I feel especially honored to be at this great institution today. However, I would be remiss if I don’t tell you a little bit about myself. I was born in the Bemba Royal family as Henry Kanyanta Sosala. I ascended to the Bemba throne as Mwinelubemba Chitimukulu Kanyanta-Manga II and I am the 38th on the throne that was established in mid-1600.
Who then is Mwinelubemba Chitimukulu? Dr. I. Richards in Political System of the Bemba Tribe wrote on the authority, power and respect accorded to the throne of Mwinelubemba Chitimukulu: ‘’Authority, power and prerogatives depend upon descent and kinship and all the branches of the royal clan can claim connection with the original family of which a traditional Chitimukulu was head. Chitimukulu is the oldest name of a royal chief. It is the name carried by the most senior member of the crocodile totem and as such, it commands the most respect. The sway of a Chitimukulu is as much moral and spiritual as temporal. He lives in and rules Ulubemba, the stronghold of the tribe and all appointments of chiefs to help him hold the sphere of Bemba rule come from him.’’
According to the Zambian population census that took place in 2010, there are 73 ethnic groups in Zambia. The Bemba ethnic group is 21% of the national population and the other 72 ethnic groups put together are 79% of the population. Ichibemba is the language of communication for most Zambians (33.5%) and half of the urban population (49.5%) use Ichibemba for communication. Such is the implication-laden statistics of an ethnic group over which I have royal prerogatives.
The Origins of African Tribes
Any human society of whatever level requires organization and speaking of “organization,” I refer to the pattern of observable regularities of behavior by reference to which people are seen to order their social relationships among themselves. And this was how traditional leadership was birthed. Traditional authority refers to power that are associated with and emanate from the institution of chieftaincy. In African societies, traditional rulers derive their authority from customs and traditions that have existed since time immemorial. The chief is viewed as the ‘’symbol’’ of the chiefdom. And therefore the definition of dominion can be crafted as : To be given dominion means to be established as a sovereign, kingly, ruler, master, governor responsible for reigning over a designated territory, with the inherent authority to represent and embody as a symbol, the territory, resources and all that constitutes that chiefdom.
A tribe is exclusive and the only way to win acceptance is to be born into a particular tribe. This means that the people of one tribe are not only united by common citizenship or common language, but by common bloodlines i.e., the blood of the tribe; common racial harmony and common tribal codes, most of which stretch back into pre-history. On the other hand, while the immigrant can acquire the general abstract status of Zambian citizenship which can even later be renounced, it is not possible for such an immigrant to become any of the indigenous tribes. The only way to be one of these is to be born into such a tribe.
And each chiefdom was a “state” on its own under a traditional government with its own local language. The African nation-state called Zambia was created by the European colonizer for his own administrative convenience. These groupings of chiefdoms today form the immutable geopolitical boundaries and we use English as the common language. Zambia today as a nation is a federation of chiefdoms voluntarily united to meet their common economic, political, social and cultural needs and aspirations through a jointly-owned and democratically-controlled central government which is run by tribesmen and women from various chiefdoms within the territorial boundaries.
Traditional rulers are custodians and repositories of traditional customs and cultural heritage. The one mark of an African traditional ruler is the moral originality which springs from his cultural foundation. And hence, customs and norms provide a means whereby modes of behavior for each society are fixed. These provide a mechanism whereby young people cannot be brought up in a higgledy-piggledy manner.
And therefore traditional leadership is inherently political. This is born out of history, custom and practice because before the present mode of governments in Africa, traditional kingship was the sole government. A tribe is a political, social and economic unit; it’s like a social class in Europe in which people find their polyglot neighbors in times of distress and helpers in times of need. A tribe offered sanctuary in the old days of tribal wars. And to this effect traditional rulers used to collect tax in the form of ivory, venison or forced labor in order to meet the charge of services tribal governments could provide such as defense against enemies.
An English man Walter Begehat said: ‘’Royalty (tradition) is a government in which the attention is concentrated in one person doing interesting actions. A Republic (politics) is a government in which that attention is divided among many, who are doing interesting actions. Accordingly, so long as the human heart is strong and human reason weak, Royalty (tradition) will be strong because it appeals to diffused feelings and Republic (politics) weak because it appeals to the understanding.’’
Reverend James Massey wrote: ‘’There is something to be said for human groupings. There are strengths in common tradition and common culture, which make a people one culture. Each group has ‘intelligible actions’ which grow out of its own tradition and those meanings have an inner significance from which strength for life can be derived. Each human grouping has had distinctives not available elsewhere in just the same way. All human groupings have distinctives that they should preserve, distinctives which give meaning to the group as its members review their ‘story’ in the drama of life.’’ ( Concerning Christian Unity p.55) (emphasis mine)
Every tribe had its own indigenous form of purposeful education. And as defined in the natural and broadcast sense, education encompasses a conscious attempt to help people live in their society and to participate fully and effectively in its organization in order to ensure its continued existence. The curriculum of indigenous African education is the whole culture – the whole life of the society. Life is education and education is life, as sanctioned by society.
In fact to learn in traditional societies was to become an active participant in the everyday activities of one’s community. The emphasis was on the acquisition of the common domain of knowledge. One of its greatest values, from the point of view of learning, lay in being able to bring individuals face to face with the realities of the social and physical necessities of life. The emphasis was on the acquisition of the common domain of knowledge. In short: school was society and society was school. Such an education was achieved through a variety of realistic pedagogical situations, whether the goal was to master family hereditary skills and knowledge (as in the case of herbal medicine) or that of a highly skilled trade (as in the case of blacksmithing) or perhaps that of training for leadership (usually involving young men of the royal families). In situations in which both socio-moral and techno-occupational education took place was during the period of ritual initiations, particularly pubertal initiations.
One of the greatest strategic functions of every tribe is to prepare girls for womanhood and marriage. In general, all indigenous learning and training in this respect do not greatly differ from each other among the tribes of Zambia. In traditional culture, puberty is a time when a girl enters her first menstrual cycle and she is taken in confinement for a specific period to be taught on cultural aspects of a woman’s life. The main aim is character building with emphasis on the cultivation of a high degree of discipline in the girl and bedroom management skills. The majority of girls who have undergone this form of training have turned out to be good wives and mothers. Boys as well attend confinement procedures in some Zambian tribes.
Power of Culture.
Culture which I sometimes like to refer to within the current African context as ‘’the effort to try to find one’s real self.’’ It has been rightly said, ‘’Anyone who has a quarrel with the past, loses the present and risks to lose the future as well.’’ It has also been said that a motorist who does not use his/her mirror to look behind will one day make a fatal accident. Life involves our growing upwards and downwards like a tree, which is able to stretch out its branches to the sky because it also sends its roots into the nourishing earth. Man or tree with no proper roots will fall.
Culture operates as a balancing force within the personality. It compensates the one-sidedness of a person’s thoughts, aims and attitudes. The absence of cultural heritage tampers with the knowledge of SELF. In this scenario, what lacks is not intellect or artificial accumulated book knowledge per se, but understanding of SELF or the ability to relate to one’s whole being to the rest of the universe. This is because culture operates as a balancing force within the personality. It compensates the one-sidedness of a person’s thoughts, aims and attitudes. The absence of cultural heritage tampers with the knowledge of SELF. In fact Sham Bagley wrote: ‘’When the brain distorts the past our view of who we really are suffers.’’ (Newsweek 16th July 2001).
St. Augustine in De Ordine wrote: ‘’Self-knowledge is the result of inner unity.’’ He compared human nature to a circle. Unity for him means ‘’to be at the center,’’ from which every part of circumference is equidistant. The farther from the center one wanders towards the circumference, the less united and, therefore, the poorer one becomes.
The Law of Generation states: ‘’We are all linked to previous generations behind us. Our ancestors are in our genes, in our bones, in our marrow, in our physiological and emotional make-up. We, in turn, will be written into the children who come after us.’’ There is a seemingly instinctive pull of one’s heritage, our inborn curiosity in our origins, the quest we all share for self-identification and self-knowledge.
Alex Haley, a Black American who authored the book Roots traced his ancestry through six generations _ slaves and freedmen, farmers and blacksmiths, lawyers and architects_ back to Africa. In fact Roots, is a study of continuities, of consequences, of how a people perpetuate themselves, how each generation helps to doom, or helps to liberate, the coming one.
The BBC Focus on Africa magazine of July-September, 2009 in an article titled ‘’Black America Back to its Roots,’’ reported that many prominent African Americans are finding their way “home.” In 2005, the popular American talk-show host, Miss Oprah Winfrey underwent some deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) testing, since she wanted to know where her ancestors who were taken as slaves to the USA had come from. “I am Zulu,” Winfrey declared in Johannesburg.
The immutable truth is that cultural heritage cannot be magicked away in the twinkle of an eye or eliminated with a snap of one’s fingers. It will live for many a day and be a continual source of weariness and frustration. It is something that can be blocked and thwarted, but cannot be got rid off. Even the western aristocratic education can never drown cultural heritage, because while logic can convince one’s reasoning, it cannot, however, overcome the inertia of dualistic thinking. Intellect may comprehend the oneness of things, but thinking will still continue in dualism.
Booker T. Washington (1856- 1915), the first national spokesman for the Black Americans wrote: ‘’….notwithstanding the cruelty and moral wrong of slavery, the millions of Negroes inhabiting this country, who themselves or whose ancestors went through the school of American slavery, are in a stronger and more hopeful conditions, materially, intellectually, morally and religiously, than is true of an equal number of Black people in any other portion of the globe.’’ (From Up From Slavery autobiography 1901).
On the other hand, two Black Americans, Messrs., Stokely Carmichael and Charles Hamilton made this noteworthy observation on the ‘’power of culture’’: ‘’Black power is an entirely healthy development, encouraging the Negro to escape from defeatism and passivity instilled by centuries of exploitation by the white man….however, the extent to which Black Americans can and do to trace their roots to Africa, to that extent only will they be able to be more effective on the political scene and not cave in whenever the ‘man’ shouts..’ (From Black Power: The Politics of Liberation in America ed. 1969) (Emphasis mine)
Cultural incompatibility which somehow depicts the Law of Reversed Effort is one of the major obstacles that has greatly contributed to Africa’s underdevelopment and it is unfortunate that even those involved in national development have fallen prey to the theory that treats Africa as homogeneous entity with similar conditions to the rest of the world. And therefore any development programme must take into account the real and latent possibilities of traditional circles for carrying out the tasks laid before the people.
Dr. Kaunda Zambia’s first President has a penetrating insight: ‘’…the nation that lacks a firm cultural structure is jelly-built and though the people have title deeds to the property and the key to the front door in their pockets, they are still homeless.’’ But the truth is that Africa’s non-development is due to the fact that an African has abandoned his own cultural heritage and thereby abandoned SELF. And by deliberately refusing to clearly look at himself, he ignores his true self, renounces his individualism, freedom and personality. The African has therefore failed to see his real and true greatness and this actually means ‘’we have lost our very selves.’’
And according to the report compiled for the United Nations, the opposite often arises: ‘’In general, however, development programs would appear to have proceeded on the assumption that traditional values and practices constitute obstacles to growth. In any case, little effort has been made to provide within these programs mechanisms to identify and utilize the potentially positive traditional factors, although public reference is often made to the importance of traditional cultural values…’’ (United Nations: 1965 report on the World social Situation)
The World Bank programmes in Africa have foundered because of cultural incompatibility 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.’’
Albert L. Godart who had an opportunity to study a large number of development plans and check their efficacy has made some very pertinent remarks about this phenomenon in Africa, ‘’that only occasionally do those plans take account of the customs and social structures of the various populations of the regions to be developed. They only consider purely economic data, such as raw material resources, geographical conditions and, far more seldom, the manpower potential. On this basis they erect structures that are perfect in theory but in practice nearly always come up against difficulties due to ignorance of the attitudes and behavior of the people in the face of changes imposed upon them by the unilateral decision of a central government that for many of them has no meaning whatsoever. Consequently, when this happens, the projects are executed either without the participation of the population or against their opposition. So they are doomed to almost certain failure.’’
Xavier Flores wrote: ‘’We must allude to the real and latent possibilities of the traditional sector which has not always been adequately studied or fully appreciated. Indeed, it would be no exaggeration to say that the whole concept of technical cooperation needs a radical revision. At present, the idea behind technical assistance is that new techniques should sweep all before them. This rationalist attitude may be theoretically sound, but in practice it comes up against unexpected obstacles ____ tradition, customs and even superstition ____ which are not purely negative in that they do not signify a blunt refusal to contemplate progress as we conceive it, but are on the contrary, highly significant positive cultural attitudes…..but this positive aspects has been overlooked and many organizations have foundered almost as they have been launched.’’
On the other hand, Africa today is in a political turmoil because we have been subjected to foreign forms of governance. For example, as at now where has the so-called and imposed ‘’democracy’’ worked in Africa? P.B. Harris wrote in his book, Studies in African Politics: ‘’Western political development proceeded on the assumption that its form of political institutions were an end. At its most vulgar was the easy assumption that the political institutions of Britain, the USA etc., represented the summa of political wisdom. All that was required was to equip Africans with judicial wigs, maces and parliamentary oppositions and they would enjoy a form of institutional democracy on lines parallel to those enjoyed by Western states.’’
But this assumption was hit by cultural incompatibility as Maurice Makumba pointed out: ‘’Anyone will admit that political and social life must be in spired by a culture and unless that culture is solidly grounded in the heart of any given people, the quest for a responsible political system is just a mirage. This is because a political system is supposed to respond to the needs and values of society, but when those needs and values risk to hang between two cultures, the resultant political structure will attempt to respond to both ways and only cause more disintegration. African political philosophy should take a more positive approach to the contemporary situation and turn what appears like a culture clash into a bleeding ground for a double-edged political philosophy; one that seeks a dynamic cultural retrieval that is, integrating traditional values with the exploits of modern man and woman in the realm of human freedom and development. We need seasoned African values for such a venture.’’
Western Democracy in the entire Africa has failed since there is the problem of sum-zero politics in which the winning political party takes all. The notion opposite to democracy is not dictatorship but oligarchy. African politicians and parties are only more interested to capture power. In other words, the party is the supreme, political organization in modern Africa and the legislative body appears in many cases to be more than unnecessary intermediary. And as R. Michels wrote in Political Parties: ‘’The party, regarded as an entity, as a piece of mechanism is not necessarily identifiable with the totality of its members….. the oligarchical structure of the building suffocates the basic democratic principles.’’ And therefore the so-called ‘’democracy’’ has taken a highly telescoped form and it has moved from a constructive to a destructive phase with undue haste and in this case there is always no hope for a gentlemanly confrontation between various political parties.
Reverend Simon Muwowo in his Thesis: Multipartism and the Matrilineal Governance System of the Bemba-Speaking People of Zambia: An African Theological Perspective, wrote: ‘’Africa in general is caught up in a web of practicing systems that are unfounded within the ethos and governance of our traditional societies. ‘’Some government systems which Africa has copied gullibly from foreign nations may deserve overhauling in order to find their legitimacy or discard them all together’’ (Chuba, 2011). It has been proved in Zambia and in other African countries, elsewhere that it is no longer healthy and even ‘’dangerous to adopt them randomly in a belief that all African traditional forms of government are completely unsuitable or barbaric’’ (Chuba, 2011). Our search for an African identity in political governance, should depend on the foundation of Africans and dispel the ‘’notion that only government systems from overseas are viable for Africa’’ (Chuba, 2011).
‘’The governance system of the Bemba speaking people is one such example with an effective system which when harnessed is another landmark contribution to the world. The Ashanti and the Akan tribes of Ghana as well as the Lozi of Western Zambia among others in Africa have in the history of Africa recorded magnificent traditional systems of governance, which when put together could provide an agenda for an authentic African political identity.
‘’The chieftaincy model of democratic governance, presupposes that representatives of chiefdoms are recognized as legitimate participants in the governance of the state along side the elected political parties. The concept was practiced in ‘’Botswana’’ (Nyamnjoh, 2003), ‘’Mozambique’’ (Harrison, 2002) and ‘’South Africa’’ (Oomen, 2000). In other words, it is the ‘’practice of primordial chiefs playing an active role in the administration of the government at the national and local levels’’ (Bradley, 2005). In short, as a matter of recognition of traditional authority by ‘’post-colonial governments of Botswana and South Africa’’ they embraced chiefs as ‘’functioning […] administrative’’ (Bradley, 2005) extension officers in order to foster development from the grass-roots and enhance participation of all citizens in the general administration of national affairs through their own representatives. ‘’The idea here was not a matter of political interest as such but was based on perception that since chiefs were natural leaders of the people in an African society whose mandate emanated from the people who installed them, it was inevitable to grant them rights of representation in government. Further, they were viewed as ‘’legitimate power brokers, representatives of clans, and genuine voices of their respective local communities’’ (Harrison,2002). In this regard, one can say that chieftaincy representation as a model ‘’vividly represents another version of democracy contrary to western democratic notions’’ (Bradley, 2005).
‘’In Zambia during the British Colonial rule, ‘chiefdoms were run on semi-autonomous basis as today’s local governments’ (Sosala, 2014). They worked on the concept of indirect rule as a way of ensuring development reached the people without their intervention. After years of struggle they discovered that there was need to come up with an approach to governance that was purely going to be embraced and therefore enhance participation. When an indirect rule was implemented, the main objective of it was ‘the recognition of the Native Authorities to help Africans enhance their own traditional institutions in governance’ (Sosala, 2014). The idea here was that during the time of colonization, the colonial masters found functional institutions which were very effective in the dissemination of development to all the people. And having noticed the effectiveness of the system, the British colonialists had to effect strategies on how they would effectively run a government that would produce results. As such ‘in 1936, the new policy of indirect rule found expression in a series of important ordinances such as Native Courts ordinance and Native Authority ordinance’ (Sosala, 2014). The ordinances mentioned had a special mandate to accomplish. They were centered on the policy of devolution of power to the grass-roots where the central colonial government was unable to reach in order to fulfill the development demands of the people. The colonial set-up failed to raise funds from the natives because their model was centered on tax collection and the majority of the people were not in employment. It was in this regard that they introduced another ordinance which ‘permitted Native Treasuries to be set up’ (Sosala, 2014). The Native Authorities through their protocol of the participation of all citizens could raise some funds using various means but predominately they were raised through ’court fees and fines, bicycle, dogs, fire arms and game lincences’ (Sosala, 2014). It was at this point that the government agreed to pay to the various treasuries 10 percent of native (or poll tax) collected either inside or outside the district from Africans belonging to the tribe’ (Sosala, 2014).
‘’We can deduce that the fact that the recognition of the effectiveness of the Native Authorities’ ability to deliver in the case of Botswana, Zambia, Mozambique and South Africa means that the democratic values of the African people on this basis can be guaranteed and therefore a legitimate model upon which to base in the formulation of an authentic framework for Non-party democracy by consensus. It awes to this fact that as model of democratic governance, the diffusion of power to involve chiefdoms ‘’are viable alternatives to democratic governance’’ (Bradley, 2005) and on this foundation one can look to them as plausible foundation upon which to build a Zambian-African polity.
‘’Much as the party or multiparty system of government may record a success in the western countries, the ideologies that embrace it perpetrate a power struggle to a point of risking people’s lives. Political parties in Zambia, for example, are ‘personal to holder and the fundamental weakness in this state of democracy is the question of the removal of the founding leader of a political party’ (Sosala, 2014). Yes the trend is so powerful to an extent of disregarding other people who would even do better.
Sosala laments the failure of democracy and alludes to the fact that the failure is as a result of adopting a foreign model of governance other than developing an indigenous one that could simply be polished and produce and acceptable entity of good governance. He states, ‘We hoped to see our country become a nation based on parliamentary constitutions or the Westminster model and enjoying responsible democratic government, but unfortunately we are at the tail-end of history, after fifty years of self-rule, having even gone through the so-called one party participatory democracy and it is now very clear that Westminster model as a model for Zambian democracy has absolutely and totally failed’ (Sosala, 2014). This particular voice from Mr. Sosala, the Paramount Chief of the Bemba people points us to re-evaluate the political system and to a higher extent make an authentic alternative system of governance for Zambia.
‘’Henry Kanyanta Sosala in his article, The Descent of the Bemba, observes that in an African political system, ‘there is a conviction that the embodiment of knowledge, intellect and wisdom including mega-talents and multi-gifts are all confined within the inner circle of the political party in power and never elsewhere. And any criticism from outside the party system, no matter how wise or reasonable is only considered to be deliberate and calculated malicious attempts to throw the infallibility of the ruling party in doubt ’ (Sosala, 2014). And as such it makes it very difficult to embrace democracy in the same way it operates in the West to an extent that politics are reduced ‘to a level of football match. A football match may of course attract some very good players. It may also be entertaining, but it is still only a game and only the most ardent fans [who are not usually the most intelligent] take the game seriously.’ (Rohio, 1975).
‘’Experience in Zambian politics shows how limitations to freedom has been in multiparty dispensation and the system as proved to be ’fatal to democracy’ (Rohio, 1975). ‘The experience of Zambia since independence has shown how both the authoritarian one party system and the majoritarian system have proved to be fatal’ (Wiredu, 2000).’’
Man makes himself and it is his ability to act deliberately for self-determined purposes which distinguishes him from other animals. For example, a mother does not ‘’give’’ walking or talking to her child; walking and talking are not things which she ‘’has’’ and of which she ‘’gives’’ a portion to the child. Rather, the mother helps the child to develop its own potential ability to walk and talk. Hence, man’s development centers on self-reliance. Man certainly cannot be developed by others. Man’s consciousness is developed in the process of doing things because development has a purpose of liberation of man and the whole process is intensely personal in the sense that it has to be a personal experience; no one can have his consciousness developed by proxy.
And as a traditional ruler, part of my job is to survey the social and economic trends; to try and understand and help the peasants in their practical personal problems of living out their lives; to try to open a way of constructive understanding and to help them improve the judgment of the people about the priorities etc. and this has given me an opportunity to gain an insight into the lives of the rural communities much more than the casual and emotional observer who might quickly be over-carried by the apparent external poverty and judge the un-sophiscated rural communities as formidable masses of confusion and social chaos and the people better off dead than alive. But the reality on the ground is quite the opposite. The extended family system or ’’the sharing of poverty’’ helps to maintain an internal equilibrium in spite of external poverty. It constitutes a social security scheme which has the advantage of following the natural pattern of personal relationships. It also provides for richness in the knowledge and experience for those fortunate enough to be part of it.
Dr. A.I. Richards a social anthropologist who in the 1930s carried out a research among the Bemba people wrote on The Chief’s Leadership in Economic Enterprises: ‘’ I was amazed in fact to find how much of the conversation in a chief’s hut concerned the whole organization of the food-supply, the exact type of soil in such and such a place, or the methods successfully used on it. Comments and criticisms were passed freely…. There are two aspects of the chief’s functions as an organizer of people in his chiefdom. In the first place there are a number of activities he actually initiates and co-ordinates, and in the second, his direction of his labor sets the pace for agricultural enterprise and forms the basis of the whole economic system……Their knowledge of cultivating processes, soil selection and the best moment for planting is also considerable. Even the most stupid or beer-sodden rulers seemed to discuss such matters with authority… Of their chiefdoms as a whole, the chiefs also know a great deal…..thus his position at the capital; his specialized knowledge of agriculture and his personal interest in food-production gives the Bemba ruler opportunity to lead and influence the agricultural activities of the whole tribe. This fact may well acquire administrative importance if any new improved system of cultivation is ever discovered for this area..’’
(to be continued)