• August 13th, 2020

Ethnicity in the political arena of the Zambezi Region

Prof Makala Lilemba

It is election time once again in Namibia and many political parties are jolting for support, to give them more votes to qualify for a large portion of the parliamentary cake. 

The language and game of politics is survival of the fittest and the winner taking it all. Unfortunately, many people term politics a dirty game, but contrary to this old-held perception and perspective, politics is not dirty. 

The political practitioners are always misguided by many factors and finally tend to tarnish the image and scope of politics.

The word “tribalism” can be avoided as suggested by Walter Rodney (1973), who felt it carries colonial and derogatory connotations and vague as it was loosely used by Whites in African literature.
Confidente recently reported about tribalism in Zambezi politics reeling its ugly face.  

The reporter alluded to the concerns raised by the Mafwe and Mayeyi about their unequal representations in Katima Urban. 

It is unfortunate that the song of tribalism has been sung the loudest in the Zambezi Region yet such incidences are found in other regions. 

There are cases of regionalism in many parts of Namibia; some of the targets are people from the Zambezi Region. 

The concerns of the traditional authorities in both Kavango East and Kavango West few years ago regarding the promotions of Zambezians living in the two regions is a living story. 
The recent friction between cattle herders from Ohangwena Region in the Kavango West is an issue in which some herders lost their cattle. 

When Congress of Democrats and Rally for Democracy and Progress were formed contrary to Swapo stalwarts’ expectations, tribal swords were drawn among the groups from the northern regions. 
These cases are just tips of the icebergs regarding issues tilting around ethnicity in many parts of Namibia. 

In some cases elections have to be called off and new ones organised because some people felt that “their own” have not made it either to Swapo electoral pot or for particular positions. 
Why is the Zambezi Region always targeted in cases of ethnicity as if such incidents are only common there? There are many factors of which the following could be cited:

The Zambezians themselves
Issues which could be discussed at both local and regional levels are either blown out of proportion or fed to the media without due consideration of the consequences and impact thereof. 
There have been friction among the groups, but it should be understood that with the dawn of nationhood, people shoulder harambee for the sake of development. 

Many Zambezians still cling to the proverbial Lozi mentality of failing to swallow their pride and a result cannot work together as a team. 

The Zambezians should learn from their Lozi cousins in West Province of Zambia who at independence in 1964 had four ministers from a cabinet of sixteen, three prime ministers and one vice president, yet their province remains one of the least developed in Zambia because they failed to tango. 

Zambezians should understand that every region in the country has its own issues, but the people there still work together as a team for the common good objectives of all. 
We should learn not to wash our linen in public. 

The young generation should work very hard to break the ethnic generational curse through dialogue, interaction and integration at all levels.

The national leadership
This institution exacerbated the already volatile situation created by the apartheid regime of divide and rule by playing one group against another for political expediency. 

The national leadership whether through design or by default failed to read the Zambezi political barometer and rough-shoddily treaded the scenario from independence. 
If the national leadership really wants to solve the issue of ethnicity in the party, it has to play a transparent political game; otherwise, they will fail to score. 

The wrong political perceptions divide
Unfortunately, there are unenlightened elements who cling to the wrong political perception divide that all Masubias have been Swapo supporters and all Mafwes have been DTA supporters all along. 
It has been the case with the northern populations in which we were made to think that all Oshiwambo speakers are Swapo supporters until the advent of other parties like the CoD and RDP on the political horizon. 

There is no way in which all members of a group can belong to one political party. 
In the case of the Zambezi, almost 90% of people who were arrested and detained in Pretoria in 1968 for supporting and feeding PLAN freedom fighters were from Mamili area. 
Add the children from Chixhu, Kalubi, Sesheke, Sikaunga and Singalamwe villages, who opened the first Swapo primary school in exile. 

Yes when Hon Muyongo came back from exile, he had his followers, but not all Mafwe followed him. 
Still he commanded an equal large following among the Masubiya. 
In this case, the writer witnessed a huge DTA rally, which lasted for four days near Limbeza (between Bukalo and Kabbe) around September/October in 1989. 

There is also evidence that some of his key shadow cabinet ministers were from Chief Moraliswani.  
In addition, it is true Hon Muyongo led the secessionist group, but if you read the CANU constitution of 1982 (a defunct merger party with Swapo which supported secession of the Zambezi Region from Namibia) out of twenty-six members of its Central Committee, only nine were from Mamili area. 
Not all Mafwe followed Hon Muyongo and Chief Bebi Mamili in exile

If other groups bring the issue of inclusivity, it is only fair to tackle it from a quota system level. In many countries, political balancing is necessary if the leadership wants to entertain some form of political stability in the party.

Finally, for the sake of Harambee Prosperity Plan, as a clarion call by the President, it will be appropriate for all regions to apply the principle of inclusivity bearing in mind that we are building a new and young nation vulnerable to all forms of barriers along the way. 

The University of Barotseland, Mongu, Western Province, Zambia

Staff Reporter
2019-10-18 08:13:31 | 9 months ago

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