Catholic Oblate Liseli radio presenter, Situmbeko Sikuka, has been summoned by Zambia police for allegedly inciting the Lozi community against Zambian government officials after he hosted a show to discuss an apparent unfairness emanating from the just ended Teachers’ recruitment exercise which has sparked much discontent among suitably qualified teachers hailing from the contested Barotseland region.
The recruitment exercise, which is widely seen to have deliberately excluded qualified teachers of Barotse descent in preference for those hailing from other regions of Zambia, has been roundly condemned with the Barotse National Freedom Alliance (BNFA) officially spearheading a petition against it, claiming continued discrimination against the Lozi people of Barotseland.
Although Zambia’s permanent secretary in charge of the region, Mwangala Liomba, has denied allegations of discrimination in the recruitment process, the petitioners have argued that the recently released list of 2017 recruited teachers showed that out of the national figure of 3,148 only 300 Barotse nationals have been engaged.
“What is most hurtful is that out of the 427 targeted recruitment from the sixteen districts of ‘Western’ province (Barotseland), less than 242 are indigenous to the territory while our people are not given the same opportunity in other provinces meaning that 185 recruited teachers do not speak Silozi, the language of instruction in lower primary school.
“This scenario has a disastrous effect on the foundation of the education of our children, therefore, we demand that the 185 new teachers be redeployed to their indigenous regions; and that they are replaced by teachers of Barotse origin who speak the local language.
“Already, we have too many teachers in Barotseland who are defying learning Silozi in defiance of the Education policy where a child should be taught in Silozi from preschool to grade 4,” read part of the petition posted and circulated via social media and the BNFA web site.
AND in their continued efforts to foster social cohesion through dialogue, Catholic Oblate Radio Liseli on Saturday, 2nd December 2017, reportedly hosted on their show, ‘Talking Space’, a named BNFA member to help discuss, among other issues, this BNFA Petition to Zambia’s Permanent Secretary, Mwangala Liomba.
“The questions raised by the presenter, Situmbeko Sikuka, to his guest were pertinent as they were of public interest; ‘Can the Petition to the Permanent Secretary help resolve the raised issues? Is the Zambian Government going to listen, accept and iron the matter positively? How did the guest foresee the future tomorrow of Barotseland? And of course, the audience were invited to participate as is usually the case on that show,” stated an infuriated source who lamented how that a journalist merely doing his civic and community duties would be summoned and accused of incitement in a country that claims to be not only democratic but also Christian by constitutional declaration.
Meanwhile, the Zambia police summon dated 2nd December 2017 directed Sikuka in the name of the President of the Republic of Zambia, to report himself to Mongu Central police Station C.I.D on the 03rd of December 2017 (03/12/2017) at 09:00hrs to assist the police in an unspecified ongoing investigation.
Police sources have, however, said that the summon was in relation to the Saturday program, and are aimed at intimidating the journalist and the local Catholic radio station to dissuade them from covering any contentious issues plaguing the Barotse people in the political hotbed of Barotseland.
Since 1969, the Zambian government has always used ‘suppression’ to stifle the aspirations of the people of Barotseland in their demand for social, economic and political justice from the time the Lusaka administration unilaterally abrogated and annulled the Barotseland Agreement 1964, the pre-independence treaty Northern Rhodesia (Zambia) signed with fellow British protectorate of Barotseland to share sovereignty which would guarantee semi-autonomy for the latter.
However, Zambia decided to administrate over Barotseland as a mere province, the Western Province, instead of an autonomously and self-governed territory of the unitary state as dictated in the 1964 pre-independence agreement, setting the people of Barotseland in perpetual political conflict with the Central Government at Lusaka.