The Danger of living in ‘denial syndrome’ in Zambia

By Sity Mwitu

When people, especially if they are either social, economic, religious or even political leaders, and are either university graduates from UNZA, CBU or indeed from any of the universities abroad, begin to exhibit the “Living in Denial” (LID) syndrome, then the country is in a lot of trouble. Denial is the refusal to accept and acknowledge the truth or the existence and severity of unpleasant external realities or internal thoughts and feelings. Many attempts have been made to water down the importance of the Barotseland Agreement of 1964. Some people with an LID syndrome have even called it stale. Some have even said it is no longer applicable in the modern times. But the Barotseland Agreement has been in the Zambian Constitution since 24th October 1964 until recently when people who do not love Zambia tried to remove it from the Draft Constitution. From the 24th October 1964, it therefore, formed part of the highest law in Zambia, which is the Constitution of Zambia. If it was stale, outdated or even dead, then even the Zambian Constitution is dead and therefore, it is longer applicable in these modern times, where marginalized people, with clear and defined historical roots, are advocating for self determination. If the agreement was a dead issue or stale, Barotseland would not have reacted in the way they did weather Mr. Kaingu was trying to broker peace or not or whether Dr. Imakando was consulted to give advice or not. If either Mr. Kaingu or indeed any other elite Lozi of profound standing were involved, they should not feel ashamed. It is their right to stand for their people when their people’s rights are infringed upon. But how did the people with an LID syndrome react, they killed innocent people in broad day light as if they were like the five criminals that were recently gunned down in Ndola in the Copperbelt. The ADD President made it very clear to his fellow Barotseland MPs who stood and watched, may be with pleasure, while their own defenseless voters were being slaughtered like dogs in broad day light. He asked them how they would go back to the same people and ask for their votes when they did not protect them at the time of need. Bravo to General Malimba Masheke for having added his voice to the voiceless and impoverished Barotse people. For surely the President’s hands are stained with blood.

To deny that Bembas and Nyanjas do not hate Lozis, just because of some either misconstrued ideology of one Zambia one nation, whose objective was to marginalize other ethnic groups in Zambia or because of some isolated cases of misguided intermarriages and unfounded and baseless friendships, is in itself a syndrome of living in denial. If intermarriages and friendships among different tribes of any country provided such a strong social fiber, then the genocides that occurred in Kosovo, Rwanda and Darfur region of Southern Sudan would not only have occurred, but would not also be good case studies for scholarly work in psychology, sociology and anthropology in relation to conflict management and resolutions. “There is a saying which states that blood is thicker than water” literally translated in Nyanja as “Wako Ni Wako”. It is not false to state that most of the Zambians who have mingled with Nyanjas have not only seen, but felt the effect of Wako Ni Wako policy in their everyday life. By the way it is foolish to insinuate that just because many Zambians can speak Nyanja in other Provinces just like they do with other local languages, then Nyanja can also represent tribes from other Provinces rather than Eastern Province. Why is it that Americans of African origins are always referred to as Black Americans? This is so because not every black person who lives in America is an American. Nyanja will always be associated with Eastern Province whether one likes it or not just as Lozi is to Barotseland so is Tonga to Southern Province, Luvale and Kaonde to North Western Province, Bemba to Northern and Luapula; Lamba to the Copperbelt as Soli and Lenja is to Lusaka Province.

It is not surprising to note that in most cases, people living in denial, normally tend to hide their heads in the sand while leaving their bodies exposed to the enemy as stated in the Ostrich proverb. Bembas and Nyanjas in Zambia or indeed any other ethnic group anywhere in the world like the Chinese over Tibetans in China or the Shonas over Ndebele in Zimbabwe just to mention a few, they will always put on the sheep skin and yet their inside true feelings revealed through actions that cannot be hidden will always indicate that think they are the majority and are a superior tribe as compared to others. Zambia is part of the global village and the events that happen in the world also affect Zambia. Just as the whole world is experiencing the Climate Change phenomena, as Zambians we should also awaken to world events that are shaping global destiny and one such event is the Era of Self Determination (ESD). We are now living in the “Era of Self Determination” world over. The sooner such people and their leaders, with superiority complex, in such countries realize and accept their condition of self denial the better because less blood will be shed. The ESD which is fueled by lack of social, economic, religious and political equity among the citizens of a nation will continue, on one hand, to split up countries while, on the other hand, merge others. On one hand, this era seeks to regroup peoples having similar ethnic backgrounds, cultures and beliefs like it was in the case of Germany while on the other hand split nations with incoherent ethnic groupings, cultures and beliefs like it was in the case of the fall of the Soviet Union and Czechoslovakia. In Europe countries that are likely to be split in the future are such as Russia, Belgium, and Spain even if the rebels there (Spain) seem to have declared ceased fire. The interesting thing about the breaking up of nations in Europe is that most of them will regroup under the European Union as independent states. In Asia, vulnerable countries include China and most of the countries were some ethnic groups are fighting for separate states such as in Philippine, Sri Lanka and India. In the Middle East, Turkey which is influenced by both Europe as well as Middle East will be affected; Iraq, Iran, Lebanon and Israel will also be affected. In North America, Canada will be a victim while in South America; Columbia will start the ball rowing. In Africa, it started with Ethiopia being the victim, Somali issues would have been resolved a long time ago if the people of that country were not living in self denial. No matter what happens, Sudan is a victim, other countries will include Kenya, Tanzania, Congo DR, Ivory Coast, Central Republic, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Namibia as well as Angola. Nigeria is at risk of splitting up in the future because of the conflicts in the Delta region and the way the conflicts have been handled in the past despite practicing federal type of government. On the other hand countries like North and South Korea will finally merge. Countries that will survive the ESD are countries practicing either federal type of government system, where provinces or states enjoy semi or full autonomous but still under a federal government or countries in which there is equality of all citizens irrespective of their creed, race, tribe, religion, colour, sex and upholds human rights as well as respect for the minorities.

I firmly believe that people that have had the privileged to study psychology at tertiary level will know that in psychology, denial is a concept originating with the psychodynamic theories of Sigmund Freud. According to Freud, three mental dynamics, or motivating forces, influence human behavior: the id, ego, and superego. I have decided to use Freud’s theory to identify some mental dynamics that influence behaviours in Bembas, Nyanjas and the rest of other tribes especially the Barotse people, although this may not be conclusive. According to Freud’s theory, the id consists of basic survival instincts and what Freud believed to be the two dominant human drives, which are sex and aggression. Freud states that if the id were the only influence on behavior, humans would exclusively seek to increase pleasure, decrease pain, and achieve immediate gratification of desires. The nearest tribe in Zambia that seems to fit this picture is Bemba. Three things can be noted if the id was the only factor to influence behaviour and these are survival instincts, sex and aggression. This is the driving force in every Bemba and this is what defines their everyday life: “Natolafwe” and “Sebana Wikute” irrespective of their rank and file. Therefore, it is not surprising to note that Bembas are synonymous with crime. It does not matter whether one is educated or not whether they are Christians or not, it appears crime is genetically inborn in them. Despite these facts being obvious, they will still deny it because they benefit from it, which is a clear sign of the LID syndrome. During the late President Dr. Levy Patrick Mwanawasa’s tenure, when Dr. FTJ Chiluba had just been taken to the court of law regarding his plunder of national resources allegations, one of the chiefs in Luapula admitted that thieving in Bemba tradition was ok, but the chief’s statement which did not only irk the late President, was also received with bad taste in the nation.

Freud also states that the ego consists of logical and rational thinking. It enables humans to analyze the realistic risks and benefits of a situation, to tolerate some pain for future profit, and to consider alternatives to the impulse-driven behaviour of the id. In Zambia this type of behaviour reflects the egos of Nyanjas. This situation exactly defines the behaviour of Nyanjas in their walk of life of “Wako Ni Wako” syndrome. To them safety is in the number of tribesmen around you. Tribalism, favouritism and nepotism are actually their every day food. Employee a Nyanja as the Chief Executive or as Director of Human Resources responsible for recruitment, the whole company or organization will be full of Nyanjas, a bad habit that has been copied by other tribes to the detriment of development.

Freud further reveals that the superego consists of moralistic standards and forms the basis of the conscience. Although the superego is essential to a sense of right and wrong, it can also include extreme, unrealistic ideas about what one should and should not do. In Zambia, this appears to be the motivating force that defines the sober character of other tribes including the Barotse people. This explains the approach the Barotse people took on that fateful Friday. Despite the government’s warnings to deal with them ruthlessly, they braved to face the spirit of death, and in voicing their poverty and rights, they were shoot in cold blood. It was interesting to note at the forefront of this saga was the President Mr. Rupiah Banda, the policy implementer under Home Affairs was Hon. Mr. Mkhondo Lungu, while the spokes person before the saga was Hon. Dora Siliya as Acting Information and Broadcasting Services and the policy executer under Zambia Policy was Mr. Francis Kabonde and the Director of operations in Mongu was the Commissioner of Policy Dr. Solomon Jere. It would be interesting to know the tribe of the police officers that carried out the shooting in Mongu. Was it Nyanjas using state power verses the impoverished Barotse people?

In Freud’s theory he observes that the three forces all have different goals (id seeks pleasure, ego deals with reality while the superego is concerned with morality) and continually strive for dominance, resulting in internal conflict. This conflict produces anxiety. The ego, which functions as a mediator between the two extremes of the id and the superego, attempts to reduce this anxiety by using defense mechanisms. Defense mechanisms are indirect ways of dealing or coping with anxiety, such as explaining problems away or blaming others for problems. And this is exactly what Dr. Kaunda did when he finally spoke. He blamed others for the document on which he penned his signature. Instead of providing guidance to the whole issue, he just added salt to the injury. Denial is one of many defense mechanisms. It entails ignoring or refusing to believe an unpleasant reality. Defense mechanisms protect one’s psychological wellbeing in traumatic situations, or in any situation that produces anxiety or conflict. However, they do not resolve the anxiety-producing situation and, if overused, can lead to psychological disorders. Although Freud’s model of the id, ego, and superego is not emphasized by most psychologists today, defense mechanisms are still regarded as potentially maladaptive behavioural patterns that may lead to psychological disorders. And once you have people living in self denial as leaders, they will never have fear for public property, they will always be right; they will be unadvisable, intolerant and will only mind and protect the interest of their own people.

Freud in his theory gives different examples of forces that may lead people to live in denial. Death is a common occasion for denial. When someone learns of the sudden, unexpected death of a loved one, at first he or she may not be able to accept the reality of this loss. The initial denial protects that person from the emotional shock and intense grief that often accompanies news of death. Chronic or terminal illnesses also encourage denial. People with such illnesses may think, “It’s not so bad; I’ll get over it,” and refuse to make any lifestyle changes.

Denial can also apply to internal thoughts and feelings. For instance, some children are taught that anger is wrong in any situation. As adults, if these individuals experience feelings of anger, they are likely to deny their feelings to others. Cultural standards and expectations can encourage denial of subjective experience. Men who belong to cultures with extreme notions of masculinity and aggression may view fear as a sign of weakness and deny internal feelings of fear. The Chinese culture is thought to discourage the acknowledgment of mental illness, resulting in individuals denying their psychological symptoms and often developing physical symptoms instead. Certain personality disorders tend to be characterized by denial more than others. For example, those with narcissistic personality disorder deny information that suggests they are not perfect. Antisocial behaviour is characterized by denial of the harm done to others. Denial can also be exhibited on a large scale- among groups, cultures, or even nations. Another example of large-scale denial is the recent assertion by some that the World War II Holocaust never occurred just as some people in Zambia with an LID syndrome are denying that Barotseland Agreement is not a valid document.

One thing that I know about people who live in denial is that the truth hurts. And not only people who live in denial, but also thieves. Despite being caught red handed, a thief will always deny that they have not stolen. Another thing I know about policy makers is that they make policies that favour them. Fortunately CBU has just made public its list of successful candidate for 2011. I did not want to analyze the distribution of educational power among the tribes of Zambia for the whole degree programmes at CBU, but instead I have just chosen the School of Business using the BACC/BBA/Marketing degree programme for illustration purposes. In one of my articles that I had posted on ZW, in which I mentioned of educationalcide, to which some people with an LID syndrome cried foal, I now present to you, just as an example, of how wealth is distributed in the Zambian industry using university degree programmes. My analysis is based on the case of CBU, School of Business under Bachelor of Accountancy, Bachelor of Business and Administration and Marketing Programme for 2011 intake.

Distribution of Educational Power at a Tertiary Institution – CBU

Obvious Bemba

Obvious Nyanja

Obvious Lozi

Obvious Tonga

Unidentified

Total

s/n

Degree Program

Names

Names

Names

Names

Names

Selection

1.0

BACC/BBA/Marketing

103

46

24

16

39

228

Total

103

46

24

16

39

228

Percentage

45.2

20.2

10.5

7.0

17.1

100

Source: The names of successful candidates were obtained from Zambia Daily Mail, Wednesday January 19, 2011

If a similar analysis was done at graduation time, the picture would be worse in terms of the actual distribution of educational power or the tool for creating wealthy in the industry by each ethnic group in Zambia. It would also be interesting to correlate the results to the poverty levels among Zambia’s ethnic groups. If you took your child to a shoe store like Bata or PEP in order to buy him or her some school shoes and the child tells you, as a parent, that the pair of school shoes you have chosen for him or her is too small and that the child does not like the type of school shoes you have chosen for him or her, scorning or beating your child in public would not solve the problem. Sit down with your child and reach a win-win situation if you desire your child to do better at school.

When I talked about is Zambia headed for genocide, the cry of Barotseland, it was long before the riots came. But today lives have been lost with contradicting reports on the actual people shot dead. The reports range from 2 as per government report, 7 as reported by eNews a South Africa channel and between 7 and 9 from eye witnesses in Western Province. And later on the Republic President Mr. Rupiah Banda (RB) was reported to have regretted the loss of lives in Barotseland. Who is he apologizing to? Is it to the Barotse people, the BRE, and the families of the actual victims or to the Zambians? Mr. RB as President of Zambia had the power to sit down with all the concerned stakeholders in order to find an amicable solution. The SACCORD President Mr. Lee Habasonda had advised the President to give an ear to the activists and find out what their grievances were, but no, he did not take the advice because he had an agenda and they accomplish their mission. Therefore, I find the President’s apology very offensive and dehumanizing as regards the dignity of the people of Barotseland. As for the President vying to be re-elected in 2011, killing as well as hurting potential voters, who are already socially, economically and politically disadvantaged, in an election year was supposed to be his last resort unless this confirms that 2011 Presidential elections results have already been determined.

What is amazing is that in an election year why should the President so desperate for votes take such a huge risk of jeopardizing his chances of getting some votes in Western Province and among the Lozis spread throughout Zambia? Whoever advised him to take such a ruthless path to kill as well as hurt poor innocent citizen has just managed to close the door for his re-election to plot 1 unless his mafias have already rigged the 2011 Presidential elections results. People with an LID syndrome will never acknowledge and accept the truth until much harm has been done.

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