By Henry Kanyanta Sosala
I believe that issues relating to land are crucial, critical, sensitive and important in human life and that is why history has recorded so many wars on land. The Bemba political hero and Zambia’s ‘’Aristotle,’’ the late Mr. Simon Mwansa Kapwepwe warned Zambians immediately after we attained our independence in 1964:
“We should jealously guard our land because if we lose it God has stopped creating countries.”(The Kapwepwe Diaries by Goodwin Bwalya Mwangilwa)
Zambian politicians have never all along been comfortable with the presence of chiefs and when we attained our independence in 1964 President Kaunda abolished The Barotse and Native Authorities and thereby abrogated the powers and authority of chiefs which they had been enjoying during the colonial rule. And as at now, no-one can really define the role and position of the Institution of Chiefs in the modern democratic society and also the rightful position of traditional authority in the current democratic governance of Zambia.
There is an uneasy relationship between politicians and chiefs and more particularly on land issues since chiefs hold ace cards. And I believe that these ‘’ghost wars’’ stem from the protracted struggle to accept the status of traditional leaders by politicians can be viewed as a conflict of generations. By and large, the tribal society has been gerontological and this means that the high status and the tribal political power have been the prerogative of the aged i.e., the knowledge of the soil; of the magic to protect oneself in high office against the manifestation of one rivals; of the esoteric and mysteries of chieftaincy etc., mostly came largely with advance of age. And this automatically means that the Institution of Chiefs is deemed to be monopolized by old fashioned, primitive and un-educated madalas totally immersed in the secrets and mysteries of their long-dead ancestors.
And in this respect, a Zambia Daily Mail reporter, Nigel Mulenga did not mince words when Members of the House of Chiefs asked the government for car loan facilities: ‘’……a man who can barely write, let alone sing the National Anthem to drive a posh car!’’
On the other hand, when the Chiefs were asking the government to remove Article 296 in the Constitution that vested Zambia’s landmass into the office of the Republican President who held it in perpetuity for, and on behalf of Zambians. In fact this article was enacted for the sole purpose of over-riding the powers of the Litunga, the king of Barotseland in Western Province. Then McDonald Chipenzi, who is on a foreign payroll and the Grand Coalition spokesperson said:
‘’Chiefs should not accept to be used by politicians and stand for something that they did not understand and that is why it is important for them to reject any manipulation on issues of national interest.’’ (Daily Nation 25th April 2015).
The key clause in this statement is: ‘’stand for something they did not understand.’’
Admittedly chiefs like everybody else including McDonald Chipenzi himself are ignorant in so many areas. For sure no one should think or claim to have monopoly of wisdom. However, one area that traditional rulers are not so ignorant about is on land issues. For example, the opening of mines of the copper-belt in the 1930s attracted South African white farmers to this country and the creation of the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland (i.e., Zambia, Zimbabwe and Malawi) made the Africans fear to lose land to the white settlers. And in 1952, a delegation comprising of Paramount Chief Chitimukulu Musungu, Senior Chief Musokotwane, politicians and trade unionists went to London to present their case to His Majesty’s Government.
Their statement in part read:
‘’….the placing of the final decision in the hand of the Secretary of State for Colonies as to the safe guarding of the land rights of the Africans is no security even under the Protectorate Government……. The African people of Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia) are much concerned about the safety of their land under the Protectorate Government. The laws which protected their land rights have been altered so as to make it possible for the Protectorate Government to alienate their land…’’
Paramount Chief Chitimukulu Musungu was interviewed by a reporter from Nottingham Journal on 5th May, 1952, when he said:
‘’I would like to hear what we have done to violate the agreement with Queen Victoria, that we would live under her and be given protection. We look upon Federation as a proposal to bar Africans from their land. My people will not, in anyway, accept Federation.’’
On the other hand, when the colonial administration tried to implement the so-called ‘’conservation’’ measures in Luapula-Bangweulu area led to the 1953 rebellion. It was felt among the Aushi, Kabende and Ng’umbo people that the conditions impinged unjustly on their God-given land. And as a result, three chiefs led by Senior Chief Milambo stood up in opposition and incited their followers to civil disobedience because it was seen as the first step towards the annulment of the African population’s rights to their land. The colonial government responded to the rebellion forcefully, deposing Senior Chief Milambo and had him exiled across Lake Bangweulu in Luwingu District.
And as much as I have drawn examples from our ancestors’ history to contradict McDonald Chipenzi’s utterances, an amateur who has never studied imperialism and the capitalist-exploiters have a history too on which they also lean dating from the early years of colonization. It is an impeccable vision to acquire a large chunk of Africa’s landmass and indeed about 60% of Africa’s landmass is currently secure in white hands.
And let us now listen to Reverend Josiah Strong who in his book Our Country argued the case of Anglo-Saxon hegemony:
‘’…the tendencies unfold the future; they are the mighty alphabet with which God writes His prophecies….It seems to me that God with infinite wisdom and skill is training the Anglo-Saxon race for an hour sure to come in the world’s future…..every civilization has its destructive and preservative elements. Bring savages into contact with our civilization and its destructive forces become operative at once…. Where there is one missionary, there are hundreds of miners or traders or adventurers ready to debauch the native. Whether the extinction of inferior races before the advancing Anglo-Saxon seems to the reader sad or otherwise, it certainly appears probable. I know of nothing except climatic conditions to prevent this race from populating Africa as it has peopled North Africa.’’ (emphasis mine).
Since then, Reverend Strong’s ideas have been handed over to white generations like a baton in a relay race. For example, The Millennium Challenge Corporation was established in 2004 as a US government corporation aimed at fulfilling the 2002 Monterrey Consensus to ‘’provide resources to countries taking greater responsibility for their own development. And on the issues of eligibility for Zambia, it was stated that Zambia must be re-selected in December 2009 and 2010. And vulnerable areas were: control of corruption, immunization rates, health expenditure, primary education expenditure and land rights.
In fact, it was Simeo Siame who let the cat out of the bag:
‘’It would appear that there is a new Zambian group that now wants to introduce it’s agenda, aside from people’s earlier submission to the Constitution. Beware, this is the ugly head of capitalism trying to gain space and firm hold on us. The World Bank talks of compensation when customary land is lost. How can customary land be lost? And to whom will land be lost, if I may ask? This is a wage to thrust capitalist land speculation. If this should happen, I am sure you know who will buy the land. We must refuse to be compensated for a property we already own. The paper further states that the rights of people who have lived more than five years on customary land should be recognized. This is sure accommodation of foreigners on our land. The people should reject this recognition. This is how nations cause problems for themselves. The stance of any nation must be that foreigners cannot own land.’’ (Sunday Post 16th July 2006).
Ian Manning also spoke about the new Zambian group of land mercenaries that was negotiating with the World Bank, ‘’I pointed this out to the meeting and asked why it was that no traditional leaders, the National Research Consultative Forum (NRCF) or civil society were at the meeting or had been consulted.’’ (The Post 17th January 2007).
In fact, the World Bank programmes have done more damage than good in Africa and here is what Dr. David Morgan wrote:
‘’To acknowledge that some previously African development policies may have been a mistake is not a familiar experience…. The first major international organization to be forced into repudiation of some of its key strategies was the World Bank, which admitted that some of its support projects had been ill-judged and environmentally unsustainable and no longer an accepted price to pay for development. The World Bank now expressed doubt that some of the aid policies it had promoted may be substantially flawed and may have even inflicted more damage to the drive for development than success in providing tangible assistance and permanent benefits…. There is overwhelming evidence that the rate of development in most of Africa is perilously below that which is required to serve its rapidly growing population and alleviate poverty of its people.’’(emphasis mine).
You can see how Zambians on foreign payrolls can destroy the people and the nation. And who can argue with the former South African President, P.W. Botha who according to the current situation in Zambia had hit a nail on the head when he said that the white man would use the African’s love of money to destroy himself. ‘’Here is a creature who lacks foresight.’’
The Land History
The guideline on the role of chiefs in the land administration can only be drawn from the creation of Native Trust Lands, by Northern Rhodesia (Native Trust Lands) Orders-in-Council 1947, which was meant to benefit the indigenous people. This Act obliged the Governor (the representative of His Majesty’s the King of England) to consult the Native Authority before land in the Trust Lands was assessed for any purpose. And Barotse and Native Authority were being run by chiefs. And after attaining our independence “Native Trust Land” was substituted for ‘’Customary Land.’’
And as already alluded to, the opening of the mines on the copper-belt brought many white South African farmers to come and grow maize for the African workers on the mines. They settled in Central and Southern provinces which became known as ‘’maize-belt.’’ These white farmers bought large tracks of land at three ngwee per acre and it was ‘’held in perpetuity’’ by the white settlers.
‘’On Africans–Here is a creature who lacks foresight.
However, just before we were about to attain our independence in 1964, the majority of white farmers decided to go back to South Africa since they could not accept to be ruled Blacks. And when the Zambian government wanted to purchase the abandoned farms, the owners decided to sale them at K100 per acre.
And the freedom fighters could not accept that, but since the colonial administration had made clauses which barred the new UNIP government from taking over the vast tracks of land of absentee owners but since there were many revolutionary elements, the government held a ‘’Referendum to end all Referenda’’ on 17th June 1969 in order to ensure that absolute power was handed over to the real owners of the land. The Lands (Acquisition Act), Cap 296 of 1970, allowed the state to repossess land belonging to absentee landlords.
However, Professor Michelo Hansungule in article 7.15 of Simplification of the 1995 Land Act asks:
”Can land be compulsorily acquired by the President?” He went on to answer: “Yes. This is a very important point because it touches on rights. The President has power under the Lands (Acquisition Act), Cap 296 of the Laws of Zambia to compulsorily acquire any land in the public interest. However, there is no provision in the law for the President to compulsorily acquire customary land. The powers of acquisition can only be invoked for leasehold land…..’’
Here is where you can see the difference between the freedom fighter and our so-called intellectuals. The freedom fighter had grasped the truth that he was the master of his destiny and was capable of shaping his destiny. And because of his firm cultural foundation, he got rid of flunkeyism, dogmatism and all other ideas of slavish submissions and came to possess the consciousness of being the master of his destiny and a firm conviction of self-confidence.
And above all, the freedom fighter knew exactly how his dominationist viewed him as Dr. Kaunda in A Humanist in Africa put it:
‘’The European knew the African as servant and employee __ as an extension of a broom or a shovel….. Certainly, they showed kindness and even generosity to those Africans they encountered in various relationships. They gave them many things ___ coddled them when ill; helped to educate their children; treated them with a certain fond of indulgence. But their relationships tended to be one-way, with the European dictating the degree of intimacy. There was lacking that basic honesty and openness of true friendship.’’
And therefore in such a situation, the freedom fighter knew that only political struggle would provide an opportunity to try to work out externally what had built up internally and therefore sought confrontations, for he saw them as providing him with the means of becoming who he really was.
On the other hand, the so-called intellectual of today is very much aware of how unfair his western counterpart is, and yet he has no courage to shout this out, surrounded as he is by the fake signs of presumed equality.
Of course, no one can overlook the fact that the white man has brought a lot of good civilization to Africa, but it comes with a sly danger, because while celebrating the generous donor aid such as the distributions of free skippers and such privileges as learning and enlightenment, it can easily blind us to who we really are and come to the fatal conclusion that the white man is the measure of all things. This hypnotizing mentality has subverted the African personality like no other ideology.
The difference here is between the struggle which forces the granting of recognition and liberation which is granted. In this respect, the Algerian philosopher, Fanon talked about the slave who had no memory of the struggle for liberty, or the anguish of liberty. Such a man is not capable of taking up the challenges with his former master.
Professor Michelo Hansungule wrote in Keynote Paper: Constitutionalism and Constitutional Development:
“When the 1995 Land Act was being debated in Parliament and the people especially in rural areas rejected it. Chiefs cried foul with authorities pointing out that the government intended to take away the powers of local people over their land in favour of foreign investors under its Western inspired market reform programme. After much pressure across the country, the government announced that it would enact the law against the wishes of the people and decided to fast track the Bill in Parliament by waiving the 21 days rule on publication of Bills before being presented for reading. Even before the people realized it, the Bill was law.”
Professor Hansungule had correctly wrote that the chiefs had cried foul and pointed out that the government intended to take away land and hand it over to foreigners. And the government in a very cunning way moved to achieve their scheme. And the plight of the peasant farmer was summarized by Mr. V. Seshamani:
‘’While the peasant farmer waited for his produce to be collected (information regarding policy change not having seeped to him), it was not collected. Since there had been guaranteed prompt state collection earlier, he had not set up any storage facilities. The desperation was aggravated by his enhanced cash requirements, since with the introduction of user charges on health and education, he had to make allocations to health and school fees which he never did before. Also, the removal of subsidies on fertilizer warranted higher cash requirements to purchase his inputs. He had to go to the market centres to sell his produce which was not easy in view of the lack of transport to reach markets. And when he did reach the market, he found them to be buyers’ markets where the prices were not in his favour. His desperation for cash forced him to sell at the low prices, which consequently brought him lower incomes than before. The lower incomes vis-à-vis higher expenditures caused by liberation made him plant lower acreages in the following season leading still to lower incomes, thereby releasing a chain of growing poverty.’’ (The Impact of Market Liberation on Food Security in Zambia: Food policy 23(6)539-551)
And indeed, statistics are here to prove it. During 1993/1994 season small-scale farmers used an estimated 2,637,230 bags of fertilizer nationally. This figure dropped to 449,283 bags during the 1997/1998 season i.e., a decrease of over 80 percent from 49 percent of cropped area in 1993/1994 to only 12 percent in 1997/1998 (Source: SGS 1997)
Gladstone Bonnick in this respect wrote:
“Overall agricultural output has declined, but in many ways large-scale commercial producers have benefited from the reforms. The agricultural sector therefore continues to be plagued by a dualism between large-scale commercial and small-scale subsistence farming.” (Zambia Country Assistance: Turning an Economy Around The World Bank: Washington D.C.)
It is clear that the peasant farmers have been deprived of an organization to strive for their own interests and indeed, the Zambia National Farmers Union (ZNFU) has done very little for the small-scale farmers and hence the emergence of the National union for Small-scale Farmers of Zambia (NUSFAZ), which is being organized to promote the growth of small-scale farming enterprises into commercial entities that are viable and competitive on national and global markets.
Kicking Sand into our Eyes
‘’kicking sand into someone’s eyes’’ is a saying that expresses great contempt a person has over the other, to the extent that he can do whatever he wishes over the other. In the Draft Land Policy 2002, it is unbelievably shameful that our fellow Zambian technocrats or professionals could even put together their mental resources to scheme such a satanic document without a grain of thought for their peasant relatives living in villages.
“The demand for land has increased considerably and there are applicants seeking both state and customary lands. However, in this current state, the land delivery system is unable to meet the increase in the demand by the public for land title. The high demand for land calls for conversion of customary land into state land to meet future land requirements.” (emphasis mine)
And what this meant in practice was that land could be allocated from Lusaka to anybody and anywhere in Zambia without even the courtesy of consulting a chief in the affected area. And the implication is that before conversion, the land is the property of the community and subject to the community rights. After conversion, the community which had equal rights on the land will have lost them. And when the title deed has been issued, it individualizes the rights on land, which belongs to the title holder. And what must also be carefully noted is that the community which owned the land benefits completely nothing from the transaction.
Article 290 in the Mung’omba Draft Constitution: (3)
“Customary land shall not be alienated or otherwise used until the approval of the chief and the local authority in whose area the land is situated has first been obtained and as may be provided by or under an Act of Parliament.” (4) “An approval under clause (3) shall not be unreasonably withheld.”
In the first place, it is only an unreasonable chief who would withhold land unreasonably. Second, the synonyms of the word “unreasonable” according to Oxford Learner’s Dictionary are: foolish; idiot; ignorance; imbecile; nincompoop; silly; simpleton; twit or zombie. Was this not really deliberately kicking sand into the chiefs’ eyes? And furthermore, the wording “unreasonable” was not only very ambiguous but also relative. There were no reasonable parameters attached to clause (4) which clearly define what may constitute “unreasonable.” The said clause (4) did not specify the authority that would declare the decision of traditional authority (chiefs) under clause (3) to be unreasonable.
And since the clause is ambiguous, it could therefore mean that even the District Commissioner can easily alienate customary land and should the chief and the community to try to object, they would simply be declared to be “stupid and unreasonable,” and that would be the end of the story.
On the other hand, the so-called intellectual of today is very much aware of how unfair his western counterpart is, and yet he has no courage to shout this out, surrounded as he is by the fake signs of presumed equality.
In view of the above, on 11th January 2017, ZNBC announced that the Ministry of Agriculture would give a Chinese company to do a feasibility study to establish mini agro cities on 240,000 hectares of land in Luwingu and Mporokoso districts.
In the first place, if the Governor during the colonial era as well as the Republican President have never had the power to alienate customary land, who then in the Ministry of Agriculture has acquired such power to alienate customary land with such impunity of without even the slightest courtesy of consulting chiefs?
This is just a deliberate move since the Permanent Secretary must be aware that there are a plethora of legislation relating to land administration, disposition and alienation. It is just inimitable mixture of shamelessness and sanctimony.
If the powerful Lusaka people believe that since we are un-sophiscated villagers we can easily fall prey to fake political somersaults such establishing ‘’mini agro cities,’’ then they are thinking of boiled ice since we are aware of how politicians promise people ‘’honey’’ from stones.
It was the same story in failed farming blocks like Tazara corridor in Mpika District, Lukulu North in Kasama District, Scheme I and Scheme II in Mungwi District. The politicians who got ‘’kick-backs’’ have disappeared since politicians and politics have an expiry mandate. And indeed, history testifies to the fact that tradition has a longer span of life than political regimes. And the land problems that were created by the increasing rural population are just giving headaches to chiefs. I don’t even think anyone in his right state of mind can give out 240,000 hectares of customary land when the birth-rate for Northern Province is 3.5%. Surely there must be a greater moral imperative to balance current needs with the preservation of the interests of future generations.
If the powerful Lusaka people believe that since we are un-sophiscated villagers we can easily fall prey to fake political somersaults such establishing ‘’mini agro cities,’’ then they are thinking of boiled ice
In fact, the Bemba Royal Establishment has formed Ulubemba Investment Centre that scrutinizes all the development projects that affect the Bemba people. We have to see how far any proposed project would benefit the local people. And since we do not share with the sort of brains that believe that absolute drive towards foreign investment is a panacea to national development and we are therefore initiating our own projects such the production of bio-fuel and a sugar plantation in Bemba land. And I hope the 240,000 hectares do not include Bemba chiefdoms.
The un-refutable truth is that so long as the human heart is strong and human mind weak, tradition will forever be stronger since it appeals to diffused feelings and politics weak because it appeals to the understanding. And the royal blood in their veins demands that they must protect the livelihood and the interests of the most vulnerable peasants in their chiefdoms against the manifestations of powerful forces as they did during the inter-tribe wars.
Daughters and sons of the soil, the world is nothing but a jungle – whether it is that of animals or that of human beings. It is the survival of the fittest. The strong shall inherit the earth, the weak shall perish.
The Author is Chief Chitimukulu, the Paramount Chief of the Bemba Speaking People in Northern Province of Zambia