By SAM PHIRI –
ADOPTED on October 24, 1964, green in colour with an orange eagle in flight over a rectangular block of three vertical stripes coloured, from left to right: red black and orange is the Zambia National flag.
This has stood as a symbol of the nation signifying patriotism drawn from the richness in symbolism of these coloures and features on it.
But now that pride, patriotism and respect towards this national emblem is seemingly losing ground looking at the numerous worn-out flags flown at most public and government buildings.
In its early days of grand unveiling and rising, the Zambian citizenry then would treat the national flag with utmost pride and respect while reflecting on the significant meaning of its features that have been well spelt out. But is this the case today?
Well, the answer hangs on the rails of debate. The green, that was in 1996 changed to a lighter and brighter shade stands for the nation’s lush flora, red for the nation’s struggle for freedom, black for the Zambian people, and orange for the land’s natural resources and mineral wealth.
Additionally, the eagle flying above the colored stripes is intended to represent the people’s ability to rise above the nation’s challenges.
The Zambian Flag was well thought-out and designed by one Mrs Gabriel Ellison, OGDS, MBE, who also designed the Zambian national coat of arms.
Now, this description of the National flag is not what is really prevailing or being flown on the flagstaffs of many government or even ministerial offices.
It seems like the significance of raising a full and right flag is phasing out at many of these public institutions because what are supposedly national flags are seen flying on the institutional flag masts.
‘Supposedly’ in a sense that these flags are literary torn with the major symbolic features like the eagle and other colours on them completely ripped off.
A good example can be that of a national flag at the Ministry of Tourism and Arts offices along the busy Cairo road of Lusaka and the one at the Government printers along Church road.
Some of these ‘flags’ would be flown with only a single colour-green.
This leaves one to wonder why most public institutions seem to pay a blind eye on the wearing out of the flag at their institutions.
Veteran politician and freedom fighter Vernon Mwaanga has equally observed and says: “It pains me to see torn and defaced flags flying over public and government buildings. This is a national identity that identifies us as Zambians where ever we can go in the world. It deserves a lot of respect and care.” Mr Mwaanga even goes on to explain that according to the law, the flag in all government offices should be raised at 06:00 hours and brought down at 18:00hours except in places where activity goes on overnight like hotels.
Now, surprisingly though, taking a walk in the offices of these institutions reveals that correct table Zambian national flags are never forgotten.
One wonders if the officeholder would accept to find a torn flag just like the one on the main mast on the table. Would he or she be quiet about it or would demand for an immediate replacement?
The answer is obvious as evident from the numerous public offices visited so far. But this is a table flag besides an office bearer which is only seen by those privileged to enter the office.
A keen interest on the availability and cost of these flags would arise if a major government institution is seen to be using a torn flag without major features like the eagle and two other symbolic colours on it.
Could it be the inadequacy or price that hinders having good flags or it never gets to be seen by the officials at these public institutions?
Minister of Works and Supply Yamfwa Mukanga says it is no excuse for any government office or public institutions like schools or health institutions to be using ragged flag as sufficient new flags are readily available for supply at his Ministry.
“I don’t understand or should I say I don’t see any reason why we should continue seeing worn-out flags when we have flags here at the ministry awaiting collection. This is a symbol of the nation and all the public intuitions and government offices should make sure they come and get the flags at the ministry” he says.
Mr Mukanga says unless an institution wants to buy a flag of a certain quality on their own, then they can, otherwise he says enough flags are available at the Ministry of works and Supply.
These days, with a crop of a new generation, it is becoming worrisome as people are seen to be losing the very virtue of the national identification just by looking at the way the national flag is regarded today.
This goes on to impact negatively on how people again consider the significance in the rich lyrics of the entire Zambia National Anthem.
Research has revealed that in many government and private meetings where the national anthem is sang, one would be surprised to find that even senior government officers are unable to sing the correct words of the entire anthem.
“The way many Zambians conduct themselves towards national symbols and national resources speaks volumes about where their loyalty is. Pride of being a Zambian starts with how one perceives and treats our national flag and our national anthem,” says one senior citizen and educationist Sycorax Ndhlovu.
He goes on to say: “Some public officers don’t care about the role the national flag and the national anthem play in enhancing patriotism and pride for Zambia as a country”.
The way the Zambian citizens, especially those in public offices perceive the national flag and the national anthem contributes a lot to the marketing of Zambia’s tourism and Zambia as a whole.
Under your own steam at many of these public institutions not to talk about Lusaka, without doubt, the flag is not held in its noteworthy esteem the way it is supposed to be.
Maybe with an exception of few institutions that include military where according to the law as explained by Mr Mwaanga, the national flag is raised at exactly 06:00 hours every day and brought down at 18:00 hours and always in shape.
Now if torn out flags can be seen flying in Lusaka along busy roads at ministry headquarters, one is left to wonder what his or her eyes would probably meet in public offices in far flanked remote rural areas.