Some may wish to know that Barotseland ceased to be an absolute monarchy many centuries ago! Barotseland has had laws and constitutional practices for centuries! Yes! Although unwritten, its constitution has effectively guided Barotseland nonetheless, and BNC is a fundamental practice of that unwritten constitution!
Unlike most modern states, Britain too does not have a codified constitution but an unwritten one formed of Acts of Parliament, court judgments, and conventions. Similarly, Barotseland has been governed that way long before encountering the British!
THE BAROTSE NATIONAL COUNCIL AND ITS FUNCTION
A Barotse National Council seeks to achieve the same purpose as a national referendum. It is a consensus building mechanism! Therefore, whenever the Barotse nation needs to make a very important, course defining decision, they must constitute and call for a Barotse National Council. It is the people’s constituent assembly known in siLozi language as PIZO ya Sicaba – the people’s call!
The PIZO has been the culture throughout recorded Barotse history, and it stems from as far back as can be remembered! Some of the notable decisions decided by the BNC over the years include the various treaties and concessions signed with foreign entities like the British South Africa Company (BSAC) and the British Empire which redefined the course of Barotse history! These were never the King’s decisions alone as they were always preceded by the people’s PIZO!
More recently, the signing of the Barotseland Agreement of 1964 was not any different! Prior to its signing, the matter was subjected to a Barotse National Council! Only then could the King of Barotseland, Sir Mwanawina III, sign on behalf of himself, his heirs, and his chiefs, and the PEOPLE of Barotseland, who had popularly and collectively decided to join the independent state of Zambia in shared sovereignty!
A BNC is a rigorous national decision-making process which starts from the family unit up to the national council itself! Depending on the matter under consideration, the BNC may take different formats, as determined by the King and his council. However, it must always fulfill some prescribed consultative bench-marks!
Those unfamiliar with Barotse governance will be surprised to note that Barotseland has had this unique type of democracy as far back as the 19th century, long before the advent of the European colonists!
In this regard, the BNC is summoned by the Litunga when, in consultation with his Kuta, he judges that there is a situation requiring major consideration confronting the people of Barotseland. The formal meeting of the Council is linked through the subsidiary regional and district chieftaincies, to the village headmen and each individual member of his community. In essence, each stage in this progression meets in turn, around the country working upwards, to discuss the question and appoints representatives to the meetings at the next stage until the actual Barotse National Council meeting is reached - a process that could last anywhere from two weeks to a month!
At the most recent meeting of the Council in 2012, for example, over 10, 000 delegates were in attendance, each ranking equally, and all fully briefed on the matters to be decided upon. At the conclusion of that meeting on 27th March 2012, a series of resolutions were recorded and passed by the Council. The members of the Council then dispersed, and in accordance with custom, the council ceased to exist until it is summoned next, leaving behind as its practical manifestation of authority, the resolutions it had passed. These resolutions will then guide Barotseland as a binding law on the entire nation!
THE BAROTSE NATIONAL COUNCIL OF MARCH 2012
The 26th – 27th March, 2012 BNC meeting was called to address the Barotseland Agreement of 1964, its persistent breaches and abrogation and express purported repudiation thereof by successive Zambian Governments, and all matters arising out of the situation thereby created, including the extensive breaches by the Government of Zambia of the human rights of persons adhering to the Barotseland cause; the illegality of the Zambian rule of Barotseland and the legitimate desire of the people of Barotseland to exercise their fundamental right of self-determination in an independent Barotseland.
As the supreme source of authority in Barotseland, the 2012 BNC met at Limulunga to expressly consider the situation and the future of Barotseland, having regard to the abrogation and repudiation by successive Zambian governments, of the Barotseland Agreement 1964.
The meeting was duly summoned by the Litunga and was regularly held following the customary procedure above. It was preceded by similar meetings at the village, district and regional level who discussed the same questions and appointed delegates to accompany the village headmen, district and regional chiefs to the national meeting. When the National Council finally met, there were in excess of 10, 000 delegates present and every member of the population had had his or her opportunity to express their views.
The Zambian government and various foreign ambassadors and representatives of foreign countries in Zambia also attended the council as witnesses! The international and national media were also in attendance!
Since no other BNC has been held to invalided the 2012 BNC, Barotseland is procedurally still under the sovereignty of the 2012 BNC resolutions! And since the institution of BNC had the authority to join Barotseland with the newly independent Zambian state in 1964, the same BNC must have equal authority to decide to pull Barotseland out of the failed attempted union with Zambia in 2012!
Like a matrimonial union, the procedure used to enter it could equally be used to annul it if the union crumbled irretrievably! The Barotseland Agreement 1964 inadvertently and inherently contained within itself provision for disengagement the same way a matrimonial union contains within itself provision for annulment if the union becomes irreconcilable! After all, no judge on earth could compel estranged spouses to dwell together.
If the BRE will not respect and honor this supreme institution of governance, why must they expect that other institutions of Barotse governance will be respected? BNC is like a referendum! When a referendum is passed, the national leadership must work towards fulfilling the wishes of the people! Therefore, if anyone has problems with the 2012 BNC resolutions, they must similarly go back to the people and convince them to reverse or modify their earlier decision, instead of using archaic repressive Zambian methods, to try and impose their selfish wishes on the people of Barotseland!
Sizo ki Sizo!