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Friday, 10 October 2008

Chiefs and election fever (7)

Its been an interesting week with regards chiefs and the election fever. On sunday it was reported that Chiefs in Southern Province had moved behind MMD presidential candidate RB. Except not every chief was on board. Early on Monday Chief Mukuni came out and distanced himself from the "southern chiefs". We also learnt that a number of chiefs who were scheduled to have a meeting with RB did not turn up for the discussions, though Chief Mukuni was actually present. The signal being that a number of other important "southern chiefs" had not been part to earlier discussions that led to the apparentsupport for RB.

Chief Mukuni (Source: Richie's World)

A day later, Chief Munyumbwe of the Tonga people of Gwembe district also followed suite distancing himself from the "southern chiefs". In an interview with the Post, he emphasised the need for a non-partisan approach, noting that chiefs risked losing their authority and respect if their preferred candidate eventually lost : "As people who are non-partisan, as an individual, I look at this as very embarrassing. We chiefs from Southern Province declared support for the Vice-President, now my fear is that if he doesn't win, our heads will not be up, they will be downward...".

These revelations appeared to have annoyed Chief Nalubamba who was reported to have insulted Chief Mukuni. For his part, Chief Nalubamba appears to have developed a misguided, but unmistaken rationale, for active involvement of chiefs in politics:

Chief Nalubamba defended the chiefs' active role in politics, saying traditional leaders, like any other citizen in the country had a fundamental right to express their opinion to get out of the predicament the country found itself in, following the death of president Levy Mwanawasa.

Except, constitutionally and traditionally, traditional leaders are not like any other citizen. Is Chief Nalubamba telling us is that he prefers to be treated like any other citizen in all matters? Is this not the man who has previously argued for stronger powers for chiefs, because chiefs are not ordinary citizens?

For his part, the UPND presidential candidate HH was not going to let Chief Nalubamba ruin his strongbase. Simply put, HH must win Southern Province if he has any chance of making it to Plot 1. The Daily Mail reported HH as sayingg "there were many good chiefs in Southern Province and other parts of the country and advised Chief Nalubamba not to mess the names of other chiefs".

A bit simplistic by HH, because Chief Nalubamba appears indeed to have some other chiefs in unison within , as evidenced by this report by ZNBC:

Chiefs reiterate support for RB (ZNBC News) : Traditional leaders in Southern Province have reaffirmed their support for acting president, Rupiah Banda, in the October 30 presidential election.

Chief Mwanachingwala of Mazabuka district has advised Mr. Banda not to worry about what some newspapers are writing about him and continue discussing national issues in his campaign.

The traditional ruler said it was sad that some newspapers are writing negative things about the acting president. He was speaking in Mazabuka on Tuesday evening when he and other traditional rulers met Mr. Banda.

Chief Mwanachingwala said many people are surprised that for the first time, chiefs in southern province are supporting a candidate from the government in office instead of the opposition. He advised Mr. Banda not to victimise anyone who has wronged him, when he is elected republican president.

So some are still determined to be political. Just as well Chief Nyakaseya of Mwiinlunga has weighed in with something more constructive :

Chiefs urged to be non partisan (ZNBC News) : Chief Nyakaseya of Mwiinlunga, in North Western Province has called on traditional leaders to remain non partisan. Chief Nyakeseya says traditional leaders should not be seen to side with any politician but must play advisory role.

He says it is unfortunate that some traditional leaders are siding with certain political parties in the run to the October 30 presidential polls. The traditional leader says chiefs must embrace every politician regardless of political affiliation.

Chief Nyakaseya told ZNBC news in Lusaka that traditional leaders should note that the selection of a republican president is GOD's will. And Chief Nyakaseya called on business operators to invest in his chiefdom. He said Mwinilunga has a lot of natural resources, including minerals which investors should explore.

Mwata Kazembe has also chipped him with his call for 'leaders that are engaging in electoral corruption should be arrested'. This of course being the first time we have heard Mwata speak on the elections, and perhaps fitting that he should focus on the most important issue - the electoral process.

But the final word goes to Mwene Kahare of the Nkoya people in Kaoma, who this week expressed disappointment over the 'undignified treatment that chiefs' who were rounded up to meet MMD presidential aspirant Rupiah Banda during his campaign visit to the district received from the government :

"Those who are always flying, the MMD, had to dump us in those lodges in Kaoma and we were even starving....In the morning, it was just an order from the District Commissioner's office that 'you take them back'. I feel that was very disappointing."

Its not cheap securing support from chiefs!


  1. I wonder if the Supreme Court's judgment in the Samuel Chitonge case was only meant for chiefs supporting parliamentary candidates and not presidential candidates. In my limited understanding, the ruling stated the case for chiefs supporting candidates in an election no matter at what level. But because these misguided chiefs are expressing support for the MMD, it is OK for the the MMD. I am sure if these chiefs had supported Sata, HH or Miyanda, Mulongoti would have suffered his usual verbal dirrhoea. supreme court judgments are law unto themselves,florence mumba and dan kalale should have enforced them, really.

  2. The issue of Chief supporting candidates is another form of corrution and fraud in elections. On account of their positions as traditional rulers, chiefs get allowances and other monetary benefits from the public funds (i.e Government) Therefore their support of some candidate can be viewed as use of public funds by the chiefs in support of a candidate. Use of public funds in such a way is illegal. If chief want to behave this way, then they should stop getting public funds, and should be treated like any other ordinary person

  3. How I wish every chief in Zambia behaved like the Litunga. The Litunga never endorses anyone. They are always above the fray even when they are suspected to have political affiliations.

  4. "I wonder if the Supreme Court's judgment in the Samuel Chitonge case was only meant for chiefs supporting parliamentary candidates and not presidential candidates." - Gershom

    Yes I agree that provides a good precedent. I note your blog on this.

    "The issue of Chief supporting candidates is another form of corrution and fraud in elections." - Anonymous

    Agreed. Though we should also consider that the chiefs sometimes initiate the process. Mpezeni (see Chiefs and Election Fever (8)) certainly does not need to be bribed....therefore his offer of support could be a form of lobbying...

    "How I wish every chief in Zambia behaved like the Litunga. The Litunga never endorses anyone.They are always above the fray even when they are suspected to have political affiliations" - Moonga

    Sort of. certainly in recent times. However, in the KK days, the Litunga was as political as anyone else. Infact did he not sit on the UNIP national committe at one point? But you are certainly correct that his position in multi-party Zambia has been relatively apolitical when compared to his peers.


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