Incidentally, no other narrative has more accurately depicted Barotseland’s current struggles within Zambia than in the 1999 NORAD sponsored epic documentary titled ‘Frightening Waters’. In this emotive moving picture produced by Marit Lie of AB Rorliga Bilder, the Litunga of Barotseland, King Ilute Yeta IV and his Ngambela Maxwell Mututwa speak openly about Barotseland’s frustrations with Lusaka. This was indeed a unique occurrence because Kings in Barotseland very rarely speak for themselves, and especially so plainly. Understandably, the desperate time called for this desperate measure. Ilute Yeta IV referred to the stormy atmosphere at hand as the rising of the ‘Frightening Waters’.
Apparently, the pinnacle of this rare chronicle is when His Majesty explains how he constantly peered through the skies to observe the natural weather, while checking to see if the waters of Lyambai (Zambezi River) had raised enough to frighten the Barotse people for the transition to higher ground. To the most casual viewer this would seem like a mere narration of the unfolding events leading up to the annual Kuomboka, the movement of the Lozi from the flooded Barotse plains of Lealui to the higher grounds of Limulunga.
“One day, we had 58.6 millimeters of rainfall. It was a frightening downpour. I can tell you, Professor, the water is now becoming threatening! NOW, IT HAS TO BE AT A CERTAIN LEVEL TO GIVE US A FRIGHT! Without a fright we just say; Oh! Friendly Kuomboka, friendly munda, friendly water,” said the King majestically, as he veered straight into the video camera, as if wishing for his audience to look for deeper meaning from his carefully constructed words. It is from this statement that the documentary derives its title; ‘FRIGHTENING WATERS – A Documentary on Barotseland.’ Without any doubt, the producers of this movie got His Majesty’s message accurately!
When the frightening waters of Lyambai are at their highest peak, everyone knows it is time to move. From the youngest to the oldest, the most humble to the noblest; they all know and get the message of the frightening waters. The wise King immediately signals for the transition, for it is HE who MUST lead them out of the troubled habitation to higher ground. The people’s habitation is no longer tenable and their stay in the flood plains impossible. They can no longer produce any food to sustain their livelihood. The wise King must therefore quickly TRANSITION and move TOGETHER with all his people to higher ground where they could start afresh! No one dares to stay in a place where survival had become hopelessly and grossly ABROGATED. At that point no one moves against the NATIONAL TIDE to resist the movement we now call Kuomboka. Even the Nkoyas with their drums and the Mbunda with their ‘makishi’ masquerade move along with the rest of the other Lozi ethnic dialectical groups of Barotseland. They all have experienced the devastating effects of the frightening waters. They know and see the imminent destruction and hopelessness. Poverty and misery for the majority is the ensuing result.
Trying to endure will not help because the scenario of imminent devastation is well too familiar to the Lozi. Writing another tenancy agreement with the raging waters will not do either! They have already experienced the destruction of Lyambai or is it now Zambezia or maybe Zambia? The only solution, therefore, is to move up higher because they can take their chances at TOTAL INDEPENDENCE from the rage of this unfortunate circumstantial captivity. The higher grounds of Limulunga offer hopeful prospects, for surely anywhere else would be better than the familiar furious tirade of the frightening waters of Zambia.
Zambia is a sinking, debt ridden economic titanic whose currency is now on a free fall, although its largely clueless captains and crew keep pretending that all is well. They are promising Barotseland and its elites all manner of silver and gold. The kind that Zambia cannot offer to its own! Can Barotseland’s princes and princesses honestly believe that Zambia will care for them? Can all the BRE Indunas, in their wildest dreams, see themselves being treated above their Zambian counterparts, at the time that Zambia has barely any money to pay even her own teachers, lecturers, doctors, nurses and other essential civil and military staff? Are Barotseland’s BRE Indunas and Litungaship so distrusting of their own abilities and that of their children to the extent that they would believe the lie that their only lot is to perpetually eat crumbs falling from Zambia’s already impoverished tables?
What is amazing to note is that Barotseland’s 19th Century kings were more educated and more enlightened than even some of Zambia’s 21st century presidents! From Lewanika of the early 1900s to Sir Mwanawina III, the only African monarch to ever be conferred Knight of the British Empire (KBE). At Zambia’s independence, Sir Mwanawina was clearly more educated and above his Zambian counterpart, the humble school teacher, Kenneth Kaunda. How about that junior secondary school dropout, FTJ Chiluba or the standard four MC Sata who thought that simply cancelling three zeros from the kwacha would strengthen the Zambian currency? How about the rest of the Zambian leaders? If these leaders of humble learning could lead their nation Zambia, how is it that Barotseland would fail to govern herself? Certainly, even if Barotseland would make PhD as the minimum qualification to be in Barotseland cabinet, would we not have hundreds of professors, Lozi sons and daughters coming from all over the world to come and help govern Barotseland? Does the BRE not take pride in their Professors such as the Sasas, Sitwalas, Nayoos, Mulundanos, Mwendas, Lubindas, Matengus, Musokotwanes, Atangas, Akashambatwas, Fundangas, Mutukwas, Inonges, Mwangalas, Nalukuis, Namasikus, Mufalalis, Mwilolas and several countless other Lozis of high repute currently serving Zambia, UN agencies, World Bank, IMF and various other international organizations? Surely, when Barotseland becomes self governing, wouldn’t even a quarter of these eminent Lozi sons and daughters be sufficient to provide governance if called upon? Therefore, Barotseland can never be short of leadership and economic drivers.
As the frightening waters rise, King Lubosi Imwiko II must get his royal binoculars and see clearly that it is now time to lead his people out to higher ground. The Barotse Royal Establishment (BRE) should not think that restoring the defunct Barotseland agreement 1964 will bring new opportunities. Barotseland has been down that route before in the last 50 years and it has led to the current dead end. In fact it is our given opinion that Zambia, as a sinking debt ridden economic titanic, is now courting Barotseland only because they think it is their next life boat from their own raging economic waters to salvage their sinking country because of the prospect of gas, diamonds and all other natural resources that they now lust to exploit. They only seek to rape and plunder Barotseland’s resources and leave it perpetually desolate. Total independence of Barotseland is the only way out of the frightening waters of Zambia.
The entire documentary, ‘Frightening Waters’ with English narration as well as English subtitles, can be found here - https://youtu.be/HrEVqpwXhQc