[By Austin Mbozi]
How chimbuya can help.
Supporters of Barotseland Agreement must demand it from President Hakainde Hichilema who is their mbuya (friendly tribal cousin). Step one of ending tribal politics is done. The historical agitation for a Tonga President has ended with the countrywide election of Hichilema and his reciprocation with non-tribally-based appointments. The final step is solving the Barotseland. And the Barotse can negotiate more happily with their mbuya president whom they politically identified with.
Do not underestimate the power of chimbuya. According to George Westbeech the European trader who visited Barotseland, the Lozi warriors in October 1888 arrived with some 20,000 cattle from raiding Tonga-Ila territories. Yet Tongas joke about it! Joking with thieves of my 20,000 cows? (No ways! Me I am Tonga. But any Lozi who will dare boast about such banditry in my presence will face my wrath).
Imagine if they do not demand Barotseland from Hichilema but only resume demanding it from their non-mbuya future presidents like Anthony Bwalya (a Bemba whom I prefer to take over)! Our Bemba-speaking brothers and sisters, who this time around significantly and patriotically supported Hichilema’s UPND, will be justified to feel bad. So, if the Barotse do not demand it from Hichilema we should not tolerate them demanding it after Hichilema leaves office.
Why Barotse Agreement was signed
British colonists found only one king in modern Zambia. The Litunga Lewanika Lubosi was like their own English monarchy, complete with a prime minister (ngambela) and a standing army within Western Province. They initially ruled through the British South Africa Company (BSA), which signed the Lochner Concession in 1890 with Lewanika, which also promised him military security (mainly against the threatening Ndebele) and development aid in exchange for the mineral and hunting rights. Barotseland North-Western Rhodesia at Mongu capital was later complete with a central bank, some degree-holder regional cabinet ministers and a national anthem, Bulozi fasi la bondataa luna. The rest of modern Zambia was ruled separately as North-Eastern Rhodesia from Fort Jameson (Chipata) by the BSA because there was no king to sign an agreement representing it all.
From 1911 the two territories were administered as Northern Rhodesia from Kalomo. In 1923, the British took over from the BSA and moved capital to Lusaka. Kaunda’s UNIP had many supporters in Barotseland. They opposed total independence that was championed by the locally- based Barotse National Party, preferring Barotseland regional powers. In 1963 UNIP won all the 25 seats in Barotse’s regional parliament, the Katengo Kuta. Yet when vice-president Simon Kapwepwe and Kaunda’s minister Sikota Wina consulted them at the Victoria Falls meeting, they shocked them and demanded a Barotseland Agreement. The British told Kaunda that Barotseland had the right to be an independent country. So Kaunda negotiated and signed the Barotseland Agreement on 18th May 1964, which promised them continued regional power within Zambia to control their fisheries, lands, forests, courts, a regional parliament (kuta), agriculture, local taxes etc.
How Kaunda abrogated Barotse Agreement
In October 1965 Kaunda abolished the Barotse Native Treasury, allegedly transferring 78.5 million pounds from it to the Zambian central government. In 1966 he sent his Lozi minister Munukayumbwa Sipalo to stop Witwatersrand Native Labour Authority (WNLA). WNLA recruited Lozi labourers, employed them in South African mines, taxed them and sent the taxes back to develop Barotseland (sweet initiative). In 1969 his stage-managed referendum (plebcite) asked all Zambians for permission to abrogate Barotse Agreement. The Barotse voted against, but the rest of Zambians allowed him. He abolished the Agreement.
How the Barotse used Barotse issue to gain political jobs
Unfortunately, many Barotse used it to bargain for personal political jobs. They historically fought for it when the Republican president is not their mbuya, but reduced hostilities when their mbuya was president. They did not demand it when supporting their fellow Lozi Godwin Mbikusita Lewanika’s ANC presidency (1948-1953) and when supporting their mbuya, a Tonga Harry Nkumbula’s ANC (1953-1972). But they demanded it from UNIP. In 1968 they sympathised with their fellow Lozi Nalumino Mundia’s UP. But in 1993 when Chiluba their non-mbuya was president their demands went as far as their Litunga Ilute Yeta III taking the Zambian government to court to restore it. He lost.
During their mbuya Mwanaswa’s administration (2001-2008) they reduced demands, only to resume them during their non-mbuya Rupiah Banda’s presidency (2008-2011). Two people were killed and 30 arrested in riots on 14 January 2010. Alarmed, opposition leaders Hichilema and Michael Sata promised to deliver it. Once in office, Sata appointed the Roger Chongwe Commission to investigate the problem, but hid its findings. Then he broke his 90-day promise and ordered police chief Dr Martin Malama to ‘stop smiling’ at the ‘fake’ Barotse leaders but shoot them. By the time Edgar Lungu took over high profile Barotse activists had been arrested or silenced; including Afumba Mombotwa, Kalima Inambao, Pelekelo Kalima, Paul Masiye and Maxwell Mututwa.
They won’t fight their mbuya Hichilema. Just like African Americans felt at the election of Barack Obama, the Barotse with the election of Hichilema have finally settled their bone of contention that they have been politically marginalised and their languages disrespected. So, it’s the right time to settle the Bartose issue.
How ‘new dawn’ ministers must prepare
My up-coming Part two will propose how UPND should handle Barotse if they bring it up. Readers, keep this article so that I will not have to repeat this history.
Meanwhile, Local Government minister Garry Nkombo must familiarise himself with how he will handle the Barotse by reading the following books: First, Bulozi Under Luyana Kings written by Dr Mainga Bull (2010). Second, 2014 Zambia’s Constitution Finally Righted written by Professor Sitwala Namwinji Imenda (2007). ‘New Dawn’ ministers must consult academic experts. So, readers must put pressure on education minister Douglas Syakalima to consult the following academics who published in free/loan-based education: Dr Gift Masaiti, Dr Kabembwa Mwenya and Dr Nelly Mwale (as I advised in my free education article on free education in The Mast of 18 September 2021).
The author is a lecturer at the University of Zambia and author of Language politics in Zambia (2018). Email: email@example.com, mobile +260 978 741920.