By Augustin Phiri
Alot has been said about Africa’s underdevelopment including Zambia with slavery and colonialism cited as being major culprits responsible for this seemingly negative scenario.
Slavery is blamed for having taken away the most intelligent and energetic Africans away from the continent to the Americas to work in sugar plantations and contribute positively to development there.
If indeed those who were taken away were as intelligent and energetic as portrayed by historians, politicians and economists, then those who were left behind were ‘people who are not good at achieving what they desire to do’, cowards of human beings.
Yes, they were cowards who took to their heels and sprinted at top speed towards secret sanctuaries in the hills to hide at the slightest mention of slave catchers approaching their villages.
And so, it goes without saying that the great-great-great grand sons and daughters of those bangwele are bangwele too – you and me.
You have heard the song that “Chipolopolo nga tailiko, bonse ni bangele’ mean when Zambia is not taking part in a tournament, those playing are minnows.
In this context, it means that after those remained behind after slaves were taken away were minnows and their off-springs minnows too – bangwele.
For, how do we explain our failure to set up factories to make needles for use to mend holes in our trousers, shirts, skirts, blouses and boxers created by pricking seats of mini-buses?
How do we explain our failure to make wooden tooth picks for use to remove dead eyes of chisense and kapenta lodged in between our teeth while munching nshima or nsima?
Indeed, how can you continue to attribute your backwardness on slavery which was abolished in 1833 by the British Empire which colonized Northern Rhodesia now Zambia up to 1964?
If you have no excuses for your own economic and social quagmire, keep quite and stop blaming it all on slavery and colonialism.
But since you now know that I know that you do not know what and who is responsible for your development deficiencies, allow me to put you in the loop.
You see, Africa is located along the equator which, according to geography school lessons, is the hottest spot on earth.
As such, the grey matter in the head of an African is always boiling due to the scotching heat.
In this state of boiling brains, the African cannot think properly especially about setting up factories to make new clothing and cars.
Instead, an African prefers to wear salaula clothes and drive the fong’o fong’o second hand vehicles from Japan.
By the way, the mention of salaula reminds me of an incident I and a colleague encountered in a second hand shop in the United Kingdom when a boy of about 16 years walked in and asked the shop tender if he could bring his late uncle’s clothes.
We swiftly bolted out of the shop without having to hear the reply from the sales lady.
The African continent is shaped in a question mark and because of this, the brain of an African is loaded with questions and one’s ability to find answers to problems is questionable too.
And because the brain is overloaded with questions, an African is indecisive, unsure and questions one’s own ideas, bright as they may.
An African lack self confidence because of the many question marks in the brain and has to o subject own innovative ideas for validation at international conferences by counterparts from the so-called first and second worlds.
This in turn, either kills bright projects or delays their implementation depending on what the foreign experts decide on whether to go ahead to build a factory to manufacture tooth picks.
An African is physically energetic and strong but because of the ever cooking brains from the hot rays of the equatorial sun, an African is always absented-minded.
You have often heard someone you might be talking to say to you “I’m sorry my mind was somewhere else, what did you say?”
This may explain why those charged with brokering national deals sign unfavourable agreements on behalf of Zambians because their minds were absent during the discussions despite the board room being well air-conditioned.
It would not be off the mark to suggest that some members of the immediate-past parliament voted ‘HEAR, HEAR’ to the Grave 12 qualification clause while in their absent-minded stupor, only to realise much later that they were completely out of the August 11 race for not possessing the very certificate.
You see, apart from the Zambia Metal Fabricators Limited in Luanshya, the manufacturers of electricity and phone cables from copper which is mined by our own physically strong Zambian men, no other industry exist making other items from copper.
Instead, we sell copper as raw material at the price we do not determine ourselves and pay transport costs for its delivery to the door step of the buyer at the London Metal Exchange and elsewhere.
In contrast, the seller in Japan fixes the price along with transportation costs for salaula cars we buy from the Far East.
This diversification programme of the economy has been with us since the Chiluba era when a nation-wide indaba was held at Hotel Edinburgh in Kitwe where delegates brain-stormed on this subject.
Resolutions were made and a national diversification coordinating committee established along with its secretariat based in Ndola to oversee implementation but nothing has been heard since.
And no one knows for sure whether or not the diversification coordinating committee is still alive but until the answers are found, one can only presume that it is absent-minded.
Africa has rich wildlife and natural resources and is endowed with high quality and abundant diamonds, gold, copper, uranium, zinc, lead, emerald and many other minerals.
The African soil is so rich that anything grows but one wonders why the world’s poorest of the poor people can only be found on this continent.
As First President Kaunda once summed up, these poor people are grappling with the vicious reality of the equation of “zero-plus-zero-equals-zero”.
His successor of many years later, President Edgar Lungu too recognises this sad reality of life when he said the poor “have nothing, can produce nothing and have nothing to account for” in his speech to parliament last week.
Fortunately, no Zambian has been reported drowning in the hash storms of the Red Sea in the Middle East while trying to escape poverty by migrating to Europe using an over- crowded speed boat.
To you fellow poverty-hit Zambians, I say continue wallowing in the abyss of nothingness because if you are meant for poverty, poverty could follow and sort you out anywhere and everywhere you might run to.
For your own information, there are street beggars, the homeless, street vendors of roasted groundnuts and maize cobs and these could catch up with you in Europe as well should you decide to migrate.
In conclusion, let me advise fellow Africans to stop blaming slavery and colonialism for our current problems of underdevelopment as compared to those in highly industrialized countries.
We should think hard, design solutions and implement them because no outsider would do that for us.
Incidentally and before I pen off, I have suddenly developed admiration for the strong mateship existing between Mr Hakainde Hichilema and his running mate Mr Godfrey Bwalya Mwamba of the United party for National Development (UPND).
They are still running together and are going down fighting together much stronger together.
My bet is that had the two won the August 11 presidential elections, they should have gone together to the United Nations in New York and addressed the general assembly together.
Meanwhile, let us do something and let God grant us just one more blessing to develop Zambia.