• February 29th, 2020

Is Silozi relevant in teaching and learning activities in the post-independent Namibia?



Prof. Makala Lilemba

Aristotle, a Greek philosopher once said that man is a rational animal and what sets him apart and raises him above the animals is his ability to reason .In this case language is necessary for man to be a rational creature and was only given to him (Lewis 2002).

 Language enables people perceive the world and define culture of any society. Of late, there have debates whether Silozi should be taught in Namibian schools and aired on NBC, as it is perceived to be a Zambian language. However, the Berlin Conference of 1884 cut many African linguistic groups into half. 
Consequently there is Oshikwanyama in Angola and Namibia, Setswana in South Africa, Botswana and Namibia, Silozi in Namibia and Zambia, Maasai in Kenya and Tanzania to mention just few incidents. Although what is regarded as Silozi today is a merger between Siluyana and Sesotho, many languages contributed to its formation and came on the linguistic scene in the 1860s (Times of Zambia, 2010). Silozi has since been the lingua franca of the Zambezi region.

Because of the demarcations of the Zambezi region from Bulozi in 1890 by Britain and Germany, a lot has changed between Silozi of Western Province of Zambia and that of Zambezi region, Namibia.
Silozi speakers of Western Province maintain that theirs is more polished and standard than the Zambezi one, but the truth is that Silozi was manufactured in the Zambezi region because the Sothos who brought the language to the region settled and ruled Bulozi around 1830 from Linyanti (Sangwali today). Some scholars might be having reasons for relaxing the use of Silozi in Namibia, but the author feels otherwise for the following: 

Silozi as a mother tongue: There are villages in the Zambezi region where Silozi is used as a mother tongue like Kazauli (Kambinda village), Ishubu Village, Mukisa, Mafuta, Ncheza, Namalubi, Mubiza, Imukusi, Nfoma, Lisikili, Libula, Mponje, Mumbone, Kalimbeza and other smaller villages. 

Silozi authors in the Zambezi region: It is difficult to state with certainty about the circulation of any book written in any language of the Zambezi region apart from Silozi (Curriculum Committee for Silozi, 2009). In fact, many authors have emerged from the Zambezi region using Silozi as a written language. In this case, many books in Silozi have been published ranging from grammar, novels, plays or dramas and other types of writing. Of late, we hear of dictionaries in Sifwe, Sisubiya and Siyeyi, but the reality is that they are still in their infancy stage.

Silozi as a means of communication during political rallies, public and community meetings: All announcements be they political or otherwise are either made or written in Silozi. When addressing meetings and public political rallies, Silozi is the medium of communication. 

During church services of all denominations: Silozi is still the means of communication during services of all churches in the Zambezi region. The Bible and hymnal books are all written in Silozi. All other religious tracts or materials are only available in Silozi. In the case of the Roman Catholic Church, the priests be they white, black or Indian, conduct their mass in Silozi. In any church service if there are groups of people who do not understand English, interpretation is done in Silozi.

Silozi used on Radio and Television Services of the NBC: When radio broadcasting for the Zambezi region was started in 1974 on the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) in Johannesburg, programmes were broadcast in Silozi. When South West Africa Broadcasting Corporation (SWABC) took over in the early eighties, Silozi continued to be used as medium of broadcasting programmes in the region. Namibia Broadcasting Corporation (NBC) did not change the status quo of using Silozi in the broadcasting of their programmes after independence even today. 

For the sake of unity in the region: Zambezi region appears to be marred by negative things such as segregation along ethnic lines and political uncertainty. Silozi as a language can heal such divisive ills. It has been established that in many countries where one language is used, conflicts are minimized. 

Heritage and literature:  Li
terature exposes us to stories, epochs, sacred scriptures and classical works of the ancient and modern times. One of the areas in which literature can assist the whole country is knowing its heritage. This enlightens people about their origins and the struggle they went through to be where they are. Heritage through literature can serve as a source of pride for a people who might have gone through racial discrimination and other forms of degradation. In addition, the people will develop a sense of belongingness or pride. Namibians have a rich heritage and this can only be preserved in written languages like Silozi and others. 

The current Luyana-Silozi royal dynasty and the Zambezi region: Zambezi region played a strategic importance to the Luyana-Silozi royal dynasty and therefore the need to preserve the linguistic history. The famous King Lubosi Lewanika’s first queen was Ntelamo from Lusese village in Zambezi. From this union came Litia Yetaa III, the father of Princess Nakatindi, who in turn was the mother of Mbololwa (succeeded her mother as Princess Nakatindi), the wife of Sikota Wina. Queen Ntelamo took along her younger sister, Mpambo who was married to Ngambela Namakando Wina. From this union Arthur and Sikota Wina were born and became the first Ministers of Finance and Local Government and Housing respectively in Kaunda’s cabinet of 1964. The current Litunga of Bulozi Lubosi Imwiko’s mother was Lunza from Libula, Zambezi region. During his flight in 1884, the locals in Mashi saved Lewanika.

In conclusion, Silozi is not a foreign language in the Zambezi region, but in fact a part of the Region from time immemorial. Although there are variations in the Silozi spoken in the Zambezi region and that from the Western Province of Zambia, it should be noted that languages all over the world are not static, but keep on acquiring words and terms from other languages; therefore, the fear of other languages dying out cannot be justified. What should be done in the Zambezi region is to encourage its teaching, learning, broadcasting and use in all offices and other public places alongside with other languages spoken in the country. Above that Namibia is a mulitilingualistic country in which all languages are important and equal as per Article 3 (2) “Nothing contained in this Constitution shall prohibit the use of any other language as a medium of instruction” (Constitution of the Republic of Namibia, 1990). It is not only immature to advocate for the abolition of Silozi in the Zambezi region, where it has been in use for a century, but tantamount to make it extinct when there are even oppressive languages being taught in schools countrywide. The people of the Zambezi region have preserved the Silozi language, as being part of their heritage hence nobody should take that from them.

* Prof. Makala Lilemba, The University of Barotseland, Mongu, Zambia


Staff Reporter
2020-02-07 09:15:16 | 21 days ago

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