In a fully-packed stadium of Katima Mulilo in Zambezi region over the weekend of 15 November 2019, President Hage Geingob told the frenzied politically stereotyped crowd that the underdevelopment experienced in the Region was caused by Mishake Muyongo when he fled the region in 1998. As usual, without any analysis of the head of state’s words, the crowd went wild, jeering and cheering, baying for the self-imposed refugee’s blood. Such sentiments are hollow and uncalled for, especially when uttered in the absence of the culprit.
This is the type of leadership we have – in which the game of scapegoating is played instead of facing the real pressing national issues. The developmental ills of the Region cannot be blamed on Muyongo and let alone on the residents, but the following are also implicated:
The national leadership: The trend of visits to the region has been that some national leaders would freely visit the Bukalo Khuta, while another national leader resorted to visiting the Linyanti Traditional Authority and as a result was termed president of the Mamili Khuta. Yes, there could have been issues among the Mafwe, which they could have sorted out without outside interference. As a consequence, the Mamili Khuta and the other Khutas do not see eye-to-eye, and it becomes almost impossible for them to discuss anything developmental.
Some national leaders sow the seed of discord and are possibly happy to see these seeds bearing fruits of hatred and chaos in the Zambezi Region. Hence, they cannot preach the effects of the principle of divide and rule when they perfected and applied it in the Zambezi region.
The national leaders sent to the region for election campaigning or on any national duty have been streamlined and stereotyped that every Mamili person is a Muyongo-man, no matter how committed he or she is in SWAPO. Moreover, whenever you meet a Liswani person, automatically, he or she is a SWAPO member. This has been the scenario playing the political-tribal card against one another. Because of this political gimmick, the so-called educated Zambesians try to outwit one another to find out who is more SWAPO than the other.
This leads to reporting one another to the power of (kwakusahana) the kakunya-style. Because of this environment, the national leaders cannot concentrate on developmental issues but banging the heads of the residents as they derive pleasure from such mischievous exercise. Quite strange, these national leaders cannot entertain such tribal sentiments in the regions they come from.
There are projects earmarked for the region but are withdrawn on the false pretext that the region is at war with itself. Yet in other regions, despite the disagreements among the residents, developmental projects still go ahead.
The indigenous national leaders: One wonders whether these politicians have any developmental agenda for the region. They hardly meet the local people to address them on anything developmental, except during election time. Some of them fail to visit their traditional authorities in fear of being labelled tribalists when everybody belongs to a community. They only meet either in the National Assembly or in the National Council and become strangers outside parliament. Yet, these politicians should develop and create a very powerful political base as charity begins at home. The indigenous national leaders of Zambezi fail dismally to emulate those from the neighbouring Kavango, who usually stand and function together in issues affecting their regions in terms of development.
The role of the church: A study conducted by the author and other scholars from the region found that the churches play a very minimal role in improving the education, social justice and the living conditions of the people. In addition, the churches do not build or run schools of their own, neither do they seem to be sponsoring students for further studies like in many regions in the country where students have benefitted from such financial assistance.
The issues of human rights, freedoms and gender equality do not feature clearly in the programmes of the churches – they only attach some lip ice service to them.
The churches do not reckon that times have changed and embrace a spirit where women are accorded the right to equality with their counterparts. None of the churches alluded to the way in which tribal issues should be addressed at church level, although one respondent claims his or her church is affiliated to the Council of Churches in Namibia.
In this regard, the churches appear to be ignoring this aspect by failing to take part in issues affecting their flock. The proposed curriculum by all churches is very simple – hence it is irrelevant in the world of technology and science.
The traditional authorities: The traditional authorities have the larger share of the blame.
It is questionable whether they have access to the quotas or they just depend on the limited resources given to them by the government. Worst still, the khutas have their own issues based on historical and political bickering especially in terms of paramountcy.
Like their educated sons and daughters, the khutas try to outwit one another to get favour from SWAPO. Indeed, the party is winning in deepening this hatred rift. The Katima Agreement signed in 1993 is just on paper and does not really mean anything.
Despite the Agreement which hints on none interference in the affairs of another khuta, one khuta went on to support the secession of Mayuni and Shufu Khutas from Mamili.
A year ago, one youth from Bukalo Khuta insulted all Mafwes, yet nothing was heard from his khuta to condemn or punish the young man. This means this khuta was happy with such insults.
There was also an incident in which a politician from the Mafwe khuta was caught in a tribal storm when he appealed to youths from the Mafwe khuta to loathe other tribes, particularly the Masubia, and his khuta kept silent – which means they were happy with the tribal instigation. In addition, Prince Mutwa keeps humiliating the Mamili Litungaship and refers to it as originating from Zambia but he forgets his own close relatives grew up in Zambia.
Thus, the residents of the region should work and tolerate one another. This song of tolerance has been sung repeatedly but it seems the Zambezians are missing the chorus. They should abandon the notion that someone from another region will come and solve their problems.
Independence means to be self-reliant as put by Nyerere. It is, therefore, imperative that residents learn to be independent and be able to sort out their issues in an amicable manner for development to take effect.
* Prof. Makala Lilemba, The University of Barotseland, Mongu, Zambia