How fleeing Lozis found refugee in Zambia

By Watchdog reader

The Barotseland Agreement of 1964 (BA64 )is going nowhere. The Luyi (a word which means foreigners in the Nkoya language) came from south of the Lyambai river (now known as Zambezi river).

It is believed  that they came from present day South Africa. It is understood that they had been running away from the Zulu empire or the early Mfecane wars of present day South Africa.

The Luyi took different routes, others passed through present day Namibia, while others also passed through present day Botswana and others even passed through present day Zimbabwe. In all the routes they used, they had running battles with tribes in those areas so the Luyi proceeded further north until they reached present day Zambezi river.

It was the Zambezi that would come to literary give new life to the Luyi (or Lozi as they prefer to be known today). When they crossed the Zambezi, one of the first groups the encountered where the Tonga / Ila groups. While in Tonga / Ila lands, because of trekking, they had no agricultural land to grow food as they had been constantly travelling and fighting the hosting tribes that gave them temporal settler, the Luyi resorted to cattle raiding to feed themselves. It wasn’t long before the Tonga /Ilas got fed up of them and chased them away.

With nowhere to go and no clear source of food, the decided to follow the Zambezi river heading towards South Western Zambia and used the river as a source of food such as fish. As we all know today, Lozi life in Western Zambia is all about fishing because it goes back to their roots in that area.

By the time some Luyi where reaching Sesheke and Mongu areas, they had been reduced in number because of tribal wars during the great treks and others had scattered round the Zambezi River on either side. By the time the Luyi encountered the Nkoyas, they were in no position to fight so instead of fighting their way into Western Zambia, they decided to reason with the Nkoyas of old by asking for permission to settle in the area and also asked for permission to fish in the Zambezi.

The Nkoyas realising the weakness of the foreigners, decided to grant them permission to settle in Nkoya fishing areas on compassionate grounds. The Nkoyas had been fishing the Zambezi for hundreds of years and they had known beforehand that Zambezi River is prone to flooding annually during the rainy season so most Nkoyas had settled in the higher lands to avoid the annual flooding.

The only Nkoyas that could be found in those areas where those from the fishing clans who would go there to fish and then relocate to higher land after they had enough fish. However, the Luyi had interpreted the almost nonexistent of settled villages closet to the Zambezi as an opportunity to settle and so they did not know that the area was prone to flooding but because they had no choice and no fore knowledge of the area, the decided to stay.

In short, that is how the Luyi (or Lozi) settled in that area. It was through negotiations not conquests as they try to project themselves these days. Coming to the issue of agreements, just like the Lozi came through the Zambezi river, so did the agreements. Cecil Rhodes duped the Lozi chief into signing some doggy document, of course the Lozi chief could not have understood what was contained in the document because clearly he could not read English let alone understand a contract and its implications.

Cecil and his company got what they wanted, mineral rights to areas that the lozi chief had no control over.

The main reason the lozi chief signed deals was not because he was some business savvy chief, it was because he heard that the Ndebele were on the verge of attacking his people just like the Kololo had done and he also heard that the white man had ‘powers’ (guns) to fight off large armies so he sought for their protection knowing very well that if the Ndebele attacked, it will be the end of his chiefdom.

So where is the talk on autonomy or even a Kingdom as some have been suggesting? My opinion regarding the BA64 itself, the BRE were basically trying to legitimise a perception they had created through the colonial British government that they were some Kingdom when in fact not, at least not as far as they had projected themselves.

The Lozis were mainly settled not far from the shores of the Zambezi, which was the real boundary of the Lozi chief’s influence NOT the entire Western Province as some are claiming today. It is with this background that the government CANNOT honour any agreements based in lies and inflated bogus claims. As one point, the British Commissioner for Ma Nkoya District (now known as Kaoma) did his own investigations to establish how far the BRE’s influence went and he realised that the BRE had exaggerated their claims and so he decided he was going to create a separate province to reflect a clear distinction between Lozi areas and Nkoya areas. However, when the BRE got wind of the plan the cooked up a plan to sabotage the idea of establishing a separate province because they had ambitions to expand their claim into Nkoya areas. A few nights before the ceremony was to take place to formally establish the province, the BRE sent some people who insisted on meeting the main signatory representing all Nkoyas, who was in this case, High Royal Highness Chief Mwene Mutondo of that time (1940s). The Nkoya King not suspecting anything sinister from representatives of the BRE, held a last minute meeting with the people in question. As per tradition, they had a meal together to signify good relations between the two royal establishments. The next day, on the day of the ceremony, the Nkoya chief suddenly died, he never got up from his sleep. After investigations, it was established that he had been poisoned by the BRE’s representatives.

The ceremony to establish the Province was postponed as a result of the death of the signatory to the ‘Kafue Province’ agreement. After that the BRE went out of their way to make sure the ceremony to establish the new province never took place. The commissioner who was in support of the new province was suddenly transferred and the whole issue faced one obstacle after another all cooked up by the BRE. And today, some Lozis think the Nkoyas can ever support anything the BRE comes up with such as the illegal and biased BA64, not in this lifetime.

The BRE have blood on their hands!!

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