The Zambian government is ‘proposing; to amend the constitutional clause that deals with recognition of chiefs following pressure from the Barotse Royal Establishment (BRE).
The current constitution is in conflict with the Chiefs Act which provides that chiefs in Western Province (Barotseland) shall be installed or dethroned by the Litunga but the government amended the republican constitution and placed a clause directly targeting the authority of the Litunga and the Barotse Royal Establishment in matters of installation or dethronement of chiefs.
National Dialogue Forum Spokesperson Isack Mwanza recently told a media briefing that among the 78 constitutional amendments to be considered is the one dealing with recognition and withdrawal of recognition of chiefs.
Article 165 (2) of the amended constitution states that Parliament shall not enact legislation which –
(a) Confers on a person or authority the right to recognise or withdraw the recognition of a chief.
The government then used this clause to sponsor ‘rebel’ chiefs in Kaoma and Mongu and allowed them to operate without being installed by the Litunga through the Barotse Royal Establishment as had always been the case and as stipulated by the Chiefs Act which provides for separate guidelines for Western Province (Barotseland) different from the rest of Zambia in matters of installation of chiefs.
In November 2018, Vice President Inonge Wina and President Edgar Lungu made separate visits within a space of one week to chief Mwene Mutondo of Kaoma, one of the .rebel’ chiefs but this did not go well with the BRE forcing it to hold a media briefing at which it warned the Zambian government against undermining the authority of the Litunga.
At that briefing, the BRE had stressed that chiefs in Barotseland, unlike elsewhere in Zambia, are installed by His Majesty the Litunga from time immemorial and they hold office by strictly following the diverse traditions and customs of all the 38 ethnic groups in the region.
This was followed by a ‘rift’ in the Litunga’s relationship with President Lungu. A situation which worried the Zambian authorities as it could force the Litunga to side with his people’s wishes to separate from Zambia as resolved through the March 2012 Barotse National Council (BNC).
With this government ‘assurance’ to drop the clause that targeted his authority, the Litunga has since reverted to his position of ‘cooperating’ with the Zambian government and making sure that the Barotseland independence movement is derailed.