Shifting goal posts on Barotseland

By Charles Nyambe

Sometime in 2011, to be precise, on July 21, I authored an article under the title “Political Expediency” based on an editorial comment of the POST newspaper of July 21 2011. I had then quoted part of the editorial referred to and I reproduce it here again for ease of reference:

“The people of Barotseland have made it clear on what they want. They are not interested in a Politian coming up to tell them what he wants the Barotse Agreement to be. The solution to this issue lies in meeting the people on their terms, on what they want – give to the people of Barotseland what they want. And what the people of Barotseland want, and indeed the rest of the country wants, is the restoration of the Barotse Agreement in a manner that will benefit them and the rest of the country. The whole country will benefit from the restoration of the Barotseland Agreement. And that is why the whole country is today in support of the restoration of the Barotse Agreement because it is a progressive document that will help deepen democracy in our country and improve the governance of our country.”

I must add that in the same article, I made reference to an article of the Weekly Post (now the POST) of July 1992 authored by the Managing Director on the subject “Barotse Agreement is at variance with modern political order.” Again for ease of reference I reproduce some parts of the said article:

“Failure to realize this constitutes part of the explanation why those advocating for the restoration of this agreement are prepared to waste their time and energies on a dead issue which if honoured will only serve to restrict rather than broaden democracy in Western Province.”

“I hope the MMD government will not make the same mistake the United National Independence Party (UNIP) made of abandoning the goal of the struggle for democracy in favour of an ill-defined quest for national unity”.

“The issue of concern now is not the Barotseland Agreement but the advancement of democracy for the whole country. This is where time and energy should be directed”.

I found the position taken by the Weekly Post / the POST contradictory because in one breath it described the Barotseland Agreement 1964 as a dead issue and in another, progressive. For this reason, I said then, that all those that were making the BA 64 a campaign issue; be thempoliticians, or any media house for that matter; public or private were simply doing so for their own expediency purposes. I concluded my July 2011 article by saying “the Barotseland Agreement is not an election issue. It is an issue about the unitary status of Zambia; with or without elections. To make it an election issue means it will immediately fade away in oblivion after elections.”

During the run-up to the 2011 general elections which were held on 27 September 2011 and successfully won by the Patriotic Front (PF) with Mr. Michael Chilufya Sata (now His Excellency the President of Zambia) the BA 64 because a darling of the time. Mr. Sata then, now the republican President and his loyal followers made several pronouncements about this issue. Running through the memory lane I bring to the fore what was said then about the BA 64:

THE POST, Tuesday May 24, 2011, page 4:

“The meaning of the Barotseland Agreement is power to the people. The British government ruled this country for 70 years. In this 70 years they ruled through village headmen. They ruled through chiefs.”  “…..All of us who are here and those who are not here, there is no way we can fail to implement the Barotse Agreement.” (Mr. Sata).

THE POST, Wednesday February, 2011, page 4:

“We believe that the issue of the Barotse Agreement has been pending for a long time and now time is ripe to completely hold the bull by its horns and deal with the matter of the Barotse Agreement conclusively.” (CCZ president Moses Mwale at a meeting with then President Rupia Banda).

SUNDAY POST  22 May 2011:

“No sensible leader or political party can dispute this agreement that gave rise to Zambia. It is a valid agreement. The abrogation of this agreement was through an Act of Parliament which changed the whole system of local government,” Sata said. “The restoration of this agreement has therefore to be done through the same Parliament…….”

The list is endless.

A few days ago, the Dr. Rodger Chongwe Commission of Inquiry into the Mongu saga of January 14, 2011 presented its findings to His Excellency Sata recommending among other things “the restoration of the Barotseland Agreement of 1964.” To back his team’s recommendation, Dr Chongwe said: “As a matter of urgency, your government repeals the Constitutional Amendment Act of 1969 which abrogated the Barotseland Agreement of 1964. Doing so will restore the Barotseland Agreement of 18th May 1964. This may in turn restore lasting peace and unity in our country.” But alas! The President rejected the proposal, saying it would “open a Pandora’s box.” The President noted that restoring the Barotseland agreement would cause the other native authorities in the country to rise up and demand secession a situation that would likely destabilize the country.  (Zambian Watchdog, February 24, 2012).

This is barely within a period of less than twelve months of the many promises made!! Should this turn of events be called “political expediency?”  Or can we say the President has lied over the issue of the BA 64. The answer to both questions is YES.

What will the Church, Civil Society Organisations, the media and individuals say? I will simply keep my ears to the ground and hoping people of Barotseland know what they want.

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