(By Chambwa Moonga in Itezhi-tezhi)
CHIEF Shimbizhi of Central Province has cautioned politicians against propagating tribal divisions in the country. Meanwhile, opposition Democratic Party president Harry Kalaba says the PF government is presiding over tribal hegemony. Kalaba was in Itezhi-tezhi on Sunday, accompanied by his party’s Democratic National Committee (DNC) members Philip Matavu and Colonel Newstead Nyirongo, Central Province chairman Christopher Noole, national women’s chairperson Bridget Nkhoma and national mobilisation chairman Ian Chapiya Shalusabanga.
After attending services at Charles Lwanga Catholic Parish and New Life Tabernacle, Kalaba and his delegation went to pay a courtesy call on Shimbizhi of the Ila people.
“Many don’t come. It’s very rare to have someone visiting this time; very far from elections,” Shimbizhi told Kalaba.
Kalaba said he was last in Itezhi-tezhi some seven years when he was a deputy minister in the Office of the Vice-President.
He expressed shock that the road network in Itezhi-tezhi was still poor.
“It’s as if Itezhi Tezhi is not part of Zambia! This should be a tourism place. I was informed that some two, three weeks ago, about eight people died and if we are not careful, we’ll continue losing a lot of lives on that road (Itezhi-tezhi road from Lusaka-Mongu turn-off) because it’s suicidal. But this government doesn’t care, your royal highness,” Kalaba noted.
He added that it was an unacceptable irony that while Itezhi-tezhi district sat on the banks of Kafue River, its residents were grappling with access to clean drinking water.
“You are near the Kafue River but you don’t have water. That is an irony and it’s unacceptable that you should live in that fashion. So, for me and my colleagues, we want to begin looking at those issues seriously and channel resources where they need to be,” he said.
Kalaba lamented evident despondency in Itezhi-tezhi, regardless the district being blessed with wildlife, water and livestock.
“What we require is to change the thinking and having been a foreign affairs minister, I have seen how other countries are living,” Kalaba indicated.
The traditional leader, on his part, observed that Zambia’s tragedy was that principled men and women were either not there or few in number.
“The fact that you resigned from government shows how much principled you are…” Shimbizhi told Kalaba.
Shimbizhi, a former deputy head teacher at Mumbwa Secondary School, complained about the lack of a bridge across the Kafue river in his chiefdom.
“We are brothers and sisters with the people in Namwala district and we are separated by just the Kafue River. But we can’t access each other during the rainy season because we don’t have a bridge going to Namwala,” he lamented.
“We feel marginalised as a district. We left Southern Province a few years ago…. We have 120 megawatts of electricity being produced at Itezhi-tezhi dam but there is no single household here [in Shimbizhi] with electricity. We are just using solar panels!”
He underscored that Itezhi-tezhi was a rich region.
“This is a cattle belt. We have wildlife, we are generating electricity, we have fish. We have everything except that because of climate change, we have a problem of a poor harvest,” Shimbizhi said.
“But the lack of access to electricity has affected us because it’s not only our homes that need to be connected to electricity. We need to have an abattoir. We have been trying to offer land to people for an abattoir but they are shunning because there is no electricity. Otherwise people here are very serious in terms of producing wealth.”
Meanwhile, Shimbizhi recalled that Dr Kenneth Kaunda introduced a one party State system genuinely because of: “what was happening.”
“So, even now my advice to you politicians is that let’s not divide this country because of tribes because we’ll end up having violence which we’ll fail to control. We’ll also not have the quality leadership that we need because people we’ll be looking at the tribe and not the capacity of someone to deliver,” counselled Shimbizhi.
“To me, I have been out there in the public service and my enemy number one is tribalism. Wherever I have worked, I have interacted with people from all over.”
In response, Kalaba stressed that he did not subscribe to tribalism and that: “I have always said it is not benefiting anybody.
“It is only benefiting the politicians and the politicians are now managing to divide us. They keep saying ‘I’m from Luapula Province and so, you people from Luapula should vote for me.’ ‘I’m from Southern Province and you people from Southern should vote for me.’ ‘I’m from Eastern Province and you people from Eastern Province should vote for me,’” Kalaba noted.
“When Harry Mwaanga Nkumbula and Dr Kaunda did the Choma Declaration in 1973, they showed us that we are stronger when we are united and weaker when we are divided. But the politicians we have today have forgotten their history and they are insisting about tribe.”
He emphasised the need for co-existence among Zambia’s 73 tribes, adding that on that score, “Dr Kaunda did very well.”
“[But] the current leadership that we have, your royal highness, I’m sad to report that it is dividing us. It is presiding over tribal hegemony. It is them-versus-us! Look at how people are killing each when there is a by-election! Almost in every by-election somebody must die, as if it’s now a cult that we should sacrifice some people!” complained Kalaba.
Later, Kalaba and Shimbizhi drove to the pontoon on the Kafue River – about six kilometres from the chief’s palace.
The pontoon is 47 kilometres from Itezhi-tezhi town and about 12 kilometres away from Namwala town in Southern Province.
As Kalaba and his delegation moved from one place to another, Itezhi-tezhi police officers trailed for possible eavesdropping.