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Chiefs to Chiefs policy

Filed under: Special Comments |
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By Dickson Jere

All successive Presidents in Zambia have had problems to do with attendance at annual traditional ceremonies. When the sitting President attends one – by convention – he is expected to grace all other major ones. But this, sometimes, is not feasible given the nature of the Presidency. Urgent engagements can prop up on the day when he is expected to attend the ceremony. But him missing it can cause negative talk.

“He doesn’t like us…” the traditional leaders always complain.

During our time – the President Rupiah Banda era – it was agreed that the President would only attend the bigger ceremonies hosted by the Paramount Chiefs (only four are ranked as such in Zambia) and at least one per Province each year. But which ceremony per Province? Who decides? Can you attend the Lunda ceremony and miss the Luvale in northwestern Province?

Our other biggest hurdle was the Eastern Province which has two Paramount Chiefs – Kalonga Gawa Undi and Ngwenyama Mpezeni – which meant the President going to Eastern Province twice. And he hailed from there. Murmurs were heard among the traditional leaders from other areas.

You see, each tribe or ethnic group in Zambia has own calendar for the traditional ceremonies. They do not consult each other and often they clash on dates.

I remember we had a problem in Eastern Province. The Malaila ceremony of the Kunda people of Malambo usually clashes with the Kalumba ceremony of the Chewa. Both wants the President to grace their event but non is willing to adjust dates. With such, it becomes difficult to manage. I remember once we had to do both on same day – thanks to the short distance by helicopter between the two ceremonies.

When you attend Chief Mukuni ceremony in Livingstone – by convention – you are expected to attend the one in Monze too. This can be very hectic for the Head of State.

This year, somehow luck played in President Hakainde Hichilema diary. He missed the Ncwala ceremony on account of medical advice after outbreak of Cholera. But the focus was whether he would attend the Kulamba (chewa) and the Kuomboka (Lozi) that were next in line.

Thankfully,the two were canceled due to otter unrelated reasons. But one remained among the top four – Kusefya pangwena of the Bemba. It was good that the ceremony was officiated by another Chief – the Litunga of the Lozi speaking people. By the way – on same day – Malaila was taking place in Eastern Province.

The “Chief to Chief” policy had been agreed previous governments. Instead of using Presidents or politicians to grace these events, fellow chiefs should grace these events. You will recall that in 2018 – Kalumba Ceremony was graced by the Litunga and thereafter Gawa Undi attended the Kuomboka ceremony.

This way, the President can be given enough time to attend to other equally pressing issues without being put under pressure for missing a particular traditional ceremony. Let us support the chief to chief policy as it also unites Zambia.

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