Thursday, March 24, 2011


It happened during the pre-electon days towards the end of President Kaunda's regime. The country was going through a period of political unrest. The Movement for Multi-party Democracy (M.M.D) under the able leadership of Frederick Chiluba, the popular trade union leader was gaining momentum. There was no part of the country where its reverberations did not reach as they radiated from the the hub of the movement - the Copperbelt.

There was a lot of dissatisfaction among the local people. The country's economy was in shambles and the common man could not make both ends meet. Teachers, underpaid and overworked as everywhere else in the world, rose up in arms against the Kaunda regime. Exceptions were the expatriate teachers whose conditions were a little better than that of their Zambian counterparts and who were under contractual obligations.

The local teachers found it an opportune time to ask the government for higher wages and better terms of conditions. Meetings were being held at national, regional and district levels. The expatriate teachers were very much sympathetic to the cause of their colleagues but refrained from expressing their feelings in public for fear of disciplinary action or even deportation.

During this period of unrest on a Friday afternoon, as I was going out to the parking area after my teaching session, I happened to notice an unusual gathering in the school hall. I heard someone calling out my name and saw Mr. Muzeya, one of my colleagues, standing at the entrance of the hall and some others behind him. Mr. Muzeya told me that the teachers of Mufulira district were having a meeting in the hall and if I would step in for a few minutes as an observer, they would appreciate it. I thought I would just go in for a short while and then depart.

Soon the meeting started. There were about fifty people altogether. Half a dozen men were seated on the stage. One man whom I recognized as the teacher of a neighbouring school was addressing the meeting through a cordless microphone. A sheet of paper was being circulated to mark the attendance. The speaker went on talking about the present economic situation in the country and the necessity for a massive pay rise. After listening for about twenty minutes or so, I left the place, un-noticed.

On the next day when the headmaster summoned me to his office, I thought he wanted to discuss some school matter with me, as he used to do in the past. He bade me to take a seat and I noticed a trace of anxiety in his voice. Without any introduction, he asked me about the previous day's meeting. Even before I could say anything, he told me about two policemen from the Secret service who visited him last night at his home to gather the details of the meeting. They wanted the names of the people who organized the meeting and those who addressed. In addition, they specifically asked for the name of an expatriate teacher who was known to have participated in the meeting. The headmaster gave them a list of over fifty names, that of all the Zambian teachers in the school. As far as he knew, all of them were involved. He did not know of any expatriate teacher who attended the meeting. The S.S. men were not happy. They said they would come back for more questioning and left.

During the following days, many of the Zambian teachers of the three secondary schools in the district were questioned by the S.S. men. One thing they wanted to know very much was the name of the foreigner who attended the meeting. However they flatly denied the presence of any foreigner in their meeting. Even though many years have elapsed since that incident, I want to thank all my Zambian colleagues, who were at that meeting and who refrained from disclosing my name to those men. If someone had given even the slightest hint, they would have pounced on me and put me through the mill. Any way, after a few days of coming and going, the S.S. men stopped pestering the teachers as they too realized that the political trend was changing. By then, everyone in Zambia was almost certain that the Kaunda regime was falling apart and would be coming to its end within a few days' time.

And the rest is history.