Muchinga Province: budget money starts going north

Muchinga Province: budget  money starts going north

By Austin Mbozi

Part  (II)

Throughout my lifetime, I have dedicated myself to this struggle of the Zambian people. I have fought against Tonga or Lozi domination. And I have against Bemba domination. I have cherished the model of an ideal society in with all tribes shall live in harmony and, without favor or discrimination. It is an ideal which I hope to live for, and it is an ideal for which, if needs be, I am prepared to die.

Comrades, you will recall that during 2001 and 2002 I wrote a series of articles in The Post Newspaper warning that if tribal balancing and the Barotseland Agreement case are not addressed, Zambia would face fatal ethnic incidences. Some Zambians, including some Post Newspaper journalists, ostracized me, leading to my loss of my Post Newspaper column which I loved so much that if I am called to go and write it today I can go there running not walking. After the death of Mr Mazoka, I again wrote two articles in The Post  in July 2006 arguing that even if Mr. Hakainde Hichilema was capable of ruling and is not a tribalist himself, his timing to stand at that time was not right because other tribes might leave UPND on grounds that it was  a tribal party. Some mpaka- mu –Tonga- alele  supporters insulted me, saying I hated Tonga rule. Yet, if today I decide to support Mr Hichilema, an opposite umu- Tonga- teti ateke  group will say I am a tribalist. During this years election, I issued a statement to the Times of Zambiawarning that if Mr Micheal Sata wins the republican presidency, tribal rivalries would increase. Reflect back and tell me which of the things I warned were false.

Now I am vindicated again. Remember what I warned last week about President Sata’s priority focus on Northern Province?  The Finance Minister Alexander Chikwanda has just allocated K30 billion for the new Muchinga and Choma new provincial capitals! (See Part One. I argued already that this won’t increase  annual  fund allocation for Southern Province but it will for Northern). The fact that the controversial Muchinga has been allocated funds even before Parliament debates its creation is a sign that President Sata is ready to impose its creation, whether other regions approve it or not. Advice to Finance Minister  Chikwanda. From your budget presentation, you seem to be a decent, professional man. As a professional, advise President Sata against pressurizing you.   Do not spend a single ngwee of our taxi payer’s money on Muchinga or on any staff he may hire  for this ‘province’ until, if at all, parliament approves its creation (even if I see no need for this province, I may let it be in the name of democracy if parliament approves it). After all, you won’t be the only minister contradicting this President’s unprofessional pronouncements. Tourism minister Given Lubinda contradicted him over his open toleration of poaching on Independence Day. Vice President Guy Scott contradicted him in parliament over his illegal abolishment of Office of Secretary to Treasury. Justice Minister Sebastian Zulu in parliament contracted him over his 90-day constitutional promises when opening parliament and Commerce Minister Bob Sichinga contradicted him by telling the visiting British Minister that the 90-day promises (by President Sata) are not attainable. Should you go ahead sir without parliament’s approval, you may face ’abuse of authority’ charges alone after you leave office. President Sata may enjoy his immunity and he will not protect you.

Look at this also! Northern Province is earmarked to get a lion’s share in the brand new roads feasibility studies. From the 30 billion budgetary allocations, Northern Province gets two brand new long roads namely;   Kawambwa-Mporokoso and Luwingu-Kaputa. Outside Northern Province only a short Leopards Hill-Chiawa and Kasempa-Kaoma are earmarked.  Again for new universities Northern will get the larger share from the 126 billion allocations to construct the Kenneth Kunda University in Chinsali. The other two, Chalimbana and Palabana which are already fairly developed will require comparatively less funding. Besides, they are in Lusaka which is cosmopolitan, so that unlike Northern, every ethnic group can identity with these.

For me, no tribe has all the good or bad virtues. Every tribe has bad and good people. I have models whom of I am an admirer among the Bemba. The likes Patrick Chisanga (former UPND Vice President), Felix Mutati (MMD candidate), the late Dr John Mwanakatwe ( UNZA), the late Dr Feinson Mwape (UNZALARU), Prof Mubanga Kashoki (helped me build my upcoming book or tribal languages rivalries), young Prof Kenneth Kaoma Mwenda, Ben Kangwa (former ZNBC), Mpundu Mwape (ZNBC Lima Time ), etc.  I have humorous but humane Bemba friends like Kunda Mwila (ex Post and ZNFU), Chanda Chisala (Zambian Online), ‘Tyson’ Chishimba Chishimba , Chilufwa Chileshe etc. Even the coach for my Namayani village  Football Club , Bwembya Mwila is Bemba who, like my other Bemba friend Brenda Mofya (former UNZALAW President) , speaks Tonga. All these good Zambians do not carry themselves with the Bemba-centric flair that President Sata carries. And I can support them to rule the country on my behalf. Brenda Mofya musa. Ino uli kuli kayi? Why are you not coming ubaabile aba bantu that you love me and I don’t hate Bembas? Ino wabaanzi yawe!

Back to Muchinga. Last week we saw that creating the Muchinga Province was not necessary because (i) it will increase tribal accusations, (ii), it will inspire Nkoya traditionalists to press for the creation of Kafue Province in opposition to Sata’s implementation of the Barotseland Agreement and (iii) the population of Northern Province compared with other regions does not warrant creating a new province.

Now here are the fourth, fifth and sixth arguments against the creation of Muchinga Province.

Fourth, if geographical size is the reason for creating the Muchinga Province, why is North-western province also not divided into two since both are nearly equal size? Let me give you some data, since me I don’t talk chi-talking talking.  I give data.  Northern Province is 147,826 square kilometers.  Western Province is 126, 386 square kilometers. North-western is 125,827 square kilometers. So Northern Province only has 21,440 square kilometers more than Western Province and 21,999 more than North Western, a size like Lusaka.  But  if, as is planned,  you cut off Mpkika, Chinsali , Nakonde and Isoka  from Northern Province and join it with Chama District from the Eastern Province, the new Muchinga and Eastern Provinces  will be far much smaller than Southern (85 sq km), Western (, 126,386 sq km) Central ( 94,395 sq km). ( I will update you with exact statistics once I find already compiled data. I had difficulty finding square km per of districts and avoided the temptation of calculating them by myself using accessible data such as district populations and district population density).

So the question is, should these provinces which will be far larger than the new Muchinga and Northern Province also be sub-divided to equal the new smaller Northern? If not, will the people from these regions be blamed if they accuse Sata of tribalism as UPND already warned?

After I wrote part one of this article, somebody made  a proposal that if  President Sata’s motive is that Northern Province is too large, why not ‘slice off’  a district or so from Northern province  and attach it to Luapula Province which is small? Excited with this idea I checked up and re-examined the map.  It seems slicing off Luwingu district and attach it to Luapula province would be an alternative solution. Look at this: if you take Kaputa to Luapula, Kaputa will be too far away from Mansa, the provincial capital. If you take Mporokoso, it will be awkward because to travel from Kasama the Northern Provincial capital, you will have to pass through the same Mporokoso, which will now be in Luapula province. If you take Chilubi district, the size you will be cutting off Northern will be too small to make a difference. So Luwingu is the best option. It is large, quite populated and a neighbor  of Mansa, the provincial capital.

My contention is that the slight larger status of Northern Province is well noted, but is not enough to warrant a subdivision of the province but only warrants giving it more districts and a bit more funding as is already the case; as our founding fathers did already. As at 1929, Northern Rhodesia had four regions divided for administrative purposes; Barotseland (where Silozi was taught), North-western Rhodesia (Tonga taught), North-Eastern Rhodesia (Bemba taught) and Eastern Rhodesia (Nyanja taught). Later by 1969, provinces had been re-arranged. Barotseland because too complicated to administer due to larger size and resistance against perceived Lozi rule by the Kaonde, Lunda and Luvale tribes and the complications of governing a now more populated Copperbelt Province.  So it was divide between Barotseland (later renamed Western Province in 1966 when Kaunda began violating the  Barotseland Agreement), North-western and Copperbelt Provinces. North-Western Rhodesia was also divided between Southern and Central Provinces. Later way after independence, Central Province was sub-divided to create Lusaka Province, given the complications of running the capital with its financial power, population and urbanization.   North-Eastern Rhodesia became too large to administer as one ‘province’ so Luapula and Northern were created out of it. North-Eastern Rhodesia became Eastern Province.

At this stage, when our forefathers realized that Northern Province was slightly larger than other provinces, they give it 12 districts, the largest number of districts. Southern Province has 11 districts, Copperbelt has 10, Eastern has 8, Western has 7, Luapula 7, North-western has 7, Central 6 and   Lusaka has 4.   That makes 72 districts.  Then they were satisfied that this was enough.  Why was President Sata, if he was really part of the independence struggle and post independence ruling elite, or even during his MMD days,  not urging them to create Muchinga?

Fifth, is Northern Province the poorest province to deserve priority?  No! The poorest province is Western. According to the 1998 CSO statistics, 78% of people in Western Province live in extreme poverty, followed by Luapula 69%. Northern is the third poorest, with 67% living in extreme poverty.  This is followed by Eastern 66%, followed by Northwestern and Central both at 63% and followed by Southern at 60%. The majority of people living on the Copperbelt (47% in extreme poverty) and Lusaka (34% in extreme poverty) are not as poor. Even in terms of life expectancy Northern Province is not the worst. The worst, again, is Western Province where life expectancy is about 42 years again followed by Luapula, way below the national average of 50 years. Even in terms of Infant Mortality Rate Western Province and Luapula are the worst.

So again why is Sata giving   priority to Northern, a lower middle-income province (by Zambian provincial comparison levels) and not Western or Luapula provinces?  If any province deserves urgency, it is Western followed by Luapula.  Yet President Sata has not only given it priority, but buying time implementing the Barotseland Agreement which those people think will improve their lives.

Sixth, if the argument for wanting to double funding for the Northern region is because it’s infrastructure is so poor that it is difficult to administer due to poor communication by road, railway or telecommunications, then again Western Province is by far the worst.  Northern Province is number four in terms transportation accessibility. After the traditional line of rail areas of Lusaka, Copperbelt and Southern Provinces it is the only one with a railway line, the Tanzania Zambia Railway (TAZARA) connecting up to the main line of rail. Eastern Province has the new Chipata-Mchinji railway line. But it is not fully operational and only ends at Chipata, not connecting to Lusaka. Western Province only has a dilapidated Mulobezi Railway line, designed more for carrying timber than people, and does  not reach Mongu. Other provinces have nothing. In Northern Province the road network is passable, compared with Western Province where because of sandy routes and water, areas like Shangombo are not reachable.

So again, why the urgency in Northern and not Western?

Seventh, if the reason is some ethnic consideration such as to somehow solve the  Namwanga-Mambwe-Lunga speaking people versus the Bemba- Bisa –Lala rivalries in the province, then again what will be achieved is not clear.  I raise this issue for two reasons. First, due to the fact that the entry of colonial rulers in Zambia was largely by singing agreements with chiefs, many of our provinces do have one dominant ethnic  group.    Southern is largely Tonga-Ila speaking, Western Lozi-nkoya speaking, Northwestern Luvale-Lunda-Kaonde speaking, Northern Bemba-Namwanga-Mambwe speaking, Luapula Bemba-speaking Lundas and Eastern Nyanja-Tumbuka speaking. Second because of some ethnic rivalries, the Namwanga-Mambwe speaking districts namely Isoka, Nakonde, Mbala and Mpulungu (though PF improved in last election) have mainly voting against Sata’s PF and voted for the MMD. In October 2006 , the Weekly  Angel Newspaper ( 25th-29th ) quotes Professor Nkandu Luo and other ‘Bemba bigwigs’ complaining  that Mwanawasa’s Government was sidelining ‘Bemba proper’ leaders and appointing Lungus, Mambwes and Namawanga’s like Silavwe, Guston Sichilima, Griever Sikasote and Catherine  Namugala and that these  leaders even decampained a Bemba, Lupando Mwape. In September 2009, as usual,  President Sata and Geoffrey Mwamba joined in the ‘tribal war’ and verbally ‘chased’  MMD candidate Mugala ( from  Namwanga region) saying he should go back to his ‘tribal region’  and not stand in ‘Bembaland’  Kasama Central for the bye-election.

Now, when Northern Province is split into two, the remaining Northern will be mainly Bemba-speaking. But the new Muchinga will have four main linguistic groups namely; Bemba speakers who will be the more dominant from   Mpika (population 211,425) and Chinsali (population 147,845). Total 359,270. The second largest ethnic grouping would be the Namwanga-Mambwe speaking people of Isoka (population 164,410 ) and Nakonde (population 118,017). Total 282,4727. The third largest will be Tumbuka ( Senga version of Tumbuka) speaking from Chama district (population 101,412). So how will this composition  solve the ethnic problem?

Let me end by saying that these things bring problems. Recall that when Kaunda’s UNIP Government decided to construct the TAZARA Railway as an alternative route to the sea after Rhodesia boarders were closed in 1966 following Ian Smith’s UDI in November 1965, there were serious tribal accusations that Kaunda wanted to build a railway line to his province at the expense of others. Yet, there was a good reason then. What more now when there are actually no reasons?

We know this growing trend where each regions votes along ethnic lines, President Sata won mainly because of strong Bemba speaking support, which has the larger numbers. But we want to give our Bemba speaking brothers and sisters some benefit of charity, that when they voted for Sata they did not expect him to do too many things to favor them at the expense of other regions. We should expect that they hoped that he would be fair to all, a uniter (a Lewanika) whom all groups will relate to. As such we expect them to oppose him on this one.

Conclusion. Zambians can you please reject this Muchinga project, especially you parliamentarians from the Northern Province.  Like all Zambians, I want Northern Province to develop. But to be fair its better even a add a district or so to it or take one of its district to Luapula Province.  President Sata should not be allowed to divide our people on regional lines with his extremist approach to things.

Next week, I comment on the PF budget


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