HARARE – Two crucial days followed each other recently.
They both had significance for Zimbabwe: October 24 was Independence Day for neighbouring Zambia, which played a crucial role in our own independence in 1980.
Then on November 11, 1965, a group of whites decided to grab independence from the British and declare an independent Rhodesia.
For some people, such memories are not beneficial for a country trying to concentrate on its economy, rather than on differences which led to about 40 000 deaths.
I was reminded of fairy tales.
We all have them, tales which contain salutary lessons.
You would imagine the UDI plotters running a country called Rhodesia with Africans only as servants.
Their fairy tale ended in disaster. Meanwhile, in neighbouring Zambia, they celebrated their 49th year of independence from the British.
One of their former presidents, Rupiah Banda, appeared in court on a charge of corruption when he was president.
I paused for a moment of reflection. I knew Banda, personally, having lived in his country from 1963 to 1980. He must have had a fairy tale of his own.
He would be this leader of his own country, resplendent in his best civilian clothes, being saluted by generals and other high-ranking military people and civilians, such as High Court judges.
Then after his term ends, he sees himself walking into court, a tired, old man walking with a pronounced stoop. There is no entourage for him.
He walks slowly towards the dock. He is trying to remember what he is going to say when he is asked to tell the truth “and nothing but the truth….”
This surely was not his fairy tale. For heaven’s sake, he might end up going to jail — for stealing his poor people’s money. My God! What have I done? The shock is overwhelming.
I was reminded of the Sinatra song:
Fairy tales can come true,
It can happen to you,
When you are young at heart,
For it’s hard you will find,
To be narrow of mind,
When you are young at heart.
Rupiah is only 76, as is the current president, Michael Sata. Can you imagine their favourite fairy tales?
Kenneth Kaunda probably had his own fairy tales too.
Being the son of a missionary, he probably had some of those in which angels play the harp and sing in such glorious spirit you can imagine even the Almighty Himself smiling patiently.
After Kaunda, there was not one president in Zambia who could evoke the stability which made people repose such confidence in KK.
Many who knew him did not find him particularly erudite or brilliant in speech. After all, he had to overcome a speech impediment, before he could become the spell-binding political speaker that he became.
His 27 years in power were not particularly brilliant or earth-shattering.
In fact, because of the political crises surrounding southern Africa then, he is said to have had little time to concentrate on the urgent matters of using the copper in his country to the greatest benefit of ordinary Zambians.
To his critics, one of his greatest failures was to fool around with an ideology which he might have understood, but which he could not interpret enough for it to make any sense to ordinary Zambians.
Humanism, as a philosophy, had religion and just basic good-naturedness to drive it as an idea that people would welcome as something for the good of ordinary people.
But there is nowhere in the world where Zambian Humanism is remembered as having galvanised the people of Zambia to…change their country.
Yet Kaunda was…good for Zambia.