By AUSTIN MBOZI
SOME efforts to please President Hakainde Hichilema by using his hometown Tonga language during his inauguration last Tuesday were not appropriate. If this continues those who were refusing to vote for Tonga presidents might start claiming that their pre-existing prejudices were right that a Tonga president would impose Tonga.
Those who sang in Tonga at the inauguration are Moshobe Blue Jeans, Mphade, the band from Bweengwa, shimunenga spear dancers and the Kuyabila. Maybe these can be excused because they always sing in Tonga in the Southern Province where they are based. But the Zambia military band was the most embarrassing. Since independence they almost always do their drills in Nyanja or Bemba. But suddenly they composed that talumuyanda (we love you Mr President) song and waited to sing it specifically in his face the moment he arrived and settled down. Understandably they were submitting to the One Zambia, Equal Languages policy that he is trying to promote. If so then they must first admit that they were wrong to ignore Tonga and other languages since independence. And going forward they must sing all formerly ignored languages, not just Tonga to please the President.
I am not anti-Tonga. I am a Tonga man. In fact I am not just these tuma town-born ice-cream eating Tongas. I am a village-born mabisi-eating Tonga. I am a mulombwana ulya mulilo masizi ulabuulula. I just want equality for all local languages.
President Hakainde’s tribal unity policy
It is the inauguration organisers to blame, not the President. The President greets audiences in several local languages not because he wants Tonga to dominate or to be used to him by everyone. He just wants you to socially accept all local languages as equal: Lozi, Bemba, Luvale, Kaonde, Tumbuka, Lunda, Tonga, Nyanga, Namwanga, Nkoya or Lenje. This is what I also have advocated for in my book, Language Politics in Zambia (2018) and in my writings for 20 years.
Let us not repeat our past mistakes. We have had tribal problems all along because people went about pleasing presidents with Bemba and Nyanja.
This is partly actually what had caused North-Westerners, Southerners and Westerners feel disrespected and supported Harry Nkumbula’s ANC and then UPND.
When I was arrested in 2018 by the PF-aligned police officers for writing against President Lungu over the killing of UNZA student Vespers Shimuzhila, one of the Anti-Fraud Unit police officers Mark K. Hansingo was Tonga. Yet he exclusively used Bemba to show his loyalty to PF.
In fact Hansingo was more unprofessional than the lead officer M. Kabamba. Imagine he told me in the presence of my lawyer to stop attacking President Lungu because he paid my salary while HH does not.
Then he obtained a search warrant for my home by lying to the magistrate that he had information that I stole UNZA computers etc, (his time to answer will come).
My book, Language politics in Zambia