By Saleya Kwalombota
Silozi language is at the verge of extinction or facing another form of language coup d’etat as Zambia is moving fast in imposing Bemba language in all corners of the country and Barotseland is not spared.
History has it that the original language , luyi or Siluyana suffered ‘extinction’ at the time the kingdom had succession wrangles. It was at that time when the kingdom was overrun and subdued by Sotho speaking people from the south.
The Silozi language, about 75 percent Southern Sotho and 25 percent Siluyana, therefore, became the language of communication and remained the lingual franca of the territory even up to date.
Undoubtedly, the current status quo between the royal households and the people if not corrected can vindicate the saying “history repeats itself”, as people may be preoccupied with internal differences over the 2012 BNC resolutions while the agenda of bembalizing the territory by Zambia may be accomplished without notice!
On the flip side some people ask me why I bother talking of preservation of Silozi language. Why should it even be an issue? Why can’t we all speak Nyanja or Bemba as a sign of having once lived in the city of Lusaka or Copperbelt towns? My answer is that there is no language that is more superior to the others. I blame politics of Zambia for the language distortion and the open demeaning of other languages of the 73 tribes. But I believe the Zambian media too exacerbated the status quo through Bemba biased music and commercial adverts. Almost all local adverts have Bemba lines in them while all promotions by mobile companies are coined in Bemba. ( Abaleya zain, Sokela, etc).
If I could speak Nyanja or Bemba within three months, why can’t someone from Eastern or Northern part of Zambia working and stationed in Barotseland speak Silozi? From my experience, though, the challenge with people from North and Eastern Zambia stationed in public offices within Barotseland is lack of appreciation of the territory’s language and instead they continue communicating in Nyanja or Bemba to the disadvantage of our elderly citizens and people who are alien to the mentioned languages, notwithstanding the fact that the territory has its lingua franca (Silozi). This has forced our jobless youths to respond in alien languages they hardly speak or conversant with for employment favour, leaving them emotionally disturbed.
BAROTSELAND’S LINGUAL FRANCA
Notwithstanding the fact that Barotseland is one of the few territories during and after the scramble for Africa that has survived with a uniting language, Silozi, that almost the whole population of 36 plus tribes speak and understand. For many Lozi nationals Silozi is like their first language, and the number that has it as the first language is rapidly growing among the Kwangwas, Aluyunas and Subiyas. Very few Kwangwas, Aluyunas and Subiya speak and understand their mother tongue, instead Silozi is used.
ZAMBIA’S SCHEME OF BEMBA LANGUAGE HEGEMONY
Any pretence that the Bemba dominated Zambian government has no ethnic agenda of Bembalizing the whole territory can soon lead to uprooting of tribes like Lamba in the Copperbelt urban and Kaonde in the mining towns of North Western Province. Looking at the fate of these tribes, the prospects of them being corrected now is uncertain as the elite is dominated by people from Northern, Luapula and Muchinga provinces. Therefore, the language agenda policy in their minds is far from promoting unity in language diversity but superimposition of their clan language over the 73 tribes is what matters to them as it scores their agenda of Bemba hegemony in order to declare it as official language in Zambia
MY CURRENT RESEARCH
In my current research project I have analyzed communities in both urban and rural towns to find out the most recent developments concerning language hegemony in Zambia and Barotseland. I have also searched documents to find discussions and decisions of the past legislatures/politicians’ view over the language debate and language policy. I further interviewed some of the policy makers from Northern, Luapula, Muchinga and Eastern provinces over the language policy in commercial adverts of Zamtel, MTN and Airtel, music on both Radio and television of ZNBC. The responses were not inspiring but divisive and below average credentials expected from policy makers.
In a research conducted started in 1977 and further according to the 2000 census, Bemba is toping the list as Zambia’s most widely spoken language by 52% of the population as either a first or second language), Nyanja (37%), Tonga (15%) and Lozi (11%). However, the percentages should not be taken as true reflection as the system used in 2000 census is of mathematical error as Mbunda, Nkoya, Luvale, toka-leya , Nyengos and subiyas were excluded and placed on their own identity while Lamba which is closely related to Ila-lenje dialect of central province was included in the Bemba list of dependant languages. The aforementioned is a deliberate scheme by the Bemba led government of Zambia since independence in 1964 to superimpose Bemba ethnic language in the center of education, music, trade and commercial adverts.
The scenario today in Zambia where 98% of Music played on both public and private Radio and TV stations including commercial adverts for three cell phone providers is in Bemba is not a coincidence but a result of this 54 year old scheme.
Finally, Malozi, let us protect our nation from language distortion and guard our national identity by setting our independence goal a priority and working hand in hand with the nationalists to foster the implementation of the 2012 UDI.
Bulozi fasi la bondata Luna