Similarly, Munyinda Munukayumbwa (23), a renowned young Barotse nationalist vocal on the rights of the Lozi 'minority' in Zambia, was also arrested nearly two months ago and charged with ‘sedition’ over a facebook posting; "I CURSE STATE HOUSE UNTIL THE ISSUE OF BAROTSELAND IS SETTLED!", allegedly posted to a facebook page bearing his name on some unspecified date.
In fact, the Zambian state tried to implicate Munyinda in the burning of a local court which had occurred two days prior to his arrest in the remote district of Limulunga, but when the charge of ‘arson’ could not hold for lack of supportive evidence, the state changed his charge to ‘seditious practices’ over the above stated facebook posting.
Unlike Chilufya, however, Munyinda has not been accorded any bail hearing two months after his detention, even when the Zambian law stipulates that an accused person must appear in court, with an opportunity for bail on all bailable offenses, within 48 hours of their arrest. Trial has also not commenced because Zambia’s Director of Public Prosecution is yet to decide what to do with him. Meanwhile, Munyinda has been sick and has, sadly, just lost his ailing father whose prevailing illness worsened for lack of valuable care which his son could no longer offer him now that he was in extended incarceration.
Although the two cases are similar on face value, it would appear Munyinda does not enjoy equal rights before the Zambian law because while his Zambian counterpart has proceeded to trial with the judicial benefit of bail, the Barotse national seems to have been treated under a separate set of judicial rules which offer neither bail nor speedy trial.
It is regrettable to have to draw this comparison, but it is here hoped that through it, Mr. Tayali and others may be made aware of the suffering of the Lozi people generally, and may help the young Barotse activist incarcerated for this ridiculous charge.
Evidently, the outcry about this apparent judicial ill treatment is because Munyinda’s fate is all too familiar among Lozi people arrested under circumstances relating to the defunct Barotseland Agreement of 1964, even when it is as frivolous as being found in possession of some historical Barotse literature, which for some strange reasons has now been criminalized in Zambia!
Legally speaking, what crime has Munyinda committed; so grave that it would justify denying him bail and exposing him to untold prison torture like a convict? Does he not deserve speedy trial like his Zambian counterpart charged over similar circumstances?
What is further appalling is that in spite of continued persecution of Barotse people using trumped up charges, many Zambians would be heard castigating the Barotse victims just because Zambians generally think that Barotse people are agitating for ‘secession’ whenever they raise matters relating to the abrogated pre-independence Barotseland Agreement 1964, by which the Lozi of Barotseland became Zambian citizens.
However, renowned Zambian constitutional lawyer, Dr. Ludwig Sondashi, recently confirmed and clarified that Lozi’s cannot be called ‘secessionists’ in their demands for their rights of self-determination because it was on that basis that Barotseland agreed to became part of independent Zambia in 1964. While the Barotse would enjoy equal rights before the law, the region would exercise internal self-determination under the now annulled Agreement.
It would, nevertheless, appear that the Lozi have never really been treated equitably or ever been equal before the Zambian law, as Munyinda’s case above could attest.
What is even more appalling is the silence of the many Lozi in positions of authority who either sit apathetically by and enjoy their own personal emoluments or are sheepishly cowed into fear, even when blatant state injustices were constantly meted out to fellow Barotse who they should seek to protect.
In reality, there are currently many practicing lawyers and government leaders, including the Attorney General, Likando Kalaluka and Republican Vice President, Inonge Wina, who could easily use their powerful positions to protect and abate the state injustices inflicted on their fellow Lozi. If the other Zambian governors are oblivious to the pain of the Lozi, surely these powerful Lozi should be sensitized to the unique situation of their kindred!
Parliamentarians, clergy, civil society and human rights watchdogs seem to equally perpetuate the idea that the unique position of the Barotse in Zambia should not be publicly entertained for fear of rattling the Zambian government policy on the matter. While these influential institutions are often heard castigating state repression on the opposition such as UPND’s Hakainde Hichilema and EEP’s Chilufya Tayali, they have conspicuously remained silent over the open abuses the Zambian state inflicts on the Barotse.
Could Chilufya Tayali and Munyinda Munukayumbwa’s current troubles with the law over alleged facebook postings indicate that Barotse are but only second class citizens in Zambia?
Similarly, Afumba Mombotwa, Likando Pelekelo and Sylvester Kalima currently imprisoned over politically motivated crimes of treason, when contrasted with UPND’s Hakainde Hichilema, would suggest the same conclusion because whereas national and international solidarity has rightfully been mobilized in the latter’s fate, no corresponding outcry has been raised regarding the fate of the three Barotse leaders, perhaps only because they represent the views and rights of the Lozi minority in Zambia.
Nonetheless, all right minded citizens of the world should be entreated to demand the unconditional release of all political prisoners in Zambian jails, whether they are of Barotse or Zambian descent; as injustice on one is injustice on all humanity.