Making money: What’s wrong with black Zambians?

By Austin Mbozi

The main strengths of the Tonga money-making mentality are (a) physical labor hard work, (b) savings ( kaso) and (c) a slight reading culture.  The strengths of the Bemba money-making mentality are (a) networking (b) risk-taking and (c) urbanized exposure. I mean averages or majority; not that each and every member of these groups has the same mentality.

Between these two opposites lie the business cultural mindsets of virtually all other Zambian ‘tribes’.

Neither group has a fully satisfactory productive culture. They both need to embrace the strengths of each other. An average rural Tonga can do a lot of physical donkey work without exposing (Bemba exposure) it to modern ways! And he can keep thousands of cattle without selling them to buy drugs to prevent denkete cattle disease or modernize his farming. Also an average Bemba can move from place to place looking for exposure, but leaving huge tracks of land in his region and making himself quite vulnerable to urban economic changes such as job loses due to mine closures. The risk taking culture makes him more susceptible to being suspected of being corrupt, since he can take any risk.

A Tonga wants to produce where there is no modernity. A Bemba wants to modernize where there is no production. As a result an average Tonga remains a village peasant producer failing to become a sophisticated, highly mechanized milk processor, miller or canned beef processor like his South African Boer rural counterpart. An average Bemba remains a ghetto urban, street petty trader or loiterer, failing to become a high international commerce manager like his South African English speaking urban counterpart.

I learnt a lot from Chibamba Kanyama’s master piece; ‘Business Values of Our Time’. (2010).  In fact views that what we do in life and how we do it is determined by our cultural mindset, especially ethnic culture,  are in various publications, such as Professor Ali Mazrui’s ‘Cultural Forces in World Politics (1990) and ‘Capitalist Nigger’ , written by a Nigerian economicsguru, though I  have not yet read it allWhy discuss this? Because in my article ‘PF: Reaping MMD money without sowing’ I was accused of disrespecting black Zambians when I said they were generally unproductive.  The fact is that we are less productive that our fellow Zambians of Asian, European or even East African origins, all because our minds are stagnant with the values of our tribal survival cultures.

I will adopt   Chibamba’s positive aspects of each ethnic group but include the negative aspects which he carefully left out.

 Ingombe mbo bwami. The value of Tonga conservatism

During a paper presentation on UNESCO’s Philosophy Day on 12th December 2005 at Lusaka Civic Centre, Chibamba Kanyama said the most social way to look at the Zambia’s ethnic investment culture is to look into the Zambia National Soccer Team. Tonga players generally play at the back: Look at Goal keeper Kennedy Mweene.  Look at defenders;  Clive Hachilensa, Louis Shambulo, Happy Sichikolo, Hichani Himoonde, Danny Chulampongo ( Warriors ),Davies Nkausu,  Kizito Cheelo ( Green Eagles) ,  Ian Bakala,  Kebby Hachipuka (Choma Eagles captain), the U-20 international captain  etc. Only a few like Kennedy Mudenda, Given Singuluma, Lewis Macha, or Funny Hangunyu try forward. Reason? They grow up with a mentality not to go to other peoples homes (adventure, exposure) in the Egyptian territory but to defend their land so that they can keep their cattle.

This must explain why Tongas are generally conservative, and the urbanized Tongas, such as Harry Nkumbula, Baldwin Nkumbuka, Anderson Mazoka, Levy Mwanawasa, Jonas Shakafuwsa Hakainde Hichilema, Costain Chilala etc all kept cattle. If you go 40 km away from towns like Livingstone, Lusaka, Kabwe, Kapiri, Copperbelt, Mpika or Kasama you are likely to find people speaking Tonga in the nearest bush farms.

This is good. Tonga speaking people have acquired probably the largest tracks of land in this country. In the near future, as towns expand, Tongas are the likely dominant landlords. It is good if other ethnic groups join the Tonga land stampede and agrarian culture. The positive thing though is that they are intermarrying and in future we will have mixed blend of true, tribal-less Zambians.

However, there is one weakness of the Tonga people. Lack of exposure and networking, a culture they can learn from the Bemba.

                                                   Ubufumu ni Bantu: The value of Bemba exposure   

Chibamba   Kanyama then reminds us that Bemba players dominate the striking force and attacking midfield. Name them: The Pele of Zambia, Godfrey Chitalu… ( Umgh! Messi, Messi! Can your ka Messi score 107 goals in one season like our great ‘Ucar’ did in 1974?), Kalusha Bwalya, Johnstone Bwalya, Charles Musonda, Jacob Mulenga, Kelvin Mutale (remember that prolific striker who perished with the Gabon disaster?) or new sensational, Under 20 COSAFA top scorer Evans Kangwa.

The Bemba culture is led by their proverb ;  Ifikala chimbwi  efikala nama ikata ( Hyena praises himself as a hunter even if he just eats carcass killed by other animal hunters). Tonga defenders who are trained to defend their territory grab the ball from Egyptian strikers and give it Bemba strikers who are not afraid of other people’s territory to score!  Perfect ethnic mutual compliment!

Bembas believe in  ‘Go into other peoples territory to survive’. Chibamba Kanyama (P.8) describes their culture as follows; ‘Other societies consider (the Bemba ) as greedy and lovers of money… (they have managed) their businesses on the basis of networking and taking risks. Even if they know very little about something, they will apply themselves with energy and confidence..a Bemba can borrow money from a low spending  neighbour,  buy an expensive car and assist the same neighbor with transport everyday to work’.

The Bemba arrived in this country led by warriors Chiti and Nkole in around 1650. Coming from the tsetse fly region that did not support cattle keeping it meant even cash crop production was also not easy. Thus, they needed to conquer other tribes for survival. The cattle-keeping Namwanga  became the main victim of Bemba raids. They also tried to raid the Nsenga-Chewa, but they retreated after Chiti was killed by the local Chief Mwase for sleeping with his wife.  Then under the rule of Chitapankwa they teamed up with the Yao Arab gun carrying traders between 1850 and 1870, attacked the Ngoni and shared the looted women and cattle.  Excellent Bemba networking!

After the colonial white rulers stopped the tribal fighting, the Bemba culture evolved into trading or exposure seeking.  Hence, they flocked to Copperbelt mines, then to Lusaka.

Many successful Bemba businessmen, the likes of Geoffrey Mwamba, Bwalya Chiti, Sony Mulenga or Ben Mwila are in service businesses rather manufacturing or farming.  Their very culture entails interacting and networking with others.

This Bemba exposure culture is good. Tongas generally don’t travel. Guided by their proverb;   suntwe moowa nguwoongola ( coward hyena lives longer) they can live in the bush, farming for years.  When their produce is ready they bring it to town outskirts and instead of going to sell their maize straight to FRA, their vegetables straight to the Soweto market retailers or their cow straight the mine owner, they sell it to a street  middleman who goes to sell it at higher price than the Tonga producer. The Tonga under-utilize their proverb ‘ muzoka ulya kweendeenda’ ( The snake eats by traveling) by travelling only within the shrubs instead of towns!

So really both need to change.  TheTonga needs more exposure. The Bemba needs a bit more conservativism.  The Tonga needs to relax his kaso (over-serving) a bit and buy drugs for dipping his cattle and modernize his farming. But Bemba needs to relax his consumerist speeding spree and save a bit more to buy land and cattle so that his is not too readily vulnerable to urban economic trends, such as mine closures or  a job loss.



1. Councils must defy Sata’s ‘directive and chase the vendors. Vending is illegal, the councilors were elected to make bye laws, not to serve or obey Sata.  Council workers are employed to enforce bye laws.  Sata is breaking the law. He cheats himself that he is above the law. Who does Sata think he is compared with the rest of us? He is just a failure, no education, arrested and fired by the colonial police, fired in every Government ministry he headed, and for all his close to 70 years of life, he can only declare owning six guns, a house and a little Kwacha!     If he wants he can dissolve the councils. If he continues breaking laws Parliament must impeach him. If he wants let him dissolve parliament today.     Which President in the world has ever said such a thing? Roads are becoming impassible for cars, accumulating dirty, urine, human and dog excreta etc are a sorry sight and cholera has already broken out in Lusaka, Chongwe and Southern Province towns, petty thieves etc  mainly because of vending. The Keep Zambia Clean Campaign is now off.  Councils are losing income because vendors do not pay rates, and those marketers in markets or shops have in the past been forced to form tuntemba in from of their shops so that those places are not taken up by vendors. After a period of decent Presidents, Sata is bringing back that primitive nonsense with which they ruled with Chiluba, where they formed a useless Vendor’s Desk at Statehouse while Freedom Way was nearly closed due to vending.

Sata is not our benefactor. He is our tax paper parasite who soon risks becoming a social nuisance.

2. Those Tonga speaking people that were offended by Miles Sampa’s statement that they must marry Bemba women in order to rule the country must go and demonstrate on the streets against him. It’s time to act against Sata’s arrogant tribalism. Why send a man who is still fighting tribal remarks with Tonga speakers? It’s like Sata, because of his complexes, is telling Tonga Speakers,’ Miles Sampa can insult you but we are in charge. Dare him and see. In Lusaka where from where I moved Sampa, I have put another Bemba, Gerry Chanda ’.   Well, Miles Sampa is too ‘small’ cow down the Tonga speaking people.

Anyhow, Bemba speaking politicians like Nevers Mumba, Felix Mutati or Elias Chipimo must also start attacking Sata’s tribalism. Let’s fight him not as tribes but as a nation.  No tribe or race has ever won over another in recent history.


The Culture of stealing: Bemba or Tonga?

I personally have no statistics to show which tribes steal more than others. Those who have this information are at liberty to give it, with concrete court convictions evidence. They only evidence I have is historical. In pre-colonial Zambia, the Bemba and Lozi tribes, living in less productive regions, survived by raids. But that was the culture of the time. A white trader in Barotseland, George Westbeech was shocked in 1882 as he reported that Lewanika’s impis brought 20,000 cattle to Lealui from just one raid on the Ila and Batoka! (I find it as provocative when the Lozi descendants of this brutal Lisholi, Lewanika, in the name ofchibuya, praise themselves for such senseless and primitive day light robbery of my ancestors’ cows! 20,000 cows! K40 billion at current price! )  Even white tribes raided, stole wealth and colonized peoples in America, Canada, South Africa, New Zealand and Australia. Even among the Ila, as described in Goodwin Mwangilwa’s biography of Harry Nkumbula, raiding other families’ cattle is a sign of manliness.

When, once, I took a petty money thief to a police station a police officer asked for the thief’s name. ‘I am Moonga’, the thief replied. The humorous Bemba police officer  pulled off the shirt of the thief  and hit a big mbama on his back saying; iwe, kansi ndiwe mu Tonga!  Manje ukayamba kubba ndalama ise te Ba Bemba tubbe chiyani! Ise ba Bemba tunamulekela ngombe imwe ba Tonga so that naise mutilekele ndalama. Manje ubbwela ku share yatu! ( Nyanja: So you are a Tonga!  So if you Tongas start stealing money what shall us the Bemba steal? Did we not agree that we the Bemba will let you the Tonga steal cattle alone on condition that you also leave all the money for us to steal? )
Typical Zambia police humor. But it reflects the traditional joke that Tonga steals cattle (because they are farmers) and Bembas steal money (because they are urban traders). But to take it outside the joke is going too far. We cannot conclude from these historical facts that a certain tribe is full of thieves.                            

                                                        Collective business failure as Zambians

Zambian journalists are failing to run newspapers, only The Post has succeeded, all because of Fred Mr. Mmembe’s personal extraordinary administrative skills. Ex-Post Newspapers journalists fail to run newspapers once they leave Mr. Mmembe.   NGO management is not success. It is institutionalized begging.NGO leaders beg money from white people on behalf of their fellow unproductive Zambians, and then use more of it for self-enrichment.  Farmers are harvesting an average of 150 kgs per hectare instead of the ideal 220kgs. Yet this is after Government has bought a fertilizer bag for them at K220,000 and sold it to them at K50, 000. Top civil Servants ( the second largest bunch of parasites after politicians) spend more time talking at workshops. Worse, instead of investing their over-paid money in real production, they simply build over-size houses,  larger than those owned by Indians or whites. Politicians can’t survive without politics.  Our limitations, as I have highlighted above, are what make us poor. Barely a week after I was criticized on ZWD for opposing the manner in which the Citizens Empowerment Commission is managed, the Auditor General’s Report revealed that this organization wasted 13 billion Kwacha ( The Post 14th December 2011). This amount was misused before it was given out. Then the larger chunk of what was given out is not being paid back.

Why? Listen to the answer from Mr. Tawanda Nyambirai, the Group Chief Executive Officer for TN Holdings Limited, Zimbabwe:

Zimbabwe and South Africa are going through different phases in the pursuit of empowerment or      indigenization (black empowerment) policies. The common weakness …is the over emphasis on ownership as opposed to good appreciation of business, business training ….. Consequently, black populations have ventured into businesses they do not understand, and have entered into them with a mindset that everything will just work itself out. Thus, the fall of some of these businesses have been spectacular.’ ( Source: Chibamba Kanyama’s Business Values (2010))

Lima Bank and Development Bank of Zambia all failed. Reason.  Zambians not paying back. The Farmers Input Support Programme ( FISP) has been going on for several years. No farmer is graduating in three years as was initially planned. K40 billion Youth Fund was given by the Mwanawasa administration in 2007. But youths either showed no serious business plans or are not paying back. Future leaders! Future leaders with empty heads!   Meanwhile, our Asian and white Zambians are getting loans from Commercial banks and paying back.

So why blame governments? In any case don’t government officials come from among us? And we choose them because we think they are our best brains?  Why always blame Government when whites and Asians are prospering under the same Governments?

We must mix with the Chinese to improve our business and culture.

Click 1,2,3,4… under ‘Editor’s Choice’ for old articles

Share this post