Why Bo Simataa Simataa is wrong on Barotseland, like many of his kind!

10 October 2019
FILE: Simataa Simataa (2014) and his 2019 comment (Inset) - CLICK IMAGE TO ENLARGE


Rarely do we address individuals except when we have cause to believe their public sentiments represent a national or a sectional mindset that needs pointing out, calling out or deserves commendations. This is the case with our esteemed elder brother, Bo Simataa Simataa, whose recent public sentiments on Barotseland must be addressed because he, like many others, are today apparently struggling to reconcile themselves with the ongoing increase in separatist feelings among many, especially younger Barotse people in Zambia and Barotseland!

Therefore, rather than think that this is an attack aimed at our brother’s person, we would hope that this is taken as an interrogation of his kind of mindset about Barotseland, which unfortunately is still shared by many others! We sadly observe how he and many others suffer noticeable anguish whenever they encounter Barotseland nationalism, especially on social media! Although Barotse people are usually peaceful in their debates, Bo Simataa and his kind somehow believe it is wrong for any Barostzish person in Zambia to think of themselves as anything other than Zambian. Bo Simataa may be sincere in his recent cautionary views about Barotseland but we also think his recent warnings are wrong and misguided.

He is, however, free to argue and defend his viewpoint, and we would gladly defend his right of opinion! In fact, we have often challenged Zambians or indeed Barotse people who wish to stop those demanding their rights of self-determination to give convincing reasons why they must stop and prove that they are wrong or misguided in their demands!

We believe that Barotse people are largely reasonable and law-abiding people who would more easily succumb to reason rather than ridicule, threats, arrests, imprisonment or even killings – which seems to be the only response they have gotten from Zambia thus far!

However, it would be unfair to blame Bo Simataa and his generation entirely for their misguided viewpoint. Rather we must blame the mould under which they were raised or trained. Although highly educated and well accomplished, they were raised in a Kenneth Kaunda engineered mould which shaped them to think it was wrong for any Barotse to think of themselves distinctively as Barotseland nationals within Zambia!

They were never taught that they were, in fact, Barotse nationals first and Zambian citizens secondarily, and even some reading this will think we are breaking some laws or they may call us secessionists bringing anarchy to their peaceful Christian nation or call us tribalists even when our argument is historically and legally true!

Yes! We have said it, and we will continue to say it until someone proves us wrong! While other Zambians would be correct to think of themselves as Zambian first before their individual ethnic or tribal groupings to foster Zambian nationalism and patriotism, this is not necessarily so to the Barotse people in Zambia! No Barotzish person in Zambia can be considered Zambian ahead of their Barotse nationality! This is how Zambia was actually founded in 1964 - Barotse people became Zambians on condition that Barotseland, a country separate from Northern Rhodesia and Britain, would continue to enjoy its autonomy in Zambia – and all three countries, including Northern Rhodesia which was becoming the sovereign republic of Zambia, agreed and signed to this condition!

A truly Christian nation or Christian individual should actually be more worried that Zambians have failed to honour a covenant they signed with their Barotse brothers and sisters rather than think the Barotse are the antichrists!

Even more worrying is that the Zambian state which claims to be Christian has caused the death of and imprisoned many Barotse people for merely reminding them of the agreement they signed in 1964. As we write this commentary, three Barotseland activists, Afumba Mombotwa, Inambao Kalima and Pelekelo Likando, are serving 15 years in state maximum-security prison for treason felony over the Barotseland Agreement 1964 related charges, even when the three never raised a finger against or to harm any Zambian in their campaign for a self-determined Barotseland!

That both Barotseland and Northern Rhodesia were separate and distinct Protectorates (countries) under Britain, and that the two territories were given joint sovereignty on the condition that Barotseland would continue to enjoy her autonomy within the new sovereign state of Zambia, with the financial support of the state, is an irrefutable matter of public record!

So, saying one is Barotzish from Barotseland should be as normal and as correct as saying one is Scottish from Scotland, Welsh from Wales, Irish from Northern Ireland or English from England, four countries making one sovereign United Kingdom. A unitary state made this way, like Zambia and UK, is not ‘inseparable’ as many assume because their unity is dependent on specific terms and conditions, which when broken could consequently cause their joint sovereignty to separate, peacefully or otherwise!

We need not teach Bo Simataa about ‘terms and conditions’ because anyone who knows our brother appreciates that he is a very constitutional and institutional gentleman! In fact, some, if not most, of his personal and professional troubles in the past and present emanate from his insistence on following ‘terms and conditions’. He loves to follow the law to the letter. While this is highly commendable, this admirable rare quality in him and many Barotse people of his generation has often been used as a weapon against them!

All the ruling class have needed to do is simply change the laws to disadvantage Barotseland, and Bo Simataa and his kind would be beaten into submission to the new mould without any protestation! This is why Barotseland was almost obliterated because the Kenneth Kaunda mould made it unfashionable to entertain Barotse nationalism! The mould was camouflaged as a desire for greater unity, and voila, Bo Simataa and his kind swallowed the bait.

What we have in Zambia today is not unity but outright suppression of Barotse people’s rights as agreed and signed in 1964 by Barotseland, Northern Rhodesia and Britain! Anyone who stands up to this suppression or attempts to break the mould is met with state and societal reprisals.

This is forced assimilation, annexation and outright colonialism - black on black!

Here now is the context. While commenting on a Barotseland based social media, Barotseland Broadcasting Network (BBN), Bo Simataa made the following interesting comment that inspired this extended commentary, and we must emphasise that of interest to us is the philosophy Bo Simaataa represents in his comment, rather than what he was commenting on.

Sims Simataa says, “Bulozi with all its splendor, culture and glory became Zambia. It's not separable - anymore than you can separate yeast, floor (sic), heat and all other ingredients of bread from bread.

Any attempt to do so will not only mess up the parties involved but create a monster which will be neither bulozi or ZAMBIA.

Be warned!” END.

Firstly, observe how Bo Simataa and his kind will always avoid using the name ‘Barotseland’ and would rather use the siLozi derivative ‘Bulozi’ even when using the English language. While many will think this is innocent, it is not. It is usually born from a fear among some people that if they used the name Barotseland, they would be misunderstood and may be considered to have broken from the Kenneth Kaunda mould, which would, in turn, attract some sort of state or societal reprisals.

To many in Zambia, the name Barotseland does not and should not even exist! Some even think it is criminal or illegal to use the term except when it directly benefits the ruling establishment!

We understand that only the other day, on Tuesday, a Zambian cabinet minister, Hon. Vincent Mwale, stood on the floor of parliament asking the Honourable Deputy Speaker to forbid the use of the name Barotseland, claiming it was un-parliamentary, to which the Speaker reserved ruling for further research, after which another point of order was raised by the opposition leader in parliament, Hon. Jack Mwiimbu, to state whether, consequently, the Barotse Royal Establishment (BRE) – the Zambian government’s only ally and partner currently in Barotseland, would be equally deemed un-parliamentary.

For the record, there is no law, present or past, that criminalises the use of the term Barotseland. In fact, it is mere conditioning of the mind by the Kenneth Kaunda mould, that has made it appear so! Although the Barotseland Agreement 1964 was abrogated or purportedly abrogated by successive constitutional changes between 1965 – 1969, the name Barotseland has never been outlawed. This Zambian mould merely made it appear outlawed.

Observe that we have used the word ‘purportedly’ in view of the fact that one legal school of thought argues that it is not possible to abrogate the Barotseland Agreement 1964 using constitutional means like Kenneth Kaunda did because the 1964 agreement predated and was made superior to the constitution of Zambia.

CLAUSE 8 of the 1964 agreement signed by the three countries of Britain, Northern Rhodesia and Barotseland, in the witness of the Commonwealth, specifically tasked the government of the newly independent state of Zambia to ensure that no future constitutional changes would be instituted in Zambia that would be inconsistent with the terms of the pre-independence Barotseland Agreement 1964.

Also, by international standards, the Barotseland Agreement 1964 qualifies as an international treaty that could not possibly be annulled by a municipal, domestic or national constitution!

However, what is definitely clear is that the agreement was breached in that period and this breach was formally accepted by the Barotse people at the 2012 Barotse National Council (BNC).

Secondly, Bo Simataa needs to be educated that a unitary state such as Zambia, United Kingdom and many others are not products of a mixture of ingredients such as in bread dough but are actually unions of distinct entities such as the union of holy matrimony. So, while it might be impossible to separate the ingredients in bread after it is baked, it is quite possible for a union which was made by covenants, vows and agreements, such as marriage and unitary states, to separate once the vows, agreements and covenants which bound them have been breached.

It is no wonder competent courts of law would grant divorce, even after the couple had vowed to stay married till their death because it is not safe to force spouses estranged by irreconcilable differences to continue living together – deeming a peacefully negotiated separation better than a bitter or bloody civil war that could ensue if they continued to live together in their tumultuous union.

Bo Simataa also seems to conclude that the end result of a separation might be a monster, which we find too strange to believe because many countries have successfully attained independence all over the world without producing monsters, making us wonder why he assumes that Barotseland’s own independence from Zambia would produce monstrous results!

Our conclusion is that Bo Simataa and his kind will not see beyond the mould that raised them if they insist on conforming to that mould! One has to break out of this mould to see differently, and this has been the problem of many Barotse people that were raised in the Zambian mould – they can’t break the mould because they fear to be considered unpatriotic separatists, anarchists or tribalists!

And to conform to this Zambian mould, some Barotse must try very hard to prove that they are truly Zambian, if not more Zambian than their Bemba or Nyanja neighbours. Therefore, it would take a paradigm shift to change their misguided perspective on Barotseland because the Zambian mould has subconsciously demanded that they prove their Zambianess by their renunciation of Barotseland! So, many may have adopted survival instincts, such as speaking prominent Zambian languages at the expense of their mother tongue siLozi. This way, they feel they will be considered civilized or integrated enough!

We are also aware that some will genuinely not know how to speak siLozi, maybe because they are products of intermarriages or were raised by Barotse parents who did not teach them siLozi, however, even these must cultivate enough interest when grown up to learn the language of the Kingdom.

Some Barotse people even like it when their Zambian counterparts ‘commend’ them for not behaving or looking like the typical Lozi! They relish comments like, “You don’t look or behave like a Lozi!” How should a typical Lozi really look or behave? Should a Lozi feel flattered or should they be angered by such ridiculous comments even when they are intended to be ‘compliments’ from their Zambian counterparts?

Some have even intermarried simply to prove that they are Zambian enough and not tribalists or separatists like the typical Lozi! Of course, some will genuinely marry the love of their lives not caring whether their love was Aushi, Nsenga, Tumbuka or Bemba, etc.

The point, however, is that Barotse people in Zambia should not be ashamed to identify with Barotseland because that is their country! They can’t change history! Barotseland joined Zambia with terms and conditions, and have a claim to Zambia that is different from all other Zambians from other parts of the country. Barotseland, though renamed Western Province by Kaunda in 1969, is not to be considered the same as Eastern, Central, Copperbelt, Southern, Luapula, Muchinga, North-Western, Lusaka and Northern provinces, and Zambians accepted Barotse people in Zambia with an agreement to these terms and conditions.

It is okay, legally and politically, for a Barotzish person to assert their Barotse nationality even in the context of Zambia because that is what they truly are - Barotse nationals from the Kingdom of Barotseland! And don’t tell us the Kingdom vanished because they still have their internationally acclaimed rights to their territory and land as a people. Barotse are a people with international rights, among them, self-determination!

In 2012, the Barotse National Council (BNC), the supreme decision-making body of Barotseland, made a unanimous resolution to leave Zambia because the Zambian state had not honoured or implemented the Barotseland Agreement of 1964. Again there is nothing wrong with this because the Barotse reserve that right as a people, and the day the Litunga, King and sovereign ruler of Barotseland, will sign to implement those 2012 BNC unanimous resolutions, the Barotse will leave Zambia and claim sovereignty!

For now, however, the King of Barotseland has prevailed against his own subjects in order to maintain the fragile unitary state of Zambia, but with the stupidity of Zambian politics that disrespects him and kills his subjects at will, one can never tell when even His Majesty will have had enough!

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The Barotseland Post, also known as The Barotsepost, is an online media platform, for now, that is dedicated to reporting stories and news around Barotseland and beyond, giving exclusive coverage and access to the people and the nation of Barotseland to fully express themselves in their aspirations for self- determination.