us. Independence Day is not like that. We see the Zambian flag flying everywhere. We also hear on television and radio some greetings to the Zambian people by various companies.
But how all that relates to the common man in the street no one seems to explain. What have those flags that line up the streets got to do with me? No one has really explained. So, we end up simply being grateful that we have another public holiday to sit at home.
If we are to make Independence Day meaningful, we must first begin by making much of our national symbols. We must teach children what it means to be a proud Zambian in the midst of all the other nations of the earth. This is hidden in the national symbols.
For instance, our Coat of Arms has the fish eagle representing our freedom, which hovers over a pick and hoe representing our economic efforts. It has a man and woman who are our greatest assets, while the shield has our chief tourist attraction (the Victoria Falls).
Then there is the flag of Zambia. The green colour represents our agriculture, the red symbolises our struggle for independence, black stands for the Zambian people, and orange represents our copper. Already one can see that there is so much even in the flag alone.
Also, think about our national anthem. The first stanza says, “Stand and sing of Zambia, proud and free; Land of work and joy in unity; Victors in the struggle for our rights; We’ve won freedom’s fight; All one, strong and free.” There is plenty to think about there.
Finally, if we are to make Independence Day meaningful, we must also make it a day when those Zambians who have excelled in their areas of expertise are publicly rewarded by the Head of State. We must go beyond those who threw stones at colonialists in 1964.
We have many Zambians who are doing us proud in the arts, sports, medicine, social work, science, education, media, and so on. Some of them are heading prestigious institutions outside Zambia. Giving them awards at Independence will make us proud to be Zambians!
For comments and confidential counsel, write to: reverendchanda@ or call or send SMS to 0974250084.

Facebook Feed