By Charles Nyambe
My humble understanding of the term “political expediency” is to say or do something for the sole purpose of gaining political mileage. I must hasten to mention that this is exactly what I saw in the editorial of the POST of Thursday July 21, 2011 edition and found it to be very primitive and retrogressive.
I noticed that the editorial was based on an article published by the same newspaper the previous day and attributed to President Rupia Banda concerning the Barotseland Agreement 1964.
I could not understand, how the POST would, for example, say what they did in the editorial referred to above part of which is reproduced for ease of reference:
“The people of Barotseland have made it clear on what they want. They are not interested in a Politian coming up to tell them what he wants the Barotse Agreement to be. The solution to this issue lies in meeting the people on their terms, on what they want – give to the people of Barotseland what they want. And what the people of Barotseland want, and indeed the rest of the country wants, is the restoration of the Barotse Agreement in a manner that will benefit them and the rest of the country. The whole country will benefit from the restoration of the Barotseland Agreement. And that is why the whole country is today in support of the restoration of the Barotse Agreement because it is a progressive document that will help deepen democracy in our country and improve the governance of our country.”
The question that needs an honest answer is which people and since when?
In 1992, the Weekly POST (now the POST) Managing Director writing on a subject captioned “Barotse Agreement is at variance with modern political order,” brought to the fore the following views:
“Failure to realize this constitutes part of the explanation why those advocating for the restoration of this agreement are prepared to waste their time and energies on a dead issue which if honoured will only serve to restrict rather than broaden democracy in Western Province.”
“I hope the MMD government will not make the same mistake the United National Independence Party (UNIP) made of abandoning the goal of the struggle for democracy in favour of an ill-defined quest for national unity”
“The issue of concern now is not the Barotseland Agreement but the advancement of democracy for the whole country. This is where time and energy should be directed”.
These views, read together with the editorial in question, did not only confuse me. They annoyed me as well. This was especially when I remembered that prior to the 14th January 2011 Mongu wanton shootings, a number of people especially those outside Barotseland were bent on urging government that it should deal ruthlessly with all the advocates for the restoration of the B.A 1964. In most cases, this was notwithstanding their ill understanding of the issue at hand and misguided thinking founded on hate for the people of Barotseland. The rest now remains a nasty history. It is therefore, flabbergasting to be told today, that “the rest of the country wants the restoration of the B.A.” 1964. Mawe na!! What rubbish is this? And all this is happening in a so called Christian nation. God forbid. Remember the Barotseland Agreement 1964 has never been amended. How come therefore, it is being referred to as “progressive,” today when in 1992 it was described a dead issue? There are so many schooled people out there, can someone please, assist me?
My humble counsel to all Malozi and all other people of goodwill is that as we approach the election day later this year; indeed as we cast our vote we should be on an-alert-look-out for politicians (especially those who were around in 1992) that will want to use the Barotseland Agreement (wrongly referred to as the Barotse Agreement) for their own political expediency. After all, we know what we want and are not interested in a politician, or any media house for that matter, public or private, coming up to tell us what we want. The Barotseland Agreement is not an election issue. It is an issue about the unitary status of Zambia; with or without elections. To make it an election issue means it will immediately fade away in oblivion after elections.
Below is a full text of the said Weekly POST article of 1992 titled “Barotse Agreement is at variance with modern political order”.
Barotse Agreement is at variance with modern political order
Weekly Post, 1992
The debate on the Barotseland Agreement 1964 had been on some weeks now, with media coverage centering mainly on those advocating for its restoration.
Our politicians, including some of the most vocal ones, have been reluctant to make their positions known on the issue, and among the few who have come out openly for the restoration of the agreement is Akashambatwa Mbikusita Lewanika, the Movement for Multi-Party Democracy (MMD) Member of Parliament for Mongu Central.
Vice President Levy Mwanawasa might have summed the government’s position when he said that the advocates for the restoration of the agreement were free to take the matter to court, but whatever decision the court makes would have to be respected by parties.
Most prominent citizens have refused to comment on the matter openly arguing that their honest comments may appear to threaten national unity.
The Barotse Agreement was a product of political expediency to have Northern Rhodesia proceed to independence as one country and that all its peoples should be one nation. Taking into account the civil war which was raging in the Congo, national unity was a necessity.
There is an urgent need to review our system of provincial governance. The history of Zambia over the last 28 years of independence shows that the governance of the provinces have never been looked at critically or even discussed.
Economic development of the provinces, especially the rural ones have not only stagnated but declined and resulted in the unstoppable drift to the urban provinces of skilled young men and women. If this trend is not stopped the future of rural provinces is bleak.
An appropriate system of provincial governance needs to be found which can enhance an advanced democracy and development and make the young men and women have a meaningful participation in the economic and political life of not only the district councils in which they reside but the provinces as well.
A survey last June by the Weekly Post on how provinces should be governed showed that people wanted more independent administration of the provinces by elected officials and not by deputy ministers appointed at the centers.
The Barotseland Agreement authorises and empowers the Litunga, an unelected person, after consultation with his council, to make laws for Barotseland and be the principal local authority for the government and administration of Barotseland.
This system is clearly undemocratic. It might have made sense in 1964 when the issue at hand was independence and not necessarily democracy. It will negate the political achievements the people of Zambia have made to date. Whatever national unity considerations the Barotseland Agreement cannot be restored at the expense of democratic ideals. Democracy is more important national ideal to strive for than national unity. The latter is not a human ideal, it is a matter of political expediency in the struggle for political power.
The case for the restoration of the Barotseland Agreement have been based on a failure to appreciate that price of modern political order is calculated on the basis of democracy and human rights, and not obscure customs of convenience.
The political, cultural and economic interests of the people of Western Province are far too complex and by far larger than similar interests of the Lozi royal establishment, the Litunga and his council and indunas combined. Failure to realize this constitutes part of the explanation why those advocating for the restoration of this agreement are prepared to waste their time and energies on a dead issue which if honoured will only serve to restrict rather than broaden democracy in Western Province.
It is negative conservatism to assume and believe that the Litunga and his council and the Lozi royal establishment can have a final and perpetual solution to all the problems of Western Province. Such conservatism has no existential basis.
I hope the MMD government will not make the same mistake the United National Independence Party (UNIP) made of abandoning the goal of the struggle for democracy in favour of an ill-defined quest for national unity. The people of western Province, like those of all other provinces of Zambia, need a better system of provincial government than they are subjected to but definitely not the restoration of the tune and out dated Barotseland Agreement monarch type of provincial government.
The issue of concern now is not the Barotseland Agreement but the advancement of democracy for the whole country. This is where time and energy should be directed.
The author is Managing
Director of Post