STATEMENT BY THE ZAMBIANS FOR EMPOWERMENT AND DEVELOPMENT (ZED) ON THE RESOLUTIONS OF THE BAROTSE NATIONAL COUNCIL HELD FROM 26 TO 27 MARCH, 2012.
We note with grave concern the resolution by the Barotse National Council to break away from Zambia. We wish to appeal to all Zambians to avoid letting run unrestrained emotions that can only compound the issue at hand. In particular, we hope that the PF government will show true leadership as it works on preserving the indivisible unity of our great nation. At the end of the day, there is more to be achieved if we remain a united, stable and peaceful nation. But we are also conscious of the fact that lasting unity, peace and stability, can only be built on a firm foundation of justice, righteousness and compassion. All parts of our great nation must be proud to belong to Zambia because they are treated with equity and respect.
We take cognizance of the fact that the PF government of President Michael Sata has a constitutional mandate to govern Zambia until the next elections due in 2016. This mandate was legally acquired through democratic elections conducted in every constituency of Zambia, including those in Western provinces. The people of Western province, like their brothers and sisters in the rest of the country, chose to exercise their constitutional right to vote for leaders and political parties of their choice. That is why every constituency in Western province is today represented by Members of Parliament in our National Assembly.
We are also conscious that every political party that took part in the 20 September 2011 tripartite elections entered into some kind of social contract with the electorate based on pledges of what they would do for the people if voted into office. We are aware that in Western province in particular, some political parties, including the PF, among other things, promised the restoration of the Barotseland Agreement 1964. It appears that the resolution of the Barotse National Council to break away from Zambia stems directly from the perception that the PF in government has made a u-turn and reneged on this promise.
One lesson to learn from what has transpired regarding the Barotseland issue is that politicians must not make careless statements which they have no intentions of keeping for the sake of gaining political mileage. There is also a lesson for the electorate, which is that every promise given by politicians must not be taken at face-value.
Going forward, we wish to remind the nation that the Barotseland issue did not begin with the PF government of President Michael Sata. In as much as we do not agree with the PF’s lack of policy consistency on the issue, we wish to take note that President Sata has taken some positive steps on this issue which have given hope that dialogue can still succeed to resolve the matter amicably. President Sata unconditionally released the Barotse activists who were detained by the previous MMD government. He also invited the aggrieved parties over Barotseland to state house to discuss the matter. He also constituted a commission of enquiry to investigate the reasons that led to the riots of January 2011. We disagreed with his off- the cuff remarks when he received the report of the commission of enquiry that he would be reluctant to implement the recommendation to restore the Agreement of 1964. In our view he should have allowed his cabinet to study the report before stating his opinion on the matter. All the same, we believe that President Sata has not come back to the nation with his cabinet’s official position on the matter.
We therefore find it difficult to sympathise with the resolution of the Barotse National Council. In our view, they have not exhausted all the avenues of dialogue open to them to find an amicable solution to their problem. We therefore regard the resolution to break away as a mere bargaining stance by the Barotse National Council. We feel that the resolution to break-away falls short of addressing important realities that have taken place since the Barotseland Agreement was signed in 1964. Many Lozi speaking people have intermarried with other ethnic groups in Zambia. Many others do not even reside within the borders of Western province. Many more others have been key architects of the Zambian political system which they have contributed to construct at the highest level. We need not remind the nation that Lozi speaking peoples have served in high-ranking positions in successive Zambian governments, including three times as prime minister of Zambia. At one time, even the Litunga was a member of the central committee of UNIP. Simply stated, Zambia has evolved and we have become one people, though speaking different languages.
Moreover, we are aware that Western province is not ethnically homogenous. It consists of many groups that add to the richness of our linguistic and cultural diversity. Some of these groups spill into other provinces, particularly North-Western province. Therefore, breaking away from Zambia by any of its constituent parts can’t be a viable option. It fails to take into account the fact that Zambia of today is very different from the Zambia of 1964. The challenge for the representatives of the people is to address any perceived injustices and redress inequities within the system so that we create a just and fair society.
In conclusion, we wish to appeal to all Zambians to refrain from making inflammatory statements that can only serve to worsen an already bad situation. Let us avoid stereotyping our Lozi-speaking brothers and sisters because they are not any worse than any other group. There are many Lozis speakers who are capable of so much good. Many Lozi speaking people fought for the freedom of Zambia and many others have served this nation with distinction. Statements such as, “they can go, besides they have no resources to make it on their own,” only serve to fuel hostilities. Every people are proud of their ethnic identity and homes, regardless of what they have or do not have. Such statements have the effect of stirring up strong emotions that obscure rational thinking and drive even level-headed people into extremism. The only people who profit from such situations are opportunists who don’t care whether blood is shed as long as they profit from the arising chaos. The nation must watch-out for such elements and not give them an opportunity to unleash their evil upon the nation. They may be found among the Lozi speakers, as well as, within the ranks of non-lozi speakers in government. With this, we would like to caution the government of President Sata to avoid falling into the trap of those who would like to disrupt the ethnic harmony and peace which we have enjoyed since independence. The PF government must be tolerant, firm and fair in the discharge of its mandate to govern Zambia with justice.
Dr. Fredrick Mutesa
President, Zambians for Empowerment and Development