As popularly held, if you fool me once, shame on you, but fool me twice, shame on me! After being tricked more than once before, one would expect that the BRE have learned from their past mistakes of trusting Zambians and avoid being tricked in the same way again!
Clearly, the definition of insanity as broadly credited to Albert Einstein would best describe what the BRE have just done by announcing the purported dialogue with GRZ over a dead agreement, which is nothing new. They simply wish to continue doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results!
On the other hand, successive Zambian governments have perfected their craft against Barotseland since 1964. They know how to entice the greedy BRE clique and their cohorts in order to sustain the status quo. This treachery, which simply heightens during Kuomboka and election seasons, when used interchangeably with the intimidation and suppression of those that see through it, has always been a perfect trump card as it seems mutually beneficial to both the BRE clique and the GRZ. Whenever this trick fails, intransigent Mbunda and Nkoya factions get drafted in by government operatives to put the BRE back in line.The royal establishment needs government support to deal with the rebellious sections among the Nkoya and Mbunda groups whom the Zambian state often uses to cause periodic dissent among the Barotse communities.
We have often been called naïve when we say the so-called restoration is not possible by those who do not understand the enduring nature of the love-hate relationship between the BRE and GRZ. When we say it is not possible, we don’t mean that fruitless efforts like the proposed dialogue would not be undertaken. In fact, part of the trickery is to put up such a well-timed show that if it were possible the whole world would be made to believe that the Barotseland Agreement 1964 impasse is being addressed if not resolved. However, time always vindicates us! This proposed dialogue, like others before it, will deliberately run all the way to Zambia’s next elections where Lozis will be encouraged to vote the ruling party into government for the sake of continuity with the dialogue. If another party wins the election, they will also adopt the usual government strategy by first claiming to be studying the matter left pending by their predecessor, and their love-hate affair would then continue.
The other strategy is to make unsuspecting Lozi believe that in fact ‘restoration’ of the Barotseland Agreement 1964 entails freedom for Barotseland. No! The resurrection of the dead 1964 agreement does not mean independence for Barotseland but rather the perpetuation of Barotseland’s subjugation by an increasingly oppressive Zambian state.
Why is dialogue on the dead 1964 agreement a sheer waste of time?
This dialogue is really aimed at coercing Barotseland to remain part of Zambia under some watered-down arrangements. Certainly, the new terms will offer Barotseland less than the 1964 agreement; otherwise, Zambians will outrightly reject any new agreement more favorable than the 1964 agreement. If the 1964 terms were undesirable to Zambians, simple logic will suggest that better terms for Barotseland would be even more undesirable.
The 1964 agreement was negotiated and witnessed by international entities; Britain and the Commonwealth. If such an internationally organized agreement was abrogated with impunity, why would one brokered locally by a questionable Zambian regime endure?
Further, Zambians rejected the 1964 agreement because they could not stand to see Barotseland receive more preferential treatment under the same constitution than the rest of the country. The situation is even worse today as tribalism has become more entrenched in the Zambian society. The people of former Barotseland and North-Western Rhodesia protectorate are even more despised and discriminated against in terms of public sector participation by successive North-Eastern Rhodesia dominated Zambian governments as the country become more hegemonic and autocratic. Reports of Lozi, Tonga, Kaonde, Lunda, Luvale and their associated tribes being fired or retired in so-called national interest on suspicions that they belong to the opposition UPND are now rife. This is simply because Zambia’s ruling PF party performed dismally in successive elections in Southern, Western and North Western provinces which form part of Barotseland.
Most importantly, the abrogation of the 1964 agreement was done by constitutional amendments through parliament. Therefore, its restoration would similarly require a constitutional amendment through a parliamentary vote. However, anyone familiar with Zambian politics would know that Barotseland cannot have a favorable vote in parliament as the rest of Zambia has the numerical advantage.
It is, therefore, naïve to assume that parliamentarians will merely rubber-stamp the restoration of the 1964 agreement or it's successor treaty unless such a treaty was beneficial to Zambia. Currently, however, Barotseland’s proposed semi-autonomy is of no benefit to the rest of Zambia.
In fact, many Zambians regard calls for Barotseland self-determination as treason. Barotseland activists are regarded as a threat to national peace. Apart from two honorable Zambian lawyers; Dr. Rodger Chongwe and Dr. Ludwig Sunday Sondashi, no other prominent Zambian personality, institution or church body have publicly supported Barotse people’s rights to self-determination. The Zambian media, CSOs, NGOs and human rights watch groups do not acknowledge Barotse people’s rights to self-determination.
Lastly, the BRE was never mandated to spearhead restoration of the dead 1964 agreement but total independence. Without the sanction of the people, therefore, the BRE’s selfish agenda is bound to fail. If the BRE stubbornly pursue a unilateral course, they will only succeed in creating an atmosphere for continued turmoil in the region. What the people expect now is for BRE to unequivocally demand the unconditional release of all political prisoners, key among them Honorable Afumba Mombotwa, Likando Pelekelo and Sylvester Inambao Kalima, whom they have never accorded public solidarity.
Barotseland activists would, therefore, be well advised to ignore BRE-GRZ maneuvering unless such dialogue is based on fulfilling the March 2012 Barotse National Council resolutions for an independent Barotseland. BNC resolutions reign supreme in Barotseland, and the BRE, as custodians of Barotse culture and norms, must surely know that!