We hope the postponement of discussions over the Barotse agreement scheduled for the last day of deliberation is not another donch Kubeba trick as we saw with the RB immunity debate that was put on the last day of Parliament sitting in order to catch the opposition by surprise.
The Barotse agreement is too serious a matter to be treated with such rashness as it requires deliberation. It is a matter over which the Government must give comprehensive input in order for the current constitutional convention to give informed judgment.
The Convention should not serve as a forum that will be held accountable for rapture by voting to refuse recognition of the agreement when the President had assured the people of the restoration of the agreement.
Of great importance is also the need to define the meaning and scope of the Barotse agreement. Until now the agreement has been synonymous with two conflicting interpretations which need to be reconciled for the benefit of posterity.
The first interpretation is the assumption and indeed the belief of some extreme groups that the agreement means separation from the rest of Zambia or indeed secession.
The other interpretation is for the agreement as a facilitating instrument that empowers and enabled the Barotse people to pursue more focused regional development.
Between the two lies the truth.
It is of course true as history would dictate that Barotseland was a protectorate and was not part of the Federation, but did eventually become part of Zambia at independence with the full realization by both parties of the import of the agreement.
It was assumed at the time that with the transition and passage from colonial Northern Rhodesia into independent Zambia the agreement would serve as a historical beacon to the status of the new nation.
It was never envisaged by either side that contention would arise to the extent it has because of the common intentions that characterized the letter and spirit of coming together to create a strong and unitary state.
However the mischief, as ever, lay in the detail. The Barotse people expected “devolution” of power that would have given them a measure of greater autonomy to utilize local resources for development with the support of central Government. This wherewithal has not been forthcoming and the Province has lagged far behind in development.
Considered as simply one of the many Provinces, in spite of the peculiar geo-economic condition the Province could not quite cope, without additional resources and effort to address these peculiarities and as a result tension and resentment have crept in as some elements have blamed the Barotse Royal Establishment of complicity with the central Government to keep them subjudicated to a form of governance that has “neglected” them.
Unfortunately the situation is not so easy and not so readily amenable to amelioration which can only come about by very serious study to arrive at a workable solution that helps the region overcome the natural handicaps that it suffers from.
The solution therefore lies in cool heads and a determined approach towards realizing the aspirations of a people that feel disadvantaged.
The Convention must therefore take time and understand the dynamics of the problem before committing themselves to an abrupt solution arising from a heated “impersonal” debate taking place hundreds of kilometers from Barotseland. We agree with General Miyanda that this matter deserves further and proper negotiations to arrive at a mutually acceptable solution.