Found a modern nation-state on Christian values? : a theological assessment of Zambian humanism.
Author(s)Mwangala, Raymond Mwangala.
Contributor(s)Balcomb, Anthony Oswald.
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AbstractThesis (M.Th.)-University of KwaZulu-Natal, Pietermaritzburg, 2009.
Zambian humanism, a socialist ideology, was developed by Kenneth Kaunda, independent Zambia‟s first president. It was made the national philosophy and ideology of Zambia in April 1967. The ideology was composed of a combination of many elements which did not always fit together into an organic whole. Among them include African traditions, socialism, radical Christianity, existential humanism and Kaunda‟s personal convictions. Kaunda‟s motivation for proposing this ideology appears to have been the desire to break free from the colonial past and to create a national identity centered on values which he considered true to the African heritage and to his Christian background. Zambian humanism, as an ideology applied to all spheres of public life during Kaunda‟s reign as president. Kaunda intended it to provide the moral basis for all human activity in the country, political, economic and social. In a sense the ideology was meant to be the social cement that held together and inspired the nation. The ideology failed in economic terms. As a country, Zambia experienced several economic difficulties beginning from the mid-1970s which humanism failed to adequately address. By the mid-1980s the country was worse off economically than it had been at the time of independence. The causes of this economic down-turn are complex and debatable. This dissertation critically examines Kaunda‟s ideology. It argues that while humanism might have failed at the level of implementation, especially in economic terms, the ideology as such played a significant role in the history of post-independence Zambia which should not be overlooked. To appreciate fully why Zambian humanism was introduced and adopted as the national ideology it is necessary to recall the social, economic and political background against which this was done. The experience of colonialism suffered by Kaunda and his contemporaries and the challenge of building a modern nation-state that had experienced the negative effects of colonialism are two key factors that should not be overlooked in understanding Zambian humanism. Zambian humanism, this thesis argues, is a postcolonial discourse whose aim was to break with the colonial past and to create an African identity. It was not a unique experiment as can be seen in fields such as philosophy and theology of the era. Nyerere‟s Ujamaa socialism is closely related, yet not identical with Zambian humanism.
What Kaunda and his contemporaries set out to do in proposing a different worldview from the dominant Western worldview must be interpreted theologically to see how and if it accords with Classical Theology‟s understanding of the Christian God‟s interaction with human beings. Their intention was not only the deconstruction and rejection of the colonial and therefore dominant Western discourse, but also an attempt to construct an African discourse capable of giving meaning to African existence and society. Such an ambitious undertaking certainly calls for theological consideration. Two important areas emerge in the dissertation: the search for an authentic African identity and an alternative socio-economic organization of Zambian society. Christianity has been on the continent for more than a century now and most of Africa has been politically independent for about half a century. Have these facts made any real difference in the lives of Africans, both Christian and non-Christian? The political situation in which the Church in Africa finds itself today affects the nature and method of Christian theology. In the political arena, theology in Africa has the urgent task of challenging systems and ideologies which attack liberty and human dignity. This theis argues that theology has a relevant role to play in public discourse even today. But to do so effectively it must understand the past. Hence, the study of Zambian humanism, which played a significant role in Zambia‟s history, is an important area of theological study.