This country is now officially broke! It has been bankrupted. The thieves in government have stolen all there was to be stolen and there is no money left to steal. With the Treasury now empty, they have turned to natural resources. What is there to steal now is land, wildlife, minerals and forest products, and in all these things, the people in front facilitating the criminality are chiefs, the traditional leaders who call themselves the custodians of the land.

Chieftainess Nkomeshya Mukamambo II of the Soli people of Lusaka Province has no kind words for people in government who want to use their influence to grab traditional land and abuse it for personal benefit. The ruler of the Soli land says the ruling party wants her dead because she is a thorn in their flesh; she is a hindrance to their motives.

“There is bias in distribution of the wealth of this country. To all the people of Zambia, I stand to speak and I will not withdraw. I will speak and I will continue to speak. I want an explanation from the high authorities. What was the reason for dispatching 40 buses all the way from Lusaka to come here to come and disrupt my ceremony with more than 600 cadres, what was the reason? Am I so big that a contingent of 40 buses could descend upon me, to come and kill me? If it is to kill me, even one person can kill me, I am a woman, very small in height, small in body, I don’t even need two bullets to finish my life,” said the Soli chief.

Such traditional leaders deserve respect and support from all well-meaning citizens because they are fighting for the good of the country. Chieftainess Nkomeshya has refused to allow the powerful people in government to take and abuse her land, using the same system of embracing Chinamen and their illicit businesses. But other chiefs have chosen to be accomplices.

We are seeing a very worrying pattern of wealth accumulation among traditional leaders in areas where natural resources, such as Mukula, are in abundance or where gold deposits have been found. Some of our chiefs have no attachments to their subjects anymore; they are only interested in land, precious stones, timber and minerals. Their new adopted subjects are Chinese investors who give them cuts from the theft of these resources.

This is what is happening now in Zambia. Forget the money, the balances aren’t there. The Treasury has been wiped clean! Money, now, is in resources; land, precious stones, timber and wildlife, and Zambians must open their eyes to see what is happening to these resources and question the role that traditional leaders play in their administration.

Chiefs occupy a certain place in our society where they don’t get enough scrutiny. They are considered sacred to an extent, and accusing them of stealing is simply taboo. So, they do many things as they please while hiding from the law, aided by their political connections.

When we look critically at the previous money laundering trends reports, we will see that some chiefs, though not named, have been implicated in the biggest fraud cases. But the public ignores the chiefs’ involvements in these cases and only focus on the politicians. This should not be the case. Traditional leaders need to be as accountable as any other leader.

Chiefs need to be reminded of their mandate. They should not hide behind royal blood to steal without being called out. Zambia belongs to every citizen, and chiefs, like politicians, serve at the mercy of their subjects. If they own the land, they own it on behalf of the people in the chiefdom. They don’t have the power to sell it for personal gain. This also applies to wildlife, forests and minerals found in their settlements.

Being a chief is a privilege and not a licence to steal with impunity. Chiefs who involve themselves in criminal activities, such as the smuggling of Mukula, will be called for what they are. A thief is a thief, regardless of what throne they sit on. The propensity for wealth among our traditional leaders is leading them to commit crimes and this is an embarrassment to the country’s royal establishment.

Chiefs are there to LOOK after our resources, not to LOOT our resources. They must be vigilant and guard against bogus investors who do not bring developmental benefits to the country. Politicians have shown greed over land and wanton abuse, and if the chiefs are proving to be as destructive, they should not ask Zambians to back them on their call to preside over the administration of land.

The House of Chiefs must critically look into the conduct of its members and subordinates. How different are they from politicians if they are also facilitating crimes like this? How will they gain the respect of the people if their faces are appearing among members of the Mukula smuggling cartels? Shame on all greedy royal highnesses!