Reflections on Zambia’s 48th independence: a Barotse perspective

By Mungandi wa Muwina Mungandi

The noise, merrymaking and mayhem that come with Zambia’s Independence week have finally died out.  In the serene and tranquil atmosphere that follows immediately, one is left to reflect on the events, utterances and occurrences that characterized the previous days. For any serious Lozi, the festivities of the Zambian Independence seem to leave one with a sour taste in the mouth and the feeling that one has, after watching a boring horror movie or waking up from a recurring nightmare. This particular Independence was just that and more.

The ordeal begins with ‘Dr Guy’s Courtesy’; a ‘Courtesy Call’ on the Litunga, Ngambela and Kuta which never was. After the Provincial Administration fought ‘tooth and nail’ to secure an appointment and even went out of their way to reveal that the Republican Vice President was a carrier of a Government message to Barotseland in response to the numerous communications that have since gone un responded to, let alone being acknowledged. Meanwhile after keeping Barotseland (The Litunga, Ngambela, the Indunas and Activists among others) waiting, Dr. Guy had the audacity of telling his audience elsewhere that Western Province (the slave name for Barotseland) was a priority for development by the PF Government ‘because it has been neglected by previous Governments’. The irony of the matter is that Dr. Guy alongside his Boss Mr. Michael Chilufya Sata served in one of these previous Governments (the boss even served in the Government before that). The only positive aspect of that statement is that it serves as collaboration to the constant cry of the people of Barotseland that they have been neglected and downtrodden for almost half a century.

While Dr Guy was playing hide and seek in Mongu, the Barotse detainees incarcerated in the filthy Kaoma state prison were being brutalized by combined prison and police forces of torture and terror. The poor detainees were stripped naked and beaten to unconsciousness for at least two of them. One wonders why these men should undergo so much injustice and Human Rights Abuse at the time when Zambia is said to be celebrating 48 years of Independence. It should be remembered that these 17 Barotse were arrested for expressing their displeasure with the Zambian constitutional making process and their determination not to be part of it. They are kept in custody for bailable charges and when finally the bail is granted it is a sheer mockery of justice because of the outrageous cash condition. Is it not ironic that a Chinese investor who slashes off someone’s ear is given a cash bail of K2m while a poverty stricken Barotse detainee who is alleged to have committed a much lesser crime is given a cash bail of K5m!

The ordeal gets worse as Wynter Kabimba who is Minister of Justice flies into Mongu to what some sections of the media have described as a thunderous welcome. It is reported that the boss who was obviously worried as to how the visit of probably his No. 1 Lieutenant to Barotseland would be perceived and portrayed given the lukewarm reception his VP received earlier, called to find out how the reception has been. It is common knowledge that cadres were ferried from all over Barotseland so as to ensure that Kabimba’s entry into Barotseland is better than that of the VP. It is even said somewhere that Mongu came to a stand still but the pictures don’t support that sweeping statement. If anything all we see are curious kids mobbing the brass band as it plays through the Roads. Unless you can convince us that Mongu is largely inhabited by children, otherwise how does it come to a standstill when children go out on the streets to be entertained by a brass band which is a rare treat for them? Winter Kabimba’s ‘development rhetoric’ certainly did not go well with the people of Barotseland. If anything it resembles the monotony of the repetitiveness of a broken record. The Barotse people have heard this talk over and over again, so much so that it is now like the cheap talk of a mother trying to lull a crying toddler or the talk of a boy trying to calm down a chicken about to be slaughtered “kuhu kuhu u lobale ba banwi kaufela ba lobezi” (Translated as ‘go to sleep o chicken all other chickens have long gone to sleep’)

The worst part of the ordeal was obviously sitting through the President’s Independence Eve address to the nation or should we say the two nations. It had the capacity to make one toss about in his sofa as if the cushion was staffed with bones, thorns and thistles.  As the President concluded his speech he made the declaration that Zambia shall forever remain a unitary state. That declaration should have caused a feeling of the intestines being wrung into a painful knot for many patriotic Malozi. What is worse is that the following couple of ZNBC News Bulletins started with that declaration as first headline. How rude and disgusting! It is like telling your mistreated wife that whether you like it or not you will forever be my wife regardless of how many girl-friends I bring in the house and entertain on our matrimonial bed per week!

It is perplexing how that successive Zambian Government cannot see that the unitary nature of the state of Zambia did not just happen. It took the signing of the Barotseland Agreement 1964 (BA ’64) for Zambia to be referred to as a unitary state. It therefore follows and goes without saying that it cannot be maintained as a unitary state outside the perimeters of the said treaty. There are just no two ways about it.

As one reflects on Zambia’s 48th Independency Celebrations, one thing becomes clearer and clearer; the independency of Zambia means one thing or the exact opposite, depending on which side of the Kafue River you are. For the Kingdom of Barotseland which lies west of the Kafue and on both side of the Zambezi River, from which Zambia gets its name; it means the loss of hard won and long cherished autonomy and dignity for which the last Lozi standing would rather die than see taken away. For the rest of Zambia it is a celebration of the falling away of the British chains of colonialism and the acquiring of new jurisdiction over the Kingdom of Barotseland by deceit and ‘hook and crook’ tactics. One thing must be clear to the whole world and to the Zambian Authorities in particular though; we have not heard the last of this filth transaction yet. The Barotse people will not take this lying on their backs, that’s for sure.

 

Well I am just thinking aloud!

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