Hunt for Successor 18: The Youth of Zambia must rebel

By Field Ruwe

“The youth of the African continent should prepare themselves for a rebellion against their older generation and claim their leadership role,” said former president of South Africa Thabo Mbeki at the youth global forum in Nairobi, Kenya earlier this year.

If Mbeki were a Zambian he would be a rebel for the gallows. The president would order he be dealt with severely for inciting an uprising or insurrection. The Minister of Defence would accuse him of treason. The Minister of Home Affairs would order for his capture, and “The Men in Black” would damp him in Gehenna.

Although the word “rebellion” subsumes different definitions, it is construed as an anathema by African rulers. It is the reason for conflicts, the devastation of many nations and the ruin of our pride as Africans. It carries with it pejorative connotations like terrorism, mutiny, subversion, military coup, civil war, ethnic cleansing, and guerilla warfare. It is disruptive, entails violence, and is often tragic.

Mbeki can tell a rebellion when he sees one. “Born into the struggle” as he describes himself, he joined the ANC at the age of 14 and was involved in rebellious activities. He enrolled in Umkhonto we Sizwe, a military wing of the ANC, and spent 28 years fighting the racist government of South Africa. When I first met him in 1976 at ZBS (ZNBC)’s Studio H, at the Lusaka studios, he and his comrades where conducting sabotages on the apartheid regime from their Makeni farm house.

But when Mbeki applied the terminology “rebellion” this time around he was not calling for similar action. He was not calling for a guerilla war, coup d’état, or riots per se. He was not referring to the Jasmine Rebellion—the explosive wave of street protests in Tunisia that ousted the authoritarian president Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali who until 2011 ruled the country with an iron fist.

Mbeki was not referring to the Egyptian Tahrir Square Rebellion that began in January 2011 and led to the eventual removal of the long-time president Hosni Mubarak nor was he talking about the downfall and subsequent demise of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi. He was not inciting the youth to conduct a wave of rebellions similar to the ones sweeping the Middle East. No, he was not. His message was clear:

“To ensure that [the youth] actually exercises the leadership everybody rhetorically accepts and proclaims is its due, the youth must organize and ready itself to rebel, so to speak!”

Mbeki was forced to use the word “rebellion” because of the wanton destruction greedy, obstinate, aging African politicians and military rulers have caused.

While countries from Asia to South America have arisen from paucity, Africa has shamelessly failed to realize its potential. Flying over the African continent one is forced to agree with the grandfather of racism, German Philosopher George W. Hegel who in 1830 stated that the world has no room for Africa. “It is no historical part of the World,” he said. “It has no movement or development to exhibit. What we properly understand by Africa, is the unhistorical, undeveloped Spirit, still involved in the conditions of mere nature, and which had to be presented here only as on the threshold of the World’s History.”

Hegel may have insulted the entire black race, but sadly his words ring true to this day. We, the inhabitants of Africa have been excluded from the mighty progress of Spirit because we have failed to create world-class institutions, human capital, technological and physical infrastructure. As we stand, we are centuries away from becoming an industrialized continent.

Why? Several explanations have been advanced to explain our exclusion, but the main one is the unintellectual, mediocre leadership exhibited by aging recycled avaricious politicians.

On March 6, 1957, black Africa scored a first when the Union Jack was lowered and the Ghanaian flag hosted in Accra. Kwame Nkrumah, sub-Sahara’s first prime minister, declared in a youthful tone: “We are going to demonstrate to the world, to the other nations, that we are prepared to lay our foundation, our own African personality…We have awakened. We will not sleep anymore. Today, from now on, there is a new African in the world!”

With Nkrumah’s assurance we set off on a path to prove the bigoted Hegel and his goons wrong, or did we?  It did not take long for African leaders to start exhibiting their “wild and untamed” nature. They took the eye off the ball, turned their people into serfs and became citizen-beneficiaries and turned central banks into their savings accounts.

Between 1966 and 1991, we saw the rise of dictators, life-presidents, dynastic and hegemonic rulers, and get-rich-quick leaders. Military coups became the order of the day and the few learned youthful Africans were silenced. Many were arrested and tortured, some died, and others went into exile. The party cadre system was created and the uneducated youth with no vocational and life skills was indoctrinated. He remains at the mercy of false prophets up to this day.

In Zambia, the youth earned itself a reputation for ferocity and fanaticism and became obedient and self-sacrificing. Between 1964 and 1990, the UNIP Youth League spearheaded by the likes of William “Tekere” Banda staged propaganda events aimed at consolidating KK’s reign.

In 1991, some of KK’s youth bolted and, led by King Cobra, rallied behind FTJ in the most corrupt political party in Zambia’s history, the Movement for Multi-party Democracy (MMD). They became known as Kaponyas. National Secretary King Cobra left the MMD and took the Kaponyas with him to the Patriotic Front, a party he named after ZAPU PF, owned by his “sekuru.” In 2011, 75-year-old King Cobra became president and appointed 68-year-old Guy Scott as his vice. Kabimba “and them young Turks” were yet again sidelined.

Historians and researchers have agreed that wherever aging African politicians have reigned little progress has been made; that such leaders are the cause of poverty because they fail to create sustainable infrastructure, easy market access, and sufficient financial resources. If anything they leave Africa in a state of disrepair. Here are but a few examples:

The oldest African leader in power 88-year-old Robert Gabriel Mugabe has ruled for 31 years, crushed the youth, and brought the beautiful county of Zimbabwe to its knees. Right or wrong Mugabe’s policies have increasingly elicited domestic and international denunciation and taken Zimbabwe to the Stone Age.

The 70-year-old Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo has turned Equatorial Guinea into a fiefdom. He recently appointed his son as vice president. Like other African dictators such as Idi Amin and Mobutu Sese Seko, Nguema has silenced the youth. Despite 70% of the population earning $2.00 per day, he is one of the wealthiest heads of state with a net worth of US$600 million, according to Forbes Magazine.

Such leaders are narcissistic. They do not care whether Africa deteriorates or not. At the height of destruction, they believe they are succeeding. They are quick to point out the mistakes of others and rarely take the blame for anything that goes wrong. You can only challenge them at your own peril. Due to old age they have developed poor listening skills, and are unable to see beyond themselves and their narrow views.

Although the beginning of old age varies, it starts at the age of 65, according to the Pew Research Center. It is at this age that people are more prone to disease, syndromes, and sickness. Mbeki is 70 and fully aware of the problems faced by the old generation. He understands that at his age there is some degree of decline in cognitive functions such as intellectual clout, reasoning, learning, problem solving, and judgment.

Some of his age mates have become less active. Their hearing is weak; their eyesight has declined; and the memory is far less due to decrease in speed of information being encoded, stored, and received. They take more time to learn new information. They lose their emotional and behavioral control. They see a doctor more often. And when there is a dramatic change in their life, they do not know what to do.

Mbeki knows this; he knows aging African rulers are stubborn and intractable. As president he mediated in complex issues in Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo and the Ivory Coast.  He knows that old African rulers cannot tackle, in revitalized ways, a plethora of modern social, political, and economic issues. At the same time they will not sit side-by-side with the younger generation to determine the future of their people. They are like a harsh, ignorant and selfish parent who has no regard for his son’s future.

What do children of such inconsiderate parent do? They rebel. The Zambian intellectual youth must do the same if it is to fix the country. As things are, the Zambian young generation is condemned to “the out-dated views and prejudices of the older generations.” Though discontent, it is not planning for its future; it risks losing it. It is in a “come what may” mode and is willing to tolerate the same old hard-core politics of innuendos, falsehoods, and empty promises that have kept our country and continent docile.

Some of the young intellectuals are trapped in the PF dragnet. Half of the young progressives I had hoped would succeed the incumbent have fallen for the charmer. Although HH, Chipimo, and Mutesa are trying to provide checks and balances, they fall way short of a rebellion. They have failed to bring under one umbrella young and dynamic cadres, academics, scholars, entrepreneurs, and activists and begin to plan for 2016 or 2021. Remember, a major drive to a successful rebellion is unity; youth amalgamation is the key to an African Renaissance. It is also the greatest challenge.

Field Ruwe is a US-based Zambian media practitioner and author. He is a PhD candidate at George Fox University and an adjunct professor (lecturer). ©Ruwe2012

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29 Responses to "Hunt for Successor 18: The Youth of Zambia must rebel"

  1. Hittler  June 2, 2012 at 08:27

    Zambian youthes should learn to Defend things that will benefit them in future regardless of who gave them little Moneys for Campaigns. How can you Contradict to What Ruwe is saying if you are a youth honerstly? unless if you are a Malala pipe that cant reason and know that IMITI IKULA EMPANGA.Come on Zamnbian Youthes we cant be Lead by old Pipo all the Time, rb,sata,kaunda etc,meaning from UNIP through MMD and now PF same idears,same People just Choose each other according to how the’ve been relating to each other or each one should Embrace his old Friends when it is his time to Rule.

  2. Lubs  June 2, 2012 at 05:27

    “If Mbeki were a Zambian he would be a rebel for the gallows.” Mr. Ruwe really? Wild statement not backed by fact! why are you selling out your country? what a disappointment!Come back home and see for yourself that the youth in this country are very active and in no way silenced. And please have some respect for your father?

  3. Anna Lyser  June 2, 2012 at 03:54

    I will have three of whatever Mr Ruined Field is drinking or smoking. Cheers !!

  4. charlie  June 2, 2012 at 00:16

    Field, Munali is decades ago but that’s where zambia was born- i’m proud to’ve been in a school that was restricted to africans.. while i agree with u on the youth point, i disagree on thabo…like u, i too have met enough SA “kids” who ran his his chic le chic…to this day SA youth have not rebelled( soweto did ! …and if anybody changed SA those dead kids did !!! ) – why? b’cos africa’s youth will rebel when they do! zambia kicked KK out when the time came and these so-called leaders will also go…never forget who we are and where we come from…fact is africa needs “cabbages” and our cabbage managed to correct his mistakes – unless the gov knows better… first step, running-mate! then we know who is whoing who !!!

  5. KABOBOLA WA IYA  June 1, 2012 at 23:14

    Ruwe what matters most is wisdom not realy age look at what the so called young ministers in the previous regim did the. DOLLARS,LYATOS,MAXHELLS,THE GONGAS,PIETERS,MULAAMBEES,the list is endless they are the ones appearing in courts of law for various offences committed in the name of serving the people of Mother ZAMBIA after stealing from the poor people they were purpoting to serve to some extent yes but not all the positions should be occupied the people retired some time back they are some how not doing them selves any good they need to go and rest we don’t want these guys to start going to SA as persengers and coming back to Zambia as cargo due to their rust for MAHAFU BA KONTWE mulekanako fimo

  6. j.musonda  June 1, 2012 at 21:15

    I think it is for a change a good article. Look how the old ngambela is talking of “Lozis” forgetting that the young has intermarried. HH must unlock himself from tribe politics and embrace the whole zambia. Its a pity the oldest rulers are in Africa. We definately need young blood in Africa including Zambia and not the Satas, the RBs (whose his sons all suddenly became succesful business men) the ngambelas with old ideas.

  7. Field Ruwe  June 1, 2012 at 20:46

    Field Ruwe you must start wrtiting facts if you are going to be respected in Zambai. Dont be decieved Zambians have travelled, the ineternet also offers millions of reports that Zambians can read. Zambians can see facts from propaganda. Your biterness will eat you. You make Zambia sound like no one has rights to say what they want You might become a big newspaper oneday but try to write what intelectuals can read you might one day get a meaninfull sponser.

  8. Busy b  June 1, 2012 at 19:04

    We will always get what we ask for. Life depends on facts. Whatever we plant that we will reap. Thumbs up Prof. Ruwe! Keep on enlighting us.

  9. Chomolia  June 1, 2012 at 18:58

    For sure we need young ones not bene HH, Mumbo Jumbo, Sata, RB nefyashala! We need someone in his late thirties or early forties.

  10. KEITH NALUMANGO  June 1, 2012 at 17:33

    Field, thanks for that eye-opening exposition.

    The sad things about Africa are her inability to respect institutions, the calculated perpetration of ignorance among the masses, and ethicity. The Constitution is the sprongboard for development. It gives authority to institutions to function for the good of nations – the police, the courts, the elected representatives. But where we have leaders that break laws and the institutions turn a blid eye to that, where those that have been disrespectful of the laws are elected to the highest offices in the land, and where ethinicity is the primary qualification or disqualification for appointment to senior public jobs – whether at home or in the foreign service – there is no room for progress, because cadre mentality is about singing songs of praise for the dear leader, who is also an uncle. While other nations are strengthening their social, economic and political infrastractures, The Motherland is busy weakening systems to suit those at the top. A man of no character is elected president today, and tomorrow, he appoints men and women of no character to rule over us, and the majority of them are his kinsmen who dare not question his actions.

    Yes, the youth must take the bull by the horns, for the future belongs to them.

    That’s Africa as I see her, Field.

  11. Oliver Bundabunda  June 1, 2012 at 17:30

    It is indeed true that as Zambians we are so passive and enjoy plenty talk.let us be serious and save our country from total destruction.blogging and talking too much without action will not at all move this selfish politicians an inch.let us not hide in being peaceful to avoid claiming that which belongs to a military man and am ready to support my young brothers and sisters who are not employed get real answers from the lies of these old ,greedy and tired politians.Egyptians and our comrades in Syria talk and act.Think seriously about it!

  12. Joint Investigative Witch Hunt Team  June 1, 2012 at 16:50

    Africa as a whole is the youngest in terms of the economy but on average age of presidents it is the oldest then you wonder correlation between AGE and ABILITY to develop a country. There agent need for the OLD generation to pave way for new ideas if at all they have a heart for the poor.

  13. Livingstone  June 1, 2012 at 16:13

    I just hope that Sata and integrity are not been used in the same sentence!

  14. Ukwa Reloaded  June 1, 2012 at 14:25

    Field Ruwe, as always, your articles are thought provoking and enlightening. Unfortunately, the usual PF die hards will misconstrue your rational and objective contribution. Sata was in UNIP and MMD and at 75yrs old, clearly has nothing new to offer. We need younger blood like Nevers, HH, Chipimo, Mutesa and others to firstly work together and shake things up from our current malaise. The older generation can still play an advisory role but having the likes of Chikwanda, Shamenda, Sata and Scott at helm leaves very little room for hope and inspiration.

  15. bcs  June 1, 2012 at 14:03

    such analysis is healthy and good for the soul that is alive. I only wished such articles could also be reproduced in print media, since most zambians who may ned such analytical data may not be able to access this media. Though i am not advertising for the “Nation paper”, it would do good to publish such in those upcoming “good” newspapers as well.

  16. Zed Poor People  June 1, 2012 at 12:46

    PF Cadre to the bone marrow – I totally agree with you on the need for integrity, but it is worse when one is old and has no integrity. God help us

  17. Psychiatrist  June 1, 2012 at 12:41

    Dear Mr. Ruwe,
    With all due respect you are totally wrong in this article because you are confusing or stretching facts. My Father is 66 years old and he is the hardest working and determined man I know. To take anything from our older (senior) generation is simply rude and disrespectful. Don’t you know that success doesn’t live in a box were all things are predetermined meaning if there is failure to expose then blame the system obviously if the system is broke no operator in this world will make a dysfunction system function effectively. Clearly it’s the system that needs the problem solving approach.
    In reference, to your comparison of Africa to the rest of the world. I was totally shocked that you don’t know that the first shall be last and vice versa.
    I leave you these courage thoughts of Aristotle hopefully this old wisdom will clear your confusion and frustrations.
    “Those who criticize our generation forget who raised it.”
    “Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom.”

  18. Zed Poor People  June 1, 2012 at 12:40

    The sad part is that most of the youths have been left uneducated by these uncaring govts. Hence they are ready to be used and dumped through cheap promises which have no basis to meet what is being promised. In case of this country we have Chiluba and Gen. Miyande to thank for they killed true education opportunities by neglecting funding of the education sector. This has left a generation of youths who can not understand issues, hence are ready to buy in cheap campaign message like 90 days all will be well.

  19. Hippo  June 1, 2012 at 11:25

    Good work Mr. Ruwe. Zambia and Africa need a new way of thinking politically, socially and economically.

  20. Daile Musopa  June 1, 2012 at 10:49

    You people who support Ukwa and his gvt, what good have u seen in this gvt or what hope do you have in this gvt with all these scandals we have seen in the seven months that this gvt has been in power? Whether we give Ukwa 20 years or 30 years I personaly do not see any development in this country if contracts are being given to the likes of Chikwanda, Mmembe, GBM, Mahtan etc, where are we going? At least with MMD it took time for them to get involved in corruption. For some people no matter how long it takes they are incorrigible, unteacheable, inadvisable and they were born like that. Ukwa from the time I knew him, he never takes advice and he is corrupt, that is his nature. For some people as they grow old, they even grow wiser whereas for some like Ukwa, the older he grows the duller he becomes.

  21. Kabwa  June 1, 2012 at 10:39

    These (PF) shirts may be very clean and beautifully designed but they are overused, pale and worn out. But again, would repackaging tujili into nice bottles make them good drinks? Talk of a white painted grave (with rot underneath).

  22. PF Cadre to the bone marrow  June 1, 2012 at 09:51

    Ruwe I am very disappointed with you. You seem not to understand the obvious. It is not a young leader we need but anyone with INTEGRITY. You can have a young leader but a stupid, visionless, and selfish plunderer! We need a man of INTEGRITY period. What does it pay a nation to have a young leader without INTEGRITY? One can be old or young as long as they have INTEGRITY we should vote for them. Ruwe Field bakalamba imwe it is INTEGRITY that counts not AGE! What makes you think INTEGRITY or good leadership is synonymous to young age? Mwilaibepa ba Ruwe! Viva Sata! Abash Ruwe and haters!

  23. St John The Divine  June 1, 2012 at 09:34

    A good read Mr Ruwe as usual. The youth must take up Leadership and show the old folks the door. These people have been in power since ’64 and their time is up.

  24. Bob  June 1, 2012 at 09:33

    As usual, well written and researched article. One needs to understand the rebellion being talked about here and Field Ruwe attempted to do this but hard nuts like @Chambaila do not get it. The truth is that we have overused the men at the helm of PF – from UNIP, MMD and now PF. There is nothing new that we should realistically expect from them apart from the same wamuyaya syndrome. Unfortunately this cannot work anymore because the population has increased, hence the national needs have equally and as expected increased. The experience by the old guard (Sata, Scot and the like) is that of the government doing anything and everything they like without criticism, but the ever growing number of employable but unemployed young people keeps swelling thereby increasing the pressure for employment. What will these old guards do since we don’t have the number of parastatals that UNIP had? ZESCO is choked with PF cadres just like the foreign missions. In PF, the only way out is to create more and more districts because these will eventaully create the jobs for the youth, but then there is no budget to support the development of new districts! The only jobs that have been created are for district commissioners, i.e., 1 person per district. But lets not forget that MMD DCs were fired to create room for PF DCs so that no new jobs have in actual fact been created. Abash the old finnished Sata, Chikwanda, Sebastian Zulu, Scot, and many others. An old dog cannot be expected to learn new tricks. We also don’t want younger people who are thieves, viz a viz, those borrowing money from banks knowing very well they have no capacity to repay, and have no intention to pay back the money.

  25. zedianse  June 1, 2012 at 09:02

    Field Ruwe! always motivating us big time! For sure we shall never develop an inch with dead wood brains of Sata, chikwanda, Shamemda, Sebe Zulu, Mbuzi…all dead wood nicompoops!

  26. Kaseba  June 1, 2012 at 08:57


  27. Sam imusho  June 1, 2012 at 08:55

    Mr Ruwe yo anology is wel versed.Its true the so called young turks shud take the mantle 4rm the old generation.But we nid 2 prepare these youths 4 leardership.we nid 2 counsel them that leardershp is not abt material gains and admiring the bums of Dora siliya.In 1991 the so called young turks ‘learned’, took over the frame that wz burning 4rm the great Kk and team, only 2 extiguish it.All these prblmz zambia is going thru can b attributed 2 them.

  28. Blago  June 1, 2012 at 08:44

    The same youths who voted for Sata and PF will show PF the door in 2016. I guess the youths are now realizing that they voted for a very ignorant and corrupt group that has no clue on how to design short and long term employment strategies in the 21st century.

  29. Chambaila  June 1, 2012 at 08:37

    Ba Field Ruwe Zambia is peaceful country with a unique history thus rebellion can never be the way out. We haven’t reached a stage you are talking about and we do not want to jump to that stage lest we jeopardise our country. Give me an example where the intellectual youth have instigated real change apart from hooliganistic youth? I am suprised by you Ruwe that you insist on categorising our duly and democratically elected president as an old and despot when he is not.If he is old and a despot whey did intellectual youth vote for him? Just give ba Sata time iwe k.a.c.i.k.a.l.a and he will prove wrong your weak and inconsitent political and theoretical analyses. Ka Ruwe I know you are MMD die hard cadre. Pleasse stop making outlandish and unrealistic analyses. Your article really shows that you are not in touch with what is happening back here in Zambia. You will die a big dreamer and what a waste of time living the whole of your as as unrealistic dreamer. How will the intellectual youth rebel when they are the one who voted for Sata? Very unrealistic chap! Viva Sata and viva PF!

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