Zambia: I Blog to Remind Zambians Who They Are

Mwata Chisha is a Zambian blogger based in the United States of America. His blog is called Cultural Intelligence: Philosophies and Personal Opinions of Mwata Chisha.

Chisha, an avid contributor on cultural, historical and philosophical issues on one online forum where I first met him, uses his blog, among other things, to analyse statements and actions of political leaders on a “rational—irrational” scale.

One article that got the “Irrational thinker of the Week” label was in early August 2010 when the controversial National Constitutional Conference (NCC) of Zambia distributed the draft constitution for public scrutiny. However, an official of an opposition political party which refused to sit on the NCC, publicly tore the document. This act drew condemnation from NCC supporters including the government.

A story in the Times of Zambia ran thus: “The National Constitutional Conference (NCC) has said the conduct of Patriotic Front (PF) deputy national secretary Samuel Mukupa to tear the Draft Constitution at a political rally is an insult to the many Zambians who have made submissions including Parliament.”

Analysing the story section by section, Chisha asks, “How does an expression of disagreement turn into an insult? If indeed it is an insult, what is the nature of the insult?”

On NCC spokesperson Mwangala Zaloumis following statement “Zambians have been making submissions to the Draft Constitution and huge resources have been spent on this very important document therefore it would be wrong for people to politicise the process.”
Chisha states, “I thought the constitution itself was a political product. How does one politicize something that is already politicized?”

On Mwangala's argument that since the NCC was a creation of the National Assembly it was wrong for an opposition leader to deal with the draft constitution in the manner he did, Chisha pointed out that: “A creation of National Assembly or not, nothing prevents one from expressing disagreement with the contents of the document as it stood.”

US-based Zambian blogger Mwata Chisha

I recently caught up with Chisha and interviewed him about his interest in blogging.

1. When and why did you become a blogger and what sort of audience do you write for?

Let me start by saying, I only write about that which I care about. I care about Zambians. Saying that I am honest to myself with every piece I put out. However, I am not married to the content. I am willing and ready to learn from the responses that my pieces generate.

I started blogging by contributing to Zambia Online. The few posts that I wrote stimulated comments from many Zambian brainiacs who graced Zambia Online. This motivated me to take blogging seriously. Another thing was the lack of communication skills among political figures in Zambia. These are supposed to constitute Zambia's best public image but their ability to process and analyse information in a public discourse leaves a lot to be desired. It was the lack of quality analyses that made me want to start a repository of my thoughts and philosophies.

2. What is the daily/weekly readership of your blog?

I don't pay attention to traffic at this time. Up until last year, I had not publicized my blog although it has been up since 2007. A couple hundred hits a week would not be a stretch.

3. How did you get involved in blogging? Were you inspired by (an)other blogger(s)?

Like I mentioned in question #1, I interacted with a number of Zambian thinkers on Zambia online. That blog is quite busy. It is not easy to present a thought on it and have it attract more of its kind and move it to refinement or better still enrich the contributors. I started a blog to focus on the issues affecting Zambians from a thinking dimension. In our world today it is easy to get caught up in the mires of senseless politics. That is what most people have done. They are swept up in the thoughtlessness of the moment. From where I stand, this opens a room for other people to define them. Further, it opens up avenues to influence the greater population. Because, whether we believe it or not, this information we share online filters through. And the loss that the nation incurs, which include, among other things, culture, self respect and dignity, is hard to recover. In short, my inspiration comes from Zambians’ willingness to cede control, their failure to assert themselves in matters that really matter to the future of Zambia.

4. What, in your view, is the future of blogging in particular and citizen journalism in general in Zambia?

You can count on Zambians to embrace technology. You can also count on them to learn new ways of transmitting thoughts. Blogging, as a form of citizen journalism, will grow and metamorphose as more people gain access to high speed Internet, master new tools of communication and become digital literate. Competition will get tight. That is the least of my concerns. My concernt is the quality of what is being transmitted on the Internet. Most of what we are sharing is done so in haste, not enough thought and time put to it. In fact most of what we share online is not local content, we share foreign ideas and Western worldview at the expense of Zambia and Zambians. Our culture is in intensive care unit because of Zambians’ insatiable quest for all things western. My blog is about reminding us about who we are.

5. What do you think of government's proposal to control the media through statutory means? Would this increase blogging since anyone with the means can blog?

The government is trying hard, as it has done in the past, to gag the masses. It should be plain to all that our leaders are insecure that is why they are pushing for statutory regulation. If the people holding office were assigned to portfolios that they had expertise in, they would welcome comments from all stakeholders. But what they ought to know is, the more they use state force to restrain people from airing their frustrations, the more people would seek alternatives. As long as individuals in government continue to believe government is a club whose sole purpose is to serve the interests of the members, they will continue to lose the confidence of the people.

6. Would blogging contribute to national development by people writing about their achievements which are normally ignored by the mainstream media?

There is an avalanche of information flowing from all sources. Some good and some not so good. But one would be deluding oneself if one thought that effective solutions would be delivered to them in a golden package and silver ribbon by FEDEX. Until we have people of conscience in office, individuals who are selfless and truly concerned about the status and condition of Zambia, I am afraid the information will continue to go to waste.

7. What is the outlook for Africa, which is usually seen through the Western prism?

Africa is the last frontier in anything one can think of. The earlier we Africans get this in our heads, the better for the rest of mankind. Remember, it all started in Africa and once Africa is destroyed that will be it for the human race. The west sees Africa as the source of raw material whose people don't know its values. It is unfortunate that this thought is shared by both the East and the West and Africa is caught in the middle, poor and defenseless, and more importantly thoughtless.

8. We will appreciate a brief bio about yourself: where you blog from and what you are doing at the moment.

I am a natural man, a husband, a father, an uncle, a brother, and a friend, temporarily stationed in the USA. I am a college faculty members and facilitate learning in Economics, Sustainable Development, Business, Planning, and Public Administration.

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