By Peter Slama.
A personal talk with Zambia’s Ambassador Anthony Mukwita in Berlin
Zambia sprawls over an area of 752.614 km, almost double the size of Germany. The climate is mild and the Victoria Falls of the Zambezi river – which at that point reaches a width of 1700m and a depth of 110m – are world famous.
The decision to then derive your nation’s name Zambia from that river comes quite naturally. And the “Zambesiland” of today has been a peaceful and stable democracy for more than half a century now, inhabited by 17 Million people.
Close diplomatic relations with Germany have been in place for more than 55 years and Zambia plays an important role in German developmental cooperation.
Their Ambassador, Anthony Lubinda Mukwita (47), calls our nation a “reliable partner in all circumstances”. The alumnus of Lusaka’s Institute of Diplomacy and International Studies also has an academic background in journalism and media studies including a Masters degree – and now he holds his first position as an Ambassador to a foreign nation.
Before that he had been working for different newspapers (including as Managing Director the Zambia Daily Mail) and radio stations in his home country and abroad. He also held a position of acting head of mission in the Zambian Embassy in Stockholm before his accreditation in Berlin in 2017.
“To be working as an Ambassador in Germany is as exciting as it is challenging; after all, Poland, Slovenia, Hungary, Czechia and Slovakia are also part of our embassy’s sphere of influence. And each of those nations has its own priorities and desires! From the very beginning it has been my own priority to establish and maintain good relations. With a good relationship already in place your own diplomatic an economic goal is that much easier to achieve.”
Especially with the right chemistry between all involved parties: “I suspect that the most significant reason for the historic Zambian-German friendship can be found in our shared values: a culture shaped by Christianity, compassion towards our fellow men and democratic ideals. Both our nations oppose undemocratic thinking around the world and cherish peace and stability at the same time – this kind of shared attitude is indispensable for good diplomatic relations to flourish.”
With this kind of world view it does not come as a surprise that Zambia, which only achieved its independence from Great Britain in 1964, regularly welcomes refugees from neighbouring countries Angola and the Democratic Republic of Congo with open arms.
“What can be wrong about helping people who flee from conflicts for which they bear absolutely no responsibility? They do not deserve rejection but require our full compassion.”
Compassion might be free, but it comes at a cost to the nation. That is also apparent to Zambia’s president Edgar Lungu, who continually looks for international support to supplement Zambians’ Can-Do-attitude – successfully: Berlin contributes Millions.
“Germany is a great friend and ally”, says Ambassador Mukwita, “We Christians know that Jesus Christ himself was a refugee.”
Zambia’s refugee policy is now firmly established as a modus vivendi. When it comes to the current economic and financial crisis however, the country is still looking for solutions.
The main reason for their predicament is the decline of the price for copper. Export of the metal used to make up almost 70% of Zambia’s foreign currency income.
In order to get out of that dependency on a single resource, efforts are being made to also establish cobalt, zinc and gemstones as Zambia’s staple products, including agriculture – but not in their raw form, the whole value creation chain is to be built and maintained domestically, so that all the created wealth and employment are also accessible to the general population.
There are also plans to make the energy sector more profitable. Zambia accounts for about 40% of southern Africa’s water supply and generates 85 percent of its power with hydro-electric means.
But due to climate change and the corresponding unreliability of El Niño the rains keep coming short and the nation’s great rivers Zambesi and Kongo carry less water, which in turn has a negative impact on power generation. As a kind of “New Deal”, President Lungu has cut many subsidies to that energy sector to create more competition and entice businesses to invest in power plants and infrastructure.
“A strong political drive for economic diversification is the main reason behind this program. We also plan for more support of the agriculture and tourism sectors.”
The latter one is already gaining significance. With its high plateaus, mountains, savannas, valleys, the national parks, an extraordinary wealth of diverse flora and fauna and – of course – the Victoria Falls, Zambia already is an important destination for tourists.
“There is something for everybody: you can bungee-jump down the Victoria Falls, experience the Zambesi river as a force of nature while white-water-rafting or bathe in the watery mist of the Devil’s Pool. If you visit Zambia as a tourist you can also expect to meet the “Great Five” up close: Lion, Elephant, African Buffalo, Rhino and the African Leopard. It may already be a very special experience to visit these animals in a zoo, but to see them here in their natural habitat is just breath-taking – this is their home after all. The city of Livingstone, named after the Scottish Africa Explorer David Livingstone who brought European’s their first glimpse of the majestic Victoria Falls, can also be considered a significant destination for tourists. I could go on with the list of important tourist attractions in Zambia, but at this point I would like to simply refer you to our Tourism Agency.
Anyway, Mukwita isn’t very partial to attractions and superlatives: “A good ambassador shouldn’t ceaselessly praise his own country, its stability and its good investment climates. Much rather he should honestly and convincingly tell stories of his nation and his people, their joys, their sorrows and of the problems they face. There is severe poverty in the rural areas and the healthcare system leaves much to be desired. Zambia is not paradise but its positive sides far outweigh its negatives, as far as I am concerned. And the aforementioned challenges are diligently being addressed by my government each day.”
Concerning his diplomatic day-to-day obligations, Mukwita benefits much from his past experiences as a journalist: “It has helped me a lot in my job as Ambassador. That’s because my main task is to communicate the mood in my country.” For that reason, Mukwita has even authored a book about Zambia’s president (Against All Odds). “I was inspired to write a pleasurable book about a good person (President Edgar Lungu) because there are already so many books about nasty places and nasty people. The world needs positive stories and Zambia, against all odds, also needs a positive story sometimes. President Edgar Lungu’s journey into the State House is one of those books.”
One last question – Ambassador Anthony Mukwita is currently very content to live in Berlin with his family. He even likes German pop singers like Johannes Oerding and the local radio stations – would he like to trade places with anybody in the world? “If that were possible, I would have to ask our dear Lord to fashion a better copy of myself, even though I am grateful for him wanting me to be my current self: Anthony Mukwita, husband, father of two amazing young lads, diplomat and author. And I have Elaine, my wife and “diplomat”, at my side as an indispensable aide. But let me leave you with these words: Zambia should be a must-visit destination for German tourists and those, who would like to invest in renewable resources and agricultural industries. We can make offers that won’t be refused easily.
Nshima and tomatoe relish (traditional Zambian dish)
Nshima is a pulp made of grain or sweetcorn grounds. It’s a staple food in Zambia and is traditionally consumed with fish or meat. I for example like to enjoy it with freshly grilled bream, tomatoes and onions.
Ingredients (serves 8)
2l water, 2 sp. Salt, 400g corn flour (for the porridge), 4 sp. cooking oil, 4 onions, 2 garlic gloves, 10 large tomatoes, red pepper, salt (for the relish)
(Nshima) Boil water and add salt. Slowly add the corn flour, continuously stirring. Let the closed pot simmer at medium heat, occasionally stirring until the Nshima reaches a thick enough consistency so you can fashion little balls out of it with your bare fingers.
(Relish) Heat up the oil and the hacked onions, crush the garlic gloves and fry until glazed. Add the finely chopped tomatoes. Let simmer and add red pepper and salt to taste until a thick red sauce is created.
The Nshima is formed into small balls and dunked into the tomatoe relish. Enjoy!
SOURCE: Behorden Spiegel, Leipzig.