Sunday, March 22, 2009

Reflecting on Gwendoline Konie’s life

Reflecting on Gwendoline Konie’s life
Written by Dr Kenneth D. Kaunda
Sunday, March 22, 2009 4:08:55 AM

THE recent passing of Gwendoline Chomba Konie, and burial on Tuesday March 17, 2008, was an event of national importance. I have to thank President Rupiah Banda that he declared it a day for the nation to observe and mourn, the way we did. She was given a state funeral.

I must say it reminded me of what happened when the also now late General Christon Tembo passed on a few days before. Thousands of people gathered for that occasion. Many freedom fighters for Zambia’s independence came. We had not met each other for years. We met at that funeral. We exchanged greetings, in keeping with the Zambian culture.

I saw that “One Zambia, One Nation” has become truly a strong national character. Just as in the case of our colleuge General Christon Tembo, here we met people from the East, people from the West, and people from the North, and people from the South. All were sharing inner sorrow, great sorrow, in the passing of Gwendoline Chomba Konie.

Let me emphasise that this is what had happened when we put to rest Gen Christon Tembo. At the Cathedral of the Holy Cross I was honoured to be one of those few asked to say something about Gwen. I was delighted that two of those, Judge Lombe Chibesakunda and former minister of state Lily Monze, were women, our mothers. Their contribution there, at the church service at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross, was simply, by any standards, outstanding.

I want to remind my reader that this year, in which we have lost (at least) two outstanding builders of Zambia, one following the other in a matter of days, reminded me of something which led me in my contribution to look back into the past through which God our Creator guided us.

Our young men and women would not know, or we haven't taught them, that during the time of Northern Rhodesia, under British colonial rule, we had west of Zambia, Angola under Portuguese colonial rule. We had Mozambique east of us, under Portuguese colonial rule.

South of us, we had Southern Rhodesia, Zimbabwe today, under British settlement rule. South West of us, we had South West Africa, today's Namibia, under Afrikaner or Boer rule. How can we leave out South Africa it self? First it was under British colonial rule and later taken over by the Afrikaners of South Africa.

These were formidable forces. We cannot forget Kwame Nkrumah, one of those great freedom fighteres of West Africa, when he told the whole world, “Ghana's independence was meaningless when the rest of Africa is still under colonial subjudigation.”

To me, it was obvious when I head Nkrumah say that, that that great son of Africa was being guided by similar thoughts that exercised our minds here, in the heart of Africa.

I want our young people, indeed, to know, and indeed their parents to remember, that our fight here was spiritually inspired. I have of course referred to this Holy Teaching in some of my articles in this programme. But how can we get tired, in any way at all, of reminding ourselves, how the Holy Teaching inspired us, and how we came to follow another fellow human being's teaching, or his leading example. In this respect, I am of course referring to Mahatma Gandhi.

A good number of my readers might not know that because of his love for humanity, and because of his internationalism, Mahatma Gandhi started his non-violent struggle in South Africa. He started his struggle on the continent of Africa, yet he was a typical Indian nationalist. His brother in the struggle, Pandit Nehru, the first prime minister of India, said that it was possible to use non-violent methods in our struggle against British colonial rule, but that this was not possible under some forms of colonialism.

Yes, Christ's teaching inspired a good number of those of us in the leadership of the struggle for our independence. The Central Commandments, guided us in our struggle as well as in our post independence activities. Christ taught us, “Love God your Creator, with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.”

No part of the human is left out in that teaching. And that is how we relate to our Creator. And now, how do we relate to each other. All those of us God has made in His image, he teaches, “Love thy neighbour as thy self.”

How do we achieve this, loving your neighbour this way? The third teaching goes, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” If you love your neighbour as you love yourself, how can you think of killing them? How can you think of stealing from them? How can you do anything criminal to your neighbour?

This, simply put, wonderful teaching of love goes across anything artificial. It goes across tribe, across race and colour, and even across faith. We must really thank God that He made us accept this wonderful teaching to the point were we began to look at each other simply as God's children. That is how our national motto was born, “One Zambia, One Nation.

Within Northern Rhodesia, the people who taught us that, as missionaries, did not abide by it as colonialists. There was a lot of racial discrimination. Schools, hospitals, clinics, and shops, all these were established according to colour.

If you were black, you had to buy what you wanted through a pigeon wall. There were schools for blacks and whites. We went through some terrible part of life in terms of discrimination through what was called the “colour bar.”

However, from independence, we worked hard to reconstruct Zambia on the basis that any one of us, regardless of anything artificial, was God's child and we had to learn to live together. There was no question about blacks now being in the majority and in government and paying back the Europeans for the hardship. We did not believe in that.

From independence in 1964, where the situation of Africans was unfavourable, we tried to improve the situation of women, who had been disadvantaged on many issues. Gwendoline Chomba Konie was part of the efforts for development and she played an extremely important part in our determination to begin to put the situation right.

In our desire to move away from any form of discrimination, the place of the Zambian woman was very central. Gwen was one of those fortunate young Zambian women who had received her education at Chipembi, the most senior school for black women in Zambia, in the same way as Munali was the only senior secondary school for Zambian boys. She was therefore a fighter in the frontline for women's rights.

Yes, see what a wonderful performance that was when she was our ambassador to Sweden and other Scandinavian countries! See what wonderful work she did as our Permanent Representative at the United Nations. With the various regional and global challenges of that time, who does not know that this was certainly a very complex position for any head representative of his or her country?

We, people of Zambia, sent her there as head of its unit and indeed she performed very well. She came back home to the position of permanent secretary. Her contribution was, by any standard, outstanding.

This outline covering Gwen's contribution shows how much effort we made in terms of the situation of our mothers in the field of development. I am talking about development in all walks of life. By the time UNIP left government in 1991, the situation of women had greatly improved. Many were in education and literate. Nutrition status had improved. Maternal mortality was less than it became later. Women were doing a lot in various fields of life, including various economic activities in rural and urban areas.

Gwen's experience tells us how, during that period we had worked hard to bring about a greatly improved situation in women's participation in all walks of life.

Many more had joined in the service to Zambian people in literally all areas which, in the past had been mainly for men. But I know that after we left office in November 1991, there was some decline in the situation of women and the general access to basic needs.

However, it is heartening to see what happened during the Levy Mwanawasa period. We now have mothers holding very difficult and sensitive positions such as Auditor General, and medical doctors in positions of directors, managing directors and directors in banks and other financial institutions.

In the armed forces, we have a brigadier general, Dr Kazembe, who is also a medical doctor. Indeed, there are quite a few female ambassadors and diplomats serving in various countries on the continent of Africa and beyond.

As I write just now, there are three mothers in our Cabinet. Yes, there is still a lot of room for improvement. There is no room for complacency at all. We should never allow, at any time to time, when mothers in the nation should be looked down upon. Our belief in the teaching “Love thy neighbour as thy self” and “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” is a cardinal teaching which is inclusive of both men and women.

To my fellow human beings in the form of men, please remember what I have said about the importance of women, our mothers, in this human life. I have pointed out, and I do so now, that the creation the Lord God Almighty made in the form of women is an extremely important creation. I will remind my fellow men, as I have done before, that every human being, and I am now particularly talking to us the men, lies in the womb of our mothers for nine months.

Sadly, when we come out of that nourishment, even while they still do a lot of work for society in various fields of life, we begin to jump about on this earth and as we grow, we begin to look down on the mothers, rudely calling them “this woman, this woman!” Yet we all come from there. Let us continue to love and respect them, these, our mothers, without whom all humans would not be there. They are a vital part of life and we must respect that. We must create an environment where women prosper. Then the whole society will prosper.

Well, it is the untimely demise of our dearly beloved sister Gwendoline Chomba Konie that has brought out all this. May we now say, “may her soul rest in eternal peace!” Gwendoline Chomba Konie’s life is a reminder of women’s situation, the advances and challenges.

Gwen, my dear Sister, you were part of this wonderful revolution. You were part of this fight against British colonialism in Zambia. Yes, you were part of this great revolution against colonialism in Angola, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Namibia, and in the fight against racism and apartheid in South Africa. Rest ye well, beloved Sister.

Labels: ,


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home