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Opinion - Living neighbourly after the SA divisive regime

2021-11-05  Prof Makala Lilemba

Opinion - Living neighbourly after the SA divisive regime
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Mazrui (1986) maintains that colonialism divided ethnic groups against their will – and in the process, these families took a longer time without seeing each other or severed ties forever. 

In the case of Katima Mulilo border towns of Namibia and Zambia, the South African divisive regime pursued this colonial policy aggressively and border crashing up to Senanga and killed many Zambians. 

At Namibian independence in March 1990, many peace-loving people from both sides of the border thought that peaceful relations will at last be restored and sustained for the benefit of all Namibians and Zambians.

Nevertheless, that was just wishful thinking, as the security forces of both countries almost went to an extent of exchanging fire at “No Man’s Land” at one stage. 

One wonders why the people of Zambezi and Zambians at WENELA Border Post threaten one another, when in fact they are both of Luyana stock, separated by Heligoland-Zanzibar Treaty of 1 July 1890. 

Despite the colonial impact on the same people in the area, there are more factors that unite them than dividing them.

 

Historical factors

Mainga (1973) maintains that it was Ngombala, the sixth Luyana or Lozi king, who incorporated the ethnic groups in Zambezi into the Lozi or Luyana kingdom around 1740 – and these groups that originally moved from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, during the sixteenth century, finally formed part of the main Aluyi or Aluyana.

 

Political factors

The people of all the three phases of flight into exile after the formation of CANU and the harassment that followed thereafter in 1968 from Zambezi ended up in Zambia.  

The first group of refugees consisted of the founder members of CANU, such as the likes of Mishake Muyongo, Richard Kapelwa Kabajani and others - and landed at Mambova. 

The second group of 1968 used the Imusho route and finally settled at Mayukwayukwa, Maheba and Nyango. The third group mostly composed of students used any route but finally found themselves on Zambian soil. 

This means that for whatever reason or any crime committed, the Namibian side should be tolerant and considerate of these factors. For some of us who witnessed the atrocities committed by the South Africa Security Forces against the Zambians in 1978, it still sends chilling accounts in our spines

 

Linguistic factors

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

The close proximity of these villages to Sesheke and Mwandi in Zambia, the historical ties and origin of these communities, as well as the rest of the people in Zambezi compel them to converse in Silozi. 

In addition, 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. 

Even at local community level, Silozi remains the tool in which messages are conveyed. For the sake of unity in the region and in the Western Province of Zambia, Silozi, as a language, can heal divisive ills.

 

Humanitarian factors

In all fairness, the people of Zambezi should appreciate the role played by Zambians as herders, contract labourers and other forms of jobs; yet, these people work under cruel, harsh and indeed terrible conditions. 

Some of these workers do not receive remuneration for their work – and sometimes, they are simply chased and threatened by their employers. 

The people of Zambezi are entirely dependent on Zambians to do their menial jobs. One wonders whether the Zambian High Commission in Windhoek is aware of the hardships their people endure in the Zambezi region.

The irony of policing as keeping law and order in the Zambezi region: Keeping law and order should be carried out in a professional manner. 

Harassing the kamachincas (those who change kwachas and dollars at No Man’s Land) while leaving the bulk of policing is hard to comprehend. 

The Namibian-Zambian border is too porous to say the least. It is easy for people to cross at any point from Singalamwe to Impalila without being detected by the law enforcement agents. 

However, at the same time, the law enforcement agents, in most cases, turn a blind eye to some of the illicit activities taking place along the border. 

For example, Katima Mulilo market in Namibia is a replica of Mongu or Sesheke markets in Zambia. It is a fact that many people from Zambezi do not cultivate beans, groundnuts and peas on a large scale, but these commodities are everywhere in large supplies in Katima Mulilo. 

There is nothing wrong with trading between the two countries, but the reality is that these commodities cross the border during the night. 

Maize produced by Zambezi farmers were almost rotting in their silos because maize from across saturated the Katima Mulilo market. If Namibia was serious about curbing crime and trafficking of dangerous stuff from across the border, the policing should have been professionally looking at these crimes, instead of attacking the kamachincas at No Man’s land.

Of course, Zambians are not angels either, as Zambezi herds of cattle dwindled on their side and were possibly sold there. Now that both countries are free, it is imperative that the leaders and the general public relate to one another peacefully to avoid unnecessary tension.


2021-11-05  Prof Makala Lilemba

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