Letter by Alfred AK Ndhlovu to Chairperson of Barotseland Commission of Enquiry
Riots do not just happen unless there is something simmering on the ground. The Mongu riots must be seen in that light. We cannot treat those riots in isolation from the Barotseland Agreement 1964. I have discussed the subject with one of those who were detained, Mr. Imasiku Mutangelwa, on several occasions since the 1990’s. I have learned to appreciate the grievance.
Zambiabecame a unitary state in 1964 afterNorthern Rhodesiaand Barotseland Protectorate agreed to move to independence together.Barotselandhad been designated as a British Protectorate for ulterior motives. It was not a colony as such but an area whichBritainadministered fromNorthern Rhodesia. It did not have a colonial Governor of its own. It subsisted on the revenue of Northern Rhodesiabecause it could not survive on its own.
The Litunga of Barotseland has always been a powerful traditional figure and ruler of the Lozi people. He is revered locally as King of the Lozi. The Lozi system of governance could have influenced the British colonial authorities to regardBarotselandas a unique social and political entity which deserved to be treated as a protectorate.
There are three other Paramount Chiefs (similar to the Litunga, so to speak) elsewhere who wielded similar power inNorthern Rhodesia: Mpezeni of the Ngoni, Gawa Undi of the Chewa and Chitimukulu of the Bemba. The areas where these existed were not designated as protectorates. There was, however, informal talk of Ngoniland, Chewaland and Bembaland (or the latter Lubemba as local folks call it) which did not come to pass because of logistical reasons and problems. Consequently, the country’s name ofNorthern Rhodesiaembraced them all. On the ground Barotseland andNorthern Rhodesiawere one. The people shared a common heritage through marriages, languages and culture. Colonialists encouraged tribalism besides being racist.
The Barotseland Agreement was made in order to concretize and formalize the union of the Republicof Zambia. It was unthinkable that Zambiacould have inherited Barotselandas its colony! That could have been a very big blunder. In fact, it could have contradicted the national values which Zambians as a whole respect the most: Unity, Nationalism, Prosperity and absolute Integration. Zambiais actually founded on these values the threat of which is too ghastly to contemplate! The national motto, “ONE ZAMBIA, ONE NATION” summarizes that aspiration.
Zambiahas been a tribal society. In fact, it is still a tribal society. My projection is that it will remain so for many years to come. This is why it is very important for all Zambians, regardless of their tribes or ethnicity, to be united.Zambiais now a nation, unlike what it was at the time the Barotseland Agreement 1964 was signed. A nation cannot be a slanted society dominated by one selfish tribe or a set of selfish tribes.Zambiais a nation of all tribes and there is no tribe which is too small to qualify for marginalization. Education and literacy liberates everyone such that merit becomes cardinal. Every Zambian must be made to feel belonging and to aspire for the good things which good life is made up of. Poverty is not an aspiration nor indeed is it a product of ambition. It is a scourge which dehumanizes.
The root cause of instability in Western Province of Zambia is the absence of a “power sharing” system or mechanism. Zambia is strangely being governed at random, which means that those who claim to be the majority want to “bamba zonke” even when they appear to be wanting in what it takes to provide good and sound leadership to the Zambian people.
“Power sharing” is a practice which many countries have tried and it has worked satisfactorily. Firstly, the United Republic of Tanzania, for instance, is a union of mainlandTanganyikaand the islands of Pemba andZanzibarin theIndian Ocean. Tanzanians have agreed to alternate leadership at Republican president level between the mainland and the islands. The recent history trend has been:
- Julius K. Nyerere- founder president, from mainland.
- Ali H. Mwinyi- second president, from islands.
- Benjamin Mkapa- third president, from mainland.
- Jakaya M. Kikwete- fourth president, from islands.
This is what I mean by “power sharing” which is working remarkably well in the neighbouring United Republic of Tanzania.
Secondly,Sudan, the largest land mass inAfrica, recently split.Southern Sudanis now a sovereign Republic which will be governed as such.Darfurin the western side of country may follow suit in future because the Sudanese conflicts have been racially and ethnically inspired and motivated. Since integration solutions are far in sight inSudan, my projection is that Darfur will be a sovereign an independent Republic in the mannerSouthern Sudanattained that status. I must emphasize after these examples that “power sharing” is fundamentally essential in any society which aspires to survive as a united nation.
Zambiahas hitherto had 9 provinces. The questions are; how do these 9 provinces share political power in the country? Who dominates and who are marginalized? Why should others dominate whereas others are marginalized? Should Barotseland (notWesternProvince) secede? Should Southern Province, which has been branded a “Bantustan” by The Post newspaper which is influenced by the now ruling Patriotic Front, secede? The secession ofSouthern Sudan, for instance, was a culmination of the problem of marginalization of the Southern Sudanese people who are predominantly black Africans. In other words, Southern Sudanese escaped the tag of being called ”Bantustan” like The Post newspaper maliciously calls Southern Province of the Republic of Zambia. Secession is a solution in some circumstances.
Zambiawas ruled by Dr. Kenneth D. Kaunda from 1963 to 1991. He was Prime Minister before 1964. He hailed from Bemba speaking Chinsali of Northern Province. He founded theRepublicofZambia. From 1991 to 2001, Dr. Frederick J. T. Chiluba ruled Zambia. He hailed from Luapula, a Bemba speaking northern Lunda. His previous leadership of the Zambia Congress of Trade Unions gave him a semblance of national character. From 2002 to 2008, Dr. Levy P Mwanawasa SC ruledZambia. He had a shared heritage of Lamba and Lenje from Central andCopperbeltProvinceswhich are interlinked. Mr. Rupiah B. Banda who hailed from theEasternProvinceruledZambiafrom 2008 to 2011, a paltry three (3) years. One may consequently ask, “is this really ‘power sharing’ where one region dominates for 28 years?” Bemba speaking Dr. Chiluba was in charge for 10 years. Lamba/Lenje speaking Dr. Mwanawasa’s term was regrettably curtailed by death to 7 years. The successor, R. B. Banda, lost power after three years. This analysis shows that power inZambiais monopolized. This monopolization of power is actually a big problem which is partly accountable for the Mongu riots in January 2011.
The other levels of “power sharing” are at Vice President, Cabinet Minister, Deputy Minister, Provincial Minister, Permanent Secretary and Deputy Permanent Secretary. Are these portfolios shared amongst Zambians equitably? Even the Judiciary must reflect a national character. Parliament, the legislature, must be balanced by design. Each province must subscribe almost the same number of Members of Parliament.Lusakaand the Copperbelt provinces have a lion’s share of constituencies largely because of urbanization.
Parastatal enterprises must reflect national character. They must be managed by qualified personalities drawn from different ethnic backgrounds. We have on record inZambiasome parastatal managers being hounded out of offices because of protests from either junior workers or in some cases students. Analyses of such events have shown that there is in our midst an ethnic group which has influenced such protests on tribal lines. This is shameful to say the least.
It is a fundamental requirement everywhere in the world today that government must be all inclusive. A foolish leader may blame the outcome of an election that because I fielded my tribes’ people and all them were elected, therefore, this government is “ours.” That is wrong. It is a human right to resist a tribal government in the same way a racial one is resisted.
This Commission of Inquiry has been set up at the right time because we have a new government in place. It is up to you, Commissioners, to see, analyze, measure and conclude whether the PF administration is balanced and inclusive.
The Minister of Finance and National Planning is a relative of president Sata whereas the Inspector-General of Police is a tribesman. The vice president is a man whose parents were migrants born elsewhere and can either be a Bemba, Ngoni or whatever! How does this contrast with and relate to Mr. Rupiah B. Banda’s parentage complaint by the PF in the run up to September 20, 2011. The Minister of Defence is a tribesman of the president and so is the Minister of Home Affairs to mention but a few. All Commissions of Inquiry, except this one (yours Dr. Chongwe) and the one headed by Hon. Sebastian Zulu SC., Minister of Legal Affairs, are Bemba driven/led. A Times of Zambia newspaper of November 15, 2011 had a picture showing president Sata shaking hands with Mr. Ruskin Jere, vice chairman of the Commission of Inquiry which president Sata had just appointed whereas a Bemba speaking and substantive chairman stood behind. The newspaper had a reason beyond tribalism when they used that picture.
Does theWesternProvincehave a significant stake in the PF government? Did they have stakes in the previous administrations, starting with Dr. Kaunda’s? Is it foreseeable that a person fromWesternProvincewill be Republican president ofZambiasoon? The president has started with putting money into the pockets of chairmen and members of these Commissions.
Southern Province is in the same dilemma. That is why it has publicly raised the issue of a “Tonga for president ofZambia.” Making such a demand cannot be dismissed as tribalism. On the contrary, it is a viable and acceptable search or demand for political power which essentially must be shared and not monopolized. Let me stress that power sharing is not a product of the so called good constitution alone. There is a moral issue involved. There are also choices to be made regarding what to do and how to do what the people want. Remember that people are very sensitive to denial and exclusion. The language which democrats with a weak moral strength understand best and quickly is violence, unfortunately. Oppression does not easily succumb to peaceful negotiations. This is why colonialism was defeated by negotiations which were predicated on violence, the struggles.
Leadership goes with money. Leaders receive a lot of money which in turn must be invested in the areas where they hail from. Any province which is denied leaders by appointments is in the same way denied money. It would be strange for any cabinet minister that s/he is poor or has no money. Besides receiving hefty monthly salaries and allowances, leaders have power and authority to generate wealth and money. This is why many Zambians see it today that the PF government has already put money in the pockets of those who hail from the North and Luapula provinces, of course, including the recently proclaimed “MuchingaProvince.” I wish North Western, Southern and Western Provinces were split into six or more provinces!
I doubt whether combined incomes of Hon. Inonge Wina and Hon. Given Lubinda would have a significant impact of investment in theWesternProvincecompared to that of Hon. Alexander Chikwanda, Hon. Geoffrey Mwamba, Hon. Prof. Nkandu Luo, president Sata and others in the Northern Region. These are real issues which leaders can ignore at their own peril
The fear of assassination expressed by the Minister of Defence recently goes to show that the “guilty are always afraid.” Nobody was amused by that statement.
An Hon. Member of Parliament who refused to accept an appointment as deputy minister is a heroine. She knew what she was talking about because the province where she hailed from actually deserves a full cabinet minister. Additionally, she was a full cabinet minister previously. There was no reason to demote her in that manner.
Africans generally believe that it is better to spend money to prevent troubles than save it only to spend it on quelling troubles occasioned by unfulfilled sectional interests. The adage is “prevention is better than cure.” This justifies a big cabinet or big government. A small government has the misfortune of creating domination and tensions in society. It is necessary to guard against deterioration of the system.
The events of January 14, 2011 in Mongu were most unfortunate. The people ofWesternProvincehave genuine political demands intended to make the province belonging. At the time of the riots, three Westerners were full cabinet ministers at Finance, Community Development and Communication & Transport. That was almost a lion’s share in a country of nine provinces. Government response to the riots was appropriate in the circumstances. The nature of demonstrations is that peaceful agitators are overrun by extremists who fuel violence and police have a duty to protect life and property. Zambia Police is an armed wing of defence and security. They deal with riotous situations as they obtain at the times. They use force when they are threatened and it is necessary to establish good order. There is nowhere in the world where demonstrators own up on violence. It is usually police who are blamed for taking measures to prevent troubles from escalating.
The solution to the Barotseland Agreement 1964 is to have a rotating presidency constitutionally, say 10 years. Secondly, the vice presidency must also rotate, providing always that the president comes from a different region or province. Cabinet ministers, deputy ministers, permanent secretaries, etc must be inclusive and balance the diverse interests of the nation. Political parties must garner provincial interests to ensure that winning will give the political party national character. Ideally,Zambianeeds two entrenched political parties to breed leadership and ensure that alternating leaders becomes a rule rather than an exception.
The future is ours and, therefore, we must prepare it today.
The author Alfred A. K. Ndhlovu is Former Deputy Minister, Transport & Communication in the Chiluba Administration