MOSES WALUBITA, Lusaka
MANY leaders, be they traditional or political, often acquire certain trademarks and styles by which they wish to be identified among their people or subjects. The trademarks are of various styles and forms.In the majority of cases, trademarks are used as symbols of authority. For example, Zambia’s first Republican President, Kenneth David Kaunda, who led the country from 1964 to 1991, was (and still is) famous for his white handkerchief.
The United National Independence Party (UNIP) leader would wave his white handkerchief to deliberately allow his audience to cheer back at him after emphasising a point to either break the fatigue or boredom his audience might have felt because throughout his speech, he repeated a sentence or more. With this tactic, many people were kept awake.
Moreover, Dr Kaunda wore a different attire to suit a particular occasion. For example, when he was sworn in as President of Zambia on October 24, 1964, he was clad in a western-style suit. In contrast, when he signed the constitutional instrument establishing the One-Party Participatory Democracy System of Government which gave birth to the Second Republic, on December 13, 1972, he put on a Safari suit.
Meanwhile, during the official opening of Parliament under the One-Party Participatory Democracy System of Government and walking side-by-side with the Speaker of the National Assembly, Dr Kaunda wore the Toga, a national dress worn by nationalists who spearheaded Zambia’s struggle for independence.
But at whatever function, Dr Kaunda would always carry his white handkerchief. The Speaker of the National Assembly wore a gown and wig with decorations as those worn by the Speaker of the House of Commons in England.
When second Republican President Frederick Chiluba (now late) of the Movement for Multi-Party Democracy (MMD) was sworn in as second Republican President, he too, wore a western-style suit with a matching shirt and tie. To crown it all, he always wore an equally matching pocket square.
The MMD government had created a dress code known as the ‘New Culture’. The trade mark was a neck-tie and a matching pocket square.
Former Vice-President, the late Simon Mwansa Kapwepwe, was easily distinguishable with his well-groomed beard and moustache and, like most politicians of his time, adopted the Toga and the traditional walking stick as a symbol of authority.
Former Minister of Agriculture in Zambia’s first cabinet of 1964 Mr Elijah Haatukali Kaiba Mudenda (now late) carried a walking stick.
And another former Vice-President and later secretary-general of UNIP, the late Mathias Mainza Chona, had his own way of addressing public meetings – making important pronouncements while appearing to be joking! Young reporters in particular found it difficult to cover him.
A story is told of a young reporter who was assigned to cover Mr Chona who was scheduled to address a rally in one of the Lusaka shanty townships. When he went back to the office, his editor asked him: “What did Mr Chona say?” And his reply was: “Oh nothing, sir. He just kept people laughing with his jokes.”
It later turned out that Mr Chona had actually made an important announcement at the rally that the government had decided, through the Lusaka City Council, to grant residential status to 20 of the city’s shanty compounds to facilitate their development. That was Mr Chona’s trade mark alright.
Then we had one of the ministers in the first Zambian Cabinet of 1964, Solomon Kalulu (also late). People fell in love with his booming voice. That was his trade mark. When addressing a public meeting, you would never hear him say, “Ladies and gentlemen.” No. His unique style was to address the crowd thus, “Sons and daughters of the soil…”
Another political figure Maimbolwa Mabebo Sakubita (also late) used to dress in Siziba (Lozi kilt). He carried a traditional walking stick. His last position in UNIP government was that of Minister of State for Northern Province from June 1, 1967 to November 2, 1968.
Former National Party president Inonge Mbikusita-Lewanika’s dress code was (and still is) modest but smart. Hers are long and comfortable attires which cause no distractions. This former Zambian diplomat’s leadership style is natural, just as she is. No pretence and no imitating anyone.
Some traditional and political leaders carry fly whisks while others find comfort in walking sticks. A fly whisk is a symbol of royalty. It signifies either power or authority, dignity and the burden of responsibility.
In Western Province, the fly whisk is ‘kona sisupo sabulena’ (an emblem of sovereignty). It is the “certificate” one is given to symbolise that he has made it in life.
Darius Bubala, the ambassador who was chief of protocol officer during the tenure of President Levy Patrick Mwanawasa, had (and still has) a unique dress code of round collar shirts with matching pocket squares. His protocol team operated under the motto “SPEAR”.
“Presidential programmes demand a combination of all the above. A tie was a delaying factor in achieving SPEAR and hence the collarless shirt. Pocket squares added pomp and splendour to my attires thereby consolidating the round collar shirts,” recalled Mr Bubala, now a farmer in Chilanga district of Lusaka Province.
In 1994, while serving as a young diplomat in the United States of America, Mr Bubala went for shopping in New York’s’ Jamaica Avenue. Suddenly, a white round collar shirt neatly displayed in a shop window caught his eyes. Without much ado, he picked it up and slid into the fitting room – and it was a perfect fit!
When he put it on at home, his wife, Georginah Mudenda Bubala, gave a ‘thumbs up’ approval. This shirt made an end to the neck-tie challenges that he used to face. From then, he got hooked to it.