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Rembering Independence Day, Ms Kabwe’s story

CHRISTINE Katete Kabwe was only 14-years-old when she joined thousands of jubilant Zambians in shouting Kwacha – meaning the dawn – as the flag of the new Republic Zambia replaced the British Union Jack to mark the official changeover at midnight in 1964.
Ms Kabwe who was among the few pupils selected across the country to sing the first national anthem for a new Republic watched the red, black, green and orange colours of the new national flag replacing the British Union Jack.
She also recalls that it was in 1964 when athletics participated in the Olympics Games from a country known as Northern Rhodesia and ended them in Zambia.
In a recently interview she said that the experience of being liberated for last 50 years is thrilling and volumes of books will always be written about this.
“I was happy to be among the first pupils in the country to sing the National Anthem on Independence Day in 1964,” she said.
Mrs Kabwe said on the eve of Independence Day no one slept; instead most people trekked to Lusaka’s Independence Stadium to await the new dawn.
That year, Zambia was the ninth African state to gain independence from Britain. To show that indeed a new dawn was real, the celebrations on independence eve were held under a huge copper torch that was lit on a hill overlooking the city.
As the clock ticked towards midnight, Ms Kabwe recalled that songs in all the 73 local languages were sung, tears rolled down the cheeks of both young and old; the eagerly-anticipated hour had arrived. First Republican President Kenneth Kaunda stepped forward to receive the Instruments of Independence from the Queen’s representative, the Princess Royal.
It was at this stage that the jubilant crowd shouted Kwacha – meaning the dawn was not only for the change of the name from Northern Rhodesia to Zambia but signified the of end of  colonialism and beginning of a sovereign state.
Princess Mary then read a personal message from the Queen as the United Kingdom welcomed the newest member of its Commonwealth.
Ms Kabwe said the Independence Day will have various meanings to different generations but for her, the cherished moment came when she together with other pupils sang the National Anthem on October 24, 1994 for the first time.
“Mr Chimululu, a Seventh-Day-Adventist musician and music teacher from Luapula Province was entrusted to lead the schools countrywide in singing the National Anthem,” she said.
She says she cannot remember who composed the song, but the rhymes were common during the liberations struggle but the lyrics were composed in Zambia. The tune was derived from the hymn Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika (God Bless Africa), which was composed by a South African, Enoch Sontonga, in 1897 as a liberation song.
The lyrics in the National Anthem were composed to specifically depict Zambia, as opposed to Sontonga’s lyrics which referred to Africa as a whole.
History states that when Zambia decided to adopt the liberation song as its National Anthem in 1964 there was a decision to have appropriate words put to the music.
A competition was held to compose words; no one entry was considered acceptable in its entirety, but the sentiments and themes of several entries were used in the final version.
The six authors whose entries were of particular value and were awarded prizes were: Mr G Ellis of Lusaka, Mr E S Musonda of Kasama, Mr J M S Lichilana of Lusaka, Mrs I Lowe of Luanshya, Mr J Sajiwandani of Luanshya and Mrs R J Seal of Lusaka.
From this it is clear to see that the National Anthem has evolved from the work of several different musical and lyrics composers, but its message is clear – Zambians are proud of their country and shall always stand together in unity, strong and free.
This is why Ms Kabwe is telling her story and showing the importance of the national hymn that has united the country for the past 50 years.
She said when they sung the words, Stand and sing for Zambia, proud and free, Land of work and joy in unity, Victors in the struggle for the right, We have won freedom’s fight. All one, strong and free. The stadium erupted into a frenzy.
Her heart danced with joy knowing that indeed,  Zambians could stand proud and free while looking forward to a land of work and joy in unity adding that Zambia is not a land of lazy people as the young people would like it to be.
She said Dr Kaunda and other freedom fighters fought hard for the liberation of Zambia which had less than three million people at independence majority of whom had very humble education.
Ms Kabwe said she was among the first Zambians to benefit from free education from primary to college. Government used to give student allowances and she was happy to have been paid K6 monthly allowance plus free books during her college days from 1968-1970.
Ms Kabwe grew up in Chingola where she did her primary school and later went to Kasama Teachers Training College where she was trained as a teacher besides wanting to be a social worker.
“I went to college from 1968-1969 at whats was then called Kasama College where I studied upper primary education,” she said.
When she enrolled into college, there were only four women but now the trend has changed; more women have gotten their degrees in various disciplines other than teaching.
She describes herself as being shy but her interaction as a teacher with pupils and many other people helped her overcome this. Most importantly, she is happy to have been part of educators who shaped men and women when the country was in its infancy.
Upon completion of her studies, she started working as a teacher in Chingola in 1970 and life there was good despite few Zambians being educated. In 1981, she was transferred to Eastern Province to teach at Anoya Zulu Primary before it was upgraded into a secondary school.
She taught there until 1993 when was she was transferred to Hill Side Primary School until her retirement in 2005.
Talking about importance of Zambia’s first Jubilee this year, Ms Kabwe said it is sad that young people do not appreciate the growth of the country. Only those who sung the National Anthem in 1964 appreciate what God has and is still doing for Zambia.
Having said this, she paused and sung some stanzas,“Africa is our own motherland, Fashion’d with and blessed by God’s good hand, Let us all her people join as one, Brothers under the sun. All one, strong and free and continues…One land and one nation is our cry, Dignity and peace ‘neath Zambia’s sky, Like our noble eagle in its flight, Zambia, praise to thee. All one, strong and free.”
Africa in particular Zambia is a blessed land and like a noble eagle in its flight, the country has developed from being poor to a prosperous one, she said.
She explained that Lusaka was a bush, so was Chipata and any other town but today; the massive infrastructure investment was unprecedented.
The mother of seven who is married to Obbrey Kabwe, said Zambia will continue to prosper with the massive infrastructure development adding that this was the best jubilee gift the country has received after Independence.
Ms Kabwe loves gardening and
to meet President Sata for building more schools and promoting more women in all sectors of the economy. Sadly, President Sata died in October in a London hospital.
She urged all the young people to put aside their political differences and continue building the country as she sang Psalms 23 and the last stanza of the National Anthem, “…One land and one nation is our cry, Dignity and peace ‘neath Zambia’s sky, Like our noble eagle in its flight, Zambia, praise to thee. All one, strong and free. Praise be to God, Praise be, praise be, praise be,
Bless our great nation, Zambia, Zambia, Zambia. Free men we stand under the flag of our land. Zambia, praise to thee! All one, strong and free.”

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