I woke up this morning and checked into my usual social media sites, a second later I wished I hadn’t. Various news sources were claiming that President Michael Chilufya Sata had died. I figured it was true because he had been ill for some time but I still had a bit of hope. It wouldn’t be the first time that news sites have wrongly reported someone as dead. The last time it happened, I arrived at work in black, thinking I was mourning Will Smith only to find out that he was very alive. So I held on to hope until I read the statement by the Secretary to the Cabinet officially announcing his death.
It took me back to 19th August 2008. I was at dance practice with my friends when we heard that the president had died. I remember because it was my mother’s birthday. I remember fear gripping me. I was suddenly afraid of war breaking out and families losing their homes. I had visions of us hiding out in the woods with no food. I have a phobia, you see. Ever since I watched Hotel Rwanda and all those war movies, I have been terrified of war. My nightmares consist of me being in the middle of a war surrounded by zombies, were wolves and men with guns. But the heavens smiled upon us and we peacefully transitioned to a new president.
Now it was happening again. I sat in the bus listening to people loudly hoping no one would go power-crazy and start something. There was a sense of sadness and quiet. No one shouted at the conductor about change, no one complained when the bus missed their stop. We were all just … sad. The internet is flooded with his pictures and bio. There are facts about him flying around and international media has already began analyzing his time in power. So much ignorance is being posted onto social media by some people. I was in the middle of all this when I broke down and wept. I didn’t know this man. I’m not even sure if I liked him at all. So I couldn’t understand the sorrow and heaviness I felt.
It’s true, a president is like a father. We blame him when things go wrong and dislike everything he has to say. We grudgingly applaud him when some things work out and then quickly go back to criticizing all the things he hasn’t got round to doing. But when he dies, we feel lost and unsure of our future because whether we admit it or not, we felt safe under his leadership. And deep in our hearts, we loved him.
But despite my fears, I believe in Zambia and its people. I believe in our desire for peace and I believe the law will reign. We will come out of this stronger and more united. We will mourn with “dignity and peace ‘neath Zambia’s sky” because we are “brothers under the sun” and we are one!