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IS LOZI A TRIBE, LANGUAGE OR NATIONALITY?

12 July 2019
Author  Sibeta Mundia, Barotseland Post
Skilful drummers during the Kuomboka, Barotseland’s annual water pageantry

 

“Some idea of the composition of the Barozi people of today can be gained when one realizes that they are composed of Bambowe, Bakwangwa, Bahoombi, Bakoma, Makololo, Bandundulu, Bambunda, Bankoya, Bashasha, Alunda, Balubale, Bambalangwe, Batonga, Basubia, Mashukulumbwe, Bakwande, Batotela, Bakwangali, Bakwengo, Balojazi, Vachibokwe, Basanjo and other tribes.

“Many of the above tribes were, so far as can be gathered, aboriginal owners of the Barozi country, others were raided from time to time and slaves (chiefly women) taken back to the homes of the raiders, where they in time intermarried and became Barozi.” - D. W. STIRKE, Native Commissioner Northern Rhodesia in his 1941 book titled ‘BAROTSELAND: Eight Years among the Barotse’ with an introductory chapter by Sir Harry Johnston, G.C.M.G., K.C.B. who was at one time H.M. Commissioner &c., for Northern Zambezia.

INTRODUCTION

The problem with a society deeply divided on tribal and ethnic lines, such as Zambia has become, is that every time they hear or read something about Barotse or Lozi speaking people, they jump to conclude tribalism even without understanding the context!

So, although the term Lozi has been deliberately made to refer to some unspecified and unknown tribe in Zambia today, it does not, in fact, mean any single tribe! If it were indeed one tribe, which one tribe would that be really? Would it be Luyana (Alui), Kololo, Sotho, Kwangwa, Kwamashi, Mbunda, Nkoya or other?

If other, when and where did this Lozi ‘tribe’ migrate from? Is it from the then Luba-Lunda Empire in present-day Congo or did it come from today’s South Africa?

Therefore, it is wrong to refer to LOZI as a tribe in Zambia or anywhere else!

Firstly, Lozi is merely a hybrid language also known as siLozi which spread across an entire nation and Kingdom of Barotseland during and after the Kololo occupation of the territory in the 19th century! And because it dominated the entire nation, by extension, it would be okay to refer to its nationality!

So, Lozi nation or Lozi nationality would be okay because it is where we actually derive the terminologies; maLozi, maRotse or Barotse depending on the origins of the speaker!

Although Lozi, as a language, is largely Sotho/Kololo and Luyana (the language of the Alui tribe), with the rest in the mix, it is neither Sotho/Kololo nor Luyana which are distinct languages and tribes of their own – different from siLozi!

Therefore, siLozi is not the same as siLuyana or siLuyi! It is merely a common or national language of Barotseland, which by extension can also be used to refer to Barotse nationality.

Some people may argue that when the maKololo first used the term, it was in direct reference to the Alui! Well, yes, but only in the context of the entire nation and territory that they had conquered.

Did the maKololo subdue only the Alui or indeed the Alui and all the sub-groups under them? The fact is that they subdued the entire Kingdom which they then named buRotse (River Nation), its people maRotse and the term was applied even to those who inhabited forests far from the river itself!

To explain this, we could use the name Zambia as an example. The Zambian country was named after the river Zambezi, thus Zambezi nation, which would imply that all Zambians are Zambezi River people, even when some parts of Zambia are far away from the river Zambezi.

The eastern and northern parts of Zambia, for instance, are actually closer to the Luangwa and Luapula rivers respectively, and yet they have no problem being called Zambezians or people of the Zambezi River!

So, all Zambians are called by their collective relationship with the river Zambezi in spite of their varied individual or regional proximity to the river!

Similarly, all the inhabitants of Barotseland are rightly called Barotse, maRotse, maLozi or Lozi by virtue of their collective relationship with the River Liambai, known in Zambia as the Zambezi, in spite of their varied individual or regional proximity to the river or its basin.

Territories are usually named by one common or dominant feature characteristic, which is then applied to the entire territory or country!

However, although the Lozi speaking people became a part of Zambia in 1964 at its independence, the circumstances of their citizenship were totally different from all the other Zambian citizens.

It is through this unique circumstance, The Barotseland Agreement 1964, that the Barotse should still retain their distinct nationality within the Republic of Zambia as stipulated by the pre-independence treaty!

That the 1964 agreement was purportedly abrogated and defunct in later years changes nothing of the collective national identity of the Barotse people in Zambia!

RECOMMENDED FOR FURTHER READING

  1. ARE LOZI PEOPLE SPECIAL IN ZAMBIA? - http://barotselandpost.com/top-stories/are-lozi-people-special-in-zambia
  1. IS WESTERN PROVINCE SPECIAL IN ZAMBIA? - http://barotselandpost.com/features/other-news/is-western-province-special-in-zambia
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