Friday, February 26, 2010

Should Bemba /Nyanja be the only ‘National’ Languages? A critique against the Post Newspaper Editorial

Paper Presentation

Should Bemba /Nyanja be the only ‘National’ Languages? A critique against the Post Newspaper Editorial

A Paper Presentation to the University of Zambia Linguistics Association (UNZALA).

Date: Tuesday 6th February 2007
Time: 14:30 hrs
Venue: NELT

By Austin Mbozi
University of Zambia
Department of Philosophy and Applied Ethics
Box 32379, Lusaka

My article begins by joining all those appealing to Zambians of all linguistic groups to ignore the Post editorial (16th January 2007) which read ‘Accept Bemba as a ‘national’ language. Instead Zambians must accept all local languages, including Bemba and Nyanja of course, as ‘national’. The Post editors may have expressed their opinion, but it is just an opinion. Actually it is good riddance that they dared write it because it has given us a basis to openly debate the matter which normally goes on in tribal gossip cartels. The fact is that we have been hearing many Bemba speakers (by ‘Bemba speakers I mean those who speak Bemba although some may not be Bemba by tribe) arguing along those views expressed by The Post. But it was difficult to publicly oppose or academically challenge them since such insinuations went on in ‘tribal gossip cartels’ or in their behaviors such as refusing to speak other languages, calling those speaking Tonga and Lozi as tribal, refusing to be addressed in other languages (except Nyanja) sometimes even if they visit your province or home, or phoning in Bemba to English programs. Worse in the early 90s there were media reports that some ‘sources’ alleging that former President Frederick Chiluba had wanted to make Bemba the official alongside English, a matter which was vehemently opposed. The Post later published a government-headed letter written by a Bemba minister in Bemba! I had tried to bring tribal/linguistic debates but I was ostracized by some people. I went into hibernation, knowing this time will come! I hope The Post will welcome my challenge to them which I am doing with utmost respect.
The Post may have attempted to moderate their editorial in their 18th January editorial and said they never intended to destroy other languages or impose Bemba or that they are not tribalists. Well, where I disagree with them is that their approach is like saying that to end religious tensions all people must ‘Accept Islam as a world religion’ instead of advising people of different religions to live side by side.
My proposals on the BRE/ Radio Liseli station
Before commenting on The Post editorial may I state that I agree with the goal of the Barotse Royal Establishment (BRE) to promote Lozi language and culture. However I wonder whether the BRE really meant a complete ban on Bemba and Nyanja music because the 18th Jan. Post story stated that some sources thought they merely wanted to play less of other languages and more of Lozi music. And how possible could it be that they only banned Bemba and Nyanja music; what about Tonga, Luvale, Kaonde etc music? The Post needed to clarify this otherwise the public are suspecting that The Post concentrated more on Bemba, just to make the matter more sensational? I would also disagree with a complete ban on Bemba and Nyanja (and all other non-Lozi languages) and the proposed removal of director Fr Victor Mwansa and production manager Bella Zulu because they are Bemba and Easterners respectively.
So firstly I would suggest that rather than ban Bemba and Nyanja music completely they must insist on having 70% local language music and 30% in all other languages.
Secondly, the BRE is clearly overreacted to insist on the dismissal of Father Victor Mwansa and Bella Zulu. What the BRE must do is to request Father Mwansa to play more local language music. If Father Mwansa does not comply they may press for his replacement but even then his replacement does not have to be a Lozi. It may be any Zambian, even another Bemba, who complies with the directive. Even a Lozi who does not comply can be dismissed. There are so many Bemba people who can go out of the way to speak Lozi and promote it.
Thirdly, there must a compromise regarding the banning of Luvale and Mbunda broadcasts by the BRE. I propose that broadcasts themselves may be exclusively in Lozi, but songs in Luvale, Mbunda , Nkoya or any language indigenous in the province (i.e. languages there found at the advent of colonialism ) can be allowed equal airtime as Lozi ones. More importantly any people interviewed or phoning in to programmes may be allowed to use Luvale, Mbunda or any language indigenous in the province (the way the Tonga section of ZNBC operates with respect to Lenje and Ila) provided that language is understood by at least 30% of the people there. This compromise is aimed at making not letting all the various language groups demanding broadcasts if only one of them is allowed and at the same time making they feel part of the province. Although Luvale and Mbunda speakers are found in the northern part of the province they are very few and more importantly Luvale itself by government policy is a Northwestern province language were it is taught in schools. The Western province linguistic groups are 27 namely; Lozi, Kwandi, Kwangwa, Mbowe, Mbumi, Simaa, Imilangu, Mwenyi, Nyengo, Makoma, Liyuwa, Mulonga, Mashi , North Kwandu, South Kwandu Mbukushu, Nkoya, Mbwela, Lushangi, Mashasha, Fwe, Luvale,Chokwe,Mbunda,Shanjo,Totela and Subiya (The Post says they are 32 but my research I can’t find the other five!) However, currently all these people do understand Lozi since it is the language taught in their schools and some of these languages are almost dead. Strictly speaking Lozi is just a language coming from these various groups.

My proposals on the national language problems

1. Bemba speakers must accept the reality and appreciate being addressed in and speaking other languages of this country. There attitude is what provokes reactions such as we saw with the BRE.
2. The non-Bemba speakers; the Tonga, Lozi, Luvale, Kaonde, Lunda, Lenje , Namwanga, Lamba etc must use their languages and transfer them to their children in major cities such and Lusaka and Copperbelt. When in their own home provinces they should only use their language to anybody and stop giving in to Nyanja and Bemba speaking visitors. Otherwise, if a Post letter by Emmanuel Chishimba on 26th January 2007 who advocated that they will make sure 4/5 Mongu residents speak Bemba in 10 years is anything to go by, it seems some people are determined to promote Bemba hegemony at all costs.
3. Government must recognize Lenje, Lamba and Namwanga for broadcasting and teaching. Namwanga and Lamba must be taught where ever Bemba is taught while Lenje must be taught where ever Tonga is taught. For broadcasting, announcers should be employed to use these languages within the seven languages. For example one announcer must be employed on the Tonga section, one Lamba and one Namwanga announcer on the Bemba section.
4. UNZA and Lusaka urban, led by UNZALA, should be the model of linguistic and ethnic unity. As such UNZA must practice linguistic and ethnic respect and respect in all its activities. No tribe or language should be allowed to dominate UNZA or Lusaka. I, for one commit to playing my humble part by introducing a course at UNZA , Philosophy of Multiculturalism, after I have done my PHD. Unfortunately, at the moment UNZA has become the breeding ground for ethnic rivalries.
Responses to the Post editorial of 16th Jan
Now I here are my responses to various sentiments by The Post.
1. First, let us be clear what is meant by accepting a language as a ‘national ‘ one and what does it mean not to accept a language as national? The Post repeatedly stated that they merely meant ‘accepting the reality that Bemba and Nyanja languages are widely spoken’. Even this is vague. If I tell women who already know that I am a man to ‘accept me as a man’ they should ask me, ‘so what should we do to show our acceptance that you are a man?’ There should be a specific list of things that we must do to Bemba and Nyanja in our ‘accepting’ them! In mine and many people’s understanding, to accept Bemba as national is like accepting the Kwacha as legal tender. It means that no person must refuse to be paid in Kwacha within this country. To say Bemba is national means nobody in the country must refuse being addressed in Bemba, regardless of where they are in the country. And since the Post are saying only Bemba and Nyanja must be national, then the other 70 languages are not national. This in practical terms means that a Bemba speaker should go to Mongu alone, refuse to be addressed in Lozi but expect the entire majority Lozi’s there should speak Bemba to him. But a Lozi who goes to Kasama should not address the people there in Lozi but in Bemba. The Post has stated that they don’t mean taking a gun, making a decree or a law to force people to ‘accept these languages’. But The Post proposes teaching them in schools countrywide. This is impossible without using laws. The Zambian law force me to pay tax (ZRA can send police with a gun to me if I don’t pay!) which will be used to fund the teaching of Bemba and Nyanja. And many schools in Zambia make learning Zambian language compulsory. So a child will be chased from school if they refused to learn Bemba or Nyanja! It also means the entire country must give the Bemba speakers media and interpreter services as is being attempted in Lusaka. Earlier, all tribes, Tongas, Lozis, Luvales, and etc accepted Nyanja church interpreters etc. But newly arrived Copperbelt Bemba speakers refuse services in Nyanja. So in Pentecostal churches they are demanding services in Bemba. And the media have given in. Tonga actors Muzelengana and Gubwagubwa in the Kapotwe drama on MUVI-TV have reduced usage of Tonga, and the Tonga introduction song, amubaleke basobane has been replaced by a Bemba one. Even some adverts on seed are in Bemba when farmers are Tonga-Lenje. Also when the spread of these two languages is speeded by school teaching, the death of the other languages would also speed up. The Post must give examples of how practically ‘accepting’ Bemba means, otherwise readers must stick to my interpretation in the meantime!
2. Why did the editorial, going by its very heading focus more on the Bemba language and less on Nyanja? Is it because they assume that the BRE is more against the Bemba language. So to annoy them they dare them by emphasizing on the Bemba language. By their own admission when they say no tribe is called Nyanja, Nyanja is a far more unifying factor than Bemba. No province in this country takes serious offence with Nyanja. Professors like Ali Mazrui [1] and Wole Soyinka said that a language that should be made national is not necessarily the one which the majorities who may be from one tribe speak but one which has no tribe is attached to. They both recommended Kiswahili for the whole Africa. In Uganda the Luganda and Bunyoro tribes are a majority but they chose Kiswahili.
In 2005 French President Jacques Chirac objected to English as world language and opted for Arabic. This also explains why in places like Lusaka, when say a Tonga and a Bemba each refuses to speak each other’s language they switch to Nyanja and why this very debate has concentrated against Bemba, and not against Nyanja.
3. The Post says ‘we should realize that Bemba and Nyanja do not belong to any one tribe but all those who use them’. Correct. like a name you ‘own’ a language if you chose it. The Post is also correct that various Northern and Luapula province tribes who speak Bemba are not Bemba by tribe. The 1968 CSO statistics show that the real Bembas were only 18.6% of the Zambian population. The other tribes are Aushi, Bisa, Lala, Ngumbo, Chishinga, Kabende, Mukulu, Twa (Bangweulu), Unga, Bwile, Lunda (Luapula), Shila, Tabwa, Ambo, Luano, Swaka and Lima. Those around Mbala and Isoka; Namwangas, Mambwes, Lungus, Iwa, Tambo, Lambya Nyiha and Wandya speak Bemba but primarily use their own languages. In fact the CSO does not categorise them as Bemba speaking. Anyhow, the point is that if these people chose Bemba then they own it. So The Post admits that languages are owned after all, except not necessarily by a tribe! Even all the 26 tribes in Western province own Lozi since they chose it. So what criterion is The Post using to chose Bemba as be national and not Lozi since both languages were chosen and owned’ by people who are from different tribes? Or is what Northerners chose more important than what Westerners chose? Even if some people in Lusaka also chose to ‘own’ Bemba, why should it be imposed on the Goba and Shonas of Chirundi who chose to ‘own ‘Tonga?
Since The Post said there are Lozis who speak Bemba even in Mongu they could reply that there are more Bemba speakers in Mongu than Lozi speakers in Kasama. Well, firstly the Lozi within Mongu who speak Bemba are not speaking it to follow Lozi speakers; they speak it as a matter of hospitality to Bemba speaking visitors who have no grasp of Lozi, with the hope that in future these people will speak Lozi. They have supported the BRE, as The Post itself revealed, because they don’t want to be taken for granted and to be made to appear as if they speak Bemba because they dislike Lozi. Secondly, very few people speak Bemba in Mongu to justly that Bemba should now be ‘national’ there. The Post argument can infact simply discourage non-Bemba people from using it if they feel that this might mean declaring it a national language. Actually that editorial has generally been criticized even by some people who speak Bemba, especially ‘real’ Bembas. When they speak it, especially the civilized ones, they do not do so with a view that it is a national language. They are quite ready to speak or accept any language within this country. Thirdly, the people who go to Mongu must learn Lozi. There is no way they can go there and expect local people to change to suit them. Fourthly, if there are Bemba speakers in Mongu but no Lozi speakers in Kasama then it justifies why the Lozi want to intensify knowledge of Lozi within Mongu. People who speak Bemba in Mongu leant if from the Copperbelt or northern regions. So if people who visit Mongu learn Lozi they will also be able to speak it when they return to Kasama and find another Lozi speaker there.
4. The Post says Bemba is the most widely spoken. True, but this number does not need to be exaggerated. The 1968 census say 56% were able to speak Bemba. Being Able to speak a language is not the same as speaking it predominantly. Far less than 30% used Bemba predominantly, 23.2% were able to speak Nyanja, 23.2% Tonga and 17.2% Lozi. This means 44% were not even able to speak Bemba. The 1990 Census on Population and Housing which Prof. Kashoki also cited on 25 January to The Post showed that only 2.076 million (less than 29.9 %) of Zambians predominantly used Bemba in their daily communication., which means 69.1 did not use Bemba predominantly. The 2000 census shows that only 38% predominantly use Bemba related ( or a collection of all languages of Luapula, Northern and Copperbelt provinces), which means those who use actual Bemba are far less. The rest, 62%, the majority, of Zambians did not use Bemba related languages predominantly. More over those speaking Bemba are concentrated in its traditional regions on the Copperbelt, Northern and Luapula provinces. It is spoken in the northern parts of central province and begins to give way to Nyanja (urban areas), Lenje and Tonga (rural areas). It has also entered Solwezi and Lusaka firstly because of the collapse of the Coppberlt and because of stereotypes about being a symbol of ‘urbanization’; but still it has still not overtaken Kaonde and Nyanja respectively and in any case it looses its force in Lusaka, since it becomes a mixture of Nyanja and Bemba. A language spoken by the majority but mostly confined to its ethnic regions cannot be declared to other areas; otherwise Mandarin spoken by 1.2 billion Chinese but confined to china would be the world language. Also it is not only Bemba that has challenged Nyanja in Lusaka. Tonga-Lenje has also entered because of the collapse of the farming industry. The Bantu-Botatwe (Tonga-Ila-Lenje/Solis) are the majority in Lusaka as a whole province. If today they all overcame their fears and spoke only their languages loudly to anybody, like the Bemba speakers do, Tonga-Lenje might suddenly be the most spoken language in Lusaka city.
This shows that Bemba understanding and usage levels have not and will not reach a stage to be declared national. In Zimbabwe 80% speak Shona, but even Ndebele spoken by just 15% is recognized as a national language.[2] In Switzerland only 0.7 % speak Romanish and 4.1% speak Italian (majority speak German and French) but these are also promoted. [3]In South Africa it is not only four languages accepted as national as claimed by The Post. Eleven languages; English, Afrikaans, Ndebele, Xhosa, Zulu, Sepedi, Sotho, Tswana, Swati, Venda and Tsonga are all official.[4] You can address the nation, even parliament in any. But here in Zambia we refuse to accept Tonga as national even when now probably around 30% can speak it and actively spoken by 15.6 %! We must ignore Lozi which is actively spoken by 9.1%, Lunda 2.6%, Luvale 5.4 %, Kaonde 2.9%, Tumbuka 3.9%, Lamba 2.2%, Lenje (2.0%), Namwanga by 1.7% and Mambwe 1.6% to pay way for Bemba and Nyanja and expect to unite this nation?
5. The Post’s claim that Copperbelt is not Bemba tribe dominated but united by Bemba language is faulty. Firstly, research by Mubanga Kashoki [5] reveal that during migration to the mines between 1940 and 1960 the most sources of labour was from Northern/Luapula, followed by Northwestern, Central , Eastern, Copperbelt, Western and Southern provinces and that the Chinsali district population even reduced by 19%. And common sense show that the majority of names of people growing up on Coppebelt, be it politicians, musicians, sportsmen and even call boys bear names from Luapula and Northern provinces.
Secondly, the Bemba language may have ‘unified’ the urban people because they have no reason to protest because they simply ‘migrated’ there. This is why some Lozi people who speak Bemba on the Copperbelt have written to The Post to support the BRE emphasis to promote Lozi in Western province. Dr Kaunda said he did not remember when language tensions become a problem in his tenure (Post 20th Jan). He made it appear as if only the BRE are trying to protect their language. Let him deny historical records whether on March 26 1968 scores of Lamba –speaking people in Mpongwe, Senior Chief Mushili and Chief Chiwala did not demonstrate to him with posters to his face demanding the use of Lamba in Coppperbelt schools; rejecting Bemba.[6] Let him deny whether in 1971 he never appointed Chief Undi of the Chewa people as chairman of a panel to investigate ethnic and language conflicts between the Luvale and Lunda in Chavuma, and then made Chavuma a ‘sub-boma’ on 19th April 1991.[7] In fact earlier in 1952, the colonial Government had declared a State of Emergency in Chavuma because of these disputes. Dr Kaunda even makes an exaggerated statement that all Post editorials are correct, when The Post themselves just told us they don’t claim monopoly of wisdom! Anyhow to date the Lamba have continued to press for their language to President Mwanawasa, who has a Lamba mother, after he assumed office in 2001. On 8th January 2002, I had written an article to The Post newspaper in which I argued that the Zambian Republican Presidency must rotate among all provinces except Copperbelt and Lusaka because these regions no longer had a clearly distinct tribe. On 10th January a Lamba citizen, Love Mtesa wrote in strong protest: ‘Mbozi must know that the Copperbelt province has fifteen traditional chiefs, including senior chiefs. The people of this province have a language, which was written long before other Zambian languages were written. Their language was taught in schools before independence and they have a Bible in the local language, which again was written long before the Bibles in many other Zambian languages were written. They have a culture, which some modern politicians have tried to suppress but which is being revived. They need to be treated at the same level as all other tribes in this country. They are capable of reacting in one way or another…. (Mbozi’s statement) could bring confusion, which could easily bring civil strife in our otherwise peaceful country. …’.
Similarly the Namwanga are also aggrieved! The very Post editorial of 18th Jan stated the various groups of Eastern and Western provinces are united around Nyanja and Lozi, respectively. The Post said that the various tribes of Northern and Luapula provinces developed a sense of oneness because the Bemba language unites them to become ‘one Bemba tribe’. So since The Post thinks speaking Bemba can make you part of the Bemba tribe then all the tribes, Tonga, Lozi, Ngonis etc will belong to the Bemba tribe if the start accepting Bemba! Alas! This is precisely what they don’t want! And nothing strange about this! Tell the Bemba tribes to speak Lozi and be called as belonging to the ‘Lozi tribe’ and see if they will agree!
Besides Copperbelt urban so-called linguistic unity, which The Post cherishes, cannot be a model for Zambia. Non-Bemba speaking regions – parts of central, Lusaka, Eastern, Western, Southern and North-western - see nothing special about the so-called ‘unity of tribes’ on the urban Copperbelt. Unity in what? What did they achieve? If Copperbelt is a success why are they leaving it? Unity in prejudices against non-Bemba speakers? Copperbelt urban has been noted by many Zambians to be the most intolerant of non-Bemba speakers. Even politically Copperbelt rejected Harry Nkumbula (a Tonga-Ila) in 1963, but accepted the Kaunda Kapwepwe team of Bemba speakers. In 1968 they rejected Nalumino Mundia ( a Lozi) of UP but heavily voted for a Bemba, Simon Kapwewpwe, to win the Mufulira West bye-election in 1971 even when his UPP campaign centered on Bemba ‘salvation’ from alleged state victimization. In 2001 Coppebelt rejected the highly qualified Anderson Mazoka (a Tonga) only to vote for a pro-Chiluba Micheal Sata (a Bemba) in 2006 even if he, like Kapwepwe, centred his campaign on Bemba salvation! [8]Unity in negative habits is destructive. Aren’t we told that God created many languages to prevent people from uniting to build the Tower of Babel against His will?

Bemba national language will give Bemba a political advantage, like it does on the Copperbelt. Some people complained of and refused to vote for Mazoka for fear of Tonga-domination just because of his nkuyumayuma Tonga song, but Sata gets voted for using all his addresses in Bemba! The use of the Lozi dress as national dress, as espoused by The Post, can’t be compared with language! No country quarrels with dress but if space is given I can give data that in every country at least one group is aggrieved over language marginalization.
6. The Post says Bemba and Nyanja spread naturally, ‘without any investment in them.’ This is obviously not true. Bemba language spread through outright conquest of smaller tribes and incorporating them into the larger Bemba-speaking kingdom before colonialism. To start with, the context of who the Bemba people are and what the Bemba language is all about has to be explained. Strictly speaking, the Bemba people are not the ones that arrived from Baluba in the Congo in the mid- 1600. The Bemba has always lived as a small tribe somewhere north of the Chambeshi river in present day Kasama. In 1650, a group of warriors from the Buluba region in Congo DR crossed the Luapula River. Led by two warriors, Chiti and Nkole, they conquered this Bemba tribe, assimilated it into their kingdom and began calling themselves Bemba. It is not known whether this Buluba group introduced the modern day Chibemba language or whether they adopted it from their conquered group.
Anyhow, calling themselves Bemba, they conquered the many tribes they found in northern Zambia namely Mambwe under Chief Nsokolo, the Namwanga under Chief Chikanamulilo , the Bisa in Chinsali District , the Lungu under Chief Zambe , as well as some Fipa and Sukuma tribes. Many smaller groups have been so absorbed into the Bemba tribe that they recognise the Bemba language as their own.
However, the larger groups such as the Mambwe and the Namwanga still maintain the distinct languages and some, especially the cultural conscious ones, refuse to be classified as Bemba. The Mambwe, unlike the Bemba who came from Congo DR, are recorded to have originated from the northern territories of East African. They settled in the areas around Mbala and Isoka in Zambia more than 250 years ago and at Sumbawanga in southwest Tanzania. Unlike the Bemba who are matrilineal the Mambwe are patrilineal and their language is more similar to Inamwanga, Iwa, Lambya, Tambo and Nyiha than with Bemba. Their first chief (Mwene Mambwe) was Changala who came from Kola in Angola and became their chief at their request. The current Mambwe chiefs are Nsokolo, Chindo, Chilesya, Mwamba and Mpenza i Fwamba. Conquest is an investment in guns, spears, bows and arrows. When you rule over people you influence your language. So if Bemba’s initial spread by conquest then it s initial spread was by ‘guns’.
This was followed by Bemba being made the official vernacular taught on the Copperbelt, Luapula, Northern and parts of Central Province just as Nyanja is in Lusaka and Eastern Province! To develop these languages government invests billions of money; to teach them government pays the teachers. In fact the reason government is reluctant to teach other languages like Tumbuka, Lamba and Lenje is because it is costly.
The Lamba language was the first to be written and recognised during the BSA rule on the Copperbelt Province by Reverend William Arthur Philips of the South African Baptist Mission who opened the first mission in Lamba territory at Kafulafuta near Chief Katanga in 1905. Another mission was later opened at Lwamala, 160 km west of Kabwe and a school was opened at Lushiwashi in 1920. In 1935 the Scannavian Baptist Mission opened a mission at Mpongwe and at Fawile Hills. All these were using Lamba as medium of instruction in the schools.
Hyms, translated bible scriptures and teaching materials for schools were printed in Lamba. Efforts to develop the language were so rigorous that by 1937 professor C.D Doke of the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg who worked in the area had produced six huge volumes of the Lamba-English Dictionary that is still found in the University of Zambia library today.
But in 1929 the Department of Native Education of the colonial government abandoned the teaching of Lamba in Copperbelt schools in preference for Bemba which it thought was spoken by more people in the northern regions of Zambia. The Lamba resisted were but ignored.
Now, isn’t teaching Bemba to millions of non-Bemba children not on the Copperbelt where many people are concentrated not an investment? The Post might reply, that even the Lamba people speak Bemba ‘voluntarily without anybody pointing a gun at them’. But what option do they have? They find everybody there speaking Bemba and nobody appreciates Lamba! Imposition doesn’t always require a gun! Why do we say whites imposed English on Red Indians in America? Did they carry a gun? They initially banned teaching of Red Indian languages, made state laws so that any immigrant, be it from Germany, Italy, Ireland etc only use English. This time if a Red Indian uses his language in New York nobody appreciates it!
Even radio stations promoted Bemba more than other languages. In 1957, the Central African Broadcasting Station, which broadcast for the entire Federation of Rhodesia and Nyansaland, broadcast gave more airtime to Bemba (15%) and Nyanja (14%). Other languages were not yet recognized. Then after Tonga and Lozi were added the Zambia Broadcasting Services (ZBS) still gave more airtime to Bemba (13. %) and Ninja (12.6%). Tonga and Lozi were given 9.7% and Lunda (4.8%) Luvale (4.7%) and Kaonde (4.5%) had less airtime.[9] So all these language groups paid equal taxes just to promote Bemba and Nyanja.
Another mode of spreading Bemba is social, by bullying and indoctrinating people to hate their own languages and love Bemba in order to appear urbanized. In names, times and incidents. I can disclose if challenged. In a research of the teaching of Nyanja in Lusaka schools Prof. Robert Serpell found that Bemba children did badly in Nyanja subject because they regarded Nyanja as less prestigious.[10] This happens even at the highest level. In 2002 President Mwanawasa, to prove he did not hate Bembas said, ‘I speak Bemba more than I speak my own language’. In reaction, opposition PF President Micheal Sata, a Bemba, replied in a sarcastic way saying it just showed how lost the President was. He questioned how Zambians could trust a president who speak other people’s language and ignore his own. Yet on 3rd August 2006, President Mwanawasa warned Sata in a face –to-face confrontation in Bemba saying ‘Nga watumpa filekubipila apa pene (things will sour for you right here if you are funny). Sata equally replied in Bemba but when the President began to speak in his own Lamba language Sata replied sarcastically that the President was now speaking ‘fitundu’ (sinister languages) which he (Sata) could not understand. Now if Sata can call a President’s speech ‘fitundu’ what more can, and do, street Bemba speaking boys treat a lone Lamba, Tonga or Lozi speaker on the streets? Sata, after calling the president’s language chitundu, had even the audacity to advise politicians to use local languages where they go to campaign when he has so far proved to be the worst campaigner of Bemba linguistic hegemony. How many letters and articles, including Dr Neo Simutanyi (Post 29.Jan.2007) in The Post complained over his addressing Lusaka audiences in Bemba which millions of compound people don’t speak? Like on the constitution and ZANACO sale, he wants to be champion against the very thing he promoted! In their notion to portray Bemba as a symbol of modernity; the Bemba speakers say Ichibemba chimi chimo fye ne chisungu (Bemba is same as English). That is why they call in Bemba to English programmes. As Philosopher J.S Mill reminds us, human beings, especially young people, fear being ridiculed a lot. Fist year UNZA students get indoctrinated that to be elite they must use Bemba. Only a year or so ago UNZA Radio reported that two Tongas speaking and two Bemba speaking students physically fought it out when the Bemba speakers allegedly tried to stop Tonga speakers using their language. In 1970, researcher Moses Musonda found that only 29% understood Bemba at UNZA against 40.9% Nyanja. But now thousands of Lusaka children will speak Nyanja as they go to Kabulonga, Munali, DK schools but the moment they enter UNZA they switch to Bemba. Then they continue this in offices. This is why there is more Nyanja in compounds in Lusaka and more Bemba in posh offices. Image deception is the best tool of submerging the masses with inferiority complexes. Even Nigerian professor Efurosibina Adegbija noted in his 1994 book that the Bemba have used their numerical advantage to establish a hegemony in Zambia. [11]
Even the English and French languages have spread decrees and force by colonial masters. Yes, a language may appear to spread naturally to you if you do not look at history. If I took kapinga grass to your field, uproot the ‘indigenous’ mangwegele grass that I find and plant it at the most fertile part of your field and later it spreads ówn its own’ throughout your field, can I convince you after 20 years that it is spreading own its own? The Post say they also ówn’ English since they now use it. Fine, but can they then have the right to go to Senegal and declare it national to replace French? Even to say that because we fought the British using English then we must fight Bemba tribalists using Bemba is not convincing. If this is the case why doesn’t the Post argue Zambians to fight what they perceive as Lozi tribalism using the Lozi language? No Zambian opposed English precisely because after they colonized us we could not agree on a local language. Besides English gives us international exposure. But since when has the Bemba colonized the Lozi and what international exposure can Bemba give them? In fact even Lozi has some international exposure, since it is an indegous official language in Namibian broadcasting, and varieties of it a spoken in Botswana and South Africa. In fact Tonga is recognized in Zimbabwe and its dialects present in Mozambique and Malawi and South Africa. Nyanja in Malawi and Lunda and Luvale in Angola while Bemba is not a national language anywhere in the sub-region, not even in Congo DR. Even the statement that only Bemba and Nyanja are key to national development is exaggerated. Why are Kasama and Chipata not the most developed places in Zambia? Actually the spread of these languages in cities was because while the then economically strong Bantu-Botatwe refused to work for white people from the regions where these languages come from moved to other regions in search of economic gains not found in their indigenous regions! Bemba and Nyanja are just y are like any other language in Zambia? And we should not be mislead that English is accepted world wide. The French-speaking people of Quebec in Canada are ready to secede just to reject English in their territory. Even in the US, the states of California and Puerto Rico and to some extent, Florida are actually rejecting English as official in those states, preferring Spanish.[12] The EU Member states reject English that is why the EU has 20 languages as official.[13] Even in Asia people know English but its use is reducing there. So if you adopt a language that is yours, each one should adopt their own. The Post may ask me why Tonga and Lozi are not spreading much even if they also get state investment. Well, actually while Bemba is spreading southwards because Bemba speakers are mainly traders looking for expanding southern towns Tonga is expanding northwards in rural areas right up to Mkushi because Tongas are mainly farmers looking for better rains. Besides, Nyanja and Bemba are taught in cities, giving them advantage.
7. The editorial says those ‘narrow-minded’ people who hate the Bemba tribe may get away with it but if they extended this to the Bemba language will choke with frustration and envy as the use of the language continues to spread across the country ‘unabated.’ Why such confrontational statements? Did even the BRE say they hated the Bemba tribe? Since the BRE also banned Nyanja why doesn’t The Post also say the BRE hate the Nyanja tribe, if it exists? The Post statement can incite the Bemba to feel that Lozi people hate them. If The Post has specific names of people who hate the Bemba tribe, let them give the public. And who envies the spread of Bemba language? In fact it is actually those who think the entire Zambia might one day be Bemba speaking like Copperbelt who will ‘ choke with frustration and envy ’ since they are the ones who dislike Lozi or Tonga around them. Instead what is likely to happen is that all these languages will intermingle and one that is more neutral will emerge, since we don’t normally write these languages but use them informally. This is already happening in Lusaka. A new language Nyanja-Bemba mixture is emerging. In Southern Province,Tonga-Nyanja and in Western Province Lozi-Nyanja and in Solwezi Kaonde-Bemba. Eventually, some lingua franca like Kiswahili will emerge. To use terms such as narrow-minded gives an impression that The Post is warning anybody in advance that ‘íf you differ with this editorial you shall be attacked’. Even The Post editorials and mine are just personal opinions and we must allow and encourage opposing views. Many people opposed to The Post editorial are not attempting to stop the ‘spread’ of the Bemba language. What we are saying is that all the languages, including Bemba, must spread countrywide so that people can express themselves freely anywhere. If anything the narrow-minded person is one who thinks that just because he speaks Bemba then everybody else does or should.
8. The argument that there isn’t much recorded Lozi music should not be exaggerated. Key singers like JK, Angela Nyirenda, Ricky Ililonga, Shatel, Smocky Hangala, Chris Chali, the Barotse band etc. The broadcasting stations in Lusaka and Copperbelt in fact has a habit of playing down songs that are sung in other languages than Nyanja and Bemba. If Angela sings an album with a Bemba and a Lozi song they will play the Bemba and Nyanja one more, thereby discouraging the composing and buying of music in other languages. Furthermore, the insistence of playing more Lozi music on the Radio Liseli will force many musicians to play Lozi songs and give profit to Lozi singers not now where Bemba/Nanja singers whose language is widespread should make profits alone. It has happened in Southern Province. As Post columnist Elvis Zuma correctly observed on 16th June 2006, the mainstream media ignore Tonga music and concerts. But since it opened Radio Chikuni has been recording and playing more Tonga music and the music industry in that region has spread like wildfire. Southerners have there own stars such as Mashombe, Green Mamba, Kalonda, Chibweza, Nsabata bands etc. People there and are not bothered when not a single Tonga song has ever came out on the Top 20 charts of Lusaka radio stations. Because of this even Lusaka radio station like Hone and ZNBC radio 4 now play some Tonga banjo music. Even the Rhumba that the Post says Zambians enjoy spread because Mobutu Seseseko decreed that nobody should play foreign music within Congo. So the editorial is not correct to say that ‘arts don’t develop by decrees’. They even say that Lozi musicians like Ricky Illilonga sang some songs in Bemba. So what? Singers are simply looking for markets. When JK sang in Shona did it mean that he did not love his Bemba language?
9. The editorial questions the legal basis for the BRE to order Radio Liseli. Yes, the BRE has not legal basis in the current Zambian laws because the Zambian Government violated the provisions of the Barotse Agreement in the first place, another issue which the Post provokes when they try to ignore it. The BRE has the right to demand restoration of the Baroste Agreement signed on 19th May 1964. If such as serious agreement can be ignored just to promote so far useless Zambian nationalism that has impoverished Barotseland, killed its language and culture violate its land rights granted in article 5 of the Barotse Agreement with legislation such as the 1995 Lands Act, then they have the right to fight for their rights. The Baroste Agreement does give the BRE rights to persevere ‘customary matters’; language and culture (article 3 (i)). Press Freedom is within a cultural context. Article 3 of the The Barotse Agreement allows the BRE allowed to ‘make laws’ relating to Barotseland. Besides The Post cannot pretend that the BRE has no influence in Western Province. They have more authority over their people more than The Post itself or the Central Government. That is why central government officials make it a point to visit the Litunga from time to time. Even over this very issue, is it not the Post newspaper itself that reported on Jan 16th and 18th Jan that many ordinary people, in Western Province have celebrated the ban on Bemba and Nyanja music and even Barotse Band musician Mboo Kuta apologized for earlier criticizing the BRE?
10. The Post argument that Zambians who meet abroad use Bemba is over-generalized. It depends on whom the Post editors meet abroad. Some use Nyanja, others Bemba, others Lozi, others even Kaonde. I met Goodwell Lungu (now TIZ), Joseph Munsanje etc in the UK and we were all using Tonga. If footballers Isack Chansa and our greet Christopher Katongo meet at Jomo Cosmos they might greet shani bakaamba in Bemba; but if Clive Hachilensa and Kennedy Mweene meet at Free State Stars they may greet kamwaamba badaala in Tonga. Besides if a Lozi and a Bemba spoke Bemba in the UK it does not follow that they should go about using it in Sesheke where everybody uses Lozi.
There is nothing primitive about preserving your language. In fact what The Post advocated for is at variance with the goals of the University of Zambia Linguistic Department and its Association (UNZALA), the policy of Government which promotes several local languages and even that of UNESCO which in an effort to preserve threatened languages has declared 21 February as the Mother Language Day. We need to get statements from these institutions over this. The notion that a country unites better with only one or two languages is outdated and challenged by almost every modern researcher. In Zambia we must impart in our children the Swish culture. In Switzerland every child is taught to appreciate linguistics diversity. So they use German (73.4%), French (20.5%), Italian (4.1%) and Romanish (0.7) side by side without problems. Every Zambian must be encouraged to speak at least all the seven major languages and use them anywhere. It should be seen as a sign of primitive and tribalism if a person can live in a multi-lingual society but refuses to speak the available local languages.
To be blunt Bemba speakers must be the first ones to change their attitudes and appreciate being addressed in and speak other languages. Also the other groups, such as the Tonga, Lozi, Kaonde etc must learn to speak their languages right in major cities, especially Southern, Lusaka and Copperbelt. Zambians must treat all languages as equal and accept them in major cities especially Lusaka and Copperbelt. Eventually, a new language will emerge which no tribe can claim hegemony over. I await more debate.

Recommended Readings

Adegbija, Efurosibina. Language Attitudes in Sub-Saharan Africa.1994. Multiligual Matters LTD. Clevedon. Philadelpia. Adelaide.

Bamgbose, Ayo. Language and Nation: The Language Question in Sub-Saharan Africa. 1991, Edinburgh University Press, Edinburgh.

Calvet,Louis-Jean. Language Wars and Linguistic Politics. 1998. Oxford University Press

Chisanga, Teresa. D.Phil. An Investigation into the Form and Function of Education English in Zambia as a Possible Indigenised Non-native Variety. 1987. Unpublished thesis, University of Zambia, Lusaka

Cohen, Ronald. “The Assimilation of Aliens among the Tonga” in From Tribe to Nation in Africa. Edited by Ronald Cohen. 1970. Chandler Publicity Company. Pennsylvania, USA

Coulmas,Florian (e.d).A Language Policy for the European Community. 1991. Mouton de Gruyter, New York

Emenanjo, Nolou (e.d) Multilingualism, Minority Languages and Language Policy in Nigeria. 1990. Central Books Limited, Bendel State, Nigeria.

Government of Zambia, Ministry of Education. National Policy on Education. May 1996, Zambia Educational Publishing House

Gray, John (e.d) John Stuart Mill: On Liberty and Other Essays. 1991. Oxford University Press, Oxford

Halemba, Andrizej. Fr. Mambwe-English Dictionary. 1994. Mission Press, Ndola, Zambia.

Hertzer, Joyce. 0. A Sociology of Language. 1965. Randon House. New York

Kashoki, Mubanga. ‘Town Bemba: A sketch of its Main Characteristics’ in Africa Social Research No 13. Institute of African Studies. 1972. University of Zambia, Lusaka

Kashoki, Mubanga and Sirarpi Ohannessian (e.d). Language In Zambia. 1978. International African Institute, London.

Kashoki,Mubanga. ‘Is Mubanga Kashoki Promoting Bemba? The Problem of Promoting African Languages in Zambia.’ In Zango: Zambia Journal of Contemporary Issues. Vol. 10. 1982. University of Zambia Press, Lusaka

Kashoki E. Mubanga. The Factor of Language in Zambia. 1990. Kenneth Kaunda Foundation. Lusaka, Zambia

Kashoki,E. Mubanga. ‘Language policy:language,law and human rights vis-a-viz the place and role of non-official languages in a democracy in multilingual settings.’ The paper presented at the Third International Conference of the Academy of Language Law held in South Africa in April 1992. The theme was ‘Language,Law and Equality’.

Kashoki, E. Mubanga. ‘Language Policy in Multilingual Countries vis-à-vis Language Maintenance, Language Shift and Language Death’. The Journal of Humanities. Vol.2 1998-1999. UNZA Press , Lusaka.

Kymlicka, Will. Multicultural Citizenship. 1995. Clarendon Press, Oxford

Lege’re , Karsten & Fitchat, Sandra (e.d). Talking Freedom: Language and Democratisation in the SADC region. 2002, Gamsberg Macmillan Publishers, Windhoek, Namibia. ( This authors in this book are members of the Linguistics Association for SADC Universities. The editor-in-Chief is Femi Dele Akindele).

Lukhero,M.B. Ngoni Nc’wala Ceremony. 1985. Zambia Publishing House, Lusaka

Mazrui, Ali. Cultural Engineering and National-Building in East Africa. 1972. Northweastern University Press, Evanston, Illinois. USA

Mazrui, Ali & Tidy Micheal. Nationalism and New States in Africa. 1984. Heinemann. International. Oxford. U. K

Mbozi, Austin. Cultural Diversity in Zambian Communities: A paper presented to the National Workshop On Youth And Intercultural Dialogue in Everyday Life organised by the Zambia National Commission for UNESCO. Wednesday 18th February 2003. Unpublished.

Museveni, Yoweri. 1997. Sowing the Mustard Seed: The Struggle for Freedom and Democracy in Uganda. Macmillan Education, London

M’kunga, Chiwomba. Reconstructing the Creation of Ethnicity in the Central Province of Pre-colonial Zambia: The case of the Lenje. A paper presented to a history department seminar at the University of Zambia on 5th May 2004 (unpublished)

Niddrie, Davis. L. South Africa: Nation or Nations?. 1968. D.Van Nostrand Company, inc. Toronto. Canada

Ohannessian, Sirarpi. The teaching of Zambian Languages and Preparations of Teachers for Language Teaching in Primary Schools: In Mubanga Kashoki’s Language In Zambia. 1978. International African Institute, London.

Robbins, Robert.H. etal (e.d). Endangered Languages. 1991. BERG. Oxford/New York

Sangambo, Mose. The History the Luvale People and their Chieftainship. 1979, Robert J. Papstein Art Hansen. Los Angeles, USA

Schmid, Carol. The Politics of Language: Conflict, Identity, and Cultural Pluralism in Perspective. 2001. Oxford University Press, Oxford

Serpell, Robert. Comprehension of Nyanja by Lusaka School Children: In Mubanga Kashoki’s Language In Zambia. 1978. International African Institute, London

Snelson, P.D. Education Development in Northern Rhodesia 1883-1945. 1970. Desmond Snelson. Ndola, Zambia

Tembo, Vincent, Mark. A History of Central and Southern Africa. 1990. Zambia Printing Company. Lusaka

The Barosteland Agreement 1965. Presented to Parliament by the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations by Command of Her Majesty, 17th May 1964

UNESCO. Cultural Diversity: Common Heritage and Plural Identities. 2002. UNESCO

Wele, Patrick. Likumbi Lya Mize and other Luvale Traditional Ceremonies.1993. Zambia Educational Publishing House. Lusaka

Zwane, Japhet. The Administrative Role in the Introduction of African Languages as Primary Medium of Instruction in African Schools: An Explanatory Study. 1977. University Microfilms International,USA

[1] Mazrui 1972
[2] Legere 2002:243-249
[3] Schmid, 2001: 127-132
[4] Legere, 2002:98
[5] Kashoki,1990: 113, 119,133
[6] See Goodwin Mwaangilwa’s biography of Simon Mwansa Kapwepwe
[7] Wele 1993: 70-77
[8] It is true that Copperbelt residents have in the past voted for many non-Bemba s at parliamentary level. The issues here are at presidential level which mainly is the basis for inter-tribal voting rivalries. In Zambia voters do generally vote for anybody as long as that person belongs to the party of the president of their choice.
[9] As compiled by Graham Mytton in Kashoki (e.d) 1978
[10] Kashoki (editor) 1978: 152
[11] Adegbija 1994:92. Adegbija also cites the Amharic of Ethiopia, the Wolof in Senegal , the Akan in Ghana as well as the Yoruba, Igbo and Hausa in Nigeria as behaving like the Bemba.
[12] Schmid 2001. This whole book discusses this matter. But see 168-177 on the Spanish problem
[13] The EU official languages are Czech, Estonian, Hungarian, Latvian, Lithuianian, Maltese, Polish, Slovak, Slovene, English, French, Spanish, Danish, Germany, Greek, Italian, Dutch, Portueguese, Finish and Swedish. More languages will be adopted as the EU expands.

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