POLITICAL Scientist and human rights advocate Saboi Imboela says Paramount Chief Chitimukulu only said what everybody else talks about privately when he incited his subjects to vote in a particular way last week.

When he featured on Radio Mano in Kasama, Paramount Chief Chitimukulu regretted that the Bemba land had remained underdeveloped since the UNIP era despite the Bemba tribe constituting a significant part of the Zambian population.

The Paramount Chief further called on his subjects to emulate the people of Southern Province who had always voted for one of their own in every election the country has had, further commending the people in that region for standing for what they wanted.

But these remarks attracted shark criticism, as certain commentators accused him of perpetuating tribalism.

But commenting on these remarks in an interview, Imboela explained her own understanding of what the traditional leader was trying to communicate to his people.

“Before we judge words and what we think they mean, it is always important to look at the audience, media and context in which someone says something. To me, the good Chief is probably guilty of using mass media to say something that we all know most people say in private. But such talk should probably stay that way – private. There are many things that the Chitimukulu said which are very true which cannot be ignored and being overly sensitive about them will not change anything,” Imboela said.

“The Chief spoke about Bemba hegemony: Bembas are the largest ethnic grouping in the country and so it is true that their vote is, or at least should be, the deciding vote of who rules Zambia. Whether you like that or not, it is a fact. The only problem would be if they use that vote to only vote for their fellow Bembas and not objectively look at who really is best for the job. But of course we know how tribal our politics are, so that is a story for another day. But the Mwine Lubemba never told his people that they should only vote for a Bemba but clearly said anyone who was capable. To me, all traditional leaders should actually encourage their subjects to vote. He said Bembas should vote in big numbers because they are 21% of the Zambian population and they should be the ones to determine who the leader should be. Actually, from the last time I checked, the Bembas are even more than 21%, so their hegemonic influence on the population and the vote is undeniable.”

Imboela insisted that people misunderstood the Chitimukulu.

“He encouraged his people to take elections seriously and vote in great numbers. However, many people have misunderstood the Southern province 2016 voting because Southern Province also normally has a lot of voter apathy. Many people in Southern Province are also not even registered to vote, so this drive to tell people to register to vote should be told in all provinces in Zambia, including Southern province. In 2016, there was an active drive to engage the people of Southern Province to vote and it worked out. In 2021, all political parties, traditional leaders and non-state actors should actually go out there and encourage people to vote. It is not only their right, but also duty to vote. People died for our generation to be able to vote so people should never take such rights and responsibilities lightly. So the Chief must actually be commended for telling people to vote as long as he does not tell them to vote on tribal lines. And from that audio, he did not say that,” she said.

Meanwhile, Imboela, who is also NDC spokesperson, agreed with Chief Chitimukulu’s “unless we stand up ourselves to develop our own areas, things will not change” remarks.

“He talked of how people were voting but nothing was changing. This is actually one thing we always tell people that there should be a correlation between the way they vote and the way they live. That’s a message we have to keep telling our people and I am happy that the Chitimukulu touched on that. It does not make sense to vote and then the politicians become extremely wealthy in just a few months in office while the people wallow in more abject poverty. People’s votes should amount to something. He complained of the poor workmanship of the road and specifically mentioned the Town clerk, the mayor, councilors Zimba and Thandi that they used the road in question and yet could not be bothered with the poor state it was in. He further mentioned that the Council had civil engineers with degrees and yet the workmanship of the road was bad. I don’t see anything wrong with that, the Chief was just looking out for his people,” she argued.

Imboela insisted that the Bemba Chief was demanding what was due to his people and there was no harm in doing so.

“What shocked me was that we all complain about the lack of rural development and I have always thought that places like western province are the ones that are neglected. But it is clear that all Provinces in the country have been neglected because the PF has not even developed the very provinces that give them votes. The Chitimukulu also complained that his subjects lacked commitment to usher in a leadership of their choice. He mentioned that out of a registered number of 150,000, only 50,000 would show up to vote and that was not good. He referred to this scenario as that of a useless majority that did not take advantage of the big numbers they had to elect the leaders that they wanted. He said it is not about begging and insults but the Bembas should use their 21% wisely. So to me, the Chief is only encouraging his subjects to take advantage of their position and use it wisely to their benefit,” said Imboela.