Press statement for immediate release from Senior Chief Mukuni of the Leya people*
26th July 2020
I have agonisingly followed the debate by His Majesty Paramount Chief Chitimukulu of the Bemba people, in which he makes startling claims that UPND President Hakainde Hichilema harbours intentions of wanting to dethrone him. I wish to state from the outset that I am making my statement reluctantly and with a heavy heart for various reasons, one of which is on the basis of the mutual respect and solidarity that the institution of traditional leadership invests on itself in Zambia.
The solemn culture of royal etiquette by its nature normally prohibits public debate between Chief and Chief and naturally and more critically between Chief and subjects. But the circumstances in which the accusations are being made can longer be termed as ordinary. It therefore calls for any peace loving Zambian, royalty or ordinary citizen to correct the adverse climate that could degenerate into unnecessary misunderstandings, that have the potential to endanger national security, if left unchecked.
I therefore find the effort to drag Mr Hakainde Hichilema and Hon Milupi into the Bemba royal family in – fighting by His Majesty the Mwine Lubemba unfortunate, unfair, unnecessary,overbearing and without a solid, sound basis and legal or moral justification. The evidence available and very much in the public domain is that Mr Hichilema has never exulted in the dethroning of His Majesty, but, contrary has on various occasions commiserated with him with unwavering support.
The perception that is being lavishly portrayed on media that ‘the Chitimukulu responds to Mr Hichilema’, is grossly misleading, because a response can only be sought for and originated by an exhibition of specific and viable evidence which in this case is lacking. The Chitimukulu appears to overwhelmingly depend on mere hearsay to find Mr Hichilema guilty by association, which by the law of natural justice is unjust and unacceptable and draws a dangerous precedent for future discourses.
In as far as I am concerned, what endangers His Majesty’s throne is Bill 10 which he tragically appears to be a proponent of. The monstrous Bill 10 advocates to remove traditional Chiefs from their thrones at the behest of the Republican President. When I last checked, Mr Hichilema vehemently opposed this Bill while the Republican President supports its enactment into law. Who between the two is a danger to His Majesty’s rule in an unlikely event that the evil Bill is made into law? It’s definitely not Mr Hichilema.
Further, let me state that I find a lot of inconsistencies in the Mwine Lubemba’s statement. Among many is His Majesty’s assertions that ‘the Bemba had no problem voting for other tribes, like they did for Kenneth Kaunda, Frederick Chiluba, Levy Mwanawasa, Rupiah Banda and Michael Sata’.
The apparent characterization of late Presidents Fredrick Chiluba and Michael Sata in His Majesty’s statement, as outsiders of the Bemba Kingdom is succinctly clear and categorical, but also brings to the fore the level of divisiveness the Chitimukulu’s debate brings to the unitary nature of the Zambian statehood, which by our constitution is blind to ethnicity and other artificial boundaries.
Would it therefore be far fetched to view the above argument as arising from the fact the Tongas overwhelmingly voted for President Chiluba in 1991 and 1996, that he therefore can’t make the Bemba qualification coupled with his Luapula origins? Was President Sata not Bemba enough because he originatef from Mpika, and because he ordered his then Home Affairs Minister, Mr Edgar Chagwa Lungu to deploy a battalion of Police Commandos to prevent His Majesty from ascending to the throne?
If indeed the two late Presidents are inconsequentially non Bemba, how does His Majesty then reconcile his usual claims that 21% of Zambians are Bembas if Luapula and Muchinga Provinces appear to be excluded as he seems to suggest.These questions and many more are not intended to embarrass His Majesty, but they underscore the reason why ethnic gerrymandering by traditional leadership can be a source of division and a danger to national security.
I also take keen interest on the unwarranted claims and sustained effort by a group of Bemba royal highnesses over the perennial false and politically charged claims that Bembas were attacked and their property vandalised in Namwala post 2016 elections, and that the Tongas remained mute over the matter. How could there have been a response over a matter that never took place, against the backdrop of a massive propaganda campaign sponsored by the state and a political party to falsify an impression that it happened?
The lightening speed with which ‘relief’ supplies and the erection of temporary shelter was carried out by the state and surrogate NGOs, testified to the highest desperation in which an institution was attempting to drive a false and malicious agenda against the Tonga people, for political gain and to bring them into disrepute but most tragically, to promote a possible atmosphere for genocide.
To that effect, I communicated to His Majesty Chitimukulu, of my personal offer to meet the costs of the Lubemba Chiefs to travel to Southern Province on a fact finding mission inorder to verify for themselves, that this was a heavily sponsored and politicized agenda by a political party. The offer to clear the air as expected was declined and graciously splashed across government controlled media and the ‘Mast Newspaper’.
Finally, I wish to state that I find it remarkable that His Majesty believes that the Tongas would want to fight the Bembas when the one who wields the political power is not Bemba but an Easterner, who is currently being challenged by the provisions of constitutional democracy that allows for elections by political parties every five years.
There’s absolutely nothing that the Tongas would want to wrestle from their Bemba brothers and sisters with whom they have long historical cooperation with, since pre independence times. His Royal Highness must not rewrite history and attempt to conceal the fraternal and cordial relationship between these two tribes who additionally, according to some credible statistics are involved in more inter marriages between them, than any other ethnic group in the country. Tongas and Bembas have unequivocal and solid historical symbiotic relationships which unfortunately is in danger of being distorted by power politics.
Let the Mwine Lubemba retreat into his respectable and majestic domain and unite the Zambian people than separate them, because the consequences of setting tribe and against tribe has telling ramifications that have caused wars in nations like Nigeria in the Biafran question, and the Rwandan genocide, which the latter country has incidentally made claims that appear to accuse our President’s involvement in its internal affairs. It’s incumbent upon all of us as traditional leaders to unite the country because our subjects belong to a spectrum of political affiliations.
God bless the Republic,
*Senior Chief Mukuni*
of the Leya people of Kazungula, Livingstone and Zimba Districts and all the Bene Mukuni.