[By Tuesday Bwalya]

For many years now, I have observed with concern the growing tendency of some Zambians issuing tribal remarks against one another.

During, the United National Independence Party (UNIP) and the early days of the Movement for Multi-Party Democracy (MMD) governments, tribal talk was not pronounced; it was not on the lips of many Zambia. Alas, today, it is the in thing.

Tribalism has been natured, massaged and promoted by politicians who have found it to be their political capital.

The Patriotic Front (PF) as a ruling party has been thriving on this evil. I say so because many of the people embroiled in tribal talk of late are PF cadres and government officials aligned to the ruling party. Further, the PF-led government tolerance of tribalism is exhibited in the manner its cabinet is constituted. It is mostly made up of two groups of people, my tribe the Bemba speaking people, and those coming from the Eastern Province of Zambia. Appointments to senior government positions and parastatal bodies under the PF-led government are also based on tribal lines, with these two groupings dominating those positions.

I wish also to point out that today, tribalism has permeated all sectors of our society and that it does not know the level of education; even the educated persons are championing tribalism in their workplaces and homes. It is unfortunate that a disgraceful act is being committed by our people with full support of our political elites. I am ashamed to be witnessing scenes of tribalism in the 21st century. Barely a week passes without hearing cases of tribalism being reported in the media.

Early this month, the country was treated to tribal talks. The first one happened in Kasama, in the Northern Province where two PF officials in the names of Abraham Mulenga and John Sampa went to Lutanda Radio Station and issued tribal remarks against the Tonga speaking people on radio programme. The recording of the two is in the public domain. I listened to the recording, it is disgusting and shameful. The Two PF officials were claiming that Tonga speaking people were very bad people and that the Bemba speaking people should never vote for a Tonga as president of Zambia.

One of the PF officials went on to say that he knew very well the Tonga speaking people because he stayed with them for one week. Honestly, could you learn the behaviour or way of life of a grouping in one week? This is not true and it is clear that this is another wave of tribal attacks by PF targeting the main opposition leader Hakainde Hichilema (HH). It is a campaign strategy of PF which has worked in the past but I doubt if it will work in 2021 again.

The minister of Luapula Province Nickson Chilangwa was also reported to have used tribal remarks against a Prime TV reporter who hails from Southern Province. It was reported that the minister told the Journalist to stop Tonga manners because he was not in Southern Province but Luapula Province. Further, the Minister was reported to have warned the reporter with ejection from the Province if he continued with Tonga manners.

Does it mean that we have Tonga and Bemba manners? If so, are the Tonga manners so bad compared to the Bemba manners? The utterances by the minister also constitute tribalism of the highest order; he should be ashamed of himself.

Now, why are the perpetrators of tribalism in this country not arrested? The only person arrested and charged on alleged racial attacks is Chishimba Kamabwili. He is alleged to have issued racial remarks against an Indian contractor and the matter is in the court of law. Could it be that there is no law on tribalism? The answer is that the law is there and sufficient to deal with perpetrators of tribalism.

The Pinal Code Act, Chapter VII, Section 70. (1) says: “Any person who utters any words or publishes any writing expressing or showing hatred, ridicule or contempt for any person or group of persons wholly or mainly because of his or their race, tribe, place of origin or colour is guilty of an offence and is liable on conviction to imprisonment for a period not exceeding two years.”

The law is clear about tribal talk; what the two PF officials and Mr Chilangwa said constitute a serious offence which carries a sentence of 2 years. If the three committed an offence, has the Zambia Police summoned them for interrogation? The answer is a big NO. This is because the perpetrators belong to ruling party, the PF and the other one is a minister. In a normal country, the two PF officials were supposed to be arrested just after they finished their careless talk.

I wish to implore the Zambia Police Service to quickly summon the two PF officials for interrogation and effect an arrest. Further, if President Edgar Lungu does not support and benefit from tribalism, he should drop Mr Chilangwa from his cabinet because he is a bad man who does not deserve to move with the flag of our land on his vehicle as a minister. If no action is taken against the three PF officials, it will confirm my belief that tribal talk has been the campaign strategy of PF.

I wish to state that I am disappointed with the continued attacks on and labeling of the Tonga speaking people as tribal. In any tribal grouping, there are bad and good people. Therefore no one should generalise that all Tongas are bad and more tribal than any other group of Zambians. This tribal talk should come to an end because it is a threat to peace and prosperity of our country.

As I conclude, I wish to commend the Independent Broadcasting Authority (IBA) for suspending the operating license of Lutanda Radio for 30 days for hosting the two tribal PF officials.

The author is a lecture at the University of Zambia, department of Library and Information Science.

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