Mpezeni, the Paramount chief of the Ngoni people of Eastern Province says he is very angry with President Edgar Lungu and State House staff. In his complaint, the traditional leader says he has attempted to meet the President on four occasions but he was blocked.
That is not all. The Nkosi yama Nkosi says he is particularly angered by the treatment he received at State House, where they made him feel like a beggar.
“Chanili okalipa maningi, nayendako four times, okungo ninama boza. Kapena oganiza kuti tufuna kupempha Ndalama, situpempha ndalama seo yai. Tufuna kukamba chilungamo. Seo mafumu ndiye tusunga banthu, so ngati sofuna kuonana na seo ndiye kuti tionane naye bwanji. Mailo m’mawa akati yai mwenzolabila lini, koma ofuna lini kuonana naye. (What I am really angry about is that I have gone there four times, they keep telling me lies. Maybe they think I go there to beg for money. I don’t beg for money myself. We just want to say the truth. It’s us the chiefs who keep people, so if he doesn’t want to talk to us how will he (the President) discuss issues? Tomorrow he should not say we never told him because he doesn’t want to meet us,” Mpezeni warned.
For this reason, the paramount chief has vowed never to set foot at State House, saying he doesn’t care about the leadership anymore.
“Manje sinizayendako futi. Kuchokela lomba, sinizayendako futi kusogolo kuja chifukwa chuoneka monga nunyengelela… nizao izo, neo niliye nao na nchito! Ndine okalipa maningi. (But now I have decided that I will never go there, no matter what happens because it appears as though I am going there to plead. It’s their fault; I don’t care about them now. I am very upset,” said Mpezeni.
We cannot immediately verify if indeed State House has, on four occasions, prevented His Royal Highness from meeting the President, but we also can’t fathom why the Ngoni King can fabricate such a lie to dent the image of the Head of State. What is clear though, is that this claim from the paramount chief fits in the narrative of our Republican President not wanting to interact with our traditional leaders.
According to Mpezeni, his agenda with the President was to discuss concerns in the Agriculture sector, as raised by farmers in his chiefdom. This was a justifiable reason for a chief to demand access to the President, especially that State House promised farmers that the Head of State was going to intervene and announce a better floor price for maize.
We appreciate that our President is traversing the world in search of investments and to woo tourists. Therefore, it is highly possible that State House staff was very honest when they told Mpezeni that the Head of State was not around. But was the message passed on to the President when he returned? If yes, why didn’t the Head of State call the traditional leader to give him a fresh appointment? If not, what is the Presidential Affairs minister getting paid for? How broken is the system at State House? Something is fishy here.
Ordinarily, Mpezeni would be expected to have a soft spot for President Lungu, considering that the President graced the Nc’wala ceremony this year. Therefore, when we hear the traditional leader saying “I don’t care about the President anymore”, it should not only raise our eyebrows, but our political alertness too.
Mpezeni may sound like a drunkard when he speaks. And to be honest, he is indeed a fish when it comes to swallowing happy juice, but he is among the most intelligent traditional leaders we have in Zambia. Mpezeni is politically awake and his complaint should not be perceived as a mere ranting from a disgruntled traditional leader. There is something about our government leadership that Mpezeni has observed, which we must take interest in. We must ask ourselves; if the President can snub Mpezeni, a paramount chief, what about those retirees who picket State House every month? Can our President ‘waste’ his time hearing their concerns and helping them get their hard earned pensions? We don’t think so.
We believe that the Nkosi yama Nkosi could not have opened his mouth to rebuke State House in the manner he did, if he still had hope and confidence in the PF government. We say this because, just like a member of parliament, a chief is a representative of the people and he also has to deliver on his promises to his subjects. Mpezeni is part of the governance system and it is his duty to demand answers from government leaders when his farmers complain.
On the other hand, it does not surprise us that Mpezeni has failed to have access to the President. The simple explanation is that the traditional leader didn’t go to State House to buy a contract. He did not have US$200, 000 to give the President’s advisor in order to secure a presidential appointment.
We can bet anyone on the fact that the CEO of the company that was chosen to procure 42 fire tenders, and the CEO of the company that was selected to construct the Lusaka-Ndola dual carriageway cannot fail to access the president of Zambia on four attempts.
Those officers who provide security at the entrance to State House know what we are talking about. When a Chinese investor arrives at the gate, they don’t even search them for fear of being rebuked by the bosses inside. Instead, they even greet the investor in Chinese “Nǐ hǎo ma”, just to make them understand how welcome they are.
But Mpezeni doesn’t own a road construction company. He has no money to procure vehicles for the government, so what is the fastest way in which he can meet his President to discuss governance issues?
Maybe Mpezeni should go to Swaziland, then invite President Lungu to go and see how the King there is settling-in with his latest wife. We are sure that the paramount chief will not only receive the President, but buffaloes and several other gifts from the president’s advisors who can’t wait for the next Reed Dance.