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Why it is Wrong for the Chitimukulu to propose an amendment to Zambia’s Constitution to Create the “Council of Paramount Chiefs”

We have read the article from the Mwine Lubemba, Chitimukulu of the Bemba people – His Majesty Kanyanta Manga II. His Majesty is proposing an amendment to the Constitution of Zambia so that there can be created in the Constitution a body called the “Council of Paramount Chiefs.” In this proposal, his Majesty wants a position for himself, Mpezeni, Litunga, and Gawa Undi the four paramount chiefs chosen according to the relics of our collective colonial past.

As a forceful writer, His Majesty’s opinions and proposals though, do not end at that. He has now suggested that the ball is now in the courts of the Lozi MPs who must now do the right thing and support these changes using Bill 10 – a Bill that is currently before the house awaiting Second Reading. I found it quite bizarre that His Majesty is characterising this amendment as something that should be made possible by the UPND Lozi MPs who must support “their king”. By that, Mwine Lubemba seems to be suggesting that the King of the Lozis, His Majesty Lubosi Imwiko, wants this Council of Paramount Chiefs created and supported these efforts. Since the Litunga cannot speak directly (according to the Lozi tradition), we cannot verify Kanyanta Manga II’s proposal.

We find it entirely unnecessary for this extra body to be created in the Constitution of Zambia. Other than trying to create a constitutional role for the four paramount chiefs of Zambia, there is really no discernible purpose for the creation of this body – we already have the House of Chiefs. Paramount Chiefs in Zambia, the four of them, preside over very few Zambians. The jurisdiction of Mwine Lubemba himself is over the Bemba-proper and some few tribes that they conquered a few decades ago. Mpezeni presides over a few Ngonis and so does the wisest of them all – Gawa Undi. The only paramount chief who presides over a significant territory with a diverse cast of tribes under him is the Litunga, currently King Lubosi Imwiko. But now to come and think that the Chitimukulu is suggesting that he and these three should form a Council under our Constitution is entirely untenable.
I must here hasten to say that there is some legitimacy to the claim that the Lozis (in their diversity) and in particular, their Litunga can demand some constitutional legitimacy within a united Zambia considering the history of Zambia. Zambia was at least in a sense, created by a deal Kenneth Kaunda made with the Litunga. They signed the Barotseland Agreement of April 1964, after protracted negotiations that started as early as 1962. If the Litunga wants to negotiate for himself and his people a better deal in a united Zambia, I will not fault him. But for the Mwine Lubemba to insert himself in this issue and try to request that Zambia recognises the four paramount chiefs in the Constitution is entirely unnecessary. The Bemba-proper (aba Bemba nkonko), their kings or themselves as a people, do not share a common or shared colonial history akin to what was happening in Barotseland. The Bembas would call this kind of thing “umulomo”, and I agree that what Kanyanta Manga II is doing here mulomo. He had better leave the Lozis alone – or perhaps if there is any support he can give them is to try and encourage some respect from the Zambian regime concerning the Barotseland Agreement.

Kanyanta Manga II appears to have misunderstood colonial history. Paramount Chiefs became paramount, not because they were inherently more powerful, or presided over more people than others, or that they were wiser, or that they influenced provinces, or any other reason. They became paramount chiefs due to an anomaly of history, both colonial and Kaundan history. It is ridiculous to give this anomaly any constitutional legitimacy at this stage.

If indeed Kanyanta Manga II succeeds with this proposal, and it appears the sponsored choirs have already started their agitations in support of Mwine Lubemba’s proposal, I will then request that Kazembe be elevated to become a paramount chief. Kazembe was powerful. It was just the white colonialist who mellowed his power and clipped his black colonialist wings. Otherwise, Kazembe was the colonializing leader of the Luapula Valley. To this day, Kazembe remains a force of stability among the diverse Luapulans. Even if his Lunda peoples are very few in number – he has been recognised as a true stable leader. He must become part of that Council, Kanyanta Manga is trying to create. In addition to Kazembe, another chief can be added from Luapula. It is not fair that Eastern Province and Malawians have two paramount Chiefs, while many provinces have none. To balance up the things – Luapula must supply two – Kazembe and one Ushi Senior Chief. Of course, we Ushis quarrel about who should be the senior of Milambo and Matanda. I am not going to pick any between Milambo and Matanda, except to say that one should be recognised as the paramount chief.

But then other tribes too will want their senior chiefs to be paramount. And then we will keep going on and on. Ba Kaonde, Ba Kalubale, Ba Kalunda, Aba Tonga and several other tribes will also demand a cut from the Council of Paramount Chiefs. And all this will lead to more confusion. A confusion that can be avoided if Kanyanta Manga II became content with his position as leader of the Bemba-proper and occasional columnist of newspapers.
But he wants more. And it seems he has a political party that is so bent on causing confusion that it is allowing him to come up with all these suggestions – way out of turn, and out of common sense, the law and the Constitution.

Any way, Kanyanta Manga II has my support. We thought that President Sata, Defence Minister Lungu and Chiefs Minister Nkandu Luo were unfair to Kanyanta Manga II when they refused to recognise him as the supreme leader of the Bembas. While Kanyanta Manga II seems to be quite sharp, intelligent, and sometimes verbose, I do not support his suggestion to create this totally unnecessary “Council of Paramount Chiefs.” Mulomo!
Elias Munshya can be reached at elias@munshyalaw.com.

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