A Nation on “Tamanga”: Zambia’s Curse of Futile Quick Fixes

 E. Munshya, LLB (Hons), M.Div.

Munshya wa Munshya
Munshya wa Munshya

We are a nation of “tamanga.” We are the generation epitomising the notion of “ifintu ni bwangu”. In everything we do, “musanga musanga” has come to define who we are and where we stand. “Tamanga” can mean many things. On the street, it has come to mean a people who have to hustle for survival. It could also mean a busy people. And this is one of the problems we face as a nation. Ever on the move but getting nowhere. Ever talking and yet no one is listening. We are busy with lots of stuff and yet development lags behind. This has been the case since independence. We are quick at talking. Actually, we are fast talkers. We are “punkas” as they call it at Katondo Street. Our actions show a lot of activity without real progress. It is time our nation came to a stop. And reflect. We need to relook at this culture that has spiraled out of control: the culture of tamanga.

The 90-day promise from politicians was born from this tamanga pretext. Even if there was no way that anyone could deliver development in 90 days, our people nevertheless believed it. In “tamanga” we trusted. While in opposition, and in fact even after winning the elections, President Sata held on to a discreditable promise of delivering a “people driven constitution within 90 days”. In the spirit of tamanga, some Zambians believed him. That faith is itself problematic. After tamanga has failed, President Sata’s police are now threatening to arrest hurriedly anyone who dare question the tamanga promises over the constitution. On Youth Day, the police arrested children demanding for a new constitution. Indeed, as President Sata’s actions are proving, tamanga does not work in the long run.

Plastered everywhere in the corners of our cities are invitations to the tamanga gospel. Preachers are the new witchdoctors. They are advertising along the same lines as the Ng’anga Association of Zambia. “Come to our meetings”, they are proclaiming, “for instant elevation”. Ifintu ni bwangu is the new good news and all it requires is a little water drawn from the River Jordan and all the problems will be over. Musanga musanga, the gospel has now become. And there are so many of our people buying into this tamanga theology. This is a sad state of affairs.

A nation on tamanga
A nation on tamanga

The MMD government worked hard for the development we now see. Wheels of commerce have been spinning very fast since 1991. Chiluba, Mwanawasa and Rupiah Banda led Zambia to unprecedented economic prosperity. Only Michael Sata’s don’t kubeba government is threatening this economic growth. However, in spite of the growth, infrastructure has not kept pace with this economic prosperity. We have more vehicles on the road than the roads could possible carry. In spite of this, we are driving faster than ever. Our passion for tamanga is now murdering our people along the Great North Road and along the Ndola-Kitwe-Chingola road. Tamanga has become a curse. We need to slow down on those roads. We can do with a missed appointment, but we can’t do with people dying due to over-speeding. The Zambian driver should slow down on the road. The Zambian driver should arrive alive. What good is it to drive so fast and never arrive? Our roads do not need more prayers, than they need a little less speed.

With the growth of the Zambian middle class has brought newly found prosperity among a huge section of Zambians. This means that there is more money circulating among journalists, engineers, accountants, teachers, lawyers and other professionals. This increased prosperity has brought a problem of its own – busyness. It has brought the spirit of tamanga. This Zambian generation is the busiest it has been since independence. We are always on the move. For these newly prospering individuals, the spirit of tamanga is not leading them to more balanced lives, but to more restlessness and inner chaos. Tamanga leads to imbalanced and unfocussed lives. We must do something to redeem our nation from this.

In a nation of tamanga, the Kwacha has now developed swifter feet. On tamanga, it is now K6, 000 against the dollar. In this culture, life comes easy to those who are constantly connected with the “apa mwambas”. Shortcuts become the order of the day. You know you are in trouble as a nation, when a bank branch manager within a day gets to become a Deputy Governor of the Bank of Zambia. How on earth could we ever expect the Kwacha to perform well when its primary managers have never written a single paper in economics? We need redemption as a nation from the spirit of ifintu ni bwangu.

In marriage and family, tamanga claims to resolve problems without the patience of endurance and the sacrifice of perseverance. Who needs foreplay and emotional connection if concoctions on the roadside are promising hard rock erections within seconds? And that is a problem. Families are getting wrecked because when spouses are busy, they will not invest the needed sacrifice and emotions in family improvement. They will replace selfless relational connection with the saga of tainted Viagra, now selling more than Panado across Lusaka. That would bring a spiral of problems of its own. Zambia needs redemption from tamanga.

We can condemn Christopher Katongo for what he said about young players. And many soccer fans have a reason to be suspicious of the captain. May be Katongo is right. We should not sacrifice experience at the altar of tamanga. Why is it that other national teams in Africa have more experienced players than the Zambian team? Is it that we rush for tamanga more than experience? I will leave that up to your judgment and consideration.

In order for us to resolve this problem of tamanga, each one of us should make a conscious decision to slow down. Next time you are driving to Ndola, please take your time. Start early for the journey and leave a lot of time and space, it could save your life and that of others. There is no need to speed a Marcopolo Bus only to die at Chibombo. Praying we must do, but after that prayer is done, God expects and demands from us to drive with utmost care once we are behind the wheel. We could also decide to reject the tamanga idea out-rightly. The rising workers in the middleclass should be able to say no over time hours only to appease their bosses while leaving their spouses in tears.

To defeat the spirit of tamanga, we could all just begin to pay attention to those and the things around us. Life becomes more fulfilling when we begin to live and to pay attention. Next time, you are rushed; look at ways you can take it a little slowly. Listen more to others. Look at creation. Look at the grass and the trees. Enjoy the beauty of nature. If it rains, watch the drops of the rains. Smell the morning dew. Refuse to be rushed and enjoy the beauty that is in an unhurried life. Let us for once and for all undermine and maim the tamanga culture. We must refuse the temptation to steal from government. Some are poor in 2011 but by 2014, they have built mansions in Chalala. Without the sacrifice of patience, they have become rich through ill-gotten gains. Politics has become a way to steal and this tamanga is leading to unbridled corruption and theft of public resources.

In tamanga we all should not trust.


  1. A well researched article. You are on point. It’s so funny how we have become busy body’s yet making zero progress. A serious down turn awaits the nation as we are only swimming in the tide of borrowed resources.

  2. So true, I have learned to slow down, I now take time to assimilate a lot of business deals after having gotten burned over a number of them in which I thought I was getting ahead only to be taken back a few steps…. I am thankful though, for these lessons, which I believe are priceless are part of Gods will for my life. All in all this article does speak and confirm to me my recent resolution about how I do things.

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