Barotseland: Reflections on 1964 Independence Talks and Need for New Generations to Speak Up
Photo Courtesy of the Barotseland Post
In a news article, Muchala W. Situtu, one of the few surviving participants of the negotiation process of the Barotseland Agreement of 1964, reflects on the agreement’s misgivings, calling on the Barotse people to speak up for their right to self-determination. He underlines how it was never the wish of Litunga Sir Mwanawina III and his Barotse Native Government to join the rest of Northern Rhodesia towards independence. He also sheds a light on how a key amendment in a memorandum regarding Barotseland’s independence sealed Barotseland’s fate as an integral part of Zambia. Situtu’s account highlights how well-established the Barotse governance system was and how, after the dissolving of the Katengu Legislative Council, no legitimate government of Barotseland succeeded in replacing it.
Below is an article published by The Barotseland Post:
A lot has been said and written about the Barotseland Agreement of 1964 (BA’64) but not a whole lot from those that actually participated in the negotiations leading up to the signing of the 1964 agreement, either because they are now long dead or conspicuously quiet, maybe for fear of ‘opening the can of worms’.
Today, however, we feature one who actually participated in the Barotseland Agreement 1964 negotiations, having been a member of the 1963-65 elected Barotse National Council’s legislative katengo (parliament) and a Cabinet Minister in the then Barotse National Government in charge of Education, as he gives us a ‘witness account’ of what transpired during the deliberations that led to the granting of joint independence for both Barotseland and Northern Rhodesia under the express terms of the Barotseland Agreement 1964.
What many Zambians may not have been taught in their school curriculum is the fact that prior to the 1964 independence, Barotseland was a thriving nation state with her own government; elected legislative council (parliament) called the katengo, full cabinet with various departments to take care of the national treasury, education, transport, agriculture, among other sectors; her own separate judicial courts, police, intelligence service and other wings of governance. The Barotse national government (BNG), as it was called, was separate from the Northern Rhodesia government (NRG), although they both shared the same colonial administration.
Hon. Muchala W. Situtu’s sentiments on the subject should be as authoritative as they are priceless, being one of the few surviving participants of the proceedings among the likes of first Zambian Republican president Kenneth Kaunda and Sikota Wina.
As one of the few living eye witnesses and active participants to the entire process that culminated into the signing of the Barotseland Agreement 1964 in London on 18th May 1964, I can without doubt speak with some considerable authority on this issue. Furthermore, being one of the only four surviving members of the last legitimately constituted and duly installed Katengo Legislative Council and government, and most probably the last surviving member of its cabinet, I can challenge the people of Barotseland at every level and strata of society to rise and take up the power that has always been theirs - their RIGHT to self-determination.
Originally, it was not the wish or desire of the then Litunga Sir Mwanawina III and his Barotse Native Government to join the rest of Northern Rhodesia towards independence. The British government advised the Litunga and his government to allow political activities in the Kingdom, which were banned until then. The first elections under universal adult suffrage were held in 1962 and the big one for Barotse National Council otherwise referred to as the Katengo Legislative Council was held in 1963. In the 1963 election, I was one of the 25 elected members of the Legislative Council charged with the key responsibility to chart the way forward for Barotseland with the dawn of independence. Unfortunately, or fortunately, all the 25 elected council members were UNIP (one of the nationalist/independence movements, which later become Zambia’s first governing party) and that is how it was possible to pass a resolution in favor of union as opposed to separation. The fortunate part was that, despite the fact that the elected members of the Council were all UNIP whose Party policy was total integration without any autonomy for Barotseland, the UNIP elected members joined hands with the 20 nominated members of the Legislative Council to push for and secure Barotseland autonomy within independent Zambia. It is these 45 members of the Legislative Council which decided the future of Barotseland within independent Zambia contrary to both the wishes of the UNIP government in Lusaka on one hand and the Litunga of Barotseland on the other. Sir Mwanawina III as the Litunga merely accepted the decision of his Legislative Council.
The British government’s technical advisor seconded to the Litunga, Mr Hudson and the Barotse government Lawyers, Mr. Wilson based in the then Southern Rhodesia, Mr Cook based in South Africa and Mr Bell who was a Labour Member of Parliament in the United Kingdom, drew a Memorandum on the future of Barotseland within Zambia, which was presented to the entire National Council for thorough debate. The Memorandum was adopted with a minor change which replaced the phrase ‘to proceed to independence on an equal footing as sister states’ with ‘to proceed to independence as an integral part of Zambia’. This change of course was sneaked in by the shrewd Arthur Ñutuluti Wina (MHSRIP) upon being consulted by the elected members of the National Council. The Litunga Sir Mwanawina III was sharp enough to detect that change of phraseology and expressed displeasure with the inclusion of the term ‘integral’ whose meaning he explained to the members of the Council by likening it to the status of a foetus in the mother’s womb (that is to say, how does a mother (Barotseland) become an integral part of a foetus (Zambia) not yet born?). Though he could have insisted on the revision of the phrase, he allowed it to pass as the wish of the Council and thus ratified the Memorandum. It is this Memorandum that became the basis of the Lusaka talks to determine the future of Barotseland within independent Zambia between the Northern Rhodesian government (NRG) and the Barotse National Government (BNG) as it was now being styled as opposed to Barotse Native Government. Up to this point in history and for several years, there was no such a thing as Barotse Royal Establishment (BRE). Those were “Government to Government” talks, that is to say, talks between the government of Northern Rhodesia and the government of Barotseland.
The key talks between the Northern Rhodesia government and the government of Barotseland commenced in Lusaka in March 1964. This, of course, was after an earlier attempt in Livingstone had collapsed mainly due to disagreement between the elected members and the nominated members of the Barotse National Council. The Delegates to the Lusaka talks were the Litunga Sir Mwanawina III, KBE, (who only attended the opening formalities of the meeting where he gave a keynote address), the Acting Ngambela, the Rt. Hon. Imenda Sibandi, three elected and two nominated members of the Council. The meeting went on under the Chairmanship of the outgoing Governor of Northern Rhodesia, Sir Evelyn Hone. As stated before, the Litunga’s role was to give some opening remarks and to wish the meeting good progress, after which he left the delegates from both governments to deliberate.
Frank, hard and sincere deliberation took place which finally culminated into the document that clearly spelt out Barotseland’s future within independent Zambia. All the key points of the Barotseland Memorandum were taken on board in that document. The sticking point at those talks was what to do with the document. The position of Barotseland was to include the document and enshrine the agreed terms in the Zambian independence Republican Constitution while the Northern Rhodesian government delegation vehemently opposed that and suggested instead that the agreed resolutions be kept as a separate document. The talks ended with a stalemate on this issue. Consequently, the three elected members of the Council on the delegation, namely: Hastings Ndangwa Nooyo, Kawana Mulemwa and Knight Kopano Mutondo, were immediately suspended from UNIP for not towing the party line during the talks. The suspension of the trio shows how crucial the talks were to UNIP as the incoming Zambian government. The document as agreed at the Lusaka Barotseland talks was presented to the full Barotse National Council for ratification.
The suspension of the elected Council members who had attended the Lusaka Barotseland talks and the rift over what to do with the document spelling out the agreed terms caused a huge upheaval in Barotseland. It took the Prime Minister of Northern Rhodesia, Kenneth David Kaunda to travel to Lealui and to calm the situation in order to resolve this impasse. Kaunda shrewdly proposed that the agreed resolutions and terms be crafted into a ‘tripartite agreement’ to be signed by the Northern Rhodesia government, the Barotse government and Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II of Great Britain’s government. This was my first time to come across the word ‘tripartite’ and I am amazed that the President of Zambia can today say the Agreement was between two parties when what Kaunda proposed and signed was a tripartite Agreement, that is, an agreement between three parties. The proposal appeased the Barotse people because of their trust and confidence in Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II of Great Britain’s government.
It is in the domain of open history that the Kaunda team went to London for the independence talks at the exclusion of the Barotse government delegation. As a result, the independence talks almost collapsed because Britain would not buy the reasoning that the Lozi members of the UNIP delegation would represent Barotseland interests. The BNG delegation had to be hastily brought in for the independence talks to progress. That is how the Barotseland Agreement 1964 was finally signed in London on 18th May 1964 and the rest is history.
I went at length of explaining this background in order to show that the Barotse governance system is a well-established one that has evolved over centuries and that it is a people based system, not an individual. The process that was followed to reach the Barotseland Agreement 1964 cannot be reversed by the Lungu proposed shortcut. Since the destruction of the Katengo Legislative Council put in place by the people, of which I was a member in 1965, there has been no legitimate government in Barotseland. The Litunga was left hanging as head of state without a government. Consequently, the power of governance has reverted back to the people. That is why the March 2012 BNC was legitimate because it is a clear demonstration of the power vested in the people in the governance of the Barotseland Kingdom. Therefore, BRE is a nonentity in as far as the governance of Barotseland is concerned because it is purely a bunch of handpicked personal assistants of the Litunga who are today installed and tomorrow dismissed by him. They have no security of tenure. The excessively high personnel turnover at the so called BRE is testimony to this fact. What is worse is the perennial absence of substantive office bearers of such key positions like Ngambela and Natamoyo at Namuso, Sambi at Nalolo, Muleta at Libonda, Lyanshimba at Mwandi, Imangambwa at Naliele and Yutanga at Namayula. These are supposed to be the 'Prime Minister' of Barotseland and the 'Heads' of Regional governments, outside the Natamoyo. The future of this Nation cannot be placed in the hands of one man as if Barotseland is his personal farm or conglomerate.
I, therefore, wish to CONCLUDE by saying that the statement by Zambian President Edgar Chagwa Lungu on Tuesday 26th April 2016 in Mungu, as quoted in the Zambian print and electronic media, is the most unfortunate ever made by a President. More so that it was over the sensitive issue of the Barotseland Agreement 1964. The Barotse system of governance has been in existence for centuries before Northern Rhodesia, let alone Zambia, was born. It is most unfortunate and quite provocative for the Zambian President of today to come and order us (Barotse) in such a bullish manner on how to solve a problem that affects us and how we run our affairs as a nation. It is shameful and actually disgusting for the Zambian head of state to speak so casually about this issue when he knows how close the issue lies at the hearts of the people of Barotseland and that precious blood has been shed, innocent lives have been lost with some still missing while many more people of Barotseland have been traumatized, tortured and incarcerated.
The Zambian President must also be well advised that the Litunga is never a spokesperson for Barotseland or the Barotse. He is referred to as the Ngocana meaning ‘a tender calf’. Everything has to be done for him by the appropriate Barotse institution of governance - MUCHALA W. SITUTU
‘Barotseland Agreement 1964 - A First-Hand Account’ was first authored by Muchala W. Situtu with the assistance of Mungandi wa Muwina Mungandi, and published on BNFA.INFO, May 5, 2016, in response to a statement the Zambian President, Edgar Chagwa Lungu, made on Tuesday 26th April 2016 in Mungu forbidding Lozis from commenting on the 1964 Barotseland Agreement, claiming that only him as president and the Litunga, as king of Barotseland had that privilege.