By Expendito Chipasha Chipalo
For over 16 years from 1982 to 1998, I travelled extensively across Zambia researching material and taking photographs for the famed BP Zambia cultural calendars. I visited all the districts of Zambia except for Shang’ombo, Chama and Chadiza.
During my various visits, I interacted with almost all the chiefdoms in our nation; and what I found at each of the palaces was mutual respect. I was always well received and I observed that the chiefs respected their own subjects with a lot of respect regardless of their station in the tribe.
As a visitor, I was accorded the same respect by the chiefs and the ordinary people assigned to help me in my work. I never at any time faced any issues of lack of respect. I enjoyed a lot of camaraderie to an extent where some of the chiefs became my personal friends.
I particularly enjoyed travelling to Kanchindu in the Gwembe Valley because, added to the rich culture of the Valley Tonga, was the deep friendship I enjoyed with Senior Chief Mweemba. I even spent one Christmas Holiday with him, but please don’t ask me what he gave me.
I strongly believe that every Zambian person has grown up surrounded by this culture of respect because that is our Ubuntu. In the family, in the tribe, in school and in church the culture of respect is at the center of character formation of young children in our country.
In the family, young children are not only taught how to wash plates and chop wood, they are also taught manners. They are taught how to politely answer adults, the correct posture when serving adults as well as respect for their peers.
At school, the teachers do not only teach us how to read and write; they also engage us in communal manners. They teach us to respect authority and instruct us to relate with our peers and school seniors.
All our churches have youth organizations whose purpose is the development of young people in accordance with our culture of respect. The Catholic Church has Abana ba Safeli and Stella, the Anglicans and the United Church of Zambia have the Boys and Girls Brigades, the Seventh Day has the Adventist Youth and even the Pentecostal Churches have Youth Ministries.
All of us Zambians can therefore confidently assume that all the people that are aspiring to lead our nation as President and Vice President have gone through this process of character development based on Ubuntu – our culture of respect and they should live by that tradition unless they are incorrigible.
All the aspirants come from Zambian families and it follows that even if they did not through any kind of formal education, they must have experienced the culture of respect through their mothers and; or fathers.
For those who went through formal education, they must have experienced the camaraderie we all enjoyed in schools, colleges and universities. We built friendships based on mutual trust and respect. The bullies grouped together, the good guys stayed together and led others; they became the prefects and the head boys.
In the churches, we were taught to be good examples to the rest o society. We were taught to lead by kindness and love for the least of our brothers. We were taught to love our neighbours as we loved ourselves.
The duties of a Christian we were taught included sacrifice of body and mind and above all respect for authority. For this purpose, I will quote extensively from Romans Chapter 13.
“Let every person be subordinate to the higher authorities for there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been established by God. Therefore whoever resists authority opposes what God has appointed, and those who oppose it will bring judgment upon themselves. For rulers are not a cause of fear to good conduct, but to evil.
“Do you wish to have no fear of authority?
“Then do what is good and you will receive approval from it, for it is a servant of God for your good. But if you do evil, be afraid, for it does not bear the sword without purpose; it is the servant of God to inflict wrath on the evildoer.
“Therefore, it is necessary to be subject not only because of the wrath but also because of the conscience. This is why you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, devoting themselves to this very thing. Pay to all their dues, taxes to whom taxes are due, toll to whom toll is due, respect to whom respect is due, honour to whom honour is due.”
These Bible teachings are not in conflict with any of our cultural or traditional practices. Even before the advent of Christianity, we respected our rulers, we respected our elders, we respected our in-laws regardless of their age and we maintained relationships with our peers based on mutual respect.
This kind of respect and love for one another must come directly from our hearts. If we do not possess this natural love for others, we can never conceal our wickedness; no matter how hard we try, our temperament, words and actions will always reveal our real nature.
In our country today, if a person younger than you become a priest or pastor, we give him the respect due to him or her, if a younger man is your teacher or professor, you accord him respect according to his position and conduct.
Tragically, some people who are aspiring to lead this nation have completely ignored our noble culture of respect. Despite repeated pleas and warnings from those in authority, they continuously engage in disrespect and disregard for our cultural and traditional norms.
Impudence, sarcasm, insolence, impertinence, threats, dignity and disunity are the chore values that they worship and expound. This behaviour is very strange for people who have been brought up in the typical Zambian family, village or suburb.
Two weeks ago, I listened to a live address by the leader of the UPND Mr. Hakainde Hichilema. He repeatedly called President Edgar Chagwa Lungu a thug.
Mr. Hichilema has proclaimed himself as a Christian, the Bible is telling all Christians to submit to authority. One would hope that a man who is aspiring to assume authority over our land should in the first place be respectful of the person who occupies the office that he is seeking.
Mr. Hichilema in the same address also called upon his supporters not be give up but remain united to protect UPND supporters. As a Christian, he should tell his followers to turn the other cheek and report all forms of provocation to the police or other authorities.
In one breath he claims that he wants peace and in the next breath he advocates confrontation.
I have never heard of President Lungu insult any of his opponents. Mr. Hichilema should try and raise his stature to the level of the office he so desperately seeks. True Christians constitute a higher percentage of registered voters and they will not kindly to such provocative and vulgar language.
The words that I have quoted from the Bible above also apply to Mr. Fred Meembe.
His stance to defy all authority in our country is in complete contrast with the teaching of the Holy Book that he so fondly quoted in many of his editorials.
To quote the Bible in order to cheat the people that you mean well is equivalent to fooling God and we all know that you cannot escape his wrath and executes through the authorities that he has appointed on earth.
Countrymen, all of us who aspire to be leaders in our country as politicians, journalists, priests, pastors, trade unionists, judges and so on must always act in good faith and discard bitterness.
At this worrisome time in our country, some little advice from Mahatma Gandhi will do for our political leaders. Hi lists the following Blunders as the Seven Blunders of the World that Lead to Violence.
Wealth without work, Pleasure without conscience, Knowledge without character, Commerce without morality, Science without humanity, Worship without sacrifice and Politics without principle.
Threats, insults and all forms of rude conduct point to a lack of reasoning and desperation. As they say, the guilty are always afraid and the guilty act in desperation. They also have an insatiable desire for power so that they can conceal their criminal nature and evil deeds.
Zambia has been a peaceful country for 51 years because we have a great culture of respect. As we aspire to reach higher heights, I implore all Zambians to retire sarcastic, violent and impudent politicians through the ballot box on August 11, 2016.