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Thursday, 14 August 2008

Chiefs in colonial Zambia

It’s now widely acknowledged that one of the key reasons for the failure of many economic reforms is poor understanding of the historical and cultural context to which they applied. The context helps us understand the various “seats of power” in society, the distribution of resources and the extent to which many other unobservables may influence policy outcomes.

In that sense our quest to understand how Zambia should develop, must include a full understanding of the various elements of its culture or traditions. In many respect our culture or traditions are best captured in our traditional authorities which embody the memories of the past.

In this first of a series of blogs on traditional leadership, I want to briefly cast our eyes on where we are coming from, beginning with the colonial era. The discussion in this brief post cannot do full justice to the richness of this topic, but I hope it can spark discussion on what lessons can be learned from the pre-independence era as we move forward. This is particularly pertinent as we consider the capacity of chiefs to be agents of social and economic change within the current democratic system.

The Zambian colonial experience, like many other countries in the region, is one of British indirect rule. The colonial state, through the local administrative centres or local “bomas” worked through traditional authorities (native authorities) to govern the populace. That is to say these native authorities were go-betweens between the colonial state and the people, a system which was immediately modified after Zambia gained independence in 1964, as shall discuss in the next blog in the series.

Native Authorities came into existence in colonial Zambia in 1929, through the enactment of the Native Authorities Ordinance (NAO). Over time the Native Authorities were amalgamated into bigger and supposedly more efficient structures. Indeed, by the end of colonial rule in 1964, there were about 60 large Native Authorities, with 233 senior and junior chiefs.

In the early years of their formation, a typical Native Authority comprised of a chief, court clerk, assessor and a number of ba Kapasu (Native Authority policemen), with responsibility for collecting tax and maintaining law and order. With the increased emphasis on rural development, during the post war period, the Native Authorities quickly developed into super structures with responsibility whose functions included education, health, and delivery of public works. In fact by the time of independence, these activities had expanded to such an extent that a typical Native Authority employed around 20 staff, with larger ones having as many as 50 staff. In addition, all Native Authorities were supported by numerous village headmen.

The general picture therefore is one in which local chiefs were presiding over significant and influential authorities, in their capacity as go betweens between the colonial state and the populace. This view is broadly shared by many Zambian historians. Much of historical discussion therefore focuses on how chiefs used this new found responsibility. This is particularly important as it gives us some insight on how traditional authorities have tended to use administrative power, and the extent to which that depends on the incentives they were facing. Indeed, some might even argue that the extent to which ordinary Zambians place social value on the role of chiefs within a modern setting, is partly shaped by the extent to which many believe the “colonial experience” with chiefs was largely positive or negative, given the wider circumstances they were facing.

There are essentially two views on the nature of this “go-between” role. The conventional view, largely perpetuated by European historians, is that Native Authorities in British Africa were largely captured in their positions only to serve colonial governments, with little regard to the interests of the people they served. In this distinctly European narrative, the chief is portrayed as a self centred ruler who did little to advance the interests of his / her people, stereotypes which still pervades modern Zambian thinking. In particular, this scholarly approach shaped people's social and political attitudes towards traditional authorities. It has led to the natural tendency to view any proposal that increases role of chiefs in governance with suspicion. The view of a self centred chief is deeply ingrained in our thinking.

However, the empirical evidence for exploitative colonial chiefs now been largely questioned by African historians. In Zambia, at least, the work of Samuel Chipungu and others paint a very different picture. Far from being weak instruments of the state, increasing evidence shows that chiefs attempted to balance their official duties as agents of the colonial state with expectations of rural Zambians. This fine balance and traditional flexibility is readily seen in two areas.

First, chiefs exercised great care in matters of revenue collection. Native Treasuries were a key part of the Zambian colonial state from 1937, when they were created in Native Authorities and through the first and second world wars proved critical in providing salaries, financing public works, offer loans and advances to staff and other deserving local individuals. By the1950s Native Authorities were building primary schools, clinics, dams and even purchasing equipment for showing films.

The revenue came principally from three sources - "native tax", "court revenue" and "licences and permits" (e.g. dog licences). Although significant attempts were made by Native Treasuries to collect the revenue from the populace, after all the wages of the staff came from the collected revenue, chiefs tried hard to distance themselves from the more unpopular sources of revenue and mechanisms designed by the colonial state to collect revenue. This was especially the case for the dog and gun licences, and fish and livestock levies. Among many chiefs who spoke bitterly against such licences include Chiefs Bunda Bunda and Mukobela.

Secondly, in matters of law and order, chiefs were generally reluctant to prosecute cases that were likely to make them widely unpopular, contrary to colonial state expectations. This was especially when such cases related to matters of revenue collections like dog and gun licences and abuse of NAOs (a careful balance had to be struck here, because revenue collection was also a private source of funds as I discuss later on). NAOs where particularly notorious for the populace as they included requirement of regular attendance for school children, payment of various levies, and maintenance of footpaths, restrictions of specified areas and even cleanliness of villages. For many chiefs such measures provided an ideal opportunity for them to create a populist stance among the rural dwellers. The challenge for chiefs was always to maintain relative autonomy for fear of alienating themselves from the rural populace, in order to further legitimise their authority. Hence, they rarely pursued application of colonial laws to their fullest extent, but just enough to meet the legal requirements of the colonial government.

As great as these achievements were, I believe their unheralded achievements were even greater. In many respects, the greatest contribution of the traditional authorities during this period was in the way they leveraged their new power to the advancement of economic and political change. In particular, their ability to use state revenue to the development of rural entrepreneurship and political activism that eventually led to independence.

Its well documented that local chiefs and their officers in the Native Authorities used Native Treasuries to enrich themselves. The revenue from the treasuries became sources of capital which they invested in productive ventures (and presumably non-productive as well, though this aspect is not well documented in Zambia). The investment patterns generally tended to follow regional specialisation. A couple of examples:

  • In Southern Province, chiefs and their Native Authority staff tended to investment in agriculture and related ventures due to the pre-emenince of peasant agriculture there.
  • In Luapula Province, chiefs tended to invest in fishing through the purchase of fishing nets and boats. As the demand for fish on the copperbelt increased, owners of boats and fishing-nets stepped up their catches by employing the services of a number of fishermen
  • Where Native Authorities covered areas teeming with game, local chiefs and their officers tended to invest in hunting gear, particularly in guns. Game meat could even be sold, even in cattle-keeping areas, as the slaughter of cattle was often reserved for important occassions. But of course, the most important product was always ivory, which was still in demand by urban based exporters. In Kabwe, for instance, Chief Chipepo was renowned for elephant poaching in the 1940s, and this was partly while he was removed from Native Authority office in 1948.
  • In areas where Native Authorities were along major roads and railways, or close to urban centres, chiefs and their officials operated light delivery trucks, stores and groceries, and ran hawker businesses. Chief Sandwe in Petauke District, for example, combined his official duties as head of a Native Authority, member of the African Provincial Council, and Provincial Education Authority with running a family store business at Sinda.

Local chiefs were able to engage in these activities because they depended less on their wages for day to day sustanance. As chiefs they did not have to pay rent or other expenses as these were given to them as tribute from the people, in line with existing traditions. When we combine this with the higher wages they were getting from the colonial government, it basically allowed them to convert their Native Authority salaries into significant investment capital.

In addition, besides the Native Authority salaries there were other sources of income available to them e.g. loans and other surplus funds from Native Authority projects. We can’t also forget their prime source – embezzlement of public funds. Many used Native Authority funds to enrich themselves. Poor controls within the Authorities led to significant misappropriation of funds, especially with court revenue. Many of them also introduced levies and fines outside the legal framework and collected money for their benefit. Here we find a startling problem they faced. On the one hand the incentive was strong for them to keep revenue collection to a minimum in order to preserve their relevance, on the other hand weak controls provided an opportunity to extort money from the populace. It was therefore always a balancing act.

Not all revenues went into private businesses, some of it was channelled to the nationalist cause. The rise of nationalism in the post WWII, posed significant challenges for local chiefs, with ANC and UNIP spearheading the fight for independence. The colonial government was uncomfortable with nationalism and worked hard to suppress those that championed nationalist cause. Native authorities were expected by the State to arrest, fine or imprison party functionaries.

However, it is widely acknowledged that the colonial government’s effort to use Native Authorities in its struggle against nationalism largely failed. Native Authorities generally tended to adopt the attitude of non-cooperation with the central government against agents of nationalism, some even going as far funding these agents or taking a dual position as both agents of the state and the nationalist cause.

For example, many local chiefs only tended to arrest local politicians only in the presence of central government officials who directed the exercise, even though central government preferred arrests to be frequent. Examples of this include Chief Katuta, Chief Mapanza and many other chiefs in the Tonga Plateau.

Indeed it was the realisation that Chiefs were less than helpful as allies in the struggle against nationalism that led to the increasing reliance of the colonial government on the Mobile Police Unit, a law enforcement organ designed specifically to deal with riots. The unit was famously put to work in 1961 against the Cha Cha Cha militarism in rural areas, particularly in Luapula Province where there was significant destruction of schools, bridges and other symbols of government presence.

So what drove chiefs to this apparent acceptance of nationalism and its exponents? Three reasons have been suggested in Zambian literature:

  • First, nationalism produced local leaders lacking rigid connection to either ANC or UNIP, who headquarters were in urban areas. Therefore the rulers did not confine themselves to defined party lines, which led them to develop political agendas replete with rural -based grievances which chiefs wished to champion.
  • Secondly, many chiefs feared allienation from local populace that had embraced nationalism and therefore did not want to weaken their traditional authority further. Support of nationalist cause was therefore a way of preserving their authority.
  • Thirdly, the growing influence of education. Where chiefs were educated, as was the case in Southern Province by the 1950s, they argued for tolerance of the politicians, as they understood their role as that of balancing the forces of progress and those of tradition. Where chiefs were illiterate it was the educated Native Authority employees who tended to champion the course for official caution towards local politicians and nationalism. Senior Chief Mushota in Luapula, for example, appears to have neen influenced by the more politically conscious Silas Chama, his Chief Councillor.

To sum, the general picture of chiefs in colonial Zambia can be viewed in two ways. First, the "middle man" role required them to provide a balancing act between the needs of the state and the local populace. Something that they generally accomplished very well. Secondly, chiefs were quiet, but active players in the emergence of an economic and political independent Zambia. They used their Native Treasury positions to spearhead entrepreneurial spirit and most importantly used their influence to support the nationalist cause.

I believe that that a careful and thorough study of this period provide three distinct lessons for those seeking to understanding how best to incorporate traditional leadership in Zambian development:

  • Traditional authorities are a broader part of our historical, political and economic heritage. Many of the benefits we enjoy in terms of entrepreneurship, and some which were immediately crushed under one party state, can be attributed to them.
  • Rightly viewed, traditional authorities have always adapted and changed with the times. Our traditional authorities were not static institutions, but rather institutions that saw opportunities and always looked at how best to create a win-win situation between the people and the government of the day.
  • Incentives matter even for traditional authorities. We have seen that chiefs reacted to both good and bad incentives. Where controls were weak, chiefs moved to exploit those controls and amassed wealth for themselves, albeit with positive spillovers for the oppressed populace and future Zambian generations. Where cultural incentives were strong, chiefs put the maintenance of culture and local traditions before obligations to the state. This was particularly the case in matters of revenue collection and maintenance of law and order.

In the next post in this series, we’ll turn our attention to discuss how the role of Chiefs was substantially modified after independence, consigning them to the peripheral of economic and political life, and the reasons for the reversal. A full list of the seven topics which are being covered in this series can be found here.

(I hope that future posts would be much shorter! In putting this piece together I have excluded references because there are so many, but it should be obvious that I am deeply indebted to the work of Chipasha Luchembe, Mwelwa Musambachine, Samuel Chipungu and many other Zambians historians who continue to shed new light on pre-independence experiences. )

18 comments:

  1. A few things:

    - " The conventional view, largely perpetuated by European historians, is that Native Authorities in British Africa were largely captured in their positions only to serve colonial governments ". This is wrong. In essence, the view of chiefs as organic representant of their subject is as European as this one. After all, European designed Indirect Rule, didn't they ? If anything, the division is more ideological (with the Left viewing chiefs in a negative way) though colonial post-partum syndrom makes things more complicated in Africa.

    - How fair is it to say that chiefs using embezzled public funds to invest in productive endavors is "spearheading entrepreneurship" ? Would you say the same if it was a modern politician doing the same (and they do the same) ?

    - This sentence is intersting: "institutions that saw opportunities and always looked at how best to create a win-win situation between the people and the government of the day". You mean to say that they always looked at how best create a win-win situation for themselves and that entailed balancing between their subjects' satisfaction and the goverment's satisfaction, right ? RIGHT ?

    - You seem to view the balancing act thing as a net positive in general. But the issue is that it's exactly what anybody in a position of political power is supposed to do and in general does. There's nothing remarkable about it.

    - No mention of violence at all. That's odd. Unless Colonial Zambia was some Gandhi-an paradise, there must have been some use of violence as a mean to enforce power. How did it play ? Did the colonial authorities use violence to get rid or subdue chiefs that were getting out of line ? Did the colonial authorities use violence to support "loyal chiefs" who were facing some internal opposition ? Was the threat of violence part of the debates on unpopular taxation ?
    This is important because the use of violence changes the incentives. A chief that is backed by the state security force has much less incentives somehow satisfy his people.

    - Don't you think that the fact that chiefs were entrepreneurial because of all this: " Local chiefs were able to engage in these activities because they depended less on their wages for day to day. As chiefs they did not have to pay rent or other expenses as these were given to them as tribute from the people, in line with existing traditions. When we combine this with the higher wages they were getting from the colonial government, it basically allowed them to convert their Native Authority salaries into significant investment capital. In addition, besides the salaries there were other sources of income available to them e.g. loans and other surplus funds from Native Authority projects. We can’t also forget their prime source – embezzlement of public funds. " has led to inefficiency issues ? Picture yourself being a young Zambian entrepreneur in those days and having to compete with all that (and you didn't mention conflict of interest issues). How many smart ideas, great manager have been crushed by that situation ?

    I know you'll say that this is a weak "accusation" but you should really really really try to make an effort not to sound so biased when you write. I mean, we get a long list of "accomplishments" and when you admit a negative (embezzlement of public funds), you immediatly decide to view it as a positive. And there's a lot of negatives that aren't described like the tributes in line with tradition (which was not voluntary but enforced).

    And the general tone is an issue. One fundamental issue is to figure out how many chiefs were a net positive and how many were a net negative, not if they all were all good or all bad.

    You're right to say they react to incentives. Everybody does. But getting a position by birth and by colonial fiat (or post-colonial) is the strongest disincentive there is to be responsive to their subject demands. Add to that, the fact that the chiefs shape the same tradition their power is based on and you have a whole lot of unchecked power and a whole lot of possibilities to be self-serving.

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  2. ”This is wrong. In essence, the view of chiefs as organic representant of their subject is as European as this one. After all, European designed Indirect Rule, didn't they ? If anything, the division is more ideological (with the Left viewing chiefs in a negative way) though colonial post-partum syndrom makes things more complicated in Africa.”

    The phrase was “conventional view”. I don’t dispute that alternative narratives exist in Eurocentric reading of this aspect of African history. But if you look John Illife’s ”Africans” or ”History of Tanzania” or Andrew Roberts “History of Zambia” , these views are repeated and repeated. But I guess this may be simply a sample selection problem. Do you have references for the alternative narrative?

    ”How fair is it to say that chiefs using embezzled public funds to invest in productive endavors is "spearheading entrepreneurship" ? Would you say the same if it was a modern politician doing the same (and they do the same) ?”
    I think this must be viewed within the historical context. We talking about an era of limited redistribution towards African. Restricted access of capital for them through oppressive measures. It is simply a fact that stealing at that time was a form of forced redistribution. As I point, much of the funds am sure where used for unproductive activities, but its also clear that much was used for productive ones.

    ”This sentence is interesting: ”institutions that saw opportunities and always looked at how best to create a win-win situation between the people and the government of the day”. You mean to say that they always looked at how best create a win-win situation for themselves and that entailed balancing between their subjects' satisfaction and the goverment's satisfaction, right ? right ?”

    Yes. As always, self preservation was at the heart of their decisions. I think I make this very clear.

    ”You seem to view the balancing act thing as a net positive in general. But the issue is that it's exactly what anybody in a position of political power is supposed to do and in general does. There's nothing remarkable about it.”

    Agreed, but the point was to show how chiefs adapted within their given set of constraints. There’s a view among people that some chiefs are not flexible and these institutions don’t adapt. Historical evidence suggests otherwise. In some sense the fact the fact that it is not remarkable is important. Chiefs are like any another institution. They can change and adapt and react to constraints and incentives they face.

    ”No mention of violence at all. That's odd. Unless Colonial Zambia was some Gandhi-an paradise, there must have been some use of violence as a mean to enforce power. How did it play ? Did the colonial authorities use violence to get rid or subdue chiefs that were getting out of line ? Did the colonial authorities use violence to support "loyal chiefs" who were facing some internal opposition ? Was the threat of violence part of the debates on unpopular taxation ?
    This is important because the use of violence changes the incentives. A chief that is backed by the state security force has much less incentives somehow satisfy his people.”


    I think this is an important point. I could have said more about this. After reviewing the post, I noticed I only hint on violence with regards to the “cha cha cha” riots in Luapula. Violence was certainly there in terms of fight against nationalism, but a careful read suggested that many chiefs preferred persuasion rather force. Evidence on the use of violence by chiefs backed by state is scarce. Much of the literature focuses on violence during the British South Company era. But I am still looking!

    ”I mean, we get a long list of "accomplishments" and when you admit a negative (embezzlement of public funds), you immediatly decide to view it as a positive. And there's a lot of negatives that aren't described like the tributes in line with tradition (which was not voluntary but enforced)…. One fundamental issue is to figure out how many chiefs were a net positive and how many were a net negative, not if they all were all good or all bad.

    Of course there are many negatives. In truth, I wasn’t really attempting a cost benefit analysis of traditional authorities, but rather to see how chiefs adapted to change and the extent to which they were able to juggle with different things. The aim was not to ask, where chiefs a good thing, but may be I should have done, but rather given the chiefs were there, how did they reconcile different demands, and what can we learn about traditional authorities as institution. Now in the next posts of course, we will look at the cost benefit analysis of integrating chiefs within a democratic system, relative to a counterfactual of “no chiefs or benign chiefs”.


    ”You're right to say they react to incentives. Everybody does. But getting a position by birth and by colonial fiat (or post-colonial) is the strongest disincentive there is to be responsive to their subject demands. “

    Everyone has assets that they value and act as disincentives from taking certain actions. There’s nothing special about that. Some people it’s the land. Some its their religion. Some its an arbitrary gift. Some its power.

    Now there are two policy choices. You could remove those assets, hence drastically altering their choice set. Or you could take the choice set as given and work with it by offering adequate incentives. It’s a policy decision.

    ”Add to that, the fact that the chiefs shape the same tradition their power is based on and you have a whole lot of unchecked power and a whole lot of possibilities to be self-serving.”

    Again this is not special. A rich ruler can amass defacto power that changes the underlying written rules in society.

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  3. The phrase was “conventional view”. I don’t dispute that alternative narratives exist in Eurocentric reading of this aspect of African history. But if you look John Illife’s ”Africans” or ”History of Tanzania” or Andrew Roberts “History of Zambia” , these views are repeated and repeated. But I guess this may be simply a sample selection problem. Do you have references for the alternative narrative?

    No I don't have any precise reference. What I'm arguing is that the colonial administrations share views close to yours, so did (do?) a lot of the opponents to colonialism..

    Ok, here's an interesting example (start on page 75):

    I think this must be viewed within the historical context. We talking about an era of limited redistribution towards African. Restricted access of capital for them through oppressive measures. It is simply a fact that stealing at that time was a form of forced redistribution.

    The money came from taxes levied on Africans ! It didn't miracluleously appear, it was there already ! And if there were surpluses between the revenues and the spending, cutting taxes was an option, wasn't it ?

    I guess you could make an argument about concentration of capital since you don't invest in a massive operation with a bag of maize. But none of the projects you listed required such a concentration of capital (fishnets ? guns ? light trucks ?) AND it would have been a far better idea to create banks or credit entities loaning that money based on their projects or their ability to repay.

    I'm amazed that you manage to find a positive in such an obvious negative.

    As I point, much of the funds am sure where used for unproductive activities, but its also clear that much was used for productive ones.

    That's irrelevant.
    Did Bokassa spearhead "entrepreneurship" in the textile industry in Central African Republic by creating a company that had the monopoly on making (government-mandated) school uniforms ?

    It's theft, nothing else.

    Yes. As always, self preservation was at the heart of their decisions. I think I make this very clear.

    Yes, you did. However, saying ”institutions that saw opportunities and always looked at how best to create a win-win situation between the people and the government of the day” in your conclusion partially cancells it out. When there was a win-win situation, it was a coincidence. The win they always looked at how best to create was their own.

    The point was to show how chiefs adapted within their given set of constraints. There’s a view among people that some chiefs are not flexible and these institutions don’t adapt. Historical evidence suggests otherwise. In some sense the fact the fact that it is not remarkable is important. Chiefs are like any another institution. They can change and adapt and react to constraints and incentives they face.

    We agree. But once again, taking myself as an example of "anti-chief thought" (or suspicion), the problem is not that they're not flexible, the problem is that they, by nature, lack constrains other institutions have.

    Violence was certainly there in terms of fight against nationalism, but a careful read suggested that many chiefs preferred persuasion rather force. Evidence on the use of violence by chiefs backed by state is scarce.

    What about the threat of violence ?
    Let me explain: imagine a chief faces subjects angry at a new tax or something. the chief likes the tax, it's more revenue he can use to make "productive investments" (lol). He doesn't have to actually send british troops. He can tell his people "I heard you". Talk to the brits and come back and tell his people "well, I still heard you and the Brits won't hear me. If I don't raise the tax, they'll come and kill us so please, let us pay the tax". And bam ! The tax is paid, the "productive investment is made" and the Chief didn't loose face.
    But the threat of violence was there. Just like it was when European slave traders threatenned to sell their guns to the neighbouring kingdom or to another faction.

    Much of the literature focuses on violence during the British South Company era.

    Not to imply that there has to have been violence, but the topic of violence used by chiefs is quite unpopular. A big part of our nationalist ideology has to do with demonizing the colonizers and presenting all of us as victims (and the opposite for colonizers, really). Usually, mixed experiences show up in public consciousness because of ideological divisions either within the colonizers or within the nationalists.
    We know about the Ashanti chiefs limiting the number of schools because Nkrumah fought them. We know about the Nigerian colonials supporting the Northern aristocracy because other colonials disagreed.

    In truth, I wasn’t really attempting a cost benefit analysis of traditional authorities, but rather to see how chiefs adapted to change and the extent to which they were able to juggle with different things. The aim was not to ask, where chiefs a good thing, but may be I should have done, but rather given the chiefs were there, how did they reconcile different demands, and what can we learn about traditional authorities as institution. Now in the next posts of course, we will look at the cost benefit analysis of integrating chiefs within a democratic system, relative to a counterfactual of “no chiefs or benign chiefs”.

    I'm willing to accept that it wasn't your aim but by ignoring some negatives, turning others into positives and emphasizing the actual positives, you actually made a cost-benefit judgement, strongly skewed towards the positive.

    I can't wait for the cost-benefit analysis relative to no chiefs.

    Everyone has assets that they value and act as disincentives from taking certain actions. There’s nothing special about that. Some people it’s the land. Some its their religion. Some its an arbitrary gift. Some its power.

    I'm not sure I understand this.

    Now there are two policy choices. You could remove those assets, hence drastically altering their choice set. Or you could take the choice set as given and work with it by offering adequate incentives. It’s a policy decision.

    I'm not sure there are any adequate incentives that could balance the disincentive of "I own this position". But I would like to see it.

    ”Add to that, the fact that the chiefs shape the same tradition their power is based on and you have a whole lot of unchecked power and a whole lot of possibilities to be self-serving.”

Again this is not special. A rich ruler can amass defacto power that changes the underlying written rules in society.

    There is a difference between what "can" be done and what "is" done.
    I mean, sure, a ruler can amass sufficient power to change the constitution or the laws to his favour. But he has to amass that power somehow (by being given the power by his people or by using force) and often he fails to reach that level.

    The chiefs already set the tradition. They already have that power. As you say "our culture or traditions are best captured in our traditional authorities which embody the memories of the past". This is a perfect circle. Their authority is based on a tradition that they're empowered to define because they embody it.

    It's really the Louis XIV doctrine. "I am France and since I am ok, France is ok". (or something like that).

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  4. ”The money came from taxes levied on Africans ! It didn't miraculously appear, it was there already ! And if there were surpluses between the revenues and the spending, cutting taxes was an option, wasn't it ?”

    Yeah, but the money would simply have gone to the white “Boma” staff. Its not like the money would not have been collected. Unless of course, as you later hint, the chiefs over collected tax to compensate for their “thefts”. I am not aware this is the case, as the evidence I was primarily referring to related to embezzlement of funds, as judged by the local white “Boma” staff.

    ”I guess you could make an argument about concentration of capital since you don't invest in a massive operation with a bag of maize. But none of the projects you listed required such a concentration of capital (fishnets ? guns ? light trucks ?)”

    At that time and given their pre-pay income these were expensive investments, which required them to SAVE before they invested.

    ”AND it would have been a far better idea to create banks or credit entities loaning that money based on their projects or their ability to repay.”

    I think we should view these investments not as an organized step at Chief led social entrepreneurship, but rather as Chiefs investing as individuals based on their knowledge.

    ”Yes, you did. However, saying ”institutions that saw opportunities and always looked at how best to create a win-win situation between the people and the government of the day” in your conclusion partially cancels it out. When there was a win-win situation, it was a coincidence. The win they always looked at how best to create was their own.”

    Not a coincidence, but a necessary outcome of the process of “self preservation”. So it’s not a random event. Yes it wasn’t planned by the chiefs, but it was the unavoidable outcome of the balancing approach to “self preservation”.

    ” We agree. But once again, taking myself as an example of "anti-chief thought" (or suspicion), the problem is not that they're not flexible, the problem is that they, by nature, lack constrains other institutions have.”

    And the challenge is for policy makers to come up with incentives that alter behaviors towards better outcomes.

    ”But the threat of violence was there. Just like it was when European slave traders threatened to sell their guns to the neighboring kingdom or to another faction.”

    The colonial government by nature always provided the “guarantee of force” or violence. So of course you are correct. But its questionable whether this is worse than other aspects e.g. the threat of imprisonment – something I note already was crucial to the balancing act. Chiefs always had to make arbitrary decisions about which crimes to punish or fines to collect.

    ” Not to imply that there has to have been violence, but the topic of violence used by chiefs is quite unpopular. A big part of our nationalist ideology has to do with demonizing the colonizers and presenting all of us as victims (and the opposite for colonizers, really). Usually, mixed experiences show up in public consciousness because of ideological divisions either within the colonizers or within the nationalists.”

    Of course we must remember that not everyone liked chiefs. As I will discuss in the next blog, much of the local reorganization of government structure, emanated from a desire by the new government to distance itself from “colonial friendly” chiefs.

    Everyone has assets that they value and act as disincentives from taking certain actions. There’s nothing special about that. Some people it’s the land. Some its their religion. Some its an arbitrary gift. Some its power.I'm not sure I understand this."

    My point is that being born a chief is simply any other asset to individuals. Everyone has things they value and for which it is challenging developing incentives for. For some it’s the land they have, others its their religion, etc.

    ” I'm not sure there are any adequate incentives that could balance the disincentive of "I own this position". But I would like to see it.”

    Of course they are. In my view the key is to understand the source of their power and shape incentives around that. Chiefs basically have two sources of power – the “customs” and the tribe’s valuation of those customs; and the land they control. Its more challenging to shape incentives around the customs, indeed it may not even desirable but certainly chiefs powers can be altered through well thought through land reform. You take away the land from the chief, and I guarantee you that chief become irrelevant even to his own people within not so long a period (not suggesting that of course!).

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  5. Yeah, but the money would simply have gone to the white “Boma” staff. Its not like the money would not have been collected. Unless of course, as you later hint, the chiefs over collected tax to compensate for their “thefts”. I am not aware this is the case, as the evidence I was primarily referring to related to embezzlement of funds, as judged by the local white “Boma” staff.

    I have a hard time picturing the Brits not compensating for revenue lost to embezzlement.
    I mean why was the revenue collected ? How was it affected ? Are you saying that there were no tax increases if the revenue failed to meet the expected amounts ? Or that the existence of surplus wouldn't have affected the future tax levels ?

    At that time and given their pre-pay income these were expensive investments, which required them to SAVE before they invested.

    And savings are new ? I mean, are you suggesting that nobody ever bought a fishnet or a gun before the chiefs did it with taxpayer's money (but for their own benefit).

    I think we should view these investments not as an organized step at Chief led social entrepreneurship, but rather as Chiefs investing as individuals based on their knowledge.

    WITH PEOPLE'S TAX MONEY.
    Who is to say that the fact that they were paying those taxes and tributes didn't actually prevent Zambians from investing themselves ?

    And the challenge is for policy makers to come up with incentives that alter behaviors towards better outcomes.

    I can't wait for the day when it's done.
    I could think of a few.. like arming the citizen and giving them the right to shoot any chief who misbehaves but somehow I doubt that you or anybody who's looking for such incentives would find those adequate.
    And at the end we're back to square one. There's no possible incentives because most would be contrary to having chiefs in the first place.

    The colonial government by nature always provided the “guarantee of force” or violence. So of course you are correct. But its questionable whether this is worse than other aspects e.g. the threat of imprisonment – something I note already was crucial to the balancing act. Chiefs always had to make arbitrary decisions about which crimes to punish or fines to collect.

    It's not about whether it makes it worse. It's about whether it alters the set of incentives to start with.

    My point is that being born a chief is simply any other asset to individuals. Everyone has things they value and for which it is challenging developing incentives for. For some it’s the land they have, others its their religion, etc. 


    But when did Chieftancy issue become about assets inviduals value ?

    Of course they are. In my view the key is to understand the source of their power and shape incentives around that. Chiefs basically have two sources of power – the “customs” and the tribe’s valuation of those customs; and the land they control.

    Once again, no. Or rather those are not sources of power, they're expressions.

    Chiefs (in both colonial and post-colonial states) have 2 sources of power: tradition/customs on one hand, legal recognition by the central government on the other.

    Its more challenging to shape incentives around the customs, indeed it may not even desirable but certainly chiefs powers can be altered through well thought through land reform. You take away the land from the chief, and I guarantee you that chief become irrelevant even to his own people within not so long a period (not suggesting that of course!).

    May be not.
    I know some poor landless chiefs who are valued for their judgement. People go to them to resolve conflicts even if the chief has no mean to enforce it because both parties recognize the validity of their judgement.

    But of course, you're right. Without the right to the land and the power of the central state, many would simply become commoners just like everyone else.

    However, turning chiefs into commoners is not finding the right incentives to improve the outcomes of the institution of chieftancy, it's getting rid of the institution of chieftancy.

    What I (and many others) doubt is the institution can be both maintained and improved.

    ReplyDelete
  6. ”I have a hard time picturing the Brits not compensating for revenue lost to embezzlement. I mean why was the revenue collected ? How was it affected ? Are you saying that there were no tax increases if the revenue failed to meet the expected amounts ? Or that the existence of surplus wouldn't have affected the future tax levels ?”

    I touched on the revenue methods in the main post . The revenue came principally from three sources - "native tax", "court revenue" and "licences and permits" (e.g. dog licences). The court revenue can from punishments, so it was sort of incidental, but still important in terms of paying court wages and so forth. As I explained in the post, court revenue was particularly one which was mostly embezzled and provide scope for scrupulous behavior in terms of collection. Licenses and permits also appear to be arbitrary and took many forms and at times varying considerably among NAs. For example in some levies on properties were collected, including market fees and so forth. In some they appear absent.

    The “native tax” was actually two separate taxes. A poll tax, which was levied by the state on every male and the hut tax was on every hut in the village. The poll tax after WW2 was frequently reviewed and adjusted accordingly (answering your question on the scope for additional compensation). The hut tax was more periodically reviewed.
    In the 1930s, NAs kept around 10% of the total collected tax, but after that period they only kept a smaller fraction. It was always constantly reviewed, perhaps in response to the performance of the NA – I am unclear on this specific point. But certainly the proportion kept by NA varied.
    So to answer you question, its unclear which way embezzlement played. I suspect for hut and poll taxes a combination of reviews and reduced commitments to the NAs was the outcome. But for non-tax income I suspect no adjustments were made, mainly because it was difficult to fully ascertain these amounts. As I say in the post:

    Poor controls within the Authorities led to significant misappropriation of funds, especially with court revenue. Many of them also introduced levies and fines outside the legal framework and collected money for their benefit.

    My reading of historical literature is that this very much that these revenues can from courts and fines, areas which are difficult for the white boma to monitor.

    ” And savings are new ? I mean, are you suggesting that nobody ever bought a fishnet or a gun before the chiefs did it with taxpayer's money (but for their own benefit).”

    I am suggesting that historical records do not indicate pronounced investment outside employees of the Native Authorities. Chiefs and their employees primarily undertook these activities.

    ”Who is to say that the fact that they were paying those taxes and tributes didn't actually prevent Zambians from investing themselves ?”

    I would say investment requires concentration of savings, especially in the absence of formal credit markets.

    ”It's not about whether it makes it worse. It's about whether it alters the set of incentives to start with.”

    My point is on whether it made a significant difference relative to other factors at play.

    ” But when did Chieftaincy issue become about assets individuals value ?”

    Don’t understand the point here.

    Of course they are. In my view the key is to understand the source of their power and shape incentives around that. Chiefs basically have two sources of power – the “customs” and the tribe’s valuation of those customs; and the land they control. Once again, no. Or rather those are not sources of power, they're expressions. Chiefs (in both colonial and post-colonial states) have 2 sources of power: tradition/customs on one hand, legal recognition by the central government on the other.

    I don’t know why you reject both points, when you clearly include one of the sources of power I identified. Lol!

    Anyways, clearly the difference is on whether land is a source of power or an expression of power. The way I see power is through Acemoglu-Robinson framework. Land gives de-facto power, which may influence the evolution of de-jure institutions, in this case the “legal recognition”. Basically its because chiefs had power derived partly from land (de-facto) that they were able to influence the current legal framework, which provides the de-jure power.
    In short, both land and law are sources of power. Just different types.

    ”However, turning chiefs into commoners is not finding the right incentives to improve the outcomes of the institution of chieftancy, it's getting rid of the institution of chieftancy.”

    I gave land as an example because it provides a whole raft of reforms from minimal to partial to full reforms. All these might have different implications for the role of the chiefs. I believe adequate land reform can be taken forward that preserves the role of chiefs but provides sufficient incentives for them to take forward “defensive modernization”.

    ”What I (and many others) doubt is the institution can be both maintained and improved.”

    I think the Tswanas proved that it is possible. We can debate whether the conditions exists in other place for their “defensive modernization”, and it is an important debate to have and one which has been taken for granted by those seeking the African way, but the point is that they did.

    ReplyDelete
  7. So to answer you question, its unclear which way embezzlement played. I suspect for hut and poll taxes a combination of reviews and reduced commitments to the NAs was the outcome. But for non-tax income I suspect no adjustments were made, mainly because it was difficult to fully ascertain these amounts. As I say in the post:

    So in short, most of the embezzlement came from court taxes on which was basically set by the chiefs ?

    Once again, that measn they empovrished their people. Period.

    I am suggesting that historical records do not indicate pronounced investment outside employees of the Native Authorities. Chiefs and their employees primarily undertook these activities.

    But once again, don't you think the fact that they were collecting all those taxes have something to do with it ?
    I mean how do you expect other people to make investment when they have to pay taxes, court fees and tribute to the chiefs ?

    would say investment requires concentration of savings, especially in the absence of formal credit markets.

    I don't buy it.
    First of all, because informal credit system are not unheard of in Africa.
    Second, because fishnets don't require as much money as say mining equipment.
    Third, because it's all so convinient.

    I don’t know why you reject both points, when you clearly include one of the sources of power I identified. Lol!

    I was in a rush, lol!

    Anyways, clearly the difference is on whether land is a source of power or an expression of power. The way I see power is through Acemoglu-Robinson framework. Land gives de-facto power, which may influence the evolution of de-jure institutions, in this case the “legal recognition”. Basically its because chiefs had power derived partly from land (de-facto) that they were able to influence the current legal framework, which provides the de-jure power.

    Well, the Acemoglu-Robinson framework was in a case where private propriety existed (we're referencing the work on colonies, right ?).
    The chiefs don't own the land, they owned the right to distribute the land. So land in itself is not a source of power, the authority is.

    I gave land as an example because it provides a whole raft of reforms from minimal to partial to full reforms. All these might have different implications for the role of the chiefs. I believe adequate land reform can be taken forward that preserves the role of chiefs but provides sufficient incentives for them to take forward “defensive modernization”. 


    What is "defensive modernization" ?

    Meanwhile, what I don't get is the insistence of "preserving the role of the chiefs" and how it could fit in any framework. Chiefs themselves will have a maximalist definition of their role. And if one positions himself as someone who cares for the preservation of their role, I don't see how that concern can reconcile itself with the reform concern.

    Even you (and I believe you genuinely care about achieving the best equilibrium) have issue formulating a balance. Mostly I believe because you're trying to squeeze in chieftancy into concepts it doesn't belong in.

    I think the Tswanas proved that it is possible. We can debate whether the conditions exists in other place for their “defensive modernization”, and it is an important debate to have and one which has been taken for granted by those seeking the African way, but the point is that they did.

    I think the Tswanas had better chieftancy institutions than we do.

    I also think that their reformers didn't hesitate to considerably reduce the formal role of the chiefs whenever they deemed it necessary.

    After all, their house of chiefs has consultative power and traditional law is secondary to the constitution.

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  8. ”So in short, most of the embezzlement came from court taxes on which was basically set by the chiefs ?”

    The court fines and licence permits were set by the “local boma”, but collected by the chiefs. So the Native Authorities’ discretion related to how much they collected not on whether the fine was set or not.

    ”Once again, that means they impoverished their people. Period.”

    It is correct to say that chiefs could simply have “under collected” from the people rather than collect the money and then embezzle it. But we have to put the original issue into context. The question is whether chiefs collected taxes that the local boma were later forced to compensate for. The answer to that it is unlikely. This is important, because even in the context of court fines, it is important to note that they did not abuse the law by over collecting fines, but rather worked within legal obligations. So I would say they stole from the colonial government, since that money legally belonged to the colonial government. But of course that is “second best” assessment, because I agree with you that ideally they would simply under collect – and in many instances they did under collect. We do have historical cases where dog licences for example where not paid or chiefs refused to impose certain footpath restrictions and so forth.

    ”But once again, don't you think the fact that they were collecting all those taxes have something to do with it ? I mean how do you expect other people to make investment when they have to pay taxes, court fees and tribute to the chiefs ?”

    Of course the taxation had something to do with it. But the point here is that we have to take the existing legal system imposed by the British as given and ask how different agents made “best use” of what was available. So yes, it is true that in the absence of strong British rule the people may have made those individual investments. But that is not the point.

    ”First of all, because informal credit system are not unheard of in Africa. Second, because fishnets don't require as much money as say mining equipment.”

    The first point is good, but we have not seen evidence of this in colonial Zambia. May it was there…we keep searching! Traditional fishnets always existed (incidentally, my late father wrote a book on the fishing traditions of Northern Zambia, which has been published in Zambia, but unfortunately only in my local language – I am working to get it interpreted in English). But we are talking about those fishing nets which do “blanket fishing”….such as cast over a very wide expanse. These I gather where very expensive over that period.

    “Third, because it's all so convenient.”

    lol!


    ”Well, the Acemoglu-Robinson framework was in a case where private propriety existed (we're referencing the work on colonies, right ?).”

    No, I am referring to the “economic origins of dictatorship and democracy” and his recent work for Economic Growth Commission and many other papers I have blogged here. I normally exchange emails with him often on many areas…he’s very responsive...I am looking forward to that big 1000+ on economic growth volume which he’s writing…

    ”What is "defensive modernization" ?”

    Defensive modernisation, as in chiefs modernizing their institutions as a way of defending their hold on power or as a means to preserve themselves. I think the Tswana chiefs did that a lot with as a way of fending off British colonial influence.

    The Lozi in Zambia tried to do the same, but their hold was eventually broken at independence as their power was radically reduced by KK (as we’ll touch on this in the next blog in the series).

    ”Meanwhile, what I don't get is the insistence of "preserving the role of the chiefs" and how it could fit in any framework. Chiefs themselves will have a maximalist definition of their role. And if one positions himself as someone who cares for the preservation of their role, I don't see how that concern can reconcile itself with the reform concern.”

    Isn’t your point actually a political one? Lol!

    It sounds like you are saying we should say, "you’ll be extinct unless you change"!

    ”Even you (and I believe you genuinely care about achieving the best equilibrium) have issue formulating a balance. Mostly I believe because you're trying to squeeze in chieftancy into concepts it doesn't belong in.”

    I don’t doubt the balance is difficult, that’s why it has not been achieved.
    At the moment I have three options, which I’ll develop or modify further as we go through the many complex issues through the series:

    1) Do nothing – so we continue on our current path….this path probably sees further reduction of powers of chiefs and so forth and no further integration of chiefs within Zambia’s development framework
    2) Limited integration – this is based on what I term as “agents of change” approach. We have to identify where chiefs can be useful agents of change in supporting the whole. So it is selective use of chiefs in certain areas..basically using the chieftainship within a limited institutional setting that supports national goals e.g. HIV, education, early marriages, gender….so basically we could say, chiefs are most useful where they can be used to end “bad customs”…if we are to develop we need to have them on board to destroy the very customs that they have propagated….this probably requires no further changes to land policy….and possibly less politicisation of their institutions…
    3) Full integration – this is basically a radical departure which brings them more into our national institutions, but with some give and take from both sides…..

    The challenge is to be clear on the philosophical foundations that underpin them and assess the economic incentives under each of these possibilities and the relevant costs and benefits. I suspect 2 & 3 has many variations, and hopefully as we go through this series we can dig deeper within those. For example the Swazi model of integration may well be different from the Botswana model. Come to think of it, we need a blog in the series that looks at these case studies… are there any other interesting African experiments in this area?…apart from the Niger delta chiefs!

    ”I think the Tswanas had better chieftancy institutions than we do.I also think that their reformers didn't hesitate to considerably reduce the formal role of the chiefs whenever they deemed it necessary. After all, their house of chiefs has consultative power and traditional law is secondary to the constitution.”

    There’s an interesting issue with the Tswanas and that is how Botswana became an homogenous state….the Tswanas appeared to have made concessions as a way of integrating other tribes within their larger grouping….leading some people to conclude that the homogeneity is as a result of pro-development institution change rather than homogeneity leading to change…

    I think the issue of diversity and development is very important…its quite obvious that many poor countries have deeper diversity than richer ones….so understanding whether ethnicity is a constraint to development is germane to discussions here about chiefs….

    Too many issues! Lol!

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  9. So the Native Authorities’ discretion related to how much they collected not on whether the fine was set or not.

    Yes, that's what I meant.

    It is correct to say that chiefs could simply have “under collected” from the people rather than collect the money and then embezzle it. But we have to put the original issue into context. The question is whether chiefs collected taxes that the local boma were later forced to compensate for. The answer to that it is unlikely.

    Why not ? When the Brits experience a drop in revenue or wanted an increase, how did they do it ?`

    I agree with you that ideally they would simply under collect – and in many instances they did under collect. We do have historical cases where dog licences for example where not paid or chiefs refused to impose certain footpath restrictions and so forth.

    That makes sense.

    Of course the taxation had something to do with it. But the point here is that we have to take the existing legal system imposed by the British as given and ask how different agents made “best use” of what was available. So yes, it is true that in the absence of strong British rule the people may have made those individual investments. But that is not the point.

    But I'm not just talking about the colonial taxes !
    The British (just like all the colonizers) did impose new taxes, that were monetized too (forcing people to get into the cash economy to be able to pay them). But the chiefs, who were legally and illegally getting a cut from those taxes and had discretion over some of them didn't get rid of the pre-existing in-kind tributes, did they ?
    So yes, the tax burden of their subjects increased under the British but let's not act like the chiefs had no means to intervene.
    (you do provide examples of such intervention but they're also all quite self-serving)

    The first point is good, but we have not seen evidence of this in colonial Zambia. May it was there…we keep searching!

    Even intra-family ?
    In the Congo, we don't have evidence of anything remotely close to what you find among the Igbo or Bambara but that's because we're often forgetting that the basic economic unit - the family - was actually quite large and there was pooling of ressources without "credit" per se.

    But we are talking about those fishing nets which do “blanket fishing”….such as cast over a very wide expanse. These I gather where very expensive over that period.

    I still doubt they were so expensive that forced savings were necessary. but ok.

    No, I am referring to the “economic origins of dictatorship and democracy” and his recent work for Economic Growth Commission and many other papers I have blogged here. I normally exchange emails with him often on many areas…he’s very responsive...I am looking forward to that big 1000+ on economic growth volume which he’s writing…

    i'll re-read those.

    Defensive modernisation, as in chiefs modernizing their institutions as a way of defending their hold on power or as a means to preserve themselves. I think the Tswana chiefs did that a lot with as a way of fending off British colonial influence.

    Hmmm.. I'm not sure that was the case among the Tswana. Partly because the British weren't really trying that hard to influence Botswana and because the British never had a problem associating themsleves with the most backwards elite they could find. But also because I'm not sure the modernization of chieftancy in Botswana was an initiative of the chiefs. Unless we decide that Khama was a chief talking for all the chiefs and had no other influence.

    The Lozi in Zambia tried to do the same, but their hold was eventually broken at independence as their power was radically reduced by KK (as we’ll touch on this in the next blog in the series).

    They are other examples of ethnic groups modernizing without being forced to. The Igbo, the Ashanti, the Kongo..

    Isn’t your point actually a political one? Lol!

It sounds like you are saying we should say, "you’ll be extinct unless you change"!

    No.
    I'm saying the position is untenable.
    Any attempt of modernization of chieftancy (or even the economies in general) involves loss of power and influence for the chiefs. But on the other hands, you guys are very concerned about maintaning the chiefs' status.
    It's simply impossible to be equally concerned about both. Or may be, a good way to do it would be to explain what part of the chieftancy deserves to be mantained and what part doesn't.

    1) Do nothing – so we continue on our current path….this path probably sees further reduction of powers of chiefs and so forth and no further integration of chiefs within Zambia’s development framework

    "Do Nothing" doesn't necessarily see further reduction of their powers. So either, you don't see "further reduction of their poers" as an option or you decide quite dishonestly, to confuse it with the current unefficient mix-up.

    2) Limited integration – this is based on what I term as “agents of change” approach. We have to identify where chiefs can be useful agents of change in supporting the whole. So it is selective use of chiefs in certain areas..basically using the chieftainship within a limited institutional setting that supports national goals e.g. HIV, education, early marriages, gender….so basically we could say, chiefs are most useful where they can be used to end “bad customs”…if we are to develop we need to have them on board to destroy the very customs that they have propagated….this probably requires no further changes to land policy….and possibly less politicisation of their institutions…

    A cultural role basically ? Integration into civil society like the churches ?

    For example the Swazi model of integration may well be different from the Botswana model.

    May be ? LOL.
    Botswana is something like 2 with limited elements of 3 and Swaziland is beyond 3.
    And the results show too. lol.

    Come to think of it, we need a blog in the series that looks at these case studies… are there any other interesting African experiments in this area?…apart from the Niger delta chiefs!

    Somalia and Somaliland (separatly), Ashanti and Igbo "progressive" chieftancies up until the 60's, post-apartheid South Africa may be..

    But it's really complicated. Few countries have made a conscious effort t think the dual-political system through. In general, it was all about quick cooptation or quick repression, both related to political expendiency for the ruler and nothing else.

    There’s an interesting issue with the Tswanas and that is how Botswana became an homogenous state….the Tswanas appeared to have made concessions as a way of integrating other tribes within their larger grouping….leading some people to conclude that the homogeneity is as a result of pro-development institution change rather than homogeneity leading to change…

    I thought those relationships were tributiary and turned into integration quite recently ?
    I don't know if that's quite an exception. Other groups had integrationist relationships. In fact, in some place, micro-ethnic consciousness is often the result of the ethnicization of politics. (aka i want a minister from MY village, not the one next door).

    ReplyDelete
  10. ”It is correct to say that chiefs could simply have “under collected” from the people rather than collect the money and then embezzle it. But we have to put the original issue into context. The question is whether chiefs collected taxes that the local boma were later forced to compensate for. The answer to that it is unlikely. ”Why not ? When the Brits experience a drop in revenue or wanted an increase, how did they do it ?`”

    I think flexibility lay with the poll and hut taxes. Not with the court revenues and dog licences. These were after all not designed for revenue purposes as such but as ways of enforcing behaviour and partly to maintain Native Authorities.


    ”But I'm not just talking about the colonial taxes !
    The British (just like all the colonizers) did impose new taxes, that were monetized too (forcing people to get into the cash economy to be able to pay them). But the chiefs, who were legally and illegally getting a cut from those taxes and had discretion over some of them didn't get rid of the pre-existing in-kind tributes, did they ? So yes, the tax burden of their subjects increased under the British but let's not act like the chiefs had no means to intervene.
    (you do provide examples of such intervention but they're also all quite self-serving) “


    Ha..I see what you meant. Yes of course they did not suspend tributes to them, indeed probably they couldn’t, since such tributes was linked to their self preservation. Withdrawing tributes may even have weakened their chieftainships.

    ”Even intra-family ? In the Congo, we don't have evidence of anything remotely close to what you find among the Igbo or Bambara but that's because we're often forgetting that the basic economic unit - the family - was actually quite large and there was pooling of ressources without "credit" per se.”

    This probably existed, but evidence is really lacking in this area. I am still checking though.

    ” I'm not sure that was the case among the Tswana. Partly because the British weren't really trying that hard to influence Botswana and because the British never had a problem associating themselves with the most backwards elite they could find. But also because I'm not sure the modernization of chieftancy in Botswana was an initiative of the chiefs. Unless we decide that Khama was a chief talking for all the chiefs and had no other influence.”

    Botswana’s defensive modernisation goes further back actually. It spans from 19th Century Sechele and Khama III, to 20th century figures like Tshekedi Khama. Nearly all of these chiefs embraced western ideas of education and social progress. A key example of their defensive modernisation for example was the resistance to labour export and mining on their land, as long as mining was not under tribal control. A number of papers have noted that Tshekedi Khama’s development of a “modern tribal life” as a way of preventing young men and women to drift to the Union.

    ”1) Do nothing – so we continue on our current path….this path probably sees further reduction of powers of chiefs and so forth and no further integration of chiefs within Zambia’s development framework "Do Nothing" doesn't necessarily see further reduction of their powers. So either, you don't see "further reduction of their poers" as an option or you decide quite dishonestly, to confuse it with the current unefficient mix-up.”

    Perhaps I am underestimating the “do-nothing”! Okay. May be a new option that is non integrationist!

    ”2) Limited integration – this is based on what I term as “agents of change” approach. We have to identify where chiefs can be useful agents of change in supporting the whole. So it is selective use of chiefs in certain areas..basically using the chieftainship within a limited institutional setting that supports national goals e.g. HIV, education, early marriages, gender….so basically we could say, chiefs are most useful where they can be used to end “bad customs”…if we are to develop we need to have them on board to destroy the very customs that they have propagated….this probably requires no further changes to land policy….and possibly less politicisation of their institutions…” A cultural role basically ? Integration into civil society like the churches ? “

    Yes basically, you would decouple the chief from all “state functions”, but recognise that they can be useful traditionally. In that sense, they would still be regarded as “public good” in some sense, but without any real power.

    ”Somalia and Somaliland (separately)”

    That’s worrying that. Lol!

    ”But it's really complicated. Few countries have made a conscious effort t think the dual-political system through. In general, it was all about quick cooptation or quick repression, both related to political expendiency for the ruler and nothing else.”

    And for me, it’s the current inefficiencies of the system and the lack of clarity on the philosophical foundations for chiefs that concern me. Its either the current model works or it doesn’t. Its either it can be improved or it can’t and therefore must be removed.

    ”I thought those relationships were tributiary and turned into integration quite recently ?”

    How recent is recent?

    ”I don't know if that's quite an exception. Other groups had integrationist relationships. In fact, in some place, micro-ethnic consciousness is often the result of the ethnicization of politics.”

    Except I can’t think any national state in Africa that has achieved the kind of national homogeneity that Botswana has!

    ReplyDelete
  11. I think flexibility lay with the poll and hut taxes. Not with the court revenues and dog licences. These were after all not designed for revenue purposes as such but as ways of enforcing behaviour and partly to maintain Native Authorities.

    Sure. Doesn't read change my point, does it ?

    Ha..I see what you meant. Yes of course they did not suspend tributes to them, indeed probably they couldn’t, since such tributes was linked to their self preservation. Withdrawing tributes may even have weakened their chieftainships.

    That's exactly why I say chieftancy has problem as an institution.
    They could have done that and transformed themselves into "leaders", loved by their population and all that.
    But it would have undermined their status, which was different from other political leaders.

    Botswana’s defensive modernisation goes further back actually. It spans from 19th Century Sechele and Khama III, to 20th century figures like Tshekedi Khama. Nearly all of these chiefs embraced western ideas of education and social progress. A key example of their defensive modernisation for example was the resistance to labour export and mining on their land, as long as mining was not under tribal control. A number of papers have noted that Tshekedi Khama’s development of a “modern tribal life” as a way of preventing young men and women to drift to the Union.

    Hmmm.; Interesting for a few reasons:

    Khama did take away mining from tribal control, right ?
    And at some point in the 20th century, they didn't have the choice when it came to labour export (because of the drought), right ?

    But here's the question ? Didn't Lesotho have similar experiences ?

    Perhaps I am underestimating the “do-nothing”! Okay. May be a new option that is non integrationist!

    Yeah, that's I mean. It has to be an option too. it may not be the best one, but there's no reason why it's not considered.

    Yes basically, you would decouple the chief from all “state functions”, but recognise that they can be useful traditionally. In that sense, they would still be regarded as “public good” in some sense, but without any real power.

    And their revenue ?

    ”Somalia and Somaliland (separately)”

That’s worrying that. Lol!

    Somaliland isn't doing so bad. Seriously, the country is unrecognized and somehow manages at least not to collapse.

    And for me, it’s the current inefficiencies of the system and the lack of clarity on the philosophical foundations for chiefs that concern me. Its either the current model works or it doesn’t. Its either it can be improved or it can’t and therefore must be removed.

    I think we can all agree that it doesn't. The problem is why it doesn't and what the new system would look like.

    ”I thought those relationships were tributiary and turned into integration quite recently ?”

How recent is recent?

    20th century.

    Except I can’t think any national state in Africa that has achieved the kind of national homogeneity that Botswana has!

    Of course not !
    But my point was that pre-independence integrationism is not unheard of.

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  12. ”Sure. Doesn't read change my point, does it ?”

    I would have hoped it had soften it..lol! I mean if the taxes were the main focus for colonialists, then embezzlement in those areas would have been detrimental since it would have resulted in larger revisions upwards. But of course you are right that morally stealing from court revenue and licences seems bad especially, given the alternative would have been simply not to impose them. But any assessment has to also consider that they had to demonstrate the system was working….and therefore any embezzlement would have been necessarily seen as simply taking back for the people..with the chief being the people, as you say!

    ”That's exactly why I say chieftancy has problem as an institution. They could have done that and transformed themselves into "leaders", loved by their population and all that. But it would have undermined their status, which was different from other political leaders. “

    But they are loved, that’s why these institutions have endured. Infact, we know the careful balancing acting they undertook during colonialism, was just that, because they emerged out of colonialism with their status largely preserved.

    ”But here's the question ? Didn't Lesotho have similar experiences ?”

    I have to confess I have not closely studied Lesotho…I’ll dig into it right away…


    Yes basically, you would decouple the chief from all “state functions”, but recognise that they can be useful traditionally. In that sense, they would still be regarded as “public good” in some sense, but without any real power. “ . “And their revenue ?”

    Well they would be treated like any other non-government organisation e.g. churches, etc. They have to apply for charitable funding. They would not get their wages (I think senior chiefs get paid from government, certainly members of the House of Chiefs do…and of course as the Neo post noted, most of them have vehicles on credit…)

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  13. But any assessment has to also consider that they had to demonstrate the system was working….and therefore any embezzlement would have been necessarily seen as simply taking back for the people..with the chief being the people, as you say!

    In Congo-Brazzaville, there was a scandal about $300 millions of oil revenue that disappeared from the accounts.
    After denying it then arguing it was "lost", the Congolese government finally went on the attack by arguing that it was hidden in private accounts (accounts belonging to a few people close to the leadership) to excape vulture funds.

    Do you believe them ?

    But they are loved, that’s why these institutions have endured. Infact, we know the careful balancing acting they undertook during colonialism, was just that, because they emerged out of colonialism with their status largely preserved.

    Oh, Cho.
    You just made a post saying that under the policy of "Indirect Rule", the British colonial administration gave a role to the chiefs. A role that had legal and financial perks. So did the post-colonial governments. And then you say that "love" is why the institution endured ?

    Think about it.

    Chiefs are basically subsidized companies in the "leadership market". If the subsidies were cut off, some would probably be as "profitable" (or efficient) on their own and some would collapse. And that's what I keep repeating.

    But yeah, this is why I think you're biased. For writing sentences like that.

    Well they would be treated like any other non-government organisation e.g. churches, etc. They have to apply for charitable funding. They would not get their wages (I think senior chiefs get paid from government, certainly members of the House of Chiefs do…and of course as the Neo post noted, most of them have vehicles on credit…)

    Cool.
    And then, Chiefs will have to work for their funding, which is a GREAT incentive.

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  14. ”In Congo-Brazzaville, there was a scandal about $300 millions of oil revenue that disappeared from the accounts. After denying it then arguing it was "lost", the Congolese government finally went on the attack by arguing that it was hidden in private accounts (accounts belonging to a few people close to the leadership) to excape vulture funds. Do you believe them ?”

    lol! That is creativity!
    But my point was that there was a “minimum” they had to collect I think. Not collecting enough would have put them under significant pressure from the Colonial state. I also think that they embezzlement funds for the operationalisation of the Native Authorities…very much as modern corruption….
    The only difference is that “colonialism” introduces another agent where the state does not equal the people. So embezzlement of “minimums” cannot really be seen as stealing from the people, in the same way we see it now in independent states.

    Am I stretching it? lol!

    But they are loved, that’s why these institutions have endured. Infact, we know the careful balancing acting they undertook during colonialism, was just that, because they emerged out of colonialism with their status largely preserved.

    ”Oh, Cho. You just made a post saying that under the policy of "Indirect Rule", the British colonial administration gave a role to the chiefs. A role that had legal and financial perks. So did the post-colonial governments. And then you say that "love" is why the institution endured ?”

    Loved was too strong…what I meant was they clearly valued these institutions..hence their resilience..but of course you may have an alternative explanation of why these institutions are resilience, beside being valued…??

    By the way, Part 2 is coming shortly..Its turned into a 10 part series...by the time we finish this might be 20 parts!!!!!

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  15. lol! That is creativity!

    Isn't it ?

    But my point was that there was a “minimum” they had to collect I think. Not collecting enough would have put them under significant pressure from the Colonial state. I also think that they embezzlement funds for the operationalisation of the Native Authorities…very much as modern corruption….
The only difference is that “colonialism” introduces another agent where the state does not equal the people. So embezzlement of “minimums” cannot really be seen as stealing from the people, in the same way we see it now in independent states. 

Am I stretching it? lol!


    Yes, you are stretching.
    The state never equal the people.
    And beyond that, once again, for the chiefs to fund their embezzlement and fullfil their taxation requirements from the Colonials, the amount collected and the amount received by the Colonial administration must have been different.
    And even in a colonial state, with foreign rulers, tax money is the people's money.

    Loved was too strong…what I meant was they clearly valued these institutions..hence their resilience..but of course you may have an alternative explanation of why these institutions are resilience, beside being valued…??

    Once again, the correlation being their existence and their value to the people only works if there is nothing else. And this blog is about the role the colonial administration gave to the chiefs under the Indirect Rule policy. To see how much chiefs are loved or valued, cut down all the subsidies, make contribution to them voluntary, take away their role on land issues or in justice, do not ever integrate them in any process. If after that they still get money, their opinions are reflected in voters' choices, if people come to them to judge, they're valued, if not, they were subsidized political entities.


    BTW, have you ever read Mahmood Mamdani's "Citizen and Subject" ? I'm reading it right now and I strongly recommend it if you haven't. His thesis is very much in line with my thoughts.

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  16. ”Isn't it ?”

    It has a serious point though…lol!

    I mean often it is difficult to distinguish between corruption and mismanagement. We have had some bizarre cases recently.
    The government spent US3m on campaigning for Inonge’s bid to be AU Chairperson. Sounds like mismanagement of resources until you hear what they did with it. Holding lunches in Washington etc etc as a way of copting other ambassadors to vote for her lol…anyway the bid failed as you know…
    Another one is the Vice President spending something like nearly $500,000 in a single month at the time of the election running from town to town!! Sounds like he is doing his job, except that was clearly an unusual month…and it was also extra spending outside his budget!!

    ”The state never equal the people.”

    Even in the Swiss system of constant referendums?

    ”Once again, the correlation being their existence and their value to the people only works if there is nothing else.”

    Yes, its largely an empirical question, having accounted for all the other factors.

    ”BTW, have you ever read Mahmood Mamdani's "Citizen and Subject" ? I'm reading it right now and I strongly recommend it if you haven't. His thesis is very much in line with my thoughts.”

    No, but certainly looks like a must read - I’ll get it right away.
    Here is the Amazon caption, which tells why you like it:

    In analysing the obstacles to democratisation in post-independence Africa, Mahmood Mamdani offers a bold, insightful account of colonialism's legacy - a bifurcated power that mediated racial domination through tribally organised local authorities, reproducing racial identity in citizens and ethnic identity in subjects. Many writers have understood colonial rule as either "direct" (French) or "indirect" (British), with a third variant - apartheid - as exceptional. This benign terminology, Mamdani shows, masks the fact that these were actually variants of a despotism. While direct rule denied rights to subjects on racial grounds, indirect rule incorporated them into a "customary" mode of rule, with state-appointed Native Authorities defining custom. By tapping authoritarian possibilities in culture, and by giving culture an authoritarian bent, indirect rule (decentralised despotism) set the pace for Africa; the French followed suit by changing from direct to indirect administration, while apartheid emerged relatively later. Apartheid, Mamdani shows, was actually the generic form of the colonial state in Africa. Through case studies of rural (Uganda) and urban (South Africa) resistance movements, we learn how these institutional features fragment resistance and how states tend to play off reform in one sector against repression in the other. Reforming a power that institutionally enforces tension between town and country, and between ethnicites, is the key challenge for anyone interested in democratic reform in Africa.

    “variants of despotism” lol!!

    I have previously tried to avoid books on generic approaches to traditional authorities, since each experience was unique. But this book appears more sophisticated. A must read indeed…

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  17. It has a serious point though…lol!

I mean often it is difficult to distinguish between corruption and mismanagement.

    It is mismanagement more often than corruption but in this case ? I took them a while to come up with that excuse. I bet some French spin doctor got paid a hefty price for suggesting to spin the lefty talk about Vulture Funds in a defense. And they went hard too. I mean there were op-eds about vulture funds and reproduction of old Nestor Kirchner interviews in the pro-government newspaper for a few weeks.. It felt like Porto Alegre for a second.

    We have had some bizarre cases recently.
The government spent US3m on campaigning for Inonge’s bid to be AU Chairperson. Sounds like mismanagement of resources until you hear what they did with it. Holding lunches in Washington etc etc as a way of copting other ambassadors to vote for her lol…anyway the bid failed as you know…

    Parties that *they* attended of course. Champagne, caviar, and someone probably got laid for being able to claim that they organized the party. lol.

    Another one is the Vice President spending something like nearly $500,000 in a single month at the time of the election running from town to town!! Sounds like he is doing his job, except that was clearly an unusual month…and it was also extra spending outside his budget!!

    Oh ! yeah.. lol..
    Still better than doubling the salary of the whole public service two weeks before an election.

    I have another story.
    One of my friends worked in Pointe-Noire's luxury restaurant (his uncle owned it). So one day I go there around 2pm to hang out with him at the end of his lunch service and drink a few beers (for some reason their beer was cheap) and there was a bunch of guys in uniforms all around the bar and in the backyard. I ask what's going on and my friend tells me the army, the police, the gendarmerie and a few public officials are having some sort of celebration buffet type of thing. I ask one of them (that I knew) what they're celebrating and they tell me they're celebrating the hand over of half a dozen of police trucks.

    A $2,000 buffet to celebrate the fact that they received 6 police trucks.

    And nobody thought there was something wrong with it.

    Even in the Swiss system of constant referendums?

    They get closer but that's not quite.

    No, but certainly looks like a must read - I’ll get it right away. 
Here is the Amazon caption, which tells why you like it:

    Be careful, he's quite harsh on chieftancy.

    I have previously tried to avoid books on generic approaches to traditional authorities, since each experience was unique. But this book appears more sophisticated. A must read indeed…

    Yeah, his claim is not that it was all the same everywhere but rather that the spirit was the same, with aparetheid and the Batustans being the most extreme case. He also explains WHY they were the most extreme case.

    But yeah, it's a tough read at times (at least for me) but i'm enjoying it.

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  18. “And they went hard too. I mean there were op-eds about vulture funds and reproduction of old Nestor Kirchner interviews in the pro-government newspaper for a few weeks.. It felt like Porto Alegre for a second.”

    Lol!!

    ”Parties that *they* attended of course. Champagne, caviar, and someone probably got laid for being able to claim that they organized the party.”

    The whole full set. Lol!

    ”A $2,000 buffet to celebrate the fact that they received 6 police trucks.”

    Lol! Yeah that sounds crazy that.

    ”Be careful, he's quite harsh on chieftancy.”

    I’ll read it (should arrive in the Post today or tomorrow)…if he becomes too harsh, I’ll get MrK to completely discredit it as a “neo-liberal” project”!!! lol!

    ReplyDelete

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