The politics in Chiefs, Senior Chief Mwamba Kapalaula II, The Post, Commentary
This article is part of my submissions to the National Constitution Commission. And since the Bemba Ilamfya Traditional Supreme Council has not met for the past two years, I wish to state that the contents herein are personal and do not in anyway reflect the views of the Bemba Royal Establishment.
In order to clearly understand this issue, I'll state that the role of traditional councills have not generally been understood by the general public at large. The maintenance of royal rituals and a major share in control over the distribution of chiefly authority is vested in a group of hereditary councillors. These men are not in many cases members of the royal clan and are in fact ineligible for any chieftainship.
But, however, they determine chiefly successions and they compel in case of Bemba chieftainship, the attention of Mwinelubemba Chitimukulu and other chiefs because they are the source of chiefly legitimacy. To this extent, they can be said to represent both the principle of chieftainship and the community against the failings of any chief.
In fact, these groups of stakeholders or tribal counter-balancing institutions, such as Inchenje Council of the Bemba are found in many African polities. For example, the Olusenje Council in Mbailundu (Angola); the Ayilolu Council of the Ndembu; the ''Bena Mulenda'' Council of the Lamba; the Bantungwa or Bamushika Council of the Bisa; the Amalongwe Council of the Namwanga; the Ataambikwa Council of the Nyika or the Imbozi Council of the Ngoni.
In the previous constititions as well as the current draft constitution, the articles in this respect override the role and importance of these tribal balancing-institutions which serve as sanctions on the abuse of chiefly authority and control successions.
This has been a violation of cultural rights contrary to the United Nations treaty signed in 1966 to which Zambia is a signatory and it is also in violation of regional treaties of the African Charter on human and people's rights of 1981. This was, of course a deliberate calculation that has given politicians liberty to interfere in chiefly successions with impunity.
The point is that in cultural norms, intellect or reason is not sufficient to explain strong elements of ritual nature. This is because ritual deals with objective realities and definite contents and demands. In chieftainship, we have what is called ''ritual fitness.'' In this respect, Andrew Roberts, a social anthropologist in A History of the Bemba wrote:
"As guardians of chieftainship and final arbiters of a man's personal and ritual fitness to rule, the bakabilo (hereditary councilors) can be said to represent the Bemba as a people, not indeed against the Bena Ng'andu (the royal clan), but certainly against individual chiefs who appear unworthy of their office..'' And "ritual fitness'' involves some cultural sticking points which are kept in secret within the inner royal circles.
For example, in patrilineal successions, the tribal elders might be aware that the chief did not actually 'father' the 'son' who externally might appear and claim to be the right 'heir' to the throne and there are many other ritual reasons for a person's unfitness.
On the other hand, the Bank of Justice has recognised the implications and importance of traditional councils. Mr Justice Gregory Phiri said, 'In matters of successions under the African customary law, it is cardinal that proper procedures, rituals and practices are followed to ensure both continuity and in the interest of peace, order and good governance in affected areas.' (Zambia Daily Mail 19th January 2003).
The Supreme Court has finally ruled in favour of Chitimukulu-in-Council as the only legal body that appoints Bemba chiefs, and thereby throwing out an earlier High Court ruling by Judge Nyangulu.
Article 261 (5) in the draft constitution reads:
"In any chiefdom where the issue of a chief has not been resolved, the issue shall be resolved by the community concerned using a method prescribed by an Act of Parliament.' This should then read: "In any chiefdom where the issue of a chief has not been resolved, the issue shall be resolved by a traditional council in accordance with their customary procedures.''
In the draft constitution article 263 states :
(1) A chief may-
(a) seek and hold a public office; or
(b) participate in national political activities by standing for any elective public office.
The sensitive question of whether a chief should actively participate in partisan politics cannot just be taken in such a careless blanket form because it can easily devastate some chiefdoms. And in fact, it hinges first on what Reverend James Earl Massey wrote about: '
'There is something to be said for human groupings. There are strengths in common tradition and a common culture, which makes a people one culture. Each group as '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 preserve, distinctives which give meaning to the group as its members review their 'story' in the drama of life.'' (Concerning Christian unity).
Second, it hinges on each tribe's relationships between a chief and the people. In case of the Bemba, Andrew Roberts wrote: "..The most important social institution among the Bemba, other than the family is chieftainship and it continues to command and stimulate local pride, because it is above all this institution which generates and perpetuates the sense of history. Besides, no other chiefly clan in the region has gained such power for its tribe as the Bena Ng'andu''
And he went on, ''Two further aspects of the Bemba polity which invite comparison are the relationships between royals and subjects. On the face of it, these are likely
to be important factors in the stability and cohesion of any polity. In the Bemba case, they are closely linked and must be conveniently discussed together. In all cases, the stakeholders are a group of hereditary subject priest-councillors (Bakabilo) or at least those ineligible for the kingship….For when the stakeholders are subjects the integrity of the kingdom is promoted. This thus predicates a basic antithesis between an all-powerful 'ruling class' and a 'dominated subject class' which may even reject the ideology of the rulers.''
And therefore in this very unusual and rare Bemba democratic scenario, the subject does not imagine himself to be wholly restrained, but draws the sharpest distinction between the restraint which is merely subjection to another man's arbitrary will and that which recognises in his traditional custom a rule which has a right to be respected and hence he is in this sense self-imposed.
In the Bemba scenario, it is impossible to imagine a situation where the chief begins to trade insults with his subject in a parliamentary election campaign since politics is fraught with slander, snobbery and discourtesies. In this respect Andrew Roberts wrote:
"Subordination is deeply ingrained in Bemba society, and it is not too much to say that umucinshi (respect, deference, propriety) is one of those essentially key words which characterise the whole society.''
On the other hand, a chief should, ideally, be an impartial leader of the people in his or her chiefdom regardless of their political affiliations. However, his or her active participation in politics can inevitably place him or her in an adversarial position against those subjects who may have different political alignments.
It may, however, be rightly pointed out that the late Mwinelubemba Chitimukulu Mutale Chitapankwa II accepted the appointment to UNIP's Central Committee and that the late Senior Chief Nkula Chisanga was Chinsali District Governor.
And also that the late Chief Mumpolokoso Mufimbana Bantu contested and won a parliamentary seat in that area. The key point is that in the one party participatory democracy, the climate of opinions and the ethical apparatus by which politics was evaluated varies widely from any that now prevails.
For example, when the members of the House of Chiefs asked the government for car loans for chiefs and NOT for personal-to-holder vehicles, a Zambia Daily Mail reporter, Nigel Mulenga retorted, "…a man who can barely write, let alone sing the national anthem to drive a posh car...''
And he went on with such unprintable derogatory language which is so far the worst type in the history of traditional rulership in this country.
Admittedly, chiefs were and can be criticized even today, but the criticisms must still leave much room for respect. Dr Max Gluckman makes this point clear in his book Rituals of Rebellion: "The licensed ritual of protest is permitted so long as there is no querying of the order within which the ritual of protest is set. In this way, the tribal society is self-limiting in order to accord respect for their chiefs. This is very easy in societies where the boundary between the inner world of the self and the outer world of the community mark their line of fusion rather than of separation.''
I must make it abundantly clear to all megalomaniacs who have become swollen-headed as challenged heroes of sarcasm i.e., the fake sophiscates who look down upon
chiefs as yokels with little intelligence that from now on anyone who dares to shoot unjustified foul language at the Institution of Chief, we shall also fire back with the same kind of ammunition in order to make it clear that we too are very much capable of defending ourselves and our institution at all costs. After all, as a new breed of traditional leaders, we are just as educated, intelligent and politically enlightened as anybody else.
It is of course, of paramount importance that the Constitution should protect the Institution of Chief from those chiefs who would like to use it as a political ladder, but nevertheless, the Constitution must draw balanced lines of demarcations between those royal establishments that favour participation in partisan politics and those which do not. And then between individual chiefs who have political ambitions, but are within the royal establishments that oppose active participation in politics.
And in this case article 263 may probably read as follows:
(1) A Chief who intends to stand for elections to the National Assembly shall produce a certificate of clearance from the Traditional Council before lodging his nomination.'
(2) A Chief who intends to stand for elections to the National Assembly, but who does not produce a certificate of clearance from the Traditional Council, shall abdicate his chieftainship before lodging his nomination.'
Sunday, 25 January 2009
The Politics in Chief (Senior Chief Kapalaula II)
An important article from Senior Chief Kapalaula II on reforming the relationship between chiefs and politics, within the context of the Draft Constitution currently being debated at the NCC.