An open letter to the great people of Barotseland


Political Analyst

It is said that the world is three days i.e., yesterday, today and tomorrow. And if you do not know yesterday, you won’t know what day to-day is and surely tomorrow will take you by surprise. And in order to clearly grasp the real issue in this article, we need to lean on history.

In this article, I’ll discuss the political challenges we as a nation have been facing regarding the position of the Republican or Party vice-presidents and more so in the current dispensation where we now have Honourable Inonge Wina as a running mate for the Patriotic Front (PF) and Honourable Geoffrey Bwalya Mwamba (GBM) as a running mate for the United Party for National Development (UPND).

Davidson Nyambe Muttendango wrote: ‘’ The colonial government enacted the Barotse and Native Authorities. And through these bodies, chiefs were able to mobilize the resources of the community and repair roads and schools in their areas. In fact during the colonial rule these chiefdoms were run on semi-autonomous basis as today’s local governments. The main objective of the indirect rule was the recognition of Barotse and Native Authorities to help Africans enhance the role of their own traditional institutions in governance. This was a surest way of taking power to the people at the grass-root level. In other words, it was believed then that democracy is strongest when its institutions such as the Barotse and Native Authorities are virile at the local level. These Native Authorities served as agencies of the colonial government and at the same time acted as crystallizers of public opinion. And for this, chiefs were very much respected by their subjects.’’

How were these Native Authorities identified? The Lala-Lamba group; Lenje-Soli group or the Ila-Tonga group etc. And the effectiveness and efficiency of the Native Authorities can best be drawn from a protest circular by the African National Congress (ANC) dated 28th February 1958 and which in part read:”….Africans also want to know why thousands of pounds (British sterling) from Native Authorities should be lent to Government and Building Societies at very low interest rates when there is need for those Authorities to use the money.” (March to Political Freedom by Kapasa Makasa)

And let me at this point digress in order to restrain some people from discussing the status of Barotseland instead of the issue at hand, and I invite Dr. Mbita Chitala for clarity:

‘’During the time of colonial rule, Barotseland had features of a charter colony although the Treaty and the Charter gave the territory protectorate status, but not as an official protectorate of the United Kingdom government. Britain granted Barotseland semi-autonomous status and made it a Protectorate within a Protectorate of Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia) and administered as part of Northern Rhodesia…’’

The Journal of African Society, vol. xxxiv, 1935 referred to the Barotse and Native Authorities as ‘’Tribal Government in Transition,’’ because of the colonial government’s recognition of the political organization of the tribe and with the purposeful view of its adaptation to modern governance. The executive and judicial officials on whom the chief relied received material assistance for their various functions from their treasuries.

Even a quick glance would clearly show that the Barotse and Native Authorities were very powerful regional political blocks which gave chiefs a powerful mandate since they were financially sound. And surely no black government could tolerate such institutions which could pose a very dangerous challenge to it’s political power. And the UNIP government in 1965 abolished these bodies.

And hence we have four powerful regional political blocks, i.e., Eastern; Northern; Southern and Western. However, there is a difference between ‘’political unity’’ and ‘’national unity.’’ And during the struggle for independence we only managed to create a political unity because there was one common enemy to fight, i.e., the colonial imperialism. And it was the same political unity in 1991 that enabled us to remove the UNIP regime. It is clear from the cited examples that in the event of a revolution we readily create a ‘’unified front’’ rather than a ‘’united nation.’’ Political players concentrate on strengthening of regional factors as we have recently noticed which clearly and greatly limits the effectiveness of promoting national unity. The component parts of our democracy has been balanced to achieve an ‘’unstable’’ political unity and not necessarily a national unity.

In this political scenario, the trick lies in the blending of political players in these regional political blocks. And in this respect, President Kaunda appeared to have shifted his allegiance from Northern Province to Eastern Province and hence these regional political blocks were at the centre of the 1967 UNIP elections as Dr. Mbita Chitala in Not Yet Democracy wrote: ‘’Kaunda’s sense of power broking can also be seen from the way he handled the 1967-9 crisis in UNIP. The 1967 elections saw the decline of power from Ngoni and Lozi ethnic groupings edged out by the coalition of politicians from Northern and Southern provinces. The main contenders during the crisis were Reuben Kamanga and Simon Kapwepwe who represented the two groups…’’

Here is what Goodwin Bwalya Mwangilwa wrote on the 1967 UNIP crisis: ‘’Kaunda, in spite of his Malawi roots was generally regarded as Bemba and it was thus assumed that he could have his second in command from another province and Reuben Kamanga from the Eastern Province was nominated as Vice-President.’’ However, at the crucial 1967 conference as already alluded to by Dr. Chitala, Kapwepwe’s men contrived an election pact with the Tonga while Easterners had an accord with the Lozi.

We have also seen the failed pacts between the Liberal Party of Sakwiba Sikota and the PF and between the PF and Hakainde Hichilema of the UPND. On the other hand, we have seen how individuals have managed to thread their way into other political blocks even without the support of political players from their blocks. The case in point is that of President Mwanawasa who belonged to the Bantu Botatwe group. President Chiluba did not want President Michael Sata to enter State House and so working on the power of regional blocks, he managed to dribble the latter. And besides heavily campaigning for Mwanawasa, President Chiluba invited seven people to contest for the presidency at the MMD NEC meeting i.e., Eric Silwamba, Enock Kavindere, Chitalu Sampa, Levy Mwanawasa, Vernon Mwaanga,  Michael Sata and Lewis Changufu.

Here you can easily see that the trick was to split the northern block votes which were shared by Eric Silwamba, Chitalu Sampa, Michael Sata and Lewis Changufu. And the total northern block votes surpassed the other candidates individually.

And so in 2001, Mwanawasa became President on the northern block vigorous campaigns while his kith and kin had rejected him and voted for Anderson Mazoka of UPND. And this author one day witnessed Mwanawasa telling off his fellow Lenjes that it was very shameful that it was the Bembas who voted for him.

And I can recall that Honourable Siyoto Kunyanda, an outspoken radical, then Deputy Minister in the MMD administration was approached by three Lozi gentlemen who put it to him that they wanted one of their fellows to become President, but when this information leaked to the press, all the three gentlemen chickened out and comrade Kunyanda stuck to his gun that he would one day like to see a Lozi become President.

On 9th June 2016, President Lungu responded to rumours that he had fallen ill and had been flown to South Africa. In an interview at the mass media complex, the President first said that he sure of winning the August 11 elections at the first ballot by over 50% of the total votes. And he added:  ‘’Who is well and who is unwell, I don’t know? It is a personal thing that we all fall ill at one time or the other, but for now I am enjoying the best health.’’

The President then went on: ‘’In the event that I passed on, God forbid, Mrs. Wina will be the President because she is qualified. We did not take that decision lightly because we were looking at the Presidency.’’

It was generally believed during the 2015 Presidential by-election that the running mate would come from the northern block and the obvious choice was no other than Professor Nkandu Luo. But unfortunately that was not to be partly as a result of internal conflicts over  her role in the controversy regarding  the selection of the Henry Kanyanta Sosala as the Paramount chief and Bashilubemba, who expressed their consternation.

I first want to remind you great people of Barotseland about the dream of Honourable Siyoto Kunyanda and three gentlemen of having a Lozi Republican President. And the question that I am putting to you is: Are you going to reject your own kith and kin on Thursday, August 11th? And what are the chances of your Milupi of Alliance for Democracy of ever becoming Zambia’s President and I think it is the same as thinking of ‘’boiled ice.’’ The chances of proudly having your own kith and kin holding the second highest office in the land are just at your hands right now! That golden chance is not so with UPND! Have you forgotten how Sakwiba Sikota, then veep in the UPND was rejected at the death of  Mazoka by the Tonga tribesmen in preference for their kith and kin Hakainde Hichilema? No one would surely like the same thing that happened to Mwanawasa repeating itself because the situation on the ground in Luapula, Northern and Muchinga is that Mrs. Wina is more popular than GBM.

Let us draw analogy from President Lungu’s statement: ‘’In the event that I passed on, God forbid, Mrs. Wina will be the President…..’’ And then in case of Hakainde Hichilema it would be: ‘’In the event that I passed on, God forbid, Mr. Geoffrey Bwalya Mwamba will be President…’’

The choice is yours, but the simple truth is that PF is winning in the first round and Mrs. Wina will definitely be the Veep by next Friday. However, it will be very shameful if she will draw from votes from other blocks rather than her own.

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