If you needed any evidence of the loss of hope in our nation, it abounds in our tolerance for dirt and filth.
When a dream has been lost, all care is thrown to the winds. We must bring ourselves to a place where we can dream, and care, again.
There are laws pertaining to public health, and by-laws at council level that should regulate what we do with garbage and where we relieve ourselves – they have been abandoned because there is no hope for a spotlessly clean social environment.
This is not a new phenomenon; for in the late 1970s shortly after the Lusaka Intercity Bus Terminus had been fully constructed, there was a period when new toilet pans there had to be replaced daily on account of willful vandalism.
This was a carry-over from the practice of pupils using excrement to write expletives on the walls of school toilets.
Many years have passed since those days, but even today not only drunkards will stand under a tree in broad daylight to pass water; and this is singularly commonplace. In fact so commonplace that members of the public simply look away.
The current cholera problem, showing up in some districts in form of diarrhoea, is a health problem with a spiritual root.
When some clerics venture that demonic influence is involved, it is best not to mock them but weigh the claims.
Despair is directly behind the rampant neglect of waste, and our widespread inability to police the first manifestation of a blocked sewer; broken water pipe and accumulation of waste even in major thoroughfares.
We have despaired of a spotlessly clean Zambia that is comfortable and inspiring to live, work and relax in.
This is why and how both street vending and marketplace trading happen in conditions of squalor, no matter the daily fees the traders pay.
This is why and how bus stations have never graduated from primitivity – no running water, no viable ablutions and no drainages – for decades.
A few long-distance bus crews provide bins to collect litter en route, aware that the interiors of the vehicles and the outside should be deliberately looked after. Such crews have hope, but the majority have no hope and cannot offer to collect garbage before it spoils the streets.
Before we talk about waste mismanagement or communal neglect of the environment, or even public ignorance about hygiene in a country that produces more than 300,000 Grade 12 school leavers yearly (meaning that there is fundamental awareness of health issues), notice the loss of hope.
All the cleaning up going on in Lusaka and other parts of Zambia will amount to nothing if the public continue into 2018 without any hope for a better standard of cleanliness.
How will the ordinary person regain hope?
All public leaders in all sectors must begin to speak the language of hope; words of cleaner and better environments tomorrow. Zambia has not reached irredeemably irretrievable levels of wretchedness; we still have a chance to change and transform our society.
For instance, street kids and commercial sex workers, while many, are not in millions and therefore beyond assistance or empowerment. Street beggars too are not in millions and therefore hopelessly outnumbering state resources.
While that is so, it is evident that our political milieu does not motivate, inspire and uplift the spirit of the electorate.
Politicians at all levels see only opponents to scourge and ridicule: not seeing voters who need daily doses of inspiration towards communal care and responsibility.
The sense of commonality is not there in most districts because our politics is all about sorting out the enemy lurking in the wrong political party. Daily issues of personal and communal sanitation and hygiene do not fit in such a political dialect.
Ward councillors, especially, are responsible to rally communities around causes and concerns pertaining to many matters, and particularly health and hygiene issues. Sadly, the councillors simply do not know how to engage the people and draw their thinking towards transforming their neighbourhoods.
Politicians should spur society towards higher ideals, which must necessarily include personal and household hygiene.
All business persons involved in the various stages of food production, processing, preparation, packaging, selling and serving should begin to adopt a hopeful work ethos.
The food fraternities – meaning anyone who has anything to do with growing food all the way to serving it to the consumer – need look at their work ideology and move from relying on unskilled and therefore cheap labour, and from keeping it unskilled and cheap.
All entities that serve food in Zambia, be they major hotels or food vendors at the street corner, rely on semi- or unskilled labour from high and medium density areas.
The varicella virus that causes cholera will be carried from there into the hotel kitchen, the shopping mall delicatessen, the corporate canteen and places like that by the half-trained or untrained cook or waiter.
No hope has been given to caterers or kitchen staff by employers in many long years: further studies or scholarships in this arena are unheard of.
As such the employees serve even cold food or leftover food on poorly cleaned crockery and cutlery. Workers who obey instructions to do so have no hope; just as their employers have no hope of turning their businesses into mega concerns in a few years.
Today it is common that even hotels are visited by people who wipe the provided forks and knives or bring disposables.
Hotels also have a dubious reputation for recycling salads, just like many restaurants keep and serve tomorrow what is leftover at the end of the day. Normally- not always but normally – it is a hazardous risk to plan for breakfast at these places.
In times of national crisis, churches should be places of prayer, places of communion with the Most High; and for such reasons oases of hope.
Closing churches at such a time as this, when they are most needed, is an official rejection of hope.
Closing churches which stand on the gospel of hope in Christ, and permitting drinking places to stay open and cripple every positive human aspiration is an act of killing national hope.
Whoever made the decision to shut churches has no hope, and presumes that the churches offer no hope.
The closure of the churches, which are not eating or drinking places, is a declaration that the church has become irrelevant; and that national panic is the only way forward. It inevitably follows that if the voice of the church is shut down during a pandemic, the voice of despair and gloom must prevail.
The closure of the churches must be reversed because it is a negative and unimaginative step. Civil servants still report to work in offices with large numbers of people; buses still cram passengers; retail outlets of various sizes still attract large numbers.
Even though churches hold weekly meetings, only on Sundays are they filled.
Since cholera has assumed unusual proportions in 2018, the origins of the current endemic patterns should be probed and dealt with through clear thinking which is hope-driven.
The origins of the current outbreak seem to have more expansive dimensions than merely the lack of cleanliness.
In all this, the language of hope, belief in hope, will make every difference in curtailing the current outbreak. It will make every difference in recapturing that basic sense of public sanitation.
Decrepit water supply infrastructure and aged sewerage systems need a more aggressive resolution based on hope.
It is hopelessness to blame and counter-blame. We have been accusing and counter-accusing for decades, and for that reason real change has escaped our development process.
If we have any vision of what Zambia could and should be in real, human terms, we must encourage—and not discourage—families and communities to reach out to a higher level of living. That does not require international loans; it requires hope.
The present scenario calls for all activists, all artists, all communicators in all arenas of social endeavour, to act to uplift the collective imagination. Love believes all things, hopes all things, we learn in 1 Corinthians 13:7.
Purposeful imagination has lacked for too long, for it breaks down what ambition and aspiration are in light of a captured national vision.
Our failure to maintain clean water, when a superabundance of natural waterways defines our republic, can be brought to an end through politics of hope.
What we hope for is what we inevitably express. If we hope for a dirt-free society, we will express it and work towards it quite automatically because we are what we think.
“As a man thinks in his heart, so is he,” Proverbs 23:7 states.
If we hope for an upright society, we will work at it quite naturally because our actions will be energized by what we think. Proverbs 14:34 says:
“Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people.”