Perspective: One Zambia One Nation – Are Tongas and other regions voting for UPND tribal?

FB_IMG_1471759946047Having been privileged to be born from a Nsenga Mother and a Tonga Father I feel am better positioned to contribute to the thinking of one Zambia one nation concept. My mom and Dad got married in the early 1960s when dad was transferred by Government to work in now what is called Nyimba district in Eastern Province. While there he met with my mom and eventually the two married. My Dad died when I was in grade six and mom died ten years later. I had a privilege interacting with both my mom and dad’s relatives long after the demise of my parents. My home is a home of both the Tongas and Nsengas, and fortunately Lambas since I am married to a Lamba – Kaonda wife. My children are floating between all these languages and frankly there are masters of none though biased towards English.

Soon after the death of my dad, his elder brother took responsibility to raise me in Tonga land while mom and my other brothers remained in Lusaka. Interestingly, dad left behind sons though we are told that before he married mom he had a daughter that none of us siblings have seen.

My stay in the village helped me appreciate the culture of the Tonga speaking people, I grew up like any other Tonga young person, waking up early in the morning to work the land and take care of the family animals and general bush life which was characterized with collection of wild fruit. This exposure has given me much appreciation on the importance of farming and eventually has defined my life going forward.


Hakainde Hichilema casting his vote

Hakainde Hichilema casting his vote


In the case of the recent elections, I was split in between two competitors in Hakainde Hichilema (HH) and Edgar C. Lungu (ECL) by nature and tribal inclination I am obliged to support both because ECL is from the East were mom came from and HH is from South where Dad hails. In writing this article,I assumed that mom and dad were alive and that eventually they are going to read it; and further that as a lovely son they both would have cherished and loved. So I won’t offend or betray any of the two in my writing.

The question which begs an answer is, areTongas tribal? (In view of the pattern of their voting style especially when you consider the famous Dudumwezi election results.) My honest answer is “NO” – a follow up question would then be – why then did they vote the way they voted in the 2016 elections.  My honest and personal answer is “it’s a protest vote”. And this protest vote is not unique toTonga land but also in Western and Northwestern and part of central and copper belt provinces. This pattern is here to stay till we embrace and practice the spirit of “one Zambia one nation”as envisioned by our fore fathers.

It is my considered view that the one Zambia one nation concept need to be demonstrated in action and not in pronouncements only – it’s not enough just to shout this slogan during rallies or state it when reading the main news on TV and radios. It must be appreciated that for this to be put in motion the country Zambia must create a space for nation or in this case ethos or tribe to participate in governance and national development. The laws and policies must be seen to be supporting this concept in nature and form.

I have spent much of my time working in the development sector and in the process I was privileged to interact with old men and women, unfortunately most of them if not all have died. These are people who fought for independence and they were able to share some of unwritten history behind the concept of one Zambia one Nation. I feel obliged to share the insights they shared with me during my interaction with them.

In as far as unwritten history is concerned embracing and practicing the concept of one Zambia one nation in terms of governance of our country Zambia –means “rotational leadership”.We must all appreciate that during the colonial rule our forefathers knew what it meant to be governed by one group of society with no hope that the blacks will ever rule. So, through this concept of one Zambia one nation they dreamt of a united Zambia governed through rotational leadership. Rotation leadership meant that the presidency would have been rotating from one region to another region.

State House

State House

For example, presidency would move from Northern to Northwest and to Copper belt, Eastern province and so on. Laws and policies would have been put in place to facilitate the rotational leadership. It is natural and not tribal to feel good and happy when a person from your region is a president and further its great and comforting for one to know or be assured that in my time or even when I am gone a person from my region will one day be a President of Zambia.

It’s now 50 years plus since Zambia took independence from the British rule. So far we have had six presidents ruling Zambia and the presidency has been floating from the east and northern regions.

This means that other regions have in the past 50 years plus not participated in the governance at the level of presidency.

Levy Mwanawasa

Levy Mwanawasa

In Levy Mwanawasa, our third President,Central or is it Copperbelt briefly participated in the presidency. This to me is what people in south, western and north western regions are telling us through their voting pattern.It’s a protest vote clearly manifesting the inner feeling of being foreign in your country.

Lusaka residents cerebrating Lungu's re-election

Lusaka residents cerebrating Lungu’s re-election

Soon after the announcement of the 2016 election results my son had the shock of his day when the people in the street were insulting “Tongas”. According to him people were insulting and stating how bad Tongas are and how Zambians would have suffered if a Tonga man had won the elections. It was very clear that people were out pouring the hatred on the Tongas. My son felt more discriminated and unfortunately such out pouring of hate speech was propagated by the so called citizens of a Christian nation. My son asked me a question, “Why do people hate Tongas? Judging from his expression, I knew that he has been affected by the way people insulted the tribe he is associated with. Being a clergy I had to spend my time to comfort him and ensure that he does not grow with hatred for other tribes.

The incident of my son gives me an idea that he is not the only one in such a predicament.They could be other children who have chosen not to express it but internally are affected. This to me, is a time boom waiting to explode at a later date. The ruling tribes or regions must know that no human being or tribe or region will forever be suppressed.

I therefore suggest that our national leadership must be seen to be embracing all ethnic groupings in Zambia by accommodating the spirit of one Zambia one nation in practice through rotational leadership. It must be emphasized that in the spirit of one Zambia one Nation all the tribes of this country Zambia have the ability to occupy the highest position of the land. We must not create superior and inferior groupings in a one Zambia otherwise posterity will judge us harshly.


By Rev Malawo Matyola.


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