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Wim van Binsbergen

Part II


Chiefs and the state in Independent Zambia: exploring the Zambian National Press


homepage | Chief and state in Zambia overview page | Part I | Part III

van Binsbergen W. M. J., 1987, ‘Chiefs and the State in Independent Zambia : exploring the Zambian National Press? in J. Griffiths et E. A. B. van Rouveroy van Nieuwaal (eds), Journal of Legal Pluralism, special issue on chieftainship in Africa, n?25-26, pp. 139-201.

Part 2


The Negative Image of Chieftainship

Meanwhile, the view of chieftainship as expressed by Mr. Simwinga: an obsolete presentday survival from precolonial times when that institution was surrounded with mystical power and heroic glory, finds other isolated expressions in the newspapers. At a time of controversy over the Zambian recognition of the Angolan mpla, Dr. Mutumba Mainga, a University of Zambia historian of Lozi origin (cf. Mutumba Mainga 1973), stated the historical claims for eastern Angola to be Zambian, as part of Lewanika’s empire in the late nineteenth century [4.1]; and while treating the much-debated issue of the boundaries of that empire[1] with sophistication and a minimum of Lozi chauvinism, her account implicitly confirms popular images of chiefly splendor, of formal hierarchical organization of the precolonial Lozi state, and of the existence of Lozi subject tribes, such as the Luvale. Similar popular images are invoked by newspaper items on a mystery giant mushroom appearing on the grave of the Lozi king Mulambwa (early 19th century) [7.16]; on a sacred tree associated with the Bemba kings and now threatened with demolition by the Forestry Department [7.17, 7.18]; or on a sacred lake on the Copperbelt, concerning which Senior Chief Chiwala has made proposals for recreational development with the Mpongwe Rural Council...[2] Near the southern town of Livingstone, the recently installed Chief Mukuni of the Leya gives further food to the mysterious connotations surrounding chieftainship, by depicting his capital as threatened by witches [7.19], and by staging a neo-traditional rain ritual that received detailed newspaper coverage.[3]

          ? Much of what seeps through in the newspapers with regard to chiefly succession and the attending disputes, including allegations of usurpation, in part corroborates the image of chieftainship as an impotent neo-traditional survival, disrupted by internal bickering. [2.6; 2.12; 4.14; 7.19] When the focus is on specific interaction between a rural chief and his or her followers, the account tends to be negative: a junior chief on the Copperbelt is beaten up when urging peasants to have their villages registered by a registration team working in the framework of the 1971 Village Registration Act [2.15]; Senior Chief Chiwala goes to great length to assert that he, for one, has not been beaten by his Lamba subjects [5.24]; and the Solwezi District Governor, when faced with allegations that the government has usurped the chiefs?power, points to the new responsibilities of chiefs and headmen (in terms of state-initiated village registration and village regroupment), which, far from usurping, lend new life to the chiefs?role, now that villagers no longer offer them tribute in the form of locally-brewn beer and manorial corvee services in agriculture, as they used to do in the past. [4.25] Nor do the relationships between chiefs appear to be any better: the Nkoya Chief Kabulwe-bulwe, ousted from his capital at the Kafue river (cf. van Binsbergen 1985b, in press, and in preparation) at the creation of the Kafue National Park in the 1930s, is reported as formally requesting land from his neighbors, Chief Shakumbila and Chief Moono, in Mumbwa district (Central Province), but his plea is turned down. [1.1] In Solwezi district, Chief Mukumbi is accused of meddling in the succession of the late Senior Chief Musele, to such an extent that the Cabinet Minister for Northwestern Province, Mr. J. Mutti, is obliged to intervene. [4.14]

          ? In conjuring up this conflict-ridden picture of Zambian chiefs the journalists?access to and selection of news seems to play an important role. The nearness of the complex and conflictive peri-urban situation on the Copperbelt (with chiefs like Mushili and Chiwala, surpassing most other Zambian chiefs in news coverage) eclipses the numerous cases of peaceful and respectful interaction between chiefs and their subjects elsewhere. Succession disputes may have a news value, but they seem to affect only a selection of the dozen or so cases of chiefly succession which occur on every year, considering the demographic fact that Zambia has about 280 recognized chiefs, normally of middle age or older. That chiefs?installation ceremonies are reported to attract crowds of thousands already goes to show that in general chiefs are respected and supported by their people. Two Kunda chiefs visiting the Line of Rail (see below) are said to be treated with great respect not only by their own subjects among the urban migrants, but also from other ethnic groups:

‘Senior Chieftainess Nsefu and Chief Munkhanya of the Kunda yesterday appealed to the people on the Copperbelt and the Midlands, especially loafers [i.e. unemployed urban migrants ?WvB], to heed President Kaunda's call to return to the land. The leaders made the appeal in Lusaka where they were visiting their people, particularly Mr. Patterson Ngoma, Minister of State in the Office of the President who [Mr. Ngoma, sc. ?WvB] had been sick for the past three months.

              ? (...) While on the Copperbelt and the Midlands, they have been paid courtsey [sic] visits by members of various tribes who has presented them with gifts, particularly the Bemba tribe from the Northern Province.?[3.25; also see below]

              ? And to balance the negative reports on interaction between chiefs, Chieftainess Nkomeshya of Lusaka Rural district is reported to have sent, on behalf of her people and her fellow chiefs of that region, a moving condolence letter on the occasion of the death of her colleague, Princess Nakatindi. [4.11]

The Positive Image of Chieftainship: Land, Order and Development

In other words, the journalists?negative picture is far from consistent. The image of chiefs as backward, clad in primitive mystery, full of colonial connotations, despised by their subjects, incapable of co-operation with other chiefs, and irrelevant in a context of modern government, is on all counts set off against statements to the contrary ?in such a way as to vindicate, rather, Mr. Kakoma’s views as quoted above.

          ? Some appreciation at least is detectable, in the newspaper reports, of the essential basis of Zambian chieftainship: the chief as the guardian of the rural land and its resources [3.24; 3.23; 4.7], and secondly (since morality and ecology go hand in hand in the ancient world-view of South Central Africa), the chief as the guardian of tradition[4], morality, law and order. It is in the context of this chiefly responsibility that chiefs make pronouncements concerning decency and morals:

‘Chiefs [meeting ?WvB] in Mwinilunga have passed a resolution appealing to the government to ban minis[5].?/span> [2.10]

              ? In a similar vein individual chiefs engage in a battle against witchcraft [Chief Mukuni, 7.19], or against the illegal and incompetent practice of medicine by local healers [7.2]. The latter point already shades over into chiefs assuming ?on their own initiative ?responsibilities which strictly speaking are those of the modern central state: the battle against the country’s alarming crime rate[6], the identification and expulsion of illegal immigrants who may threaten the country’s international security[7], and the implement-ation of health regulations which normally fall under the responsibility of Local Authorities.[8] Against this background of chiefly self-perception it is understandable that the government is urged to restore the formal judicial powers chiefs used to have under the colonial government, and which were taken away from them with the reform of the local court system in 1965:[9]

‘Speaking during a two-day seminar on humanism, chiefs (...) called on the government to give them the power they had during the colonial days and said they should be empowered to arrest troublemakers in their areas. ?ZANA.?[2.10]

              ? In this general concern for law and order in the country, chiefs ?even as depicted in the newspaper reports ?do not merely look to the past and the local level, and their role in implementing national development as a first condition for law and order is recognized not only by themselves but also by senior politicians. The ideal chief is depicted as an agent of progress, in the first place by President Kaunda himself:

‘So 1973 is truly a year of real challenges, but it is also a year full of hope for Zambians. [italics original ?WvB] Let us be united in our determination to work out our own future. All of us have an important role to play in building this nation. Mayors, Chairmen of Local Councils and Councillors, together with Section leaders, have a tremendous task ahead to improve the outlook of our cities and towns, to improve services for the people. Chiefs, Headmen and other Village leaders [italics added ?WvB] have the task of accomplishing the objectives of the Rural Reconstruction Programme. The Party and Government will continue to provide the leadership and services but it is up to the people of the rural areas to undertake the task of improving the quality of life.

              ? (...) We are now in the Second Republic, more united than ever before. So we must now fight all the problems and enemies as one team. Whether we are members of the Central Committee, Ministers, Members of Parliament, Judges and Magistrates, members of the Civil Service, Army, Air Force, Police or Prison Services, whether we are Managers of Para-statal Organisations or private enterprises, Teachers, Churchmen, Party and Labour leaders, Students, Chiefs, Headmen [italics added ?WvB] and all other categories of workers in towns and villages, we must act together in fighting our enemies? [3.2; similar examples are: 3.18, 4.9].

  ?  ?President Kaunda’s words reflect a tangible reality. A prominent traditional ruler like Senior Chief Mushili is quoted as rejoicing in the large number of development projects he has managed to attract in his area. [5.21 as quoted below] In this, he is merely bringing into practice the right to propose and initiate development projects, which the Secretary General to the Government, Mr. A.A. Milner, stressed an an essential benefit of the 1971 Village Registration Act. [3.20; 3.23, as quoted above] We see some chiefs (mainly on the Copperbelt, again) clamoring for more schools, dams, tractor services, postal services and rural industries in their areas, and even suggesting local administra-tive reforms such as the creation of additional sub-bomas. [2.11; 5.13; 5.21; 5.28] On the Copperbelt, Chief Nkana even goes to the extent of posing as a self-styled labour recruitment officer for a newly reopened local copper mine. [5.12]

          ? Other chiefs, outside the Copperbelt, are depicted as highly successful farmers. One of them is Chief Chibuluma, whose professional roles include e.g. chairmanship of the Mumbwa Agricultural Show[10]. Chief Chanje of Chipata district is vice-chairman of the National Resources Advisory Board, and recipient of a Standard Bank grant for an agricultural study tour to the United Kingdom. [6.4, 6.8]. Significantly, both Chief Chibuluma and Chief Chanje are members of the House of Chiefs. Various chiefs are reported to make pronouncements against urban unemployment and in favor of the return to the land of the young urban unemployed [ 3.25; 6.5 (House of Chiefs debate quoted); 6.9 ]. in ggneral, the chiefs? essential role in agricultural development is emphasized, e.g. in the field of village regroupement [ 4.24; 4.25 ]. The introduction of altenatives to the destructive slash-and-burn chitemene ?/span>agricultural technique is accompanied by extensive news coverage of a demonstration flight during which President Kaunda and selected Northern Province chiefs viewed the chitemene-devastated countryside of Northern Province.[11]

Chiefs and National Politics

Senior Zambian politicians can hardly be said to share the negative views of chieftainship as implied in part of the newspaper reports, and as made explicit by Mr. Simwinga as quoted above.

          ? The cost involved in chiefs?subsidies are not complained about; on the contrary, official government statements proudly point to repeated increases of chiefs?subsidies since Independence, as a sign of the high esteem in which the government holds the chiefs. [3.20; 3.23 as quoted above]

          ? As far as national unity is concerned: not the chiefs but dissident politicians are considered to be foci of ethnic machinations, to such an extent that chiefs themselves feel safe enough to level the accusation of tribalism against others who are not chiefs. One example comes from the Lozi Princess Nakatindi ([2.19]; see below). Another concerns Senior Chief Mushili, Princess Nakatindi’s colleague in the House of Chiefs:

?...) Senior Chief Mushili (...) has suggested that Ndola Rural should have two sub-bomas if it has to be administered properly[:] (...) one (...) at old Mpongwe and another at Chief Shimukunami. (...) Last week Chief Mushili put this suggestion to the Copperbelt Permanent Secretary, Mr. Hosea Ngwane when he visited the area. He told Mr. Ngwane that if the government agreed with his suggestion, ‘all tribal and personal squabbles in the area would come to an end.?o:p>

              ? Chief Mushili attacked some senior government officials who he said were practising tribalism. Chief Mushili said as a result of tribalism development projects were being delayed. He also accused some members of the Ndola Rural Council, District Development Committee [sic] of not being happy with the number of development projects which were taking place in his area. ?ZANA.? [5.21]

              ? With each chief ruling over what necessarily is only a small section of the population of Zambia (a point emphasized by Kakoma and Simwinga alike), the chiefs?calling is defined as: to bring their respective sections within the fold of the nation as a whole, and not to foster sub-national divisiveness, even secessionalism. Although the Barotseland case is there to prove the contrary, this ideal image of chiefs as enhancing national unity behind the leading party, unip, does seem to be widespread in Zambian politics at the time. When politicians lash out at tribalists, chiefs are not implicated. [e.g. 3.5, 3.7; 3.18; 4.10; 4.11; 4.23] With the exception of a few controversial testimonies before the Chona Commission, concerning a negative view of unip’s women and youth wings, [4.29; 5.8] the newspaper reports contain no cases of explicit confrontation between unip and chiefs in the period covered.

          ? Against the background of colonial and post-colonial political developments in Barotseland, and between the Lozi aristocracy and the Zambian state, it is under-standable that the Lozi Litunga Mbikusita is particularly keen to avoid such trouble, even in the face of strong political discontent among the Lozi aristocracy:

‘Lozis told to ignore circulars

The Litunga of Western Province, Mbikusita Lewanika Two, including some of his indunas, visited Yuka village, the capital of Chief Kandala in Mongu district at the weekend. The visit follows an invitation made to the Litunga two months ago.

              ? On behalf of the Litunga and Kuta, Induna Kalonga advised a crowd of people who welcomed the Litunga to ignore anonymous letters which were circulating in Mongu district. The letters would cause confusion and misunderstanding between individuals and the government. Induna Kalonga said that such activities would help nobody and that it was the work of cowards and troublemakers, he added. If they speak of law, let them sign their names, and addresses, the induna warned. The people who tried to implicate the name and office of the Litunga for their personal grievances or political ambitions by writing or sending him copies of their letters were acting contrary to customs and traditions and were dangerous to the society. The Litunga’s name cannot and should not be used in anything that was controversial. Political matters should be channelled through to the Ngambela’s office.

              ? Induna Kalonga thanked the people for the warm welcome accorded to the Litunga to make his visit enjoyable. ?ZANA.?[4.23]

              ? On the other hand there are signs that senior modern politicians avoid open confrontations with the Litungaship itself. And so the Litunga’s Ngambela, Mr. Suu, is to take the blame. He is accused of advising the Litunga not to welcome President Kaunda at Mongu airport when the latter flew out to Western Province; even though the Litunga was in fact there, the President had Mr. Suu deposed and his subsidy discontinued. [4.15, 4.16, 4.16a, 4.16b, 4.16c] We are still a far cry from the installation, in 1983, of Mbikusita’s successor Iluta Yeta as a member of unip’s Central Committee.

          ? In accommodating chiefs and modern politics, unip seminars at the district and provincial level turn out to have a somewhat similar rallying function to chiefs?funerary and installation ceremonies in bringing together a selection of local office-bearers from modern and neo-traditional politics and furthering their interaction. [2.2; 2.10]

          ? Just one reason why the relation between chiefs and ‘tribalism?is less intimate than critics of chieftainship such as Mr. Simwinga suggest, is shown by the case of Senior Chief Chiwala: representing a Muslim Swahili minority among Lamba people, and still being resented by the latter for being an alien [5.24, 5.25, 5.26]. Even in the rural areas, chief’s territories are seldom ethnically homogeneous, and chiefs may occasion-ally find themselves belonging to an ethnic minority among their own subjects. On the other hand, numerous cases could be cited[12] where chieftainship is at the core of a cultural ethnic identity, advocating neo-traditional culture, the use of the vernacular in education and broadcasting, etc.[13] Such cases are also reflected in the newspapers of the period; that they all involve Copperbelt chiefs seems accidental in this case. [5.9, 5.11, 5.12] The transition form cultural to political ethnicity however only takes place when the allocation of scarce resources by bureaucracies and representative bodies of the modern state is involved (e.g. Bates 1973); and here chiefs, by contrast to modern politicians, normally do not wield sufficient power and influence to champion regional interests as clad in an ethnic idiom.

          ? As to the colonial and hence anti-nationalist connotations of chiefs, this issue could hardly be overlooked at a time when unip, a nationalist party which derives popular support mainly from its success in the struggle for independence, is about to establish a one-party state.

      Significant in this respect is a newspaper report on an ancient chief (Chief Chikuwe of the Chewa) deposed by the colonial government for what he claims to be refusal to betray the nationalist cause, and now a businessman on the Copperbelt; in the news item he announces his intention to regain his throne on his successor, who is depicted as a colonial stooge.[14]

          ? On a national scale, when the Vice-President presents before Parliament the bill creating the one-party state, in December 1972, he makes explicit reference to the fact that Mr. Godwin Mbikusita (who occupied the Litungaship from 1968 to 1977) early in his career created a major break-through for nationalism, but he soon was to side with the colonial powers, and lost the nationalist initiative to Mr. Harry Nkumbula, the founder of Zambia’s first nationalist political party, anc. [4.7] In the same speech the Vice-President extensively quoted the constitutions of both unip and anc. His purpose was to show how close they really were; the one-party state meant that after more than ten years of political opposition anc had to be incorporated into unip. But in the context of our present argument it is interesting to see the Vice-President review the nationalists? stance vis-a-vis Zambian chiefs, and treating this position as still essentially valid in 1972. Thus from the anc Constitution Mr. Chona cites the following goals and principles:

?‘‘(...) (d) To work in a spirit of mutual understanding with Native Authorities [i.e. chiefs and their staff ?WvB] and such other organisations as have the welfare of Africans at heart save in matters which are detrimental to African interests; (...)

              ? (h) To seek to break down tribal and language barriers, and to promote a spirit of harmony and brotherhood among all Africans.’’ ?[4.7; emphasis added ?WvB]

  ?  ?Similarly, Mr. Chona’s summary of the objects of unip before Independence includes the following:

?‘‘(...) (d) To maintain, protect and promote understanding and unity among the people of Northern Rhodesia by removing individualism, tribalism and provincialism.

              ? (e) To promote and support worthy [sic] African customs and cultures. (...)

              ? (o) To secure acceptance by the Northern Rhodesia government of the fundamental principle that all land in all parts of Northern Rhodesia is ultimately vested in the chiefs and people of Northern Rhodesia.’’ ?[4.7; emphasis added ? WvB]

              ? These statements of intention may since have undergone changes in form, but not in content:

?...) Mr. Speaker, there are amendments that have been made to the UNIP Constitution from time to time since our independence but most of these alterations have merely been designed to marry some of the objects with a view of shortening the list.?[4.7; emphasis added ?WvB]

              ? Within a week, President Kaunda himself brought home another message concerning the anti-nationalist stance of at least some major chiefs, in a perfectly dramatic way: he allowed himself to be reconciled with Mr. Chisashi who had once, as traditional ‘Prime Minister?of the Bemba Paramount Chief, Chitimukulu ?banned Kaunda and other nationalist organizers from Chitimukulu’s area:


PRESIDENT Kaunda yesterday forgave Mr. Abel Chisashi and warmly shook hands with him. Mr. Chisashi, [ sic ] was the man the President had never thought of forgiving for what he did during the struggle for independence. His forgiveness coms in the wake of what the President said at the closing session of the three days UNIP National COuncil in Kabwe that ‘‘the time when we entre the second republic is a time for forgiveness since love comes fgirst and therefore extend a hand of friendship to all.’’

              ? Mr Chisashi former president of the Kasama Urban Court ahd before Independence declared President Kaunda a prohibited man in the district. Mr. Chisashi, then prime minister of Ilamfya ?a traditional executive council ?also banned Mr. Mukuka Nkoloso and his militant Eleven Devils to enter the district.

              ? He had travelled all the way from his home in Kasama to come and deliver his apology to Dr. Kaunda. Mr. Chisashi was accompanied to State House by Lusaka Urban district governor, Mr. Justin Kabwe.?[3.11]

  ?  ?Significantly, the newspapers reports are somewhat aloof as to the precise nature of Mr. Chisashi’s neo-traditional office at the time (cf. Whiteley 1951; Roberts 1973; Richards 1935), and the name of Chitimukulu is not mentioned. In the period covered, only one, passing reference to the Chitimukuluship could be traced in the newspapers ?which is truly remarkable: this is one of Zambia’s most exalted chiefly titles, and moreover unip used to be strongly Bemba-orientated. The reference concerned the installation of piped water in Chitimukulu’s capital, in the context of general development in the wake of the TanZam railway [6.7]. The modern state knows how to honour even a controversial Paramount Chief; in 1973 with piped water ?ten years later with a seat in the Central Committee...

          ? But as always, the usable past is a selective past. In the struggle for Independence the chiefs?record may not have been too impressive, but that does not seem to deter the Minister of Legal Affairs, Mr. Chuula. He freely draws on the colonial situation when he wants to make the point that in a modern African state, such as independent Zambia under the Second Republic, too extreme a distinction between the executive and the judiciary may not be necessary or even desirable: after all, were not the colonial chiefs an apt example of the successful merging of executive and judiciary powers in the Zambian tradition?... [3.6]

The Amazing Career of Princess Nakatindi

The references to the anti-nationalist connotations of many Zambian chiefs were not allowed to stand in isolation. In the Zambian readers? consciousness, they were inevitably contrasted with and balanced by the nation-wide attention, on the occasion of the death of Princess Nakatindi only two weeks earlier, for a career (cf. table 1) which provided convincing evidence of the fact that chieftainship and the nationalist cause can be very well combined indeed.

(insert table 1 approximately here)

              ? Apart from her being a woman, wife and mother, the two remarkable aspects of Princess Nakatindi’s career were that from 1968 to her death in 1972 she formed a unique combination of modern party-political (as District Governor) and neo-traditional leadership at the district level; and that by and large her neo-traditional office as Mulena Mukwae of Sesheke and her membership of the House of Chiefs, formed the culmination, the final phase (perhaps I should say the retirement phase) of a modern political career, rather than the steppingstone towards a modern career. As a Litunga’s daughter, she might be considered a member of the Lozi aristocracy capturing the modern state, but it is equally valid, if not more so, to regard her as a modern politician through which the state and the party successfully captured at least part of neo-traditional Lozi politics. In this respect she was exceptional, but not unique. Her close relative Mr. Godwin Mbikusita had a similar career, as we have seen; and so had Chief Kanongesha. The data on certain other chiefs reiterate this pattern on a smaller scale: Chief Mukuni was an employee with Zambia Railways before acceding to the throne in 1971 [7.19]; in a similar vein of urban careers Senior Chief Chiwala was an assistant health inspector before his accession.[15]

Essential Continuity yet Qualitative Difference: The Chief as Bridge

With the amazing career of Princess Nakatindi before us, we can hardly be surprised that the bridge constitutes the dominant metaphor to describe the chief in Zambian politics ?that is, the chief who has adapted to modern politics. President Kaunda’s emotional funerary speech of Princess Nakatindi hinged on this image. [4.9; 4.11] On this occasion, President Kaunda did not hesitate to call Princess Nakatindi a ‘freedom fighter? who ‘was among nation-builders and stood side by side with gallant men of this country.?[4.11.] The metaphor of the bridge received an interesting geographical expression when within days after Princess Nakatindi’s death the newly completed Livingstone-Sesheke tar road was named after her. [4.8] The symbolic significance of this gesture lies in the fact that the building of this road marks the final phase in the geographical opening-up of Barotseland ?after more than a century in which the relative inaccessibility of this region along the southern rout had formed a factor in Barotseland’s survival as a neo-traditional state structure.[16] In other words, calling this road after Princess Nakatindi symbolizes effective penetration of the central state.

          ? The image of the chief as bridge has become a cliche of Zambian political express-ions.[17] Speaking as a chief, Princess Nakatindi herself repeatedly stressed the essential continuity that she perceived between the democratic principles underlying chiefly rule, and those underlying unip’s One-Party Participatory Democracy. [2.19]

          ? It is in this context that senior government officials can afford to recognize chiefs as political protagonists at the local and regional level. Here the chiefs are even capable of extending praise to their modern counterparts. [2.17] One needs no longer be surprised that the National Commission of Enquiry into the Establishment of the One-Party Participatory Democracy counted two chiefs (including the Chairman of the House of Chiefs) among its eighteen members[18], that senior chiefs and chiefs?councillors were among both the hosts and the witnesses to that Commission[19], and that a considerable part of the commission’s proceedings concerned the role of chieftainship in post-Independence Zambia. Thus Princess Nakatindi suggested that two ministers of the cabinet should be recruited from the House of Chiefs. [4.31] Chief Mushili advised the appointment of eight Paramount Chiefs in Zambia, not on an ethnic but on a territorial basis: one for every province of Zambia. [5.7] These and other suggestions are reflected (although not adopted) in the extensive passage on chiefs in the Chona Commission’s report (Republic of Zambia 1972: 24-25).

          ? This emphasis on essential continuity between chiefs and the modern state does not mean that government officials regard chiefs as colleagues. In repeated discussions of the Leadership Code, chiefs are never explicitly mentioned as falling under the strict regulations concerning gainful employment. [3.1, 3.4, 3.14] Even though some of the definitions of leadership as advanced in this context might be clearly applicable to Zambian chiefs ?whose subsidies in fact are often called salaries by the government [cf. 3.23 as quoted above]:

?o) no leader receiving a salary from Party or public funds shall (i) hold directorship in any privately-owned company; (ii) hold shares in a privately owned company except in government-controlled financial institutions; and (iii) engage in private trade or in commercial agriculture;(...)?[3.14]

  ?  ?Sometimes the distinction is put bluntly and with pejorative implications for the chiefs:

‘The Minister for Western Province, Mr. Josephat Siyomunji has said that in our democratic government leaders were not chiefs but public servants who must be prepared to work hard for the nation.? [2.13; emphasis added ?WvB]

              ? Here the image of continuity clearly fades into one of chiefs and modern state officials being complementary albeit qualitatively different. This view also obtains, but for different reasons, among the chiefs?traditionalist subjects:


Lozi elders in Livingstone have protested at the use of ‘‘Mr’’ in Press titling of the Litunga of Western Province. The Press, especially the Government-owned Zambia Daily Mail, has referred to the tribal leader as ‘the Litunga of Western Province, Mr. Mbikusita Lewanika.?But an angry president of Livingstone local court, Mr. K. Makumba, said the correct title should be: ‘‘The Litunga, Mbikusita Lewanika.’’ The use of ‘‘Mr’’ showed disrespect, he said.?[4.27]

              ? It is because of the essential distinction between neo-traditional and modern office-bearers that the modern government can sanction the traditional practices of chiefly selection and election, even if these differ in form from the type of democratic logic underlying the modern state and the party. [3.23 as quoted above] A similar note is struck in the speech by the Cabinet Minister for Western Province at the occasion of the installation of Mr. Mukonde as the Litunga’s new Ngambela:

‘Senior induna installed as new Ngambela

The former senior induna Muleta of Libanda in Kalabo district, Mr. Griffith Musialike Mukonde, has been installed as Ngambela (prime minister) for Western Province. Mr. Mukonde has taken over the post from Mr. Francis Lishomwa Suu, who resigned last September.

              ? The colourful installation ceremony at which Mr. Mukonde was installed as Ngambela was held at Lealui, the traditional capital of the province. The ceremony was attended by senior indunas from all over the province, Western Province Cabinet Minister, Mr. Josephat Siyomunji and Mongu governor, Mr. Green Mwaala.

              ? Speaking at the ceremony, Mr. Siyomunji told Mr. Mukonde, who is 60, to take the post as ‘‘a big challenge.’’(...) He described the Ngambela as a traditional link between the people and the Government. ‘‘Such a link should be like a bridge leading people to peace and prosperity.’’ Mr. Siyomunji urged the new Ngambela to keep tradition in step with changes in the second Republic. This would promote good relationships between the people and the Government. He assured Mr. Mukonde that the Government would continue to preserve traditions.?ZANA.? [4.2]

              ? But it is by virtue of the same distinction that the state, even if paying a subsidy to the chiefs, can afford to deny the chiefs the sort of facilities and public services to which they could have laid claim if they had been perceived as civil servants.

          ? In this respect the newspaper material gives only a superficial and selective impression of the underlying tensions and of the chiefs?increasing demands. In other contexts chiefs insist on being formally recognized as part of the modern state, on their being civil servants. They claim all sorts of material benefits from the government: cars, car loans, other transport facilities, secretarial services, etc. ?which are to serve both as neo- (or ‘neo-neo? traditional status symbols, as signs of modern state recognition, and as genuine logistic means to enable the chiefs to play the development roles assigned to them by government. The discussions in the House of Chiefs go into great detail on these points, and I have analysed them elsewhere (van Binsbergen, n.d.). In the newspaper reports these claims, and the discontent they manifest, are reflected only in a very indirect and presumably harmless form: not as a protest from the chiefs, but as an admonition put before high-ranking modern politicians by a medium in trance ?as if he had to resort to these extraordinary means to be able to deliver his message at all:

‘Plea from the spirits

A self-styled doctor of spirits yesterday called upon UNIP's national Council to provide chiefs and other traditional leaders with cars or Zambians would be doomed in road accidents. In a dramatic appearance, the ‘‘doctor’’, who gave his name as Morton Wazingwa of Chief Lwaimba in Isoka district, had earlier lain flat on the floor in Hindu Hall with a white piece of cloth across his upper body. (...) He was still lying on the floor and still covered until the national anthem was over. Later, the self-styled doctor, in a black suit and with a leather case, revealed he had left a petition for President Kaunda from the spirits, which he said he represented. Hysterical and weeping, Mr. Wazingwa said that unless Chiefs were given government transport like Ministers, road accidents would not end, but worsen.

              ? The forty-one-year-old doctor, now resident in Kabwe, also said the government should convene a meeting with chiefs at which chiefs should offer white fowls and goats to appease spirits. Asked what would happen if this was not done, the be-spectacled ‘ambassador?said political upheavals would result if spirits were not appeased.

              ? Assisted to overcome his hysteria by President Kaunda’s representative at the liberation centre in Lusaka and customary conductor of National anthems at public meetings Mr. Mukuka Nkoloso, Mr. Wazingwa also had a message for Rhodesian freedom fighters. He said until the leaders went to the historic Matopos hills to obtain the blessing of spirits, the freedom struggle would be unsuccessful.?ZANA.?[7.1]

Chiefs in Search of Patrons and Protectors

On the chiefs? side one can detect the notion of their being complementary to the modern state, also in this respect that chiefs seldom or never (not even in the sensitive domain of chiefly control over rural land) are reported to claim anything like auto-nomous and supreme powers. If they demand to be respected and consulted, it is as part of a wider structure which also comprises the modern state and its officials. In other words, chiefs appear to have since long accepted the realities of the modern state, upon which their colonial recognition and performance were based in the first place. This very significant element comes out clearest in the many cases of chiefs explicitly appealing to central state authorities for protection and redress: protection vis-a-vis their own subjects [2.15; 3.21], vis-a-vis disrespectful civil servants at the local and regional level[20], vis-a-vis mining companies [5.13] and journalists [5.24; 5.25]. By stark contrast with the chiefs?traditional care for nature, law and order, Chief Mukuni even seeks the permission from the District Governor Mr. J. Hamatwi (who often manifests himself as a traditionalist) before enlisting the services of a witch-finder, and only stages a rain ritual after the same official has told him to do so.[21]

          ? It is the repetitious and consistent nature of this pattern that lifts it above the suspicion of being an artifact of journalists?self-censoring. The newspaper data available are sufficiently rich and varied to warrant the assumption that, if the chiefs?claims had been more extreme and defiant, we would have found traces of this.

          ? One gets the impression of a hierarchical model, in which chiefs perceive the senior government officials as patrons capable of and prepared to intercede on their behalf. There are more indications of this state of affairs. Copperbelt chiefs insist on being ‘toured?by senior government officials, rather than resenting this form of exchange between state and chiefs that has such strong colonial connotations. In Northwestern Province, chiefs ask their District Governor to communicate to government the solutions they are proposing for the problem of the rural exodus. [6.9] A Cabinet Minister speaks out in protection of a popular candidate in the case of a chiefly succession dispute; the District Governor for Choma does the same thing.[22] Mr. Joseph Hamatwi, the District Governor for Kalomo and one who is particularly keen to integrate the chiefs in his political performance as we shall see below, backs district chiefs?plea for national registration to be conducted at the chiefs?headquarters instead of distant bomas. [3.9; 3.10]

          ? It is as if the chiefs are jockeying for support and patronage wherever they can get it, regardless of the very substantial differences in power and formal institutional position such as they exist between district governor, Cabinet Minister, etc.; as if either the whole logic of formal bureaucratic organization, and its hierarchical overtones, some-how eludes the chiefs, or they can afford to take short-cuts across it. The very notion of patronage suggests the crossing of boundaries between socio-political spheres differing in power; and in this respect the chiefs seeking to establish ties of patronage with modern politicians and civil servants are emphatically not civil servants themselves.

          ? And on an even more personal level the newspaper reports have already allowed us glimpses of the links that exist between traditional rulers and the modern state through those of the chiefs?subjects and relatives who have become members of the modern elite: chief Nyalugwe and the Editor-in-Chief of the Zambia News Agency [2.7]; Chief Mwangala and Minister of State for Southern Province Mr. Zongani Banda; Chief Chona and the Vice-President Mr. Mainza Chona; Kunda chiefs and Mr. Patterson Ngoma, Minister of State in the Office of the President [3.25]; Mr. Chisashi, a Bemba former Chief Councillor, who seeks access to President Kaunda through Mr. Justin Kabwe, District Governor for Lusaka Urban. [3.11] Mr. Chisashi was lucky to gain such access, at a time when a reconciliatory gesture vis-a-vis the Bemba aristocracy would enable the President to clear further ground for the introduction of the One-Party State. The fate of the two Kunda chiefs was somewhat ironic: although ideal chiefs in so far as they supported the party and advocated rural development, the President was too busy to meet them. [3.25]

The Subjugation of Chiefs by State Bureaucracies

Patrons close to the central state not always honor the chiefs?appeals; and the less so, the more conflictive these appeals are. Above we have seen the predicament of Chief Kabulwebulwe, who had been removed from his land at the establishment of Kafue National Park. A similar case is that of Chief Mburuma of Feira district, whom the colonial government moved away from his area because it was invested with tsetse fly. Incidentally, in both cases the Zambian readers at the time are presented with reports concerning chiefs who in the past suffered, rather than benefitted, by the colonial state. Both chiefs now look to the post-Independence state for redress. And ironically, in both cases, the request to be restored in their ancestral lands is denied by the Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources: Kabulwebulwe’s land, now part of the Kafue National Park, has been set aside for the tourist industry, whereas Mburuma’s land has been leased, by the government in conjunction with Chongwe Rural Council, to the Wild Life Conservation International Group...[23]

          ? These cases appear to be fairly typical of conflicts arising between chiefs and state officials at the local and regional level, and subsequently arbitrated by higher government figures (or requested, by either party, to be thus arbitrated). The news-paper reports show that conflict over chiefly land is a frequent issue here [1.1; 2.5; 3.24; 3.23; 3.20], in which chiefs are confronted by the Ministry of Local Government and Housing; by a Rural Council; by urban development projects staged by City Councils in a peri-urban area [2.5; 5.4; 5.5; 5.10 ?mainly on the Copperbelt]; by the Ministry of Lands, Natural Resources and Tourism; and by the latter’s Forestry Department. [3.24; 3.23; 3.20] That these conflicts are taken very seriously is clear from the fact that one of them culminated in direct presidential action[24], whereas another case ?involving Chief Ishinde as discussed above ?/span> was extensively covered by the Times of Zambia and led to official statements at the highest level of the bureaucracy.

      However, it is most significant that in nearly all cases, such complaints as brought by chiefs against government departments were dismissed; the chiefs were denied the redress they were seeking from their patrons in the state’s centre.

          ? The chiefs?dependence upon the central state is further brought out by the chiefs?receiving a government subsidy. [3.20; 3.23] Many chiefs and modern state officials seem to consider this monthly payment a regular salary qualifying the chiefs for the status of civil servants. Mr. Kakoma’s theoretical observation that these subsidies are a powerful instrument in the hands of the central state to enforce chiefly conformity, is aptly illustrated by the deposition of Mr. Suu as Ngambela of the Litunga.[25]

          ? The subsidy is only one element of a set of formal bureaucratic arrangements by which the modern state seeks to capture the chiefs and bring them inside the fold of the modern state apparatus. A condition for subsidy, as stipulated in the Chiefs Act, is that a chief upon accession be recognized by the President of the Republic, and gazetted as such in the Government Gazette. The newspapers report such gazetting a number of times for the period covered. [2.1; 2.3; 3.19; 5.25] In addition, the state seeks to create representative bodies which partly or wholly consist of chiefs. For unknown reasons (probably chance) the significance of Rural Councils (in many ways the post-colonial successors of the Native Authorities) is not explicitly acknowledged in the newspaper reports, but we do find mention of one Provincial Council of Chiefs, that of Luapula Province [1.5], and a number of references to the House of Chiefs, [2.8; 4.12; 4.31; 6.5] ?however ‘obscure?even a sympathetic observer like Mr. Kakoma deemed that institution to be. [2.16] The limited references in the newspaper material however do not warrant inclusion of a detailed discussion of the House of Chiefs here (however, cf. van Binsbergen n.d.).

The Relative Suppression of Chiefly Symbolism

That the chiefs allow themselves, that they even strive, to be incorporated into the general fabric of the modern state, its formal organizations and its political and administrative culture, and that in this process they do not claim to represent an inde-pendent and autonomous source of power in the modern state, is also very clear from the forms and outside appearances they adopt in their dealings with the central powers.

          ? From numerous other sources than newspaper reports[26] we know that symbols of chieftainship abound at the chiefly headquarters: ceremonial robes and headdresses, animal species or parts thereof (e.g. leopard skin, eland tail fly-switch, hippopotamus tail) which are exclusively reserved to chiefs, ceremonial ironwork, stools, barges, musical instruments and musicians, particular architectural details such as royal shrines, or the royal fence with pointed poles in Western Zambia. These chiefly paraphernalia in the widest sense are particularly in appearance during installation and funerary ceremonies. In addition to these visual material manifestations of chieftainship, there are the procedures and underlying notions of courtly culture, which however diverse throughout Zambia tends to have recurrent features, such as:

?considerable separation between chief and subjects;

?therefore communication between chief and subjects takes place through a commoner senior councillor or ‘Prime Minister?

?for the same reason commensality (eating and drinking together) between chiefs and subjects is restricted;

?there is avoidance between chiefs who are considered to be of equal power;

?chiefly power has ecological, sexual and sorcery connotations;

?the domain of chieftainship and that of death are considered to be mutually exclusive, hence a living chief’s avoidance of funerals, and the building of an entire new chiefly capital after a chief’s death;

?the mechanism of chiefly succession, in which elders select a suitable candidate from among a sometimes extensive pool of candidates qualifying by kinship affiliation to previous incumbents ?fixed kinship rules of inheritance and succession do not play a decisive role;

?the extensive use of perpetual kinship and positional succession may regionally link a small number of chiefly titles in a permanent hierarchy which is expressed in a kinship idiom.

          ? These and many other elements in the contemporary chiefly culture have undoubtedly undergone changes in recent decades (cf. Papstein 1985; Prins 1978). For instance, there is a decided move towards fixed succession rules, and within these, towards patriliny. Certainly the features as listed above are neo-traditional in the sense that they have adapted to colonial incorporation, taking on new paraphernalia (including chief’s robes and perhaps new types of headdress), assimilating new organizational princi-ples,[27] and selectively dropping elements (such as manorial services, slavery, ritual murders, ritual incest etc.) which were less favoured by the colonial state, Christianity etc. (cf van Binsbergen, in preparation). None the less (or rather: precisely in view of these recent processes of change) it can be said that the culture of chieftainship is very much alive in rural Zambia.

          ? Now the amazing thing is that very little of this ceremonial and material culture is carried over to the situations where contemporary chiefs interact with the modern state and its officials. Elsewhere (van Binsbergen, n.d.) I make this point at length with reference to the style of debate and general procedure of the House of Chiefs. But also the newspaper material is quite telling in this respect. A picture taken in the House of Chiefs [3.16] shows gentlemen in European suits, with white shirts and neckties. Only on very close scrutiny some suits may turn out to be outmoded and of faded color, and some neckties clumsily knotted. Only one of the chiefs on display has completed his European attire with typical headdress such as worn by chiefs of the Lunda people in Northwestern and Luapula Provinces. Also in the other visual materials depicting official chief/state interaction at the country’s centre, neo-traditional elements do scarce-ly more than sneak in.[28] And this continues to be the case even in settings which in all other respects are dominated by European political and religious (Christian) symbolism. The few examples of such isolated symbols seeping through are: one or two leopard skins covering Princess Nakatindi’s coffin during her state funeral, specifically her funerary service at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross in Lusaka;[29] and a neo-traditional gesture made by Mr. Chisashi when shaking hands with President Kaunda, both in European suits, at their reconciliatory encounter.[30]

          ? It is only in the absence of direct official state connotations that the newspapers allow the chiefs to show more of their paraphernalia.[31] The newspaper material further contains pictures of chiefs where modern state connotations are not so much tucked away under a blanket of informality, but truly absent. Here neo-traditional parapher-nalia may outweigh elements of European dress; incidentally, these pictures suggests considerable, deliberate posing ?they are state portraits emulating the combined cliches of nobility and of the social uses of photography.[32]

              ? The study of visible symbols of power and their manipulation is an underdeveloped aspect of Africanist political science. Yet it should be clear that particularly in these images the newspapers offer collective representations that make up the contemporary Zambian political culture. The photographic language puts across, more effectively and with less offense than the written word, the subtle accommodation, the avoidance, the desired hierarchy between the neo-traditional and the modern political sphere.

The Selective Use of Chiefly Symbolism by State Officials

In a context where chiefs seek to emulate a modern, westernized political elite in style of dress and official speech, and allow their own chiefly symbolism to go virtually suppressed especially in situations of direct interaction with state officials, one would not be surprised to see preciously little of this neo-traditional symbolism to be incorporated into the modern political culture. President Kaunda and his senior political and administrative office-bearers do not (at least not in 1972-73) consistently pose as modern versions of Zambian chiefs. When the President performs in major state ceremonies, such as the opening of a session of the National Assembly [3.2], or when a state portrait is taken, he wears a self-styled long gown with horizontal multicolored bands (presumably meant to represent the colors of the Zambian flag). The gown rests on one shoulder and passes under the other armpit (so that, again, a short-sleeved white western shirt is visible). If the overall impression generated by this gown is African (it might also be Roman or South Asian), it has connotations of West Africa, Nkrumah, Pan-Africanism. It does not seem to emulate any style of dress such as existed in precolonial Zambia, yet somehow may have been inspired by the chief’s gown issued by the Northern Rhodesian government. On other occasions, only slightly less formal, the President may wear a white European suit[33] or a gray safari suit. On less formal occasions, including mass rallies which require a popular appearance, he may don a multicolored shirt. [3.3; 7.1] The only constant insigne of his presidential status is the white handkerchief in his left hand ?an idiosyncratic symbol which aptly evokes connotations of peace, non-violence, cleanliness and sentimentality, but which draws on symbolic repertoires (European, Christian, Ghandist) entirely outside the neo-tradition of Zambian chieftainship.

          ? Yet elements from that tradition seep through even in President Kaunda’s very personal style of leadership.

          ? Like elsewhere in Africa, royal drums are emulated in modern state ceremonies. Thus the President arrives at a mass rally in Lusaka ‘in a copper-plated open Landrover, heralded by the beating of traditional drums.?[34] As part of a drive to further African authenticity[35], not only is a famous traditional dancer decorated on the occasion of at the Zambian Independence anniversary celebrations in 1972,[36] but at the opening of the fifth session of the National Assembly, the first after the establishment of the one-party state, neo-traditional drumming is displayed at an exceptionally large scale [7.3] ?as if continuity vis-a-vis a more distant past is hoped to make up for the rupture vis-a-vis the First Republic that is still so near.

          ? Clearly, ceremonial drumming is only one, far from original, aspect among the many elements of chiefly symbolism that could be adopted into the modern political culture. This was realized by the secretary of the Kafue Township Council, Mr. Sondashi, who, in his evidence before the Chona commission,

?...) reiterated the need to change some policies of colonial bearing to suit the traditional Zambian conditions. Mr. Sondashi said that one example of some policies of colonial bearing is the civic ceremony for urban local authorities. He said that the civic ceremony should be changed to bring it in line with the ceremonies performed during the installation of a chief, and village headman. Mr. Sondashi also suggested that councillors should be dressed in colourful tribal regalia. Mr. Sondashi said that the installation of a mayor should be accompanied by drum beating and dancing in order to attract every resident in town, to promote publicity and sense of interest and pride among the residents of the town. (...)?[1.4]

              ? Earlier, a similar plea was made by the Town Clerk of the Ndola City Council. [1.4] It is remarkable that both proposals should come not from national-level politicians (who, as we have seen, tend to dissemble rather than advocate the ceremonial culture of chieftainship) but from local government officials: civil servants who by training are closely familiar with the ceremonial aspects of the British administrative and judicial culture, and who throughout the 1970s appear to have been struggling to carve out a distinct administrative domain for themselves, with as little control as possible from the national level.

          ? There is a danger to be avoided here. A possible failure to distinguish between neo-traditional culture in general, and the culture of chieftainship, may confuse our reading of the data on this point. For instance, when a name-inheriting ritual was staged in memory of Mrs. Helen Kaunda [7.14, 7.15], this did not in the least mean that the President of the Republic intended to emulate a chiefly rite. Such ceremonies constitute a cultural practice which is observed throughout contemporary Zambia ?for commoners and royals alike. It is only in the latter sense (of a largely sub-conscious, symbolic deep structuure) that the name-inheriting rite could be said to have the basic outlines of a chiefly installation ceremony. The changes of names that also urban Zambians frequently undergo point to the fact that this practice is not restricted to rural traditionalists. If anything, we encounter in the Chinsali episode an instance of sym-bolic and ritual bricolage[37]: the presence of chiefs (among whom two members of the House of Chiefs, including the Vice-Chairman Chief Mapanza) and commoners from Southern Province, government officials and journalists lifts this rather commonplace private kinship rite towards the national plane (not quite reaching it: Zambia is much, much larger than Southern Province), and particularly allows us a glimpse at processes of ethnic mobilization, inter-ethnic alliance, and the interaction of modern and neo-traditional political office. But no well-informed Zambian observer would interpret the episode as an attempt, on President Kaunda’s part, to pose as a chief: not only does the absence of status symbols in dress and other paraphernalia preclude this, but also the selective presence of the Southern Province delegates makes us all the more aware of the embarrassing absence of local, i.e. Bemba, chiefs!

          ? So far we have been dealing with the deliberate, and rather limited, selection of chiefly symbolism for inclusion in the modern political culture. The other side of the coin is that modern politicians in Zambia, in ways that defy their conscious choices and perhaps even their conscious perceptions, operate within a socio-cultural field where key notions of power and control are permeated with references to the chiefly model, in such a way that it is inevitable that such notions are also projected onto modern officials ?even if one of them (Mr. Siyomunji), as quoted above, insists that they are not chiefs. Underneath the pragmatic issue of road transport for chiefs, this seems to be one of the messages implied in the ‘plea from the spirits?as discussed above. [7.1] The mechanism also came out, most clearly, in the Fall of 1972, when the entire country was anxiously awaiting the rains. In a Letter to the Editor in the Zambia Daily Mail the old triad:

nature (fertility, rain)

/              \

political order?/span>___________ morality

was invoked, and the modern government, in the manner of the ancient chiefs, was held responsible for drought in the land because it had passed the immoral Abortion Act:


Many people complain about rain which is not coming down. Is it true that story about the rainmaker of Kalomo whose bones have been exhumed? As an African, I am supersitious [sic], but not as far as that.

              ? I would rather believe there is no rain this year because of the Abortion Act. God alone is master of life and also master of rain. ?J. Jere, Lusaka [ 7.7 ]

In Parliament as well, a play of words could be heard linking modern politicians and rain in ways that only make sense by reference to the same triad:

(...) Rural Development Minister Mr. Reuben Kamanga (...) was replying to a question from Mr. Nalumino Mundia (ANC, Libanda) [ emphasis original ] who had urged Government to reconsider its policy in view of the uncertain weather condiitons.(...)

              ? If the rains delayed there would be a poor yield next year ‘‘even if the Chitandika spirits’’ brought rain. [Mundia still speaking ?WvB] Chitandika is another name of the Rural Development Minister. (...)

              ? Mr. Kamanga said Government was not responsible for controlling rain ?President Kaunda had not appointed a ‘minister of rain?in his Cabinet!?[7.6]

              ? On the district level, Mr. Hamatwi, the District Governor for Choma, responded in an even more explicit fashion. When members of the local community attributed the delay of the rains to the fact that in the course of public works the bones of the old rain spirit Choonga had been dug up,[38] the District Governor not only ordered the bones to be buried again, but also

?...) instructed chiefs, churches, rainmakers and all elders in his district to pray to God for rain. Mr. Hamatwi said Chief Nyawa, who is a member of the House of Chiefs, travelled more than 50 miles to present a petition and to know what the government was doing about lack of rain this season.

              ? Mr. Hamatwi added, ‘‘I have appealed to them to start praying to God. The prayer should also go to all dead chiefs and ancestors of Kalomo district.’’ The governor added: ‘Mini skirted girls and boys in tight trousers should be excluded from the exercise. Let people brew beer and give their sacrifices to God to give us rain now.??ZANA. [7.11]

              ? The point on decent dress could be seen as a modern variant, phrased by a modern politician, of the concern for morality that belongs to the old triad. Thus, the neo-traditional and the modern political sphere seem to merge entirely in the face of perennial moral and ecological concerns.


The exploration in this paper has brought together ample material to demonstrate that the chiefly model, and the incumbents it defines, constitute an intimate part of political relations and of the political culture of post-colonial Zambia.

          ? The notion of fairly rigid separation between chiefs and the state ?both with their appropriate spheres of influence, symbols of power, and formal legitimation ?in itself belongs to that political culture, and has even found its way into the products of scholarship and journalism. But in dialectical interplay with this separateness and avoidance, peripherality and opposition, we came across many and systematic instances of state/chief accommodation, incorporation, dual careers in both the neo-traditional and the modern political sphere, patronage, economic support and modern constitutional legitimation of neo-traditonal chiefs.

          ? Are chiefs penetrating the Zambian state, or alternatively is that state seeking to capture the chiefs?ideological and political support in order to reach down to the rural (and the ineffectively proletarianized urban) masses? These questions no longer appear to be appropriately phrased, for they suggest more of a rigid distinction that the actual intertwinement of activities, roles and cultural aspects between chiefs and the state seems to warrant.[39] Anyway, if the facts of chief/state relations in Zambia are so charged with stereotypes and biases that they have managed to elude academic treatment so far, it is still somewhat early for theorizing on this point. Let us cherish the fundamental ambivalence of the situation as the main result of the present exploration.

          ? This ambivalence permeates Zambian political life, shapes (and blurs, and denies...) fundamental conceptions of power and legitimacy in the Zambian political culture, and brings out the severe limitations (in terms of conceptual model, legitimation and mobilizing power) of the imported North Atlantic model of the formally bureaucratic, secular, nationalist state. If the political culture has continued to hinge, in part, on the chiefly model, the actual political structures of Zambia, in their effective exercise of legitimate, popularly supported power, simply cannot do without chiefs. That, two decades after Independence, Paramount Chiefs have finally found their way to the ruling party’s Central Committee is therefore not a regression to traditionalism, but the mere recognition of this built-in and persisting ambivalence. Already in 1972, in her testimony before the Chona Commission, Princess Nakatindi argued that the House of Chiefs should be given greater powers, by allowing it to contribute two ministers to the Cabinet [4.31]; and the House should be ‘to be more effective on matters of tradition?(a suggestion from the Ndola City Council, [2.8]). A similar drive to increase the formal powers of the chiefs within the established institutions of the modern central state could be detected in Induna Lutangu’s suggestion to the same Commission:

‘that chiefs should be nominated to become members of Parliament on merit by the President.?[4.30]

              ? The newspapers reports picked up these statements not because they were traditional-istic and out of place, but because they were in line with deep-seated tendencies in the Zambian political culture. The chiefs could and can afford such aspirations, and to a considerable extent have managed to put them into practice, for two reasons. As products of modern state penetration in the early decades of colonial rule, the chiefs have in the most literal sense been part of the modern state ever since the latter’s implantation in Zambian soil. And secondly the chiefs still represent, and through their numerous subjects control, an indispensable part of the ideology that defines social order, legitimacy and power in the contemporary Zambian context ?not just by reference to a distant past, but also to values, norms, procedures and cultural forms that are still very much alive.

          ? But against such assertive claims of the chiefs?political competence and popular support, there is always, as the other leg of the fundamental ambivalence, the chiefs?quest for patronage and protection, their awkward use of the state’s organizational logic and symbols of power, their occasional reverting to almost colonial models of deference and submission vis-a-vis the state.

          ? The academic, external view of chieftainship as representing a separate field of traditional political careers, aspirations and values totally different from modern life (as centring on the state, bureaucratic rationality, capitalism and modern urban mass cul-ture) has thus been rendered untenable. Even if Princess Nakatindi’s is an extreme case, we cannot escape the conclusion that state and chieftainship are closely inter-locking aspects of modern Zambian life. In the face of the evidence one can no longer maintain the fiction that modern political and neo-traditional leadership constitute two totally separated worlds, each with a logic, a field of relationships, a history of its own.

          ? While working further on the empirical picture for the colonial and postcolonial period, the unraveling of the theoretical puzzles involved will keep us occupied for some time to come.

[1]Cf. Prins 1980; Mutumba Mainga 1973; Coillard 1971.

[2]7.20. Senior Chief Chiwala’s pragmatic attitude has two sides. On the one hand he is keenly interested in taking development initiatives in his area. On the other hand, as an incumbent of an immigrant Swa-hili chiefly title established less than a century ago among the local Lamba ?and still strongly resented by some of them [5.24] ? he cannot be expected to take to heart the interest of pre-existing local cults of the land (in which the Chilengwalesa ?meaning: ‘God’s Creation??Lake in question, also called Sunken Lake, has clearly been a central place). On the history of the Chiwala title, cf. Namushi & Mwewa 1972; Brelsford 1965; and, in Zambian newspapers of the period covered, 5.26, 5.27. On the cult of the land in this part of Zambia, cf. Doke 1931; and in general, van Binsbergen 1981: ch. 3.

[3]7.4; 7.5; 7.5a; also cf. Shimwaayi Muntemba 1970.

[4]One example is the following:

‘Ndola City Council has suggested that (...) [t]he House of Chiefs should be remodelled and their powers increased so that they become more effective on matters of tradition (...). This was among recommendations made by the Council to the Commission of Inquiry into a One-Party State, which is now preparing its findings for presentation to the President.?[2.8]

Likewise, Senior Chief Mushili calls himself ‘a traditionalist? [5.9]

[5]I.e. miniskirts, an attire much debated in Zambia at the time.

[6]2.10; 2.18; 5.8; 5.17; 5.18; 5.27; the latter 4 cases all involve Copperbelt chiefs. These chiefly aspirations of course touched on the prerogatives of the Police department in the Copperbelt, and newspaper reports reflect senior Copperbelt chiefs views of the police. Senior Chief Chiwala requests an extension of police services in his area [5.17]. By contrast, the member of the House of Chiefs, Senior Chief Mushili, in his statement to the Chona Commission, is very critical of the way police officers cannot carry out their duties without interference from politicians. [5.7]

[7]4.25; 4.26; 4.32; 5.5; 5.16; 5.17; 5.18; 5.19; 5.22; 5.23; except item 4.25 (which is on Solwezi), these cases all involve Copperbelt chiefs.

[8]5.20; the chief in question, Senior Chief Chiwala, was an assistant health inspector before his accession to the throne.

[9]Cf. Aihe 1972; Colson 1976; Hoover et al. 1970; Spalding 1970.

[10]Chief Chibuluma [2.4]; in this modern capacity, the chief took the opportunity to criticise the performance of Zambia’s National Agricultural Marketing Board, on which both modern farmers and peasant farmers are entirely dependent for inputs and for the marketing of their cash crops.

[11]3.22; Northern Province chiefs?statements in defense of chitemene?are however also reported: 6.2; 6.3.

[12]including the Lozi and the Nkoya of Western Province; cf. Molteno 1974; van Binsbergen 1985a.

[13]On the complex language situation in Zambia, cf. Kashoki 1978.

[14]2.6. The case is not without parallels elsewhere in contemporary Zambia: shortly before World War II the Nkoya Chief Mutondo Muchaiyila was deposed and for ten years even exiled from Kaoma district to Kalabo district; when his successor Chief Mutondo Kapulikila died in 1982, the aged ancient chief was reinstated.

[15]5.20. Outside the 1972-73 newspaper material, many similar cases could be cited. E.g. among twentieth-century Nkoya chiefs of Kaoma district (cf. van Binsbergen, in preparation), Chief Mutondo Kanyinca, who reigned between World War I and II, started his career as a boma messenger; Chief Mutondo Kapulikila was a teacher before accession; Chief Kahare Kabambi, a longstanding member of the House of Chiefs, has not only been a UNIP trustee but likewise started his career as a boma messenger before succeeding his father, Chief Kahare Timuna, in 1955.

[16]Gann 1958; Niddrie 1954; Philpott 1945; Stokes 1966. The southern town of Livingstone was the capital of Northern Rhodesia until the mid-1930s.

[17]Thus it was used by the Cabinet Minister for Western Province when speaking at the installation ceremony of the new Ngambela [4.2 as quoted below].

[18]2.8; 2.19; cf. Republic of Zambia 1972.

[19]4.28 (the Litunga); 4.31 (Princess Nakatindi); 5.7 (Senior Chief Mushili Mushili); 4.29 (a Lozi induna); 5.8.

[20]3.21; in a similar vein, Senior Chief Mushili complained to the Chona Commission that ‘some chiefs were unsure of their futures because district governors and UNIP regional secretaries appeared to have taken over their roles.?[5.7]

[21]7.19; 7.5a; also see below. The chief’s witchcraft accusations were primarily phrased in terms of intra-ethnic and inter-gender conflict:

‘The chief last year had turned down the post saying: ‘‘I don't want to be a chief, I shall have bought the passport to death.’’ The chief was afraid to accept the position for fear to [sic] being bewitched and at that time all women Indunas were against him.?[7.19]

Yet they were not without an ethnic background, which again point to the pivotal role attributed to chiefs in preserving the integrity of the local people’s land:

‘One villager Mr. Gabriel Siachisiya said there were many witches in the village who were carrying bodies of dead men from the graveyards. These witches also came in the villages at night in form of ‘‘ghosts’’ and started playing the Makishi dance. ‘‘You can hear the rhythm but the people performing are invisible. They even come at the door steps but you cannot see them,’’ said Mr. Siachisiya.?[7.19; emphasis added ?WvB]

In other words, in this area populated by Toka and Leya people, anti-social elements are associated not only with women but also with the Makishi dance: part of a cultural complex centring on male circumcision and initiation (cf. McCulloch 1951), which numerous Luvale, Luchazi and Chokwe immigrants from Angola have brought with them to West and South West Zambia since the 1910s and particularly the 1960s; cf. Colson 1970.

[22]4.14; 3.12; 3.15; in another similar case interference from an unnamed ‘top civil servant?is merely hinted at: 2.12.

[23]1.1. Feira chiefs appear to be particularly troubled by colonial connotations. On another occasion they propose to change the allegedly meaningless Portuguese name of Feira (which incidentally has the sound historical meaning of ‘market? ‘fair? into Luangwa district, apparently not realizing that the latter, admittedly Bantu, hydronym is not only the name of a river, but also an early colonial name for much of Eastern Zambia. 6.7; cf. Gann 1958, 1964; Stone 1979.

[24]5.4: President Kaunda imposed a deadline within which agreement had to be reached in the conflict over the proper jurisdiction of Chipulukusu squatter township, between Senior Chief Mushili and the Mpongwe Rural Council on the one hand, Ndola City Council on the other.

[25]4.15; 4.16. Less than a year earlier however an other Lozi Induna, apparently unheedful of this danger, had advocated that also Silalo (the Litunga’s Council) indunas should be paid from public funds [4.30]. And more in general, cf. Kakoma’s argument as cited above. [2.16]

[26]E.g. Chiwale 1962; Brelsford 1965; Gluckman 1968; Papstein 1978, 1985; Fagan 1961; Yeta 1956; van Binsbergen in press; references cited there; and personal observations: I visited Senior Chief Chiwala in April, 1972 (with M. Wright and Q.N. Parsons); Chief Mukuni in December 1972; established close relations with Chief Kahare, a member of the House of Chiefs, during his official visits to Lusaka in 1972, lived at his headquarters during a week in May 1973 and from August 1973-April 1974, September-November 1977 and September 1978; in 1977, I also conducted extensive interviews at the headquarters of Chief Mutondo, and less extensive ones at those of Chief Kabulwebulwe.

[27]Particularly: the extreme emphasis on fixed territories of jurisdiction and fixed hierarchies between chiefs in a region ?in a way which emulates the colonial bureaucratic logic ? cf. Chanock 1985.

[28]Above I referred already to the visit of two Kunda chiefs to Lusaka, where they were in the care of Mr. Patterson Ngoma, Minister of State in the Office of the Presiden, and one of their Kunda subjects. The picture to accompany this item [3.25] shows a group of persons standing behind or sitting at the feet of two persons on chairs: an elderly man and a woman in her thirties. The woman, holding two children, and dressed in an ordinary bright sleeveless blouse and chitenge skirt which in no way distinguish her from any Zambian peasant woman visiting town, turns out to be Senior Chief Nsefu; her elderly companion is her junior chief, Munkhanya, in a shabby version of the western suit, tie and white shirt. The only persons wearing insignia of office are two kapasus (chief’s retainers), in their khaki uniforms seamed with red. The Minister himself is shown in the picture as informally dressed in a white shirt and dark trousers.

[29]4.11. A posed portrait [4.13] of Princess Nakatindi, not depicting any recognizable interaction setting, shows her in the Victorian dress that women missionaries at the end of the last century introduced in Barotseland and that was to become the region’s ‘national dress?for women. Here again specific chiefly symbolism is largely absent, although the heavy ivory beads of her necklace could be construed to amount to such symbolism.

[30]3.1. Mr. Chisashi, when extending his right arm to shake hands with President Kaunda, supports that arm near the wrist with his left hand ?a perfectly common neo-traditional gesture of politeness but one without specific political implications. The President, on his part, is holding his white hand­kerchief in his left hand, and so can afford not to return the gesture without giving offence.

[31]An interesting contrast can be noted in this respect between two pictures taken near Chinsali, Northern Province, President Kaunda’s home area. I already mentioned that in mid-August, 1972, the President’s family staged here a name-inheriting ceremony in which ?after a cultural practice generally observed throughout contemporary Zambia ?the name of the recently deceased Mrs. Helen Kaunda, the President’s mother, was given to a junior relative. No doubt as a manifestation of the Bemba/Tonga alliance which had come to dominate Zambian national politics as from 1968, the ceremony was attended by ?4 mourners who had travelled all the way from Gwembe in Southern Province?[7.15a]; a Times of Zambia report [7.15] puts their number at 80, and specifically mentions as leading members of the delegation: Senior Chief Mweemba, Chief Monze, Chief Mapanza, Mrs. Mapanza, Monze District Governor Mr. Cox Sikumba, and a prominent Monze UNIP member, Mr. George Cornhill. In one picture President Kaunda and Mrs. Kaunda are shown sitting next to Chief Monze, Chief Mweemba, and Mr. Sikumba. The men are all wearing informal European dress: open-collared shirts, and trousers in a contrasting color, only in Chief Monze’s case completed by an equally informal jacket. There is no sign whatsoever of either presidential or chiefly status ?except perhaps that President Kaunda clutches his inseparable white handkerchief in his left hand. It is only on a second photograph, showing Chief Mweemba alone at Mrs. Helen Kaunda’s grave with a European-type wreath in his hands, that the chief wears, on top of his very same multicolored shirt, the long bicolored ceremonial robe of the type issued to chiefs by the colonial state. Significantly, the latter picture was published a day later. [7.14]

[32]Chief Chiwala for instance is shown [5.18] wearing a modern white shirt, but over it he has put a dark striped garment and on his head a dark furry cap reminiscent of a fez ?while his short beard and moustache also add to his striking appearance. Yet, in a country like Zambia where Muslims constitute a very tiny minority (in 1972 an estimated 10,000 on a national population of 5 million, or 0.2 %), this image may invoke Islamic rather than chiefly associations. However, another photograph, taken during a visit of Copperbelt Permanent Secretary Mr. Ngwane to Senior Chief Chiwala’s headquarters, shows the chief in informal multicolored shirt and contrasting trousers similar to those worn by the senior civil servant [2.11]: again, in the presence of the state neo-traditional symbols are shed. Chief Nkolemfumu, one of the most senior Bemba chiefs, is pictured [6.2] next to a newspaper report on his private visit to the Copperbelt, where he issued a careful statement on the controversial chitemene agricultural system of his people: it can be read as being in support of both the old methods and the official anti-chitemene policy as propounded by President Kaunda. Like the House of Chiefs members, the elderly chief’s attire consists of white shirt, dark European-style jacket and necktie, but on his head he dons a neo-traditional headdress in the form of a crochet bonnet of a light color with two horizontal bands in a darker color. [6.2] Also [7.14] is a case in point, cf. preceding footnote.

[33]E.g. during the Independence anniversary celebrations at State House, 24 October, 1972: 7.12.

[34]3.3; copper, as Zambia’s main export product, is a dominant national symbol, and used as such in the national flag, the souvenir industry, etc.; also the roof of the National Assembly building in Lusaka is copper-plated.

[35]Zaire’s President Mobutu, who had then only recently launched that concept as a keystone in national mobilization, was a guest of honour at the Zambian Independence anniversary celebrations in 1972, along with his Tanzanian colleague President Nyerere; 7.12.

[36]7.12; among the 43 people decorated on that occasion were two chiefs: Senior Chief Muchinda, and the Lozi chieftainess Mulena Mukwae Makwibi.

[37]Social actors?idiosyncratic free variation and experimentation on the basis of a selection of pre-existing socio-cultural material. The term has originally, in the work of Levi-Strauss, a somewhat more specific, structuralist meaning.

[38]7.10; on the rain cult in Southern Zambia, cf. Colson 1962; O’Brien 1983.

[39]It is therefore increasingly doubtful whether the political, judicial and symbolic aspects of contempor-ary chieftainship in the South Central African and Southern African context could be adequately accounted for in terms of articulation of modes of production, as recently advocated by Beinart (1985). As a particularly sophisticated form of dualism, which has proved its usefulness when applied to a great many aspects of modern African society (e.g. van Binsbergen & Geschiere 1985a), I would limit its application in the field of chieftainship to the economic domain: production, exploitation and circulation (van Binsbergen & Geschiere 1985b). An approach whose main purpose is to account for the discrete, mutu-ally irreducible logics of the various articulated modes, does not seem to fit the pattern of intertwinement and accommodation found in the data as examined in my present argument.

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