Personal opinion by Sam Mulafulafu
Presidents Sata’s reaction to the report by the Chongwe Commission on 14th January 2010 Mongu riots took many people aback. Even the least knowledgeable about the 1964 Barotseland Agreement must have wondered why President Sata acted in the manner he did.
Without reading the report or consulting anybody to understand the contents of the report, he immediately declared that he would not support the recommendation to restore the Barotse Land Agreement of 1964 as it would set a bad precedence and cause chaos in the country. In the first place when did he realise this position; did he understand the Agreement differently when he was going around, during his presidential campaign, promising the people of Barotseland that he would restore the agreement if elected or is it that he was conscious of what he was doing and was merely trying to capitalise on the burning issue of the time to gain political mileage?
The PF Secretary General Mr Wynter Kabimba in the ZNBC televised broad cast of Monday 27th February 2012, by implication, confirmed that Mr Satas campaign promise on this matter was a wilful election gimmick as it was not in line with the PF manifesto. Lets’ not assume that voters out there carry political party manifestos to check whether what candidates are promising is in their party manifesto. Party campaigns, especially at Presidential level, are about selling party manifestos. We have always said that our politicians should demonstrate integrity even in the process of trying to woo support from voters and we now have a situation where excessive campaign promises made by President Sata have caught up with him. Had he been candid with the matter even at that time, his position today would surely have been seen as consistent.
From his reaction to the Commission’s report, it is clear that he never intended to even discuss the Agreement. If anything, he has been trying to build up misinformation among Zambians to misdirect an honest discussion of the matter with a possibility of reaching an amicable solution. How else can one explain his insistence that the agreement talks about cessation when it does not. This is clearly meant to build contempt and hate for the Barotse people by the rest of their brothers and sisters from other tribes. Mr Sata should be informed that during the time when Zambia (as Northern Rhodesia then) was a colony, only Barotseland was a British Protectorate and it is the lack of sincerity by our founding fathers in resolving of this status that still seem to haunt us today.
President Sata’s reaction to the Chongwe Commission report raises serious questions on the motive of the many Commissions he has put in place at great tax payers’ cost. The cost would be worth it if the commissions are meant to bring back integrity in the governance of our country because we would assume that the gains in the long term will offset the current costs being incurred. But his reaction now demonstrates that he has already pre-determined positions on many of the questions the Commissions are supposed to resolve and he expects the Commissions just to endorse his views. In that case the President should just make declarations as he has already done on many issues and save the country from incurring unnecessary costs. It does not help matters for Mr Wynter Kabimba (in the same broadcast alluded to above) to try and demonise or question the integrity of Mr Rodger Chongwe and his Commission because in doing so, he is actually indicting the judgement of the appointing authority. His suggestion that such commissions must be presided over by PF cadres is very strange as he is implying that such Commissions should by design not be objective.
The Presidents’ reaction to the Chongwe report is also a harbinger of what could happen to the report of the technical Committee on the Constitution since it is operating on Presidential trust!! One can imagine if the report of the Technical Committee proposed massive reduction of presidential powers (as always has been demanded by the public) or cancellation of the office of the District Commissioner etc, with this attitude, President Sata is likely to dismiss the report. Even the issue of the Constitutional referendum promised by the Technical Committee will depend on the Presidential mood of the time despite the fact that all stakeholders want it. Why else is the President so reluctant to appoint a Referendum Commission if his thinking is in consonant with the masses on this matter.