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Your Views on A Challenge to Zambians Abroad
June 08, 2010

Your Views on A Challenge to Zambians Abroad

I got some varied, but interesting feedback on the recent article I posted entitled “A Challenge to Zambians Abroad”. I thought your thoughts on the subject were really interesting and, without adding or subtracting anything, here is some of the feedback:

Nathaniel Mkuzo:
I hope you are fine. Iam deeply touched with your genius and wisdom. This email about applying one's expertise to change lives is really a challenge and an inspiration to me. This should not just apply to Zambians in the diaspora but even us who are within the country. Hence some of us really decided to go private so that we may contribute in some ways to the improvement of some livelihoods somewhere within the peripheral of this country. I appreciate your message so much.”

Sam Phiri:
“The paragraph below is highly telling about some misplaced assumptions about Zambians living outside the country. You write “I know many of those outside the country probably left because they were unhappy with conditions in the country. But after leaving, is that all you are going to do? Are you not going to help change those very conditions you were unhappy about? “ Three assumptions here are quite revealing. The first is that Zambians living abroad “probably left because they were unhappy with the conditions” in Zambia. Obviously it is possible many did leave because of what they may have felt to be bad conditions in that country.

But at the same time, there are many who ‘left’ because this is a globalised world and home is wherever you make it. The global labour market attracts the skills which this market needs, just like we have South Africans, Portuguese, Nigerians, Indians, Chinese, etc, working and living in Zambia. Some of these have made Zambia their permanent home, not only because they were unhappy with the conditions in their countries. There could be several other reasons which you may have ignored in your assumptions.

Secondly, you ask whether after leaving, what else have Zambians living abroad done. This is highly condescending. Nonetheless, in a rather contradictory manner, you do cite your friend Mwandila as doing something different. Perhaps Mwandila is just one of the few you know and are associated with. Which is a pity because if that is in fact the case, you should have been more careful. In that case, your second assumption is highly problematic. The truth of the matter is that there are many other people who are “doing things” to Zambia which you obviously do not know about. Your negative approach in this instance could be highly insulting to many other people – more especially in the manner in which you formulated your question.

Thirdly, it is not correct that we have “left” Zambia. Several of us plan to retire in Zambia; and moreover, at every opportunity, we return to our mother/fatherland. Speaking for myself, I can categorically state that I did not leave Zambia because I was unhappy with the situation(whatever this is) in that country. I left when I was offered a SADC job in Mozambique (then much poorer than Zambia and just emerging from a civil war). Secondly, to ask whether by ‘leaving’ that is all I have done in my 16 years working outside the country is, to put it mildly, totally unfair.

Here are good examples: During my nine years with a SADC project in Maputo, countless numbers of Zambian journalists benefitted from training and skills upgrading programmes which I was running while there. Secondly, a deliberate effort was made by me to help strengthen ZAMCOM by deliberately designating it as a SADC centre of journalism training excellence, and thus placing many regional training courses at the centre which quite highly improved the income of this institution [if you are in doubt, ask your friend Kanyama Chibamba (who was working there at the time) or Mike Daka – who was the Zamcom ED). A good number of journalists directly or indirectly benefitted from this programme, including a handful of media trainers who at my instigation were sent for further skilling in places like Sweden (the FOJO Institute for the further training of Journalists) or Rhodes University in South Africa. In my current job, some of the projects I have initiated in Zambia include the following:
• Establishment and financing of the PASME radio station in Petauke;
• Establishment and financing of Kariba FM radio station in Siavonga. This station will be on air very soon as all the equipment is in place. All it needs is to get a broadcasting license from the government;
• Research scholarships for top Masters in Communication for Development (MCD) students at UNZA;
• Purchase of journalism training equipment for the Dept of Mass Communication at UNZA
• Financing for the training newspaper at UNZA;
• Research support for journalism trainers at UNZA;
• Financial support $34, 000+ to enable MISA-Zambia and other media civil society groups draft a constitution, etc, for the media self regulatory mechanism;
• Support to the Traditional Communications Systems project situated at Breeze FM radio in Chipata. This project records traditional dances, music and traditional ceremonies which are shared with sister radio stations of Breeze FM in Zambia, Mozambique and Malawi;
• Funding support to the Zambia Union of Journalists (ZUJ) through the media unions’ regional office, the Southern African Journalists Association (SAJA) in Johannesburg.
• A Masters scholarship for women journalists which a few Zambian women journalists have benefitted from. These scholarships, including Post Graduate diploma training in media management, are tenable at Rhodes University

I could go on and on…but the point I am trying to drive home to you is that in your writing you should avoid making assumptions which have only a limited factual basis. I do appreciate that you perhaps meant your posting to be read by Zambians living in Zambia. In that way, your intended purpose – seemingly - was to continue pouring scorn on Zambians living abroad who, in the vein of Mwanawasa, are said to be failures.

Needless to say that when Mwanawasa came to Johannesburg in 2004 to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the end of Apartheid, I – at a public meeting of Zambians which he addressed at a Sandton hotel - asked him what he meant by calling all of us failures. He said he was misquoted and he apologized for the mis-understanding caused by his purported statement.

It is thus strange that you seem to be continuing in that vein! Please know that you are not the only one trying to assist Zambia. If you don’t know what others are doing in contributing in their small way, your best option is to, simply shut up!

Austin Mwange:
I was deeply touched by what you wrote concerning our countrymen and women who are abroad. The behaviour of our fellow Zambians abroad is no different from us living in Zambia. How many successful Zambians here in Zambia have tried to invest in their home areas. Most of them just live in urban areas without thinking of the rural areas where they originate or shanty compounds. We have people who have excelled so much in politics or various fields, but have not even built a single house in their villages not even a farm. All of them a busy fighting to get land in Lusaka and Copperbelt. I do not know what has Sata invested in Mpika, Chiluba in Mwense, Miyanda in Eastern Province. Mwanawasa had farms in lambaland as well as lenjeland - a very good example. RB to has a farm in Chipata - thats the way to go Atleast, HH has some farms even in Southern Province - a good example from our tonga frends who always want to work in southern province. Many teachers, nurses, doctors refuse to work in rural areas including the very rural areas where they originate from. Lets change - I hear our friends in Botswana and East Africa value their villages so much that they have invested heavily in infrastructure - such as houses.

Thank you all for your contributions and for sharing your thoughts with me. If you wish to see more comments please visit this Facebook page:!/note.php?note_id=131799770167788 (copy and paste the the link into your browser address bar).

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