Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Mongu MP Raises Concerns with ZNBC Regarding Language Bias

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In a letter addressed to Mr. Barry Lwando, Head of Programs at the Zambia National Broadcasting Corporation (ZNBC), Honorable Amutike, Member of Parliament for Mongu Central, has expressed deep concerns over what he perceives as language bias in ZNBC’s English programming. The letter, also copied to Mr. Thabo Kawana, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Information, highlights a trend where Bemba and Nyanja languages are seemingly prioritized over Lozi, the predominant language spoken in the Western Province.

Honorable Amutike’s letter, dated May 2, 2024, accuses ZNBC of allowing Bemba and Nyanja languages to feature prominently in English programs, while relegating Lozi to vernacular sections. The MP questions the legitimacy of this practice, arguing that it marginalizes the people of Western Province, who contribute as taxpayers to the national broadcaster.

The MP’s letter further criticizes a ZNBC broadcaster for allegedly stating that only Bemba and Nyanja languages are permitted on English platforms. Honorable Amutike condemns this statement as rude and calls for accountability from ZNBC regarding its language policies. As a member of parliamentary committees on Media, he asserts his intention to utilize parliamentary privileges to summon ZNBC officials for clarification on this matter.

“This matter needs to be dealt with the seriousness it deserves so we can achieve our goal of one Zambia, one nation,” states Honorable Amutike in the letter.

The issue raised by the Mongu MP underscores broader debates surrounding language representation and inclusivity in media, particularly in multilingual societies like Zambia. While English serves as the official language of Zambia, the country is linguistically diverse, with numerous indigenous languages spoken across different regions.

ZNBC, as the national broadcaster, plays a pivotal role in reflecting and promoting Zambia’s linguistic and cultural diversity. Therefore, allegations of language bias in its programming raise important questions about equitable representation and access to information for all Zambian citizens.

68 COMMENTS

  1. The official language in Zambia is English.
    Now, if an English program is being run by a Lozi speaking person, and he receives a call from a Lozi speaking person, he/she can allow because he/she can translate into English. We know we are Zambians, and as such we can not do away with our local languages.
    The problem is that, if the announcer is not a Lozi speaking person, it would be wrong to call that announcer and start speaking Lozi or any language that announcer does not speak.
    Zambia is grownup enough to interlingua Zambian languages.
    Lets not be crying over such trivial issues.

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    • You right, if the moderator were Lozi it would have been okay for her to let the caller speak because she would have interpreted to the audience. However, how could she allow the speaker to proceed without knowing what the caller is talking about?

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    • Indeed, and I hope the MP heard correctly, ZNBC doesn’t have a policy stating only Bemba and Nyanja are allowed on English programs. The presenter who said so must be ignorant.
      All major vernaculars have their own slots outside of the official language which we learn at school.

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  2. We have serious problems facing our country and here is an MP wasting time on non issues. The incident he’s referring to involved a person who is not conversant with the Lozis language. That person failed to return greetings in Lozi When a person who speaks Lozi is on radio one, they have been able to respond in Lozi to greetings by listeners in Lozi. The best thing is no vernacular should be used during English programs. I’m a Zambian and because I have lived in other of Zambia other than the copperbelt I can only speak Icibemba and icilamba.

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    • Lets face reality…. Bemba is the most widely spoken language in Zambia. There is no province in Zambia where no bemba is not spoken. And unfortunately it will be like that. Lets just accept. Maybe even turn it in an official language for the country.

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    • Bemba is NOT “the most widely spoken language in Zambia”. This is only your imagination, you have no statistics, and in fact you are clueless about what you are talking about. This arrogance is what creates intolerance in Zambia. By the way, just to tell you that Bembas are absolutely HATED in Zimbabwe, Botswana and Namibia, for thinking they are special and superior, and for being crooks.

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    • When you hear our Lozi cousins talk about secession, it is this kind of tribalism that drives that sentiment, and I complete understand their point of view. Zambia is not a Nyanya/Bemba country. All of you fools who come up to 4 Tongas, 3 Lozi, 5 Luvale and 1 Lenje and start speaking Bemba are part of the problem. We do not love English, but it is a neutral language. Do not pollute the airwaves where the neutral language is supposed to be spoken by adding your tribal languages to them. We are not going to put up with this rubbish. After all, your regions produce nothing. This is the reason why you are in our regions, and we are not in yours. It is not that our people are speaking your language. It is you who has run to our lands.

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    • The best option is perhaps to leave this to the regulator of broadcasting services. However, I love the incident because it is making us Zambians talk about an issue we have been ignoring for too long, and that is the UNIP’s government policy of deciding which languages must die a slow death and which ones to promote at taxpayer expense. Can you imagine taxing me so that the government raises money in order to kill my mother tongue. It’s not cricket.

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    • @Mwa silozi…..I did not know that Bembas are also shinning in Zimbabwe , Namibia and Botswana. Why should they be hated?

    • @Mwasilozi Bembas are not hated in Zimbabwe Namibia etc
      “This is only your imagination, you have no statistics, and in fact you are clueless about what you are talking about”

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    • Bembas shining? What have they ever shined at ???… oh, I know… never mind… I was looking at the names of “Zambians” locked up in foreign prisons… So perhaps the fellow who questioned whether certain kinds of people where “shining” in Botswana and Namibia was on to something. I am sure the same pattern we see in American and European jails is abiding even in neighbouring countries.

  3. Our MP must understand how languages evolve. Mainly through travel and industrialisation.
    Bemba travelled from north to the copperbelt looking for jobs. In the end Bemba langauage became dominant over local languages.( Lamba mainly). Easterners moved into Lusaka and their language(Nyanja) prevailed over local languages. The bembas are now moving en masse to the Northwest and it is already showing how bemba is being spoken in most towns of Northwestern province.
    Strategically Mwine Lubemba initiated chimbuya with the Lozis. Sooner Bembas will be flocking to Western province and the language will be more pronounced in Mongu, Lealui, Senanga etc.

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    • Those two languages that are called “Bemba” and “Nyanja” are actually hybrid languages created by people on the Copperbelt and Lusaka. That urban Bemba is diffrent from the Bemba spoken by Bemba natives. They languages are lingua franca. If a person is challenging the use of these languages, they should also challenge the use of English, which is a lingua franca too. My concern is that should we be having this debate now when they are more important matters such as the price of food and fuel?

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    • If you immigrate to Russia, you must learn Russian to be granted residence. Northwestern Province did not move into Bemba land. Unemployed Bembas are the ones who moved to Northwestern Province. They must learn the local languages. They people of Northwestern Province should not be made to learn the languages of outsiders. Equally too, the Malawiians in Lusaka, Central and Southern Province need to learn the local languages. You will not find 10 Tonga people in their lands, and yet they are every where from Kabwe to Livingstone. Under One Zambia One Nation, we tolerated this nonsense. Now that they are beginning to take it for granted, it is time for them to remember where they are. They are in our lands; we are not in theirs

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    • @Maria, true, I had problems communicating with my people the first time I visited my village in Mwense.

    • That is not the issue. The issue is whether Bemba or Nyanja are official languages above the others by law. If not, we have Bemba programmes as much as we have other local language programmes, so why should Bemba be spoken in an English language programme, purely based on all languages being equal before the law, not in terms of which is more widely spoken. Myself I speak seven Zambian languages so I dont have much of a communication problem, but let’s look at this from the point of view of official status of given languages.

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    • @L
      Yes Russian is required, if you immigrate to Russia. IMMIGRATION i.e. moving to another country-not to another region within the country-has such written requirements. There are no similar requirements if a Lozi moves to Mufulira or a Bemba moves to Mazabuka or a Tonga moves to Petauke. He is free not to know the local language there because it will be his own ndaba if he cant communicate with his neighbours.

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    • Bemba and Nyanja are not lingua Francas. They are the languages of poverty-stricken people who ran to work from their poverty stricken areas to the towns in Tonga land and Lamba land, during colonialism because they could not afford to pay the English poll taxes. The fact that you may speak your language in someone else’s land, does not mean that the owner of that land speaks your language. Drives 3 kilometers in any direction outside Lusaka, and you will find the people speak Tonga or Soli, which are actually the same language. Drive 3 kilometers out of Kabwe and you will find people speaking another Bantu Botatwe language, Lenje. We do not want to speak YOUR Bemba or Nyanja.

    • It does not mean that there are more Bembas in Parliament. It is that the Bemba are trying to use Parliament to move their tribal agenda. Tonga or Lozi or Luvale could as widely spoken in parliament of the native speakers decided to speak only in their languages most of the time. We do not want to hear or speak your language. We will not speak our language to you. Do not test us. Just remember that we get and need absolutely nothing from either of your Bemba or Nyanja regions. On the other hand, we produce everything you want and have. You have obtained farmland in our areas, where as we have obtained nothing in yours. Stop pushing us. We are not interested in tribal and tribalistic agenda.

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    • Our president is very proud to speak bemba. And even insult….
      Right on the podium ati …” Nakuchita ububi…………..”
      Right before the bemba chiefs ati…” baletuponona ”

      Have ever heard the president insult in any other language? Tonga, Lozi etc? NO NO . Its because he knows if he insults in BEMBA it will be understood in all corners of the country.

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    • I remember Gary in parliament insulting Chishimba Kambwili .The insult was not in Tonga…but in Bemba. Ati iwee…..Chi……” But when confronted by the speaker he said ati I did not say chi…….I said ninjikala….kikikikiki.

      In parliament is Bemba as a second language. And the speaker knows it.

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    • Kikikikikiki @patriot my brother spends time at a fishing camp in Western province. He says Lozi is generally spoken but whenever a quarrel breaks out it becomes: “Ndekuponona chi***la chobe! Walitumpa!” I’ll try and observe interactions in my Petauke home

    • Bemba insults are more intimidating. Just imagine “kutumpa uko” in Tonga. It won’t take any tails down between the legs. Remember during the second revolution when we were removing KK? We used only Bemba in slogans and one fearful expression from the Lozi: Zwaaaaa!

    • “Your president” speaks those languages so that people in Northern and Luapula provinces can vote for him. He is doing that for his own benefit. He is not representing people in Lusaka Province, half of Central province, Southern Western or Northwestern Province. He knows that his votes are secure and assured in those areas. It is in the Bemba and Nyanja provinces where he is trying to entice votes to himself, and away from the opposition. Hakainde went to UNZA 40 year ago, with me. If he wanted to learn those foreign languages then, he would have done so from Nyanja and Bemba students who were there. It is only now that he is president, that he is making an effort to speak them, if for no reason than to distinguish himself from open tribalists like Sata, Lungu and you;

  4. Someone on social media posted that Lozi speakers do not buy beer and yet they want their language to become mainstream! On a serious note. Nyanja is lingua franca or a common use language as someone has mentioned above. It is a practical language to use

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    • Nyanja is not a Lingua Franca. It is your language, and nothing more. I do not speak your language, and I never will. I do not come to your province so do not come to my provinceS with your tribal agenda. All you have brought to my land are you hungry mouths. You are welcome to stay, but do not behave as if you have brought science, technology and education to us. We do not go to your provinces, never try to impose our languages on them. Do not tempt or test us. We are in our homeland, and you are not.

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    • @L
      A Lingua Franca means a language spoken by different ethnic groups. There are no people called Nyanja but the Chewa, Nsenga, Tumbuka, Ngoni Kunda etc, who actually speak their own different languages, will understand Chinyanja. That is how Chinyanja qualifies as a Lingua Franca. Swahili is another Lingua Franca

  5. Making a mountain out of a molehill. Useless. Next time let them speak whatever language and then defer to an interpreter for later. We see if you will manage this nonsense. What is wrong with saying I can only understand such and such a language? If there was a Lozi presenter obviously that would have been mitigated, or most likely that presenter would have also preferred the caller speak in English in the final analysis.

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  6. We are not becoming petty. Somethings need to be said. You can go from Kabwe to Livingstone, and all you will find are balumbu speaking chilumbu in our town. You can a microscope and scour the towns in their provinces, I defy you to find one of us there, let alone one who refuses to learn their languages, and speaks only Tonga. We want nothing from their land, and yet they are all over our telling us we should be speaking their languages. Why?

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    • Bemba is everywhere bwana…..You may say what ever you may wish. In solwezi ….go to Kyawama market…
      Go in the Bars in Mwinilunga…. Yo can go to Mufumbwe. Go in Kansanshi, Lumwana and Kalumbila mines. The most spoken language is bemba.
      You can go to Livingstone and hire a taxi….. the taxi driver will be glad to talk to you in Bemba. Go to Western….they are slowly catching up with speaking bemba.
      I bet you even the diaspora( England, USA, CHINA, RSA, congo, Rwanda, Zimbabwe etc) . If Zambians are meeting in these country the language spoken after english is Bemba. Lets just accept. Its not about tribalism .

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    • Their land?
      They don’t feel unwelcome. You do. That’s why you call it “their land”
      Learn something.

  7. Mwa Silozi, I read a book sometime ago (written about 1937) where the zambian languages were broken down in terms of popularity or coverage
    I’m sure linguistics and historians can shed more light on this one
    Bemba was described as the most widely spoken language in Zambia (about 37%) followed by Nyanja (27%), followed by I think Tonga and the bantu botatwe languages. Lozi had a small percentage like 7%, but I’m not very sure about percentages. What I’m sure is that bemba was classified as the most popular or widely spoken language in Zambia
    But it’s absolutely no significance for now mainly because of inter marriages and free migration of people from one part of the country to another
    If Bemba is the most popular language so what?

    • As you say, the book was written in 1937, and might have been based on urban surveys on the Copperbelt and Lusaka. The situation is different now. If we based the statistics on mother tongue and not ‘broken Bemba’ spoken when someone is just trying to learn, the situation will be different (just like any Zambian can speak broken Luvale or Lozi, etc, if they try). The “so what” is: nobody should try to impose that language on other Zambians. If the English radio channels are for English, leave it that way. The MP is right.

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    • Mwa Silozi: What you refer to as broken Bemba is actually a mixture of Lamba, Swahilli, Bemba, and other languages. Remeber the Copperbelt was the first “One Zambia, One Nation” in that all 73 tribes and people from neighboring countries like Tanzania, Malawi and Zaire were represented. I can argue here that Nyanja and Bemba are more legitimate in Zambia as official languages than English. Therefore for any person to ignore the above fact is just politics and not being practical.

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    • The trouble is that you are thinking about urban areas ONLY when you say “Nyanja and Bemba are more legitimate in Zambia as official languages than English”. Go to a rural corner of the country like Sinjembela or Sianyoolo and speak that language, and you will struggle to be understood. Part of the reasoning why English was declared Zambia’s official language, I think, was not to favour one language over the other. If you promote those two languages you mentioned, you will alienate other people in their own country.

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  8. Nyanja is spoken in
    Malawi, Mozambique,Zambia, Congolese and Zimbabweans will understand when there is a discussion.

    • So what naiwe? That’s the question. I’m Bemba and even if I don’t speak Tonga I can understand it. The first time I boarded Zambia Railways and read “ichi critical lubono lwenu twalumba mutachinyonyauni” I understood. The banquet languages are similar and they should be identifying their similarities instead of fighting over their differences

  9. I hope Turbo Kawana won’t succumb to pressure and fire that woman….I have heard some woman on radio 4 responding in Lozi… to me that is not a problem.

  10. The honourable is 100% correct, that program was administered in English, and so I expected the presenter to simply say kindly gone and if possible, at the end interpret what you want to say in English since the caller appeared to comprehend English very well.

    In future, please allow only the official language, which is English to be used to avoid confusion, that is why the KK government allowed only English to be the official to avoid this problem.

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    • I do not see the reason for ignoring the demographics of a country for political reasons or just to satisfy a minority. We have Muslims in Zambia and their rights are secure. There is nothing wrong being a small tribe in Zambia. But to be a small tribe and then you want to disregard the fact that there are others more numerous than you is initiating discord. Lozis are fewer but they are not less important than others. Also they have a rich culture which is a benefit for all Zambians. However, for any person to ignore the demographics of the nation as well as the lingua franca is not reasonable and egotistic. What if a Luchazi had called in the program, would there have been the same reaction from some circles?

  11. When you speak about intermarriages please note:
    When Bemba and Lozi get married…..their Children will end up speaking more Bemba than Tonga.
    Its the same with Tonga/Bemba Marriages.
    Even a Bemba marries a Luvale….The children will end up speaking more Bemba than Luvale.

    Even In Zimbabwe , if a bemba marries a shona….The children will speak more bemba than shona.
    LETS FACE IT …..BEMBA IS THE EASIEST LANGUAGE TO LEARN AND IT IS THE EASIEST MEDIUM OF COMMUNICATION AFTER ENGLISH. LETS JUST LEARN TO SPEAK BEMBA….YOU LOSE NOTHING!!!

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    • The reason why Bemba dominates in the children when there is a Bemba tribal intermarriage is that Bemba mouth parts work over time, night and day. Too much talking and arguing, loudly for that matter, even when the mouth is talking nonsense. Children then learn what they are hearing the most. I once had a Bemba partner, the relationship did not work because of the loud mouth.

    • The main reason why Bemba dominates in the children when there is a Bemba tribal intermarriage is that Bemba mouth parts work over time, night and day. Too much talking and arguing, loudly for that matter, even when the mouth is talking nonsense. Children then learn what they are hearing the most. I once had a Bemba partner, the relationship did not work because of the loud mouth.

    • @Zambian I was responding to Linguistic-the source of the thread-not to you. Cant you see he is a Bemba and Iam a Ngoni? You’re coming in between our cousinship. Yayi mwe!

    • I just said the truth, and it has stung your smelly arse. More truth: Zambia would be better of without loud mouths like you and your tr*be mates who have small, round, hard heads. You add little to the country’s GDP, only lying and fraud. Damn c*nts, go back to Zaire where you belong!

  12. The people dismissing this issue are the point. This through with your intellectual, not your big0ted trib@l viewpoint. There was a reason English was nominated as the Official language and there was Channel 1 and Channel 2 on ZNBC. The English channel ensured that someone who’s never been to Lusaka or Copperbelt could tune in and listen so long as they understand English that they would have learned in school.
    It used to be emb@rrassing for someone to speak a native, local language other than English on an English language channel… how did this change?
    Why dilute these channels with Bemba or Nyanja? The equal language representation was a way of preserving pe@ce and not to promote one tribe over the others regardless of how widely that language was spoken.

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  13. Problem here the Bembas stubbornly refuse to learn others’ language, wrongly believing their language was cooler than others, believing that speaking Bemba is associated with being modern and progressive. The historical context here being it was the language widely spoken in mines and the Copperbelt which was the employment capital of the 70s, 80s and early 90s. Later after the collapse of the mines, the unemployed youth migrated Lusaka and brought the Bemba language with them, around the the same time with Gabon soccer team disaster. But before then, Nyanja was widely spoken in LSK.

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    • You are wrong. Personally I would want to learn Lozi, Luvale etc but how since your people want to speak either English or IchiBemba. There is also another reason you don’t want to teach us your language…. you think we’ll get your women.

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    • Deja Vu, you are 100% correct. The Bemba attitude is the problem. If someone tries to speak to them in Tonga, Lozi or Luvale, their typical reply is something like “Shi umfwa ifyo” (forgive my broken Bemba and spellings, I am proudly not Bemba). But we mwaume/we mwanakashi, try and you will ‘umfwa’!

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    • Sorry, I meant to say to Jigga Kayama Simangulungwa: you are 100% correct. The Bemba attitude is the problem. If someone tries to speak to them in Tonga, Lozi or Luvale, their typical reply is something like “Nshi umfwa ifyo” (forgive my broken Bemba and spellings, I am proudly not Bemba). But we mwaume/we mwanakashi, try and you will ‘umfwa’!

  14. The fact is the natives of every language would want their language to be proudly preserved for future generations to come and no way they would accept their language being trampled over.
    I say this MP raises sone serious issues that deserve proper attention.

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  15. Awe stop the nonsense. ZNBC needs to employ or use their team from the language section to be on hand to do the translation. I even encourage our president to speak in tonga at the UN so that those translators earn their money. People should speak in the language they are comfortable in. Chinyanja just like Swahili does not belong to anyone so these dialects can be used without intimidating anyone.

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    • Tonga at the UN? Bemba at the UN? Nyanja at the UN? It won’t happen until after World War 3 when Zambia defeats Nato and the US and then leads the formation of a new league of nations

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  16. This explains why we sold all our food reserves because it was stocked by PF who we don’t like. This kind of thinking is showing the results. Numbers don’t lie ask mealie meal ask the dollar ask the fuel. If the program moderator does not understand Lozi is it her fault? May be ZNBC must have a policy that if a program is being broadcast by ZNBC in Mpulungu only Lungu speaking presenters must moderate.And if it is being broadcast in Muyombe only Tumbuka speaking must moderate or be presenters.

  17. Deja Vu, you are 100% correct. The Bemba attitude is the problem. If someone tries to speak to them in Tonga, Lozi or Luvale, their typical reply is something like “Nshi umfwa ifyo” (forgive my broken Bemba and spellings, I am proudly not Bemba). But we mwaume/we mwanakashi, try and you will ‘umfwa’!

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