On Wednesday October 4, 2017, Senior Chieftainess Nkomeshya Mukamambo II invited President Edgar Lungu to grace this year’s Chakwela Makumbi traditional ceremony of the Soli people in Chongwe, but the Head of State turned down the invitation. Not only did he turn down the invitation, the President also vowed never to attend traditional ceremonies anywhere else in the country for a very simple reason.

“I am finding it difficult to attend traditional ceremonies because they are now dividing us. My failure to attend the Kulamba ceremony of the Chewa [people] has raised a lot of issues because in February I attended Nc’wala [of the Ngoni people]. They are now saying I am inclined to Ngonis when it was just last year when I attended the Kulamba ceremony. I don’t understand why it becomes a problem if I delegate a representative… So, I made a declaration before my colleagues in Cabinet on Monday that I would no longer be attending traditional ceremonies because, it’s like, my presence is causing more divisions on tribal lines than unity,” President Lungu said.

“I received an invitation from Senior Chief Inyambo Yeta [of Western Province] for his coronation. But I will phone him this afternoon and I will tell him that I am in a dilemma.”

We are afraid that our President has made a very irrational and unpatriotic decision. Our opinion as News Diggers! is that the move is in bad taste, it is more divisive and a recipe for regional uprising.
It is a well-known secret that President Lungu and Paramount Chief Gawa Undi do not enjoy cordial relations. It is a fact that, Gawa Undi, the ruler of the Chewa people of Zambia, Malawi and Mozambique is not a fan of President Lungu, but it’s also a fact that the Head of State is not in love with the traditional leader. On the other hand, there is no doubt that chiefs in Southern Province dislike President Lungu and his Patriotic Front government for obvious political reasons.

If Zambia was ruled by one chief who was not in good standing with the President, this would be a very simple dispute to resolve, but there are more than 250 chiefs in this country, most of whom do not care about politics. How can our President choose to condemn all of them because of his differences with a few selected traditional leaders? What if the traditional leaders decide to stop attending all government functions for fear of being perceived as PF cadres? How does President Lungu expect the chiefs to work with the government of the day when he does not want to work with the traditional leaders of the day?

We wonder if President Lungu understands that traditional ceremonies are for the people of Zambia and not the 288 chiefs. Traditional ceremonies provide a platform where ordinary citizens of Zambia get to have a glimpse of their Head of State. If President Lungu resolved to stop travelling abroad and diverted that money and time towards officiating at as many traditional ceremonies as he could, Zambians would he happy. That would also provide the President a chance to see and hear the real struggles that his people are facing in little-known traditional settlements around the country.

The tribal divisions in this country have not been caused by President Lungu’s failure to attend some traditional ceremonies. It is the political statements that the President himself, his ministers and ruling party officials make against those who don’t vote for them. When PF officials, made derogatory remarks against the chiefs of Southern Province and their subjects, President Lungu did not act. He said he could not be pressured into firing anybody “without a good reason”. The people of Southern Province and those who support the UPND were hurt. These differences culminated into electoral violence and there has been no efforts from President Lungu to resolve this. This is a political problem and requires political solutions; it has nothing to do with his absence at the Kulamba ceremony.

Zambia has been celebrating traditional ceremonies way before President Lungu was born and the celebrations will continue long after he leaves office and the earth. A responsible government cannot separate itself from traditional ceremonies on such flimsy grounds. A sensible government would be proposing means in which it could get involved in financing traditional ceremonies. Staying away will make traditional leaders and their subjects feel abandoned. If President Lungu wanted to attend the traditional ceremony in Southern Province because he cared for the people in that region, he could have ignored the negative talk. He could have gone there and sat in between Chief Mukuni and Hakainde Hichilema for the people of Zambia to see that their leaders have truly reconciled. So we don’t buy the justification by the Head of State.

With that statement, President Lungu was practically withdrawing his recognition of all our chiefs and traditional leaders. He does not like the fact that some of them are too powerful for his government. They are an impediment to his certain endeavours and he wants the people of Zambia to hear less and less of them. He cannot claim that by boycotting traditional ceremonies he will resolve the tribal divisions that have engulfed the country. Most of Lusaka Province is in Chieftainess Nkomeshya’s land; and there are certain projects in the outskirts which government cannot implement without her consent. That is how unproductive it is for President Lungu to frustrate traditional leaders.

But we can see that President Lungu is now able to confidently snub Chieftainess Nkomeshya and Chief Inyambo Yeta because the elections are over, they have nothing to offer him, and so he needed to come up with an excuse for dumping them. It’s like the President used to attend traditional ceremonies to please the chiefs and not the people. That is why, since the chiefs have become ‘arrogant’ to him, he will stay away from their special events without a sense of guilt that he will miss interacting with the people.

The time is ripe for us to remind the people of Zambia that President Lungu cares more about those who are close to him than those who put him in power. What the President has done to the chiefs, he will do to the church. Just like he has disappointed the chiefs whom he worked with to retain political power, he will disappoint the church leaders, if he has not done so already. Zambians should not be surprised when they hear that President Lungu has resolved to stop attending all church services on grounds that the Catholics are accusing him of favoring Pentecostals.

President Lungu should realise that he is a President for all tribes, including those in Southern Province who did not vote for him. He is a President for all Christians including the Jehovah’s Witnesses who don’t vote at all.

We insist that the President made an irrational decision, which is against the government’s agenda to preserve and promote culture and traditional inheritance. President Lungu knows that it is practically impossible for him to attend all traditional ceremonies because of the many other responsibilities that fall under his office. Even president Rupiah Banda who only served this country for three years, did not choose to stay away from traditional ceremonies for fear of causing tribal divisions.

Anyway, maybe our President will also stop taking alcohol all together, when those who brew Mosi complain that he only takes Jameson.