By Dr Parkie Mbozi
One of Shaka Zulu’s famous quotes says, “Never leave an enemy behind, or it will rise again to fly at your throat.”
Shaka was not educated, but no doubt very wise. His message in this quote is worth taking serious, especially for the new government of the United Party for National Development UPND).It is also a message for the party leader and now Republican President Hakainde Hichilema. Reconciliation and forgiveness are good, but so too is reparation.
The people of the sole-called Zambezi province, I call them the Tongas and their allies, faced the worst form of systemic ‘ethnic cleansing’ at the hands of the Patriotic Front (PF) in government to the extent that as long as one’s name was associated with ‘Zambezi province’, there was nothing for them in form of (top) jobs or contracts for tenders, promotions, respect, etc. in government and parastatals. Promotions would be denied and retirements in ‘national interest’ were also the order of the day.
Sadly, this mentality and the tone set by the PF leadership permeated various sectors of society, such that names associated with Tongas and their allies were considered misfits, in the same way that Jews have been treated in parts of the world, starting from the time of Adolf Hitler in Germany in the past century. I remember vividly moments when our son Hamwenda would come back weeping because he had been bullied by his colleagues at school, all because of his name. One day he came home from school and asked, dad, ‘why do they hate us so much’? It got to the point that he asked if the “Ha’ to his name could be dropped so that it would only read as “Mwenda” That’s just how bad it became.
Today there are many who believe that had the PF won the 2021 election, Tongas and their allies would have been forced into the bush, akin to Winnie Mandela’s desire to “drive the whites into the sea;” Unfortunately for the PF tribalists, Tongas and their allies are self-made people. For decades now, since 1998 when the UPND was born and every Tonga labeled UPND, they have survived and thrived on their own. They are not the type that line for jobs, even now in Bally’s Zambia.
Yet against the background of hate and discrimination, God spoke. And a week ago, President Hakainde Hichilema (aka ‘Bally’) appointed a cabinet that even his critics have called a ‘well-balanced’ cabinet. ‘Balanced’ in the sense that all provinces and major ethnic groups see themselves in it.
Veteran politician and former Veep Enock Kavindele told The Mast newspaper, “It’s been a carefully chosen Cabinet, encompassing all regions of Zambia. The President has done it; no wonder it took him so long to come up with his Cabinet because he was doing all these things.”
Mind you, in this ‘balancing act’, a number of deserving Tongas and their allies who stood tall, toiled and sacrificed for the party and Bally for years, have been sacrificed yet again. Have you heard them complain? No. Yet, for years the PF tribalists labeled Bally tribalist and his party, the UPND, a tribal or regional party. Fred Mmembe and the Post Newspaper, an influential PF ally of the PF at the time, even called Southern Province a Bantustan.
Chishimba Kambwili, PF’s hired tribal goon before the elections, was all over the country claiming that if HH and UPND won, all positions would be filled by “HaHas” (sic), in his own words. He could utter these claims without the shame of how PF’s own appointments in cabinet, permanent secretaries, directors, boards of parastatals, etc had been systematically mooted to sideline and ‘punish’ Tongas and their allies. Even for the eight appointed MPs, Lungu appointed the likes of Mumbi Phiri, Bwalya Ngandu, etc other than to co-opt other tribes with even better expertise. For Instance why Ngandu instead of Mugande or Hyvie Hamududu for Finance Minister?
Bally’s cabinet appointments confirm what I published in July this year in this column in the article titled, The Arrogance of Insulting a People and Expecting Their Vote.
Here is what I said, For the information of those without capacity to read political history, though some call themselves ‘Dr’ Chakuti, Tonga’s are not tribal nor selfish. In 1959 Mainza Choma founded UNIP but ceded power to Kenneth Kaunda once he was released from jail. In 1953 ‘Old Major’ Harry Mwaanga Nkumbula and his ANC had to team up with Kaunda;s UNIP to defeat the colonial party and win our independence. In 1972 Nkumbula again ceded power and signed the unity accord for a one party state even though he didn’t have to. He didn’t even take any post in the unified UNIP government. That is how the fierce rivalry between Kaunda and Simon Kapwepwe, whose base was Bembaland, eased. Legend also has it that when the freedom fighters were invited to London to negotiate our independence, Southerners sold their cattle to make the trip possible.
In 1991, Southern Province gave Frederick Chiluba, a Bemba, 100%. Again in 1996, even with his incarceration of Dean Mungomba and Princess Nakatindi Wina et al and, worse, barring of Dr Kaunda from standing, Southern Province still gave Chiluba another 100%. Further, in 2001, 2006 and even 2011, there were other Tonga presidential candidates, the likes of Shamapande, Magande, etc, but the non-Tonga – Rupiah Banda and Michael Sata – still got better votes than these Tonga candidates.
So, if the Tongas and their allies decide to have a share of the political cake, what’s wrong with that? And, if the Southerners and their allies see quality in candidates other than yours, what’s wrong with that? The same hypocrites’ keep saying Anderson Mazoka was the best man for the job in 2001 but fall shot to state which regions failed him. Did you hear the Tongas and their allies accuse certain regions of tribalism? Before blaming people’s choices, answer in honest, who had better credentials and personal accomplishments for the job between Lungu and Hichilema in 2015, 2016 and even now?
Finally at a personal level, come and see whom we live with, whom our loved ones are, whom we do business with, whom we employ on our farms, homes and businesses. Come and see whom we have children with, whom our friends are, etc. HOW DARE YOU. By the way, why have you failed to publicize your commission’s report on voting patterns?”
In contrast to Bally, Lungu run a government of hate and ethnic cleansing in both words and deeds. Just to cite a few examples, before the 2021 elections ECZ suspended PF cadre Chishimba Kambwili “for systematically campaigning on tribal lines and for hate speech.” ECZ said, “the Commission has noted with concern the breach of the electoral code of conduct by Mr. Kambwili’s use of hate speech and holding of campaign rallies despite the guidance provided.” However, with influence (ostensibly) from above, Kambwili’s suspension was to be lifted within days.
I proffered in the article I cite above that Kambwili;s tirade of hate speech against the people of Southern Province was not an isolated case. Demonisation of ethnic groups that didn’t agree with them was in the PF’s DNA. Founder Michael Sata once called the people of North Western province ‘buttocks’. In 2015, way before the 2016 general election, Davies Mwila – then PF Secretary General –insulted the people of Southern province. He refused to apologise and his boss President Edgar Lungu refused to admonish or fire him.
Chama said, “Tongas will never rule the country, unless maybe in 100 years’ time if they multiply themselves since they were polygamous by nature.” He uttered these words simply out of hate for Hichilema, their political opponent. Later the same year, Chama boasted that Lungu was a very strong person who resisted the pressure to fire him over his Tonga remarks. “President Lungu is the strongest person I have ever met in my lifetime because ine ngabali kolopa kale (I would have been mopped out already). You remember the problems I brought to the President and the party about the Tonga issue? Although I didn’t do it, the media was bombarding and the President was under pressure, but he is such a strong person.”
Despite the calls to the President to fire him, Chama survived and was rewarded with the Presidential nomination of MP and subsequently appointed Minister of Defense, a superior cabinet portfolios. Kambwili, then chief Government Spokesperson, arrogantly told the Southern province chiefs that Chama had refused to apologise so they should kill him if they wanted.
On 25th July 2016, while campaigning at Kabundi ground in Chingola, the same Kambwili was on a warpath telling the crowd that “Tongas in Southern Province only vote for UPND and tribesman Hichilema with a view to being ruled by a Tonga.” Ahead the Chilubi by-election in February 2020, Nkandu Luo, who became Lungu’s running mate in 2021, told voters that there was no way a Tonga from Monze would come to ‘pyana’(replace) her, a Bisa. The rant was indirectly targeted at the UPND candidate, a local, but was in apparent reference to Hichilema, the UPND leader, who hails from Monze. Hachilema was not even on the ballot.
On 27th July 2019 Lungu said, “We will one day have a Tonga President but certainly not the current aspirant.” Richard Waga, a blogger, answered back: “President Edgar Lungu’s sentiment that one day a Tonga will be president but not UPND President Hakainde Hichilema are condescending, tribal and divisive. He is telling Zambians that tribe is a factor when choosing leaders. He is telling Zambians the electoral system is not open enough for anyone to aspire for office. He is confirming the tribal narrative we hear among some PF flunkies who hate the idea of a Tonga president.”
Hate, discrimination and ethnic cleansing were the PF trademarks. They were clueless, statesman-less politicians, who had no clue that when you target to victimize a people, they coalesce as a survival strategy. They had no clue how to pull the country together and woo voters other than by force and deceit. They tried to mask their unbridled tribalism by calling others tribal and slogans such as One Zambia One Nation on ZNBC.
So says the bible, ‘you shall know them by their actions.” Indeed Zambians can now see and contrast the difference between Lungu’s PF and Bally’s UPND on leadership. Hence I proffer that Bally’s cabinet pick has shamed them, if at all they have shame. Yet, it is worth remembering Shaka’s wise words, “Never leave an enemy behind, or it will rise again to fly at your throat.”
These people and/or their ‘sniffer dogs’ are still occupying strategic and sensitive positions in government.
The author is a researcher and scholar with the Institute of Economic and Social Research, University of Zambia. He is reachable on pmbozi5ATyahooDOTcom