Sata, Barotseland Agreement and the people’ stupidity

By George Lubasi

THE greatest comedy of our time is that we voters allow politicians to come into our homes, tell lies, and we vote for them on the basis of their lies. When they win and do not honour their promises, we do not look at our gullibility and stupidity.  We sit down and say, ‘ah these politicians’.

 
After the Mongu fracas on January 14, 2011, Michael Sata went there. He said he had gone to Mongu because the people of Western Province “have no one to speak for them.” He had appointed himself spokesman for the Western Province. On his visit, he earned a headline in The Post: “Barotse Agreement Is Liberating – Sata”.  At the time Sata said the restoration of the Barotseland Agreement would provide an example to other provinces about devolution of power.  He was in opposition and it was nice to say all that. But Westerners could only treat his promises with an element of suspicion. That suspicion was definitely not  from without.
 
During election campaigns, Sata was in the Western Province. To win votes, Sata again promised the restoration of the Barotseland Agreement. MMD and UPND may have had their own selfish reasons for saying what they were saying about Sata. But we cannot deny the fact that they warned us about Sata and the promises he was making. They both said there was no Barotseland Agreement that Sata was going to restore. They have since been proved right. 
 
When Sata appointed Roger Chongwe’s Commission of Inquiry, Hakainde Hichilema again warned us that Sata was just being evasive over the issue. Having promised to restore the Agreement, it was expected that Sata would move quick and do as he had pledged. The Commission of Inquiry was totally unnecessary; it was public knowledge that the police used excessive force in dealing with the January 14 incident.  The people who were in charge of the police and in charge of the that particular operation were known. That could have been dealt with without all the drama of the creating a Commission and spending so much taxpayers’ money.
 
The shootings in Mongu were just a tiny part of the larger grievance. The issue was the Agreement and its restoration. It was not therefore surprising that a huge chunk of the submissions to the Commission had nothing to do with the January 14 shootings, but with the restoration of the Agreement. In essence, that was the issue Sata should have been addressing himself to. So again Hakainde has been proved right when he said Sata was just using the Commission to evade the real issue.
 
Interestingly, restoring the Agreement or not was not part of Chongwe’s terms of reference.  The reason it has come up in the report is because, as stated above, the majority of submissions centred on the Agreement. If Chongwe had omitted those submissions, he would essentially have had nothing to report about. I am even surprised that Sata did not just tell off Chongwe that he had overstepped his mandate.
 
Not once, not twice, but several times Sata promised to restore the Barotseland Agreement. But this is a man whose record on this matter was well known. In 1994 he was part of the Committee of Cabinet Ministers appointed by Chiluba to look into the matter. He was blunt about it and said it was a dead issue. But in 2011 he was promising restoration of the very Agreement he had labelled ‘dead’.  In 2012, according to Sata, restoring the Agreement would “open a Pandora’s box.” When did he discover this? How can other provinces, as he now claims, also start demanding autonomy? On what basis? Do they also have similar Agreements? Didn’t he earlier say they would learn from Western Province about devolution of power? What has changed?
 
For me I am not blaming Sata, cunning as he is, because his record on this matter is well known. I am even surprised that some people had high hopes over this issue. Just go in the archives and you will find what his real position has always been.
 
Sata willfully went to Western Province to tell lies, to deceive the people, and on the basis of that, earned their vote.  The rest is none of his business.

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