Analysis: ROBBIE MUSAKUZI
EVERY February 14, across Zambia and in many other places around the world, Valentine’s Day, also called Saint Valentine’s Day or the Feast of Saint Valentine, is celebrated with candy, flowers cards, letters, and wearing red clothes, and gifts are exchanged between loved ones to celebrate the day.
Valentine’s Day is celebrated worldwide as a festival of romantic love and expression of the feelings of love, affection, friendship and, the economy permitting, an arrangement of a romantic meal in a restaurant or hotel. This year, my Valentine is my country, Zambia, its political leadership and people and how I wish this could be the same for every Zambian.
My decision to make Zambia my Valentine in 2018 stems from my desire and that of many others to express the love and passion that many across the nation have for this country. You come across this on a daily basis throughout the country, but when at the end of the day you browse some posts by some Zambians on the local social media, it frightens you to see the levels of falsehoods, gloom, lies, and innuendos and hate speech against this beloved country, its people and leadership. It is really difficult to understand what drives this group of Zambians.
The message to this group is that this Valentine’s Day, let us take a break and join others who will celebrate their love for their partner and country by sending cards or letters, giving gifts or flowers, chocolates, candy, lingerie and champagne or sparkling wine and arrange meals in restaurants and hotels. Those who would like to have a romantic relationship with somebody can also use the occasion to make this known, often anonymously. Zambia is the only country we have. Therefore, let us cherish it by casting away our frustrations and hate and strive to make it better within its imperfection by doing what is good.
This is the spirit of celebrating Valentine’s Day, which comes from its legend and history that when Emperor Claudius II during the third century in Rome concluded that single men made better soldiers than those with wives and families; he outlawed marriage for young men. The Catholic Priest Valentine, realising the injustice of the decree, defied Claudius and continued to conduct weddings for young soldiers in secret and when Valentine’s actions were discovered, Claudius ordered that he be put to death. Other stories suggest that Valentine may have been killed for attempting to help Christians escape harsh Roman prisons, where they were often beaten and tortured.
The spirit of doing good is the spirit that those Zambians who do not see anything good about our country Zambia, its people and leadership need to reflect on today. Instead of spending the whole day posting hate speech, insults, lies and innuendos, and making them appear like the truth on social media and press conferences, they should go out and do justice and render help; donate money, food, clothing and show love to those Zambians that are in need. If it is to expose perceived corruption, do so with tangible evidence and love for the country and give suggestions on how the injustice and corruption can be brought to an end in our beloved country.
In many countries around the world just like in Zambia, Valentine’s Day is not a public holiday. Government offices, stores, schools, banks and other organisations are open as usual, but the buzz in these institutions, offices, homes and in the streets are the expression of the feelings of love, affection and friendship. It is also a time to express and extend friendship to those in other social circles, political affiliation and cultures where one does not belong. For example, Valentine’s Day in Finland is referred to as “Friend’s Day”, which is more about remembering all friends rather than focusing solely on romance. In Guatemala it is known as Day of Love and Friendship. In the United States it is also a time to show appreciation for being a friend. In Slovenia, Saint Valentine or Zdravko is the Saints of spring, the Saint of good health and the patron of pilgrims and refugees. It is believed plants and flowers start to grow on this day and the day when the first work in the vineyards and fields commences.
The most common Valentine’s Day symbols are the heart, particularly in red and pink, and pictures or models of Cupid. Cupid is usually portrayed as a small winged child with a bow and arrow. In mythology, Cupid uses his arrow to strike the hearts of people. People who have fallen in love and affection are sometimes said to be ‘struck by Cupid’s arrow. Let our nation Zambia be struck by Cupid’s arrow.
As Zambians, we can also make a mark in the world and a difference beginning with this year’s Valentine’s Day on this continent of Africa – renowned across the world for its widespread poverty, diseases, tribalism, nepotism, regionalism, political intolerance and strife – by expressing love, fairness, affection and friendship across tribal, political, regional and cultural divides, and cementing our national motto: ‘One Zambia, One Nation’.
The author is an international associate, African Centre for Disaster Studies.