The year was 1964; multitudes had gathered in the stadium to usher in a new dawn typified by jubilation. These celebrations could easily have been misconstrued for New Year celebrations; except that it was not January but the 23rd of October. The place was Independence Stadium in Lusaka, Zambia just before midnight. At the stroke of midnight, the union jack flag was lowered and the Zambian flag raised. The crowd went into a frenzy breaking into songs and dance as joy oozed in the atmosphere.
Northern Rhodesia had fizzled away giving birth to Zambia; marking a bright dawn, translated as “Kwacha Ngwee” in Nyanja, the local language.
Today, Zambians, most of whom were born after 1964, vicariously relive this day through annual Independence Day commemorations with the exception of a few who are privileged to have chronicles of the day from witnesses. Independence Day is represented by a hiatus from daily activities; with schools and companies being closed allowing for people to rest. It is that comma on the calendar that we anxiously wait for as a saving grace from the high pressured academic and professional dealings.
The significance of Independence is slowly being diluted which raises the question, what does
Independence mean today? Though the answers are numerous, it is important to acknowledge the fact that the liberties we enjoy today are the fruits of the labour of yesteryears. The freedom to dream and aspire to the zenith of one’s potential regardless of age, race, creed, color and sex amongst many others. Many cynics will fervently argue that this liberty is hypothetical because many citizens are grappling for mere survival. My counter argument lies in the observation of our country today where previously marginalized factions like youths and women are participating in the economy beyond the confines of the ballot box.
The crowd applauded as a lanky fellow clad in a suit traversed the room heading to the podium to receive his Mwape Peer Award in Engineering. He spoke with a sense of genuineness and authority on a subject matter that was close to his heart. Though a Rocket Scientist, he was not promulgating the extensive research that had typified his PhD or work experience. However, he personified his nonprofit, Zambian Institute for Sustainable Development by giving an account of its numerous altruist projects. Chiluwata Lungu leads a local, cost-effective organization composed of a dynamic group of Zambian youths that are getting things done rather than waiting for supporters. They decided it was unacceptable that many of the nation’s brightest students were sent home each year because they could not pay a few hundred dollars in school fees. This has enabled over sixty students who were clouded with hopeless and doubt to pursue their university studies in Zambia, Morocco, Russia and China. Subsequently, these are now beacons of hope with students such as Gregory Sikeba starting the Lael Foundation to support other needy Zambians. Despite been miles away from home, Chiluwata is advocating and acting each day for the improvement of the lives of the Zambian youth. Contrary to the popular adage, that it takes a whole village to raise a man, sometimes it takes one man to raise a village.
Independence today means the liberty for youths like Chiluwata to propagate development and change the course of their country. Though seemingly commonplace the liberty to chart our own course were the preserve of a few prior to independence.
Yesterday is the proof for today and that is why I stand firm and certain without an ounce of doubt. Confidence is the courage with which I cloth myself so that when the sand storm of doubt blows past me, I will not be blemished by it. I have a great optimism for Zambia because we are resilient people and possess bouncebackability beyond measure. Within and beyond the borders of our great country are citizens like Chiluwata with a can do attitude and sheer love for their country. It is for this reason that fifty plus one years on, I vote for Zambia.